Featured I Bought it for the Provenance: A Medieval Denar of Bohemia

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by FitzNigel, May 9, 2020.

  1. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    A recent acquisition of mine is by no means the prettiest of coins, but it does have an interesting story behind who has owned it. The coin is a Denar from Bohemia minted under the authority of the recently named king Přemysl Ottokar I. Ottokar was initially named the Duke of Bohemia in 1192, but due to political intrigues he was ousted from power, but was able to regain the duchy in December of 1197. He was then named the King of Bohemia by the Holy Roman Emperor, and was able to establish a primogeniture line to rule over Bohemia as kings for the first time. The coin is one of the first issues minted after Ottokar became king, and depicts a winged man/angel fighting a dragon on the obverse (likely St. Michael), and a bust of Ottokar flanked by two towers on the reverse. This particular coin has flat edges which unfortunately obscures the otherwise charming dragon, but this flatness is typical of the issue.

    Med-15-Boh-1198-Přemysl Ottokar I-D-B-22-6.jpg Bohemia
    Přemysl Ottokar I, r. 1192-3, 1197-1230 (1198-1230)
    AR Denar, 18.70 mm x 1.1 grams
    Obv.: + VSCES[…]VM. Winged figure/angel r. holding lance fighting a dragon
    Rev.: +SCS NSN. Bust of Ottokar facing with raised hands between two towers of a stylized building
    Ref.: Frynas B.22.6 (This coin depicted), De Wit 2764 (This coin), (Cach 659, Šmerda 296)
    Ex. Richard A. Jourdan Collection, Ex. Prof. G.W. De Wit Collection, Ex. Marquis von Hohenkubin Collection
    Note: Issued as King of Bohemia, beginning the hereditary line of Bohemian kings
    Photo from CNG 464

    As I mentioned in the title, this coin has an interesting pedigree. To my knowledge, it first appeared in the collection of the Marquis von Hohenkubin, Albrecht Kubinzky. The Kubinzky family seems to have originated in Hungary, but moved to Prague in the 18th century. [1] The Kubinzky family was of the Judaic faith and became wealthy cotton magnates which enabled Albrech Kubinzky to gain the title of Marquis von Hohenkubin from the Austrian empire in 1912. [2] The Marquis subsequently purchased a palace in Vienna (the Palais Henckel von Donnersmarck) in 1917, and while it was said he rarely lived there, it was this residence that was on record for his fellowship at the Royal Numismatic Society. [3] While I cannot say for certain when the coin entered into the Marquis’ collection, he was certainly active in numismatics between 1937 and 1947 when he was an Austrian overseas member of the Royal Numismatic Society. [4]. As you can imagine, these years would be rather turbulent times for a jewish man (or one of jewish descent) living in Austria, and his palace certainly was vacant, as the Nazis sacked and looted it at some point. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives has a copy of “Correspondence from the Museum of Fine Arts regarding the private collection of Spanish citizen and “Mischling” (of part-Jewish ancestry) Marquis de Hohenkubin” which includes a “Request to “temporarily” relocate his private collection to the Museum’s depot.” [5]. It is unknown if this coin was a part of the ‘relocation,’ as the Marquis was active in collecting other arts, some of which have become a part of the collection of the British Museum. [6] His coin collection either stayed in his possession, was returned to him, or was formed after his palace was taken in World War II. This coin and his collection passed to his descendants after his death in 1972, who then sold the Bohemian portion of the collection (where this coin was purchased) at Lanz Graz Auktion XIII on 23 November, 1979.


    The purchaser of this Denier was Professor G. W. De Wit, whose ownership was the real inspiration for me wanting the coin. There is no good single guide to Medieval coinage, but De Witt’s collection, sold by Künker over the course of three auctions in 2007-8 (Künker 121, 130, 137, and a fourth catalogue of English Sceattes which were sold privately to the FitzWilliam Museum in Cambridge) serves as one of the best overviews of the wide variety of medieval coins available. [7] De Wit began his coin collection in 1965 due to a love of Medieval Art. He initially focused on the coins of Italy, but quickly expanded to include all of Europe in the medieval period, and amassed a collection of some 4737 pieces. Looking at the Bohemian section of the catalogue (Künker 130), many of the Bohemian pieces came from the Lanz Graz auction of the Marquis von Hohenkubin Collection.

    I have recently purchased a copy of the de Wit catalogues, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shipping has been delayed. I may not see it arrive for another two months.

    The excellent photographs provided by Künker have then seen this coin appear in other publications. Fórum Numismatas, a Portuguese coin forum, has several guides to medieval coins which have been posted by forum members, which I have found to be useful starting points for various areas of medieval coins (such as Bohemia, Crusaders, and Armenian coins). [8] Unfortunately trying to find these guides via the forum is quite difficult, as there is no search function (unless one has to register in order to access it). I’ve instead found these through simple google searches; the relevant one for Bohemia is found here. I was a bit surprised to once again find my coin within this little internet guide as I was trying to research more about it, and Bohemian coins in general.


    But perhaps a more impressive catalogue which pictures this coin is Jędrzej George Frynas’ Medieval Coins of Bohemia, Hungary, and Poland (which I have reviewed here). This is a great little English reference for the coins of Bohemia, but since I’ve already given it a thorough review (and this post is getting rather long), I’ll simply continue with my established pattern and give a picture:


    From the De Witt sale, this coin was then purchased by Richard A Jourdan. Jourdan was inspired to start a collection of medieval coins after reading Philip Grierson’s book Coins of Medieval Europe (which I have also reviewed here). [9]. The collection was sold in two auctions, the TRITON XXIII auction, and CNG’s auction 464 which is where I acquired the coin (for probably more than it was worth, but again, I bought it for the provenance…). It now resides in the FitzNigel Collection.

    [1] “Marquis Kubinzky von Hohenkubin,” The International Institute of Nobility, accessed 9 May 2020, http://www.nobility.eu/familie.php?id_familie=18392.
    [2] Giles Macdonogh, “In Search of Vienna’s Vanished Jewish Elite,” Standpoint, 21 Feb. 2012, accessed 9 May, 2020, https://standpointmag.co.uk/issues/...e-giles-macdonogh-rinstrasse-zwieback-family/.
    [3] “Palais Henckel von Donnersmarck,” Wikipedia, accessed 9 May 2020, https://de.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais_Henckel_von_Donnersmarck. ; "THE ROYAL NUMISMATIC SOCIETY: PATRON HIS MAJESTY THE KING: LIST OF FELLOWS December 31, 1944." The Numismatic Chronicle and Journal of the Royal Numismatic Society 4, no. 1/4 (1944): 1-12. Accessed April 26, 2020. www.jstor.org/stable/42663381.
    [4] R.A.G. Carson, A History of the Royal Numismatic Society 1836-1986 (London: Royal Numismatic Society, 1986) 123.
    [5] “Finding Aid RG-17 Austria,” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives, accessed 9 May 2020, https://collections.ushmm.org/findingaids/RG-17.027M_01_fnd_en.pdf.
    [6] “Collection Results: Marquis Hohenkubin,” The British Museum, accessed 9 May 2020, https://www.britishmuseum.org/colle...nkubin&view=grid&sort=object_name__asc&page=1.
    [7] Künker, The de Wit Collection of Medieval Coins, Auktion 121, 130, 137 (Osnabrück: Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co. KG, 2007-8). Künker, The de Wit Collection of Medieval Coins: Part IV: The Sceattas Now Part of the Fitzwilliam Museum Collection, Cambridge (Osnabrück: Fritz Rudolf Künker GmbH & Co. KG, 2008). All four of these catalogues are freely available on the Issuu app.
    [8] Fórum Numismatas, accessed 9 May, 2020, http://www.numismatas.com/phpBB3/.
    [9] “CNG’s Electronic Auction 464,” Coins Weekly, accessed 9 May, 2020, https://coinsweekly.com/cngs-electronic-auction-464/.
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  3. Orfew

    Orfew Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus Supporter

    Great writeup. All coins have stories but this one has its stories still attached. I have always tried to add coins that have an interesting provenance. Knowing the story and researching the coin's history is almost as important to me as owning the coin. I have a number of coins with interesting stories and I hope to add more.

    Thanks for sharing the fascinating story of your coin.
  4. Cachecoins

    Cachecoins Historia Moneta Supporter

    Wow, great research! I know it's not for everyone but that was why I studied history was because I actually enjoy doing research. Great job!
    FitzNigel likes this.
  5. seth77

    seth77 Well-Known Member

    Glad the Marquis escaped the Nazis, was afraid for a moment there that the story would turn sad so close to its start.
    Orielensis, FitzNigel and Cachecoins like this.
  6. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    please feel free to share here if you want!
  7. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    These two at first sight do not seem to have much in common with the opening post coin.
    Except for this from the de Wit sale, Kunker-Auction130 2007:
  8. Orielensis

    Orielensis Supporter! Supporter

    That’s a truly wonderful new acquisition with a fascinating line of provenances!

    Thanks for posting the coin and its story here.
    FitzNigel likes this.
  9. Agricantus

    Agricantus Allium aflatunense

    Excellent post! I searched around a bit to see that 'charming dragon'
    FitzNigel likes this.
  10. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    Congrats on the wonderful coin @FitzNigel you got a first rate denar with a wonderful provenance. I would love to add a coin from the de Wit Collection tio my own some day. I'm glad to hear you picked up the de Wit catalogues. They are really enjoyable to thumb through and I have added so many cons to my want list as a result. The Jourdan collection had a really large and wonderful selection of medieval coins too. I bid on about a dozen coins in CNG 464 and walked away with one.
    FitzNigel likes this.
  11. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    I think it looks quite nice! Guess I may need to buy a second example...

    May I ask which coin brother you acquired? I also won this coin from the same collection:
    Med-05a-FNor-1075-William II-D-XX-23var.jpg Feudal France - Normandy
    William II-William Clito/Henry I, r. 1035-1135 (1075-1130)
    AR Denier, 19.02 mm x 1.0 grams
    Obv.: +NORMANNIA. Patriarchal Cross with two pellets below. Legend begins at 3h
    Rev.: Church pediment, containing pellet, surmounted by cross, the letters P A X within semicircles on each side
    Ref.: Dumas XX-23 variety
    Ex. Richard A. Jourdan Collection
    Note: Dumas group C et D according to Moesgaard
  12. TheRed

    TheRed Supporter! Supporter

    That was quite a good auction for you Fitz. My only win was this grosso from the Republic of Ancona. The picture from CNG does the coin no favors.
    Unfortunately there aren't a lot of English language sources on the Republic and the MEC volume for central Italy isn't out yet. Still, I intend to wrote a post about the Republic of Ancona t some point.
    FitzNigel, Bing, Orielensis and 2 others like this.
  13. FitzNigel

    FitzNigel Medievalist Supporter

    That’s a lovely coin @TheRed! I love the frown on the Saint’s face, and the great detail in his clothing and crosier. Well done!
    TheRed likes this.
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