Featured How a kid caught the coin collecting virus

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by GinoLR, Jan 13, 2023.

  1. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    Collecting ancient coins is one thing for mere mortals like most of us, but it's a completely different hobby when you can rely on almost unlimited financial resources. Like Louis XIV for example and, to be sincere, I'm a bit jealous...

    Louis XIV discovered this hobby when he was a child, thanks to Jean Warin (1607-1672), a die engraver who was head of Paris mint and engraved the official busts of Louis XIII and young Louis XIV struck on gold and silver coins. On this picture painted by an anonymous artist in 1645 (with later additions), Jean Warin is teaching ancient history to the young Louis XIV, aged 7, using coins and medals. Show and tell method. The little kid was fascinated and later became a passionate collector.

    warin louis 14.jpg
    (Musée de la Monnaie, Paris)

    He was actually a promising child. Two years before, when only 5, he was called by his father Louis XIII on his deathbed. The dying king asked him: "Do you know who you are?" and the kid answered: "Yes, I am Louis XIV !" The king replied: "Not yet, my son, not yet..."

    The silver medal Warin is showing represents a Greek helmeted bust with the legend ΑΛΚΙΒΙΑΔΗΣ: Alcibiades, the famous Athenian 5th c. BC statesman. It was not at all an ancient coin, but a Renaissance medal from Italy, this one:
    (Not my coin...)

    In the 17th c. collectors often mixed authentic ancient coins with modern medals looking like ancient coins, things we could today call fakes but were considered worthy of interest because they completed series. Since no ancient coin with the portrait of Alcibiades existed, such a medal was considered OK for a collection of famous historical figures of Antiquity. The well-known 16th c. Paduan bronzes helped complete series: a collection of large bronzes of the 12 Caesars could gather 11 of them but not Otho, so a Paduan "sestertius" of Otho could complete the series. Such were the collecting standards of the time.

    A later painter who signed "F. Marius" added a frame to this double portrait, adorned with silver coins and medals: a silver medal of Louis XIV (bust engraved by Warin), another one of Henri IV dated 1604 (engraved by Philippe Danfrie, a predecessor of Warin as head of the Paris mint), and ancient silver coins (or Renaissance medals?): in the top right corner what seems to be a silver miliarense of Constantine, on the bottom right a denarius with a portrait of Julius Caesar. I don't see what the two others on the left side can be.

    Louis XIV's collection would considerably expand during his reign. When he grew older and was in charge as king, he gave ambassadors, consuls and merchants orders of systematically buy for him all gems, works of art, manuscripts, etc. they could find in Orient, and especially ancient coins, with an almost unlimited budget! He also acquired entire collections in France and Europe and added them to his own. Other heads of state knew what kind of diplomatic gifts would delight him, and sometimes presented him precious coins and antiques to secure an alliance with France. For example, the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I offered him the treasure found in the Frankish king Childeric I's tomb. All this was first housed in the Louvre (the royal palace in Paris) and he appointed curators to manage his collection. He later had it moved to Versailles and would often spend some time in his cabinet examining coins and talking with the curators. This collection was the king's private hobby, but in the same time could be considered a state possession: didn't Louis XIV say "L'État, cest moi"?

    After the king's death in 1715 his successors were not so much interested in ancient coins and the collection was repatriated in Paris to the Royal Library, where it is still today. Louis XIV's collection, started when still a child thanks to Jean Warin's good advice, is the core of the BNF collection of today.

    A last funny thing. I have been working lately with a young student, a teenager, whose name is Warin. I asked her if she was a relative of Jean Warin the engraver - I did not expect her to know him and was very surprised to hear her reply : "Yes, he is the ancestor of my family".
  2. Avatar

    Guest User Guest

    to hide this ad.
  3. expat

    expat Remember you are unique, just like everyone else Supporter

    Nicely written and presented, I enjoyed that.
  4. Kasia

    Kasia Got my learning hat on

    Fascinating. Great post.
  5. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    Coins are the best virus anyone could be infected with! There are no cures known/ long term effects are happiness/ sense of purpose/ prosperity. I was infected when I turned 10.
    7Calbrey, Pellinore, serafino and 2 others like this.
  6. Abramthegreat

    Abramthegreat Well-Known Member

    Neat story! I think that should be featured, thanks for sharing! :)
    Kasia likes this.
  7. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    Same for me... I must have been 10 when I found some day in a drawer not my dad's gun (he never had one except when in the military) but an old paper envelope with a handful of little ancient bronze coins inside. For me it was like discovering the tomb of Tutankhamen. My father told me he had them since he was a child, he had forgotten about, I could keep them if I wanted to. It was probably the most beautiful present my parents gave me... 20 bronze antoniniani of Gallienus, Salonina, Claudius Gothicus, Postumus, Victorinus and Tetricus I and II... This is how I caught the virus.
  8. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & Eccentric Moderator

    What a magnificent painting! I love the "coins in old paintings" genre, but that's one of the best I've seen yet.

    I just finished a book on that era, so Louis XIV is trending on my list of interests right now.
    WashQuartJesse, ominus1 and panzerman like this.
  9. panzerman

    panzerman Well-Known Member

    My Dad was a collector and had a big influence in getting me interested too. My Grandfather taught me history/ geography when I was 6/ that plus reading Grimm Brothers tales (many featured gold coins) got me interested even more. Today, parents buy their kids tech gadgetso_O
  10. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    i'm hip melord...:)
  11. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    A very engaging post @GinoLR! I appreciated the identification of the medal in the painting.

    Here's a favorite personification of France...perhaps attractive to me as she shares some similarity with Roma from an RR denarius.
    France, medal, Gallia, 1930, Morlon, Silvered
    Sardar, Deacon Ray, svessien and 7 others like this.
  12. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    Nice medal, but it seems to me this woman is not a personification of France, this is Gallia, a personification of Gaul. And Gaul is not exactly France: the Gauls spoke Celtic tongues when the French speak a Latin language, Gaul was seen as France without her Roman and Frankish heritage... In the early 20th c. all French schoolchildren could read in their textbooks "Our ancestors the Gauls..." There were many jokes about that, because the kids in the French West Indies had the same syllabus and had to learn the same textbook, but most of them were black children with African origins...

    Gallic identity is just one side of the French. Gauls are seen as undisciplined, rustic, etc. President Macron, when the Yellow Jackets were rallying and rioting in Paris, called them "Gauls resistant to any change". The word "gauloiserie" means "horny joke". In the French popular culture the Gauls have become a myth, most accurately illustrated by the famous comics "Asterix".(created by René Goscinny, whose parents were Jewish immigrants from Poland and Ukraine, and Albert Uderzo, born an Italian...)

    Being a myth, their image is very far from the true historical Gauls. On this medal Gallia is wearing a helmet that actually was never a Gaulish one. We know today it is a helmet of the late Bronze age... But c. 1900 people believed it was typically Gaulish and, with wings added (why did they add wings? I don't know), it was seen as the very symbol of the Gallic identity. It became in the 20th c. the logo of the French most popular (and cheapest) cigarettes brand. In the army before 1980 you could even have them for free!:

    Last edited: Jan 15, 2023
    Deacon Ray, DonnaML, ominus1 and 7 others like this.
  13. Sulla80

    Sulla80 Supporter! Supporter

    Love it, @GinoLR :happy:
    panzerman likes this.
  14. Monstermommy

    Monstermommy Active Member

    Cool story,well told
    panzerman likes this.
  15. GeorgeM

    GeorgeM Well-Known Member

    What a story!

    Is the collection (or parts of it) available for viewing today?
  16. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    Yes, the coins and antiquities cabinet of the National Library just opened a new museum. The objects on display are mostly precious cameos, Roman silverware, exceptional ancient objects in gold, ivory, etc... Many Greek vases and figurines too. There are some coins on display, but not that much. The coin collections are kept in drawers, for scholars.
    GeorgeM likes this.
  17. Bergeron

    Bergeron New Member

    Great post! Note that in this particular context, "Gallica" is more of a classical or poetic name for France that became prevalent during the Renaissance. It is somewhat similar to the revival of "Britannia" in England, and is not meant to be an exclusive reference to ancient Gaul. When the French republic later refined its iconography, various depictions of the Marianne ranged from a semeuse wearing the Phrygian cap to a Gallic warrior with a winged helmet. I believe the Statue of Liberty is of similar inspiration.
    john-charles and panzerman like this.
  18. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    There would be a lot to say about the allegories of France. The first known is seen on gold solidi of Constantine minted in Trier c. 313 showing a barbarian woman weeping at the foot of a trophy, wearing trousers and a pileus or "phrygian cap" (yes! already!), with FRANCIA in the exergue. This allegory is in fact the conventional image of a barbarian nation : she is strictly the same as DACIA, ALAMANNIA, etc...
    The Marianne wearing a Phrygian cap is not France, she is Liberty. She is represented on French coins since the Revolution when the country was a republic (1792-1801, 1848-1851, 1870-1940 - well... not between 1870 and 1897 -, and since 1944) but you can find her as well on US coins since the late 18th c.
    In France, Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap seems to have been judged too leftist in the early 3rd Republic in the 1870s. On coins the Phrygian cap was banned, and Liberty replaced by Ceres. It was the time when France offered a colossal statue of Liberty to the United states : it was OK for Liberty, but not wearing a Phrygian cap! This is why Bartholdi gave her a solar radiate crown. Marianne-Liberty with her Phrygian cap returned in 1897 and has been there since on French coins (with an unfortunate interruption from 1940 to 1944)...
    john-charles and panzerman like this.
  19. Вergerоn

    Вergerоn New Member

    There is a distinction to be made here: that solidus is a reference to the Frankish nation (i.e. the tribal federation), long before they crossed the Rhine. I wouldn't count that as a representation of France proper. Back then the Phrygian cap was often associated with barbarian garb; today it is more of a symbol of emancipation from the old regime. The republic has always been fond of such pre-Christian references, for obvious reasons
    john-charles and panzerman like this.
  20. GinoLR

    GinoLR Well-Known Member

    Of couse :) I agree with you. This "Francia" wearing a Phrygian cap is just a coïncidence. I just find this irony...
  21. John Anthony

    John Anthony Ultracrepidarian

    There are two types of collectors: hoarders and cherry pickers. Most of us are a combination of the two. Louis XIV was obviously a hoarder, and when you have his kind of scratch, it makes it easy to acquire a lot of coins.

    The interesting thing is, I've collected cheap coins and expensive coins, and didn't get any more pleasure out of collecting the expensive ones than I did from the cheap. For me, the joy of collecting seems to reside in the research, study, and hunting, not to mention the camaraderie of like-minded individuals. If I had pockets as deep as Louis, I doubt I'd fill up warehouses with coins and artifacts. I simply wouldn't have the time to dote over every acquisition to my satisfaction.

    But each to his own. I have collecting friends that are hoarders, for whom one of each type is not enough - they need at least ten! I do understand the allure. I keep a bowl of old US coins on the coffee table - all sorts of junk silver, Indian cents and nickels, etc. It's fun to run your hands through it and see what real money used to feel like.
Draft saved Draft deleted

Share This Page