Is there a “Father (or Mother) of Classical Numismatics”?

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by Gavin Richardson, Dec 1, 2020.

  1. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    Is there a “Father (or Mother) of Classical Numismatics”?

    I'm curious about the history of classical numismatics—particularly about when this study became an academic discipline that currently experiences some tension with the private collecting world. It seems this distinction developed relatively late, with many early, serious numismatists also being collectors. The Royal Numismatic Society was founded in 1836, and there were professorships in classical numismatics in the 18th c., but we know figures such as Pope Boniface VIII collected (and presumably studied) Roman coinage in the 14th c.

    Simply put, is there a “Father [or Mother] of Classical Numismatics”? If there’s a thread that covers this topic, I’d appreciate a pointer.

    For some eye candy, here's a tray of King George III's coins on display in the British Museum when I visited in summer 2019. Maybe one candidate is Joseph Eckhel mentioned in the caption below.

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  3. Roman Collector

    Roman Collector Supporter! Supporter

    I'd say Joseph Eckhel (13 January 1737 – 16 May 1798), professor of classics at the University of Vienna and director of the ancient coin cabinet of the Imperial collections. His classification of coins by region, chronology, and type became the model and standard for later systems. This system is STILL in use.
    Orielensis, Broucheion, Nvb and 6 others like this.
  4. dougsmit

    dougsmit Member Supporter

    I suppose Eckhel is a good choice if you must have just one but the history of numismatics involves hundreds of people who each made great contributions in their own way. Those interested in the subject should read this book that originally was sold for $1 by the Government Printing Office back in the days that the Smithsonian had a great coin collection and staff:
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  5. Nicholas Molinari

    Nicholas Molinari Well-Known Member

    I agree that Eckhel holds the spot.
  6. NewStyleKing

    NewStyleKing Beware of Greeks bearing wreaths Supporter

    Glad to see that despite talking to trees, mad king George had a couple of NewStyles-so he wasn't that mad afterall.
  7. kevin McGonigal

    kevin McGonigal Well-Known Member

    I would nominate the Roman Emperor, Caesar Octavian Augustus. Among his known interests was the collecting and gifting of unusual and interesting coins. I would love to have seen his collection. If one is talking about contemporary numismatists, I would choose David Sear whose publications demonstrate an enormous erudition backed by many decades of study and collecting.
  8. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

    Thanks for this reference. Just picked up an eBay copy for $6.86.

    KIWITI Well-Known Member

    Well, Eckhel certainly is the first. BTW, today december 1st. is our saint´s day!

    Saint Eligius is patron of numismatists, goldsmiths and metalworkers. He died 12/1/660 in France.
  10. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark standing on the shoulders of giants Dealer

    As Doug pointed out, many people contributed. You could not have someone like Eckhel without people like Petrarch.

    Petrarch said in a letter that often people would approach him with a request to identify a newly discovered ancient coin. "Often there came to me in Rome a vinedigger, holding in his hands an ancient jewel or a golden Latin coin, sometimes scratched by the hard edge of a hoe, urging me either to buy it or to identify the heroic faces inscribed on them."

    In 1354, Petrarch gave some Roman coins to Emperor Charles IV. "I presented him with some gold and silver coins, which I held very dear. They bore the effigies of some of our rulers, one of them, a most life-like head of Caesar Augustus, and were inscribed with exceedingly minute characters."

    Francesco Petrarch, Letters on Familiar Matters XVII- XXIV. Translated by Aldo S. Bernardo (New York: Italica Press, 2005), 57.
  11. Victor_Clark

    Victor_Clark standing on the shoulders of giants Dealer

    I also need to mention Hubert Goltzius (1526-1583) who published several books on ancient numismatics.
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  12. Hamilcar Barca

    Hamilcar Barca Well-Known Member

    Why do I like Coin Talk? Informative posts and excellent learning opportunities like this. Thanks all.
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  13. ancient coin hunter

    ancient coin hunter I dig ancient coins...

    I wasn't really aware of collectors prior to the 18th century, when many English gentlemen had a coin cabinet with ancients. Part of the Age of Enlightenment. It's interesting to see how much earlier the "hobby" started.
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  14. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Due to who he was, I would definitely say he is the earliest RECORDED collector known. However, it is pretty common for hoards to be discovered with one of each type of coin in it. Most likely, this was the collection of an ancient coin collector. I think we were more common than is documented in history.
  15. ominus1

    ominus1 Well-Known Member

    ...there are many...from Augustus(and most likely before) to present...this would have to be a award presented like a Nobel prize so as not to leave out any one's to'em!..and to you, you Mothers....and Fathers:D toasting.jpg
  16. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Oh gosh, the "modern" big push to coin collecting started in the Renaissance. Why do you think so many counterfeits that are now extremely collectible themselves were made in the 16th century? If I had to state the era of "modern" collecting, I would vote for the Renaissance, when the first coins in books started to become published. Not like we see today, but it started then and evolved. I have a book on Roman emperors written in the 17th century with ancient coins as illustrations (Aurellius Victor).
  17. SeptimusT

    SeptimusT Well-Known Member

    There are several Renaissance collectors and scholars who laid the foundations that Eckhel built on. That includes Petrarch, but also less famous people, like Fulvio Orsini. Among other things, Orsini compiled the first 'scientific' catalogue of Roman Republican coins, organizing them by moneyer family. He also included generous background information and discussion of the iconography. His catalogue is available online, but it is in Latin and has never been translated. It's still worth perusing for the illustrations even if you can't read Latin, and anyone familiar with Republican coins will be able to understand how it's organized.
  18. Ocatarinetabellatchitchix

    Ocatarinetabellatchitchix Supporter! Supporter

  19. Andrew McCabe

    Andrew McCabe Well-Known Member


    His first book on classical numismatics was published 1514. I have an original 16th century copy.

    He didn't deal with coin types but with the concept of money in the ancient world, the denominations and so on.

    Whats self evident to us today, that a sestertius is a coin and a quarter of a denarius, wasn't evident before Budaeus. Many Renaissance ppl assumed they were medals.
  20. Gavin Richardson

    Gavin Richardson Well-Known Member

  21. DonnaML

    DonnaML Supporter! Supporter

    Thanks for the recommendation. I just ordered this very copy. I loved the author's little book on Roman Republican coins.
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