Featured The Numismatic Gumshoe on the Hunt for Provenance

Discussion in 'Ancient Coins' started by BenSi, Jun 15, 2019.

  1. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    Normally I am just an armchair archaeologist, but this is a tale of a bit of coin sleuthing. This is about a pair of coins that I acquired at auction that came with their original tags. These coins were my first entry into making serious acquisitions into a more expensive level of collecting.

    The two coins I acquired were Byzantine Hyperpyron gold coins. The coins were acquired at a European Auction and they were said to be from an old Swiss collector with original tickets.

    I was happy with the coins sitting in my collection with the original envelopes from the dealer J Schulman. Something that made them special.



    Keizersgracht 448


    Ticket numbers 2117 and 2104

    I could have stopped there but in a moment of free time I looked up the original dealer on the internet. To my surprise I found this article.


    In the article I found not only tells the history of the dealership, a fascinating story however it also says the original files were meticulous and were donated to the ANS is New York in 1987. So, I wrote to the ANS..

    The next day I received a nice reply from David Hill, Francis D. Campbell Librarian American numismatic Society.

    “I believe there has been some confusion in the past, based on an internet claim that the ANS has these materials. When I looked into it years ago, I believe what I found was that HANS Schulman’s card system went to the ANA in Colorado.”

    I thanked him for his reply, and I proceeded to contact the ANA.

    I then wrote to the Library at the ANA, their response was slower, I sped it up with a phone call, I spoke to a very nice gentleman there David Sklow, the library director at Dwight N. Manley Numismatic Library. He had no knowledge of the library having the notes of the Hans Schulman but said he would research the library and get back to me, he did and once again the response was negative.

    So with both the ANA and the ANS libraries checked and neither having the files I was looking for I was left with one piece knowledge; They both knew of the prestigious firm.

    So that told me perhaps the firm was still in existence, the firms name was valuable enough to have been sold. I was right , after an internet search I found the current firm doing business in Amsterdam under that name and on their web page they make mention of how valuable the notes were and alluded to the fact that they did indeed still have them, a basic catalog of sales that would help my search for Provenance.


    I contacted them and a gentleman Tim Poelman very politely replied, requesting photos of the original tickets and they would look up what I was seeking.

    I was in delay in getting photos of the tickets because the locked up with the coins and I was traveling, but I did manage to get them the photos they requested.

    I did not have to wait long, the reply did give me one match, My Alexius coin. The other, the John II coin was a miss.

    “In Auction 226 of 30 jan. 1956, no. 2117 we sold an Alexis I. Solidus (Large flan). cf. BMC 7; Ratto 2059. (Estimate: 150 Gulden; price realized: 105 Gulden). Consignor: unknown, sold to: 'Basel'. (no known other pedigree)”

    The other ticket that contained the John II coin was not a match.

    “Unfortunately, I cannot find the John II piece, however, in the same auction as mentioned above we sold under nr. 2104 a Solidus of Arcadius (Sab. 11; To. 6; Ratto -).”

    So the Alexius coin I will keep with the ticket and I will very much appreciate how lucky I was to find its ownership from the mid 1950’s .

    I am sure somewhere down the line someone put the John II in the wrong envelope. I did ask if it could have been from an earlier time in the dealerships long history, Mr. Poelman let me know that the pre war envelopes were made of a different paper and my envelopes were used until the 1980’s.

    I hope you enjoyed my sharing of the search. Bellow is the coin with the winning ticket.
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  3. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Congrats on the finding more info about it & the coin is lovely.

    I have a Hans Schulman, from 1962. Never researched anything past the name like you.

    Mariniana (254 - 258 A.D.)
    AR Antoninianus
    O: DIVAE MARINIANAE, Veiled and draped bust right, set on crescent.
    R: CONSECRATIO, Apotheosis of Mariniana: Mariniana, raising hand and holding scepter, reclining left on peacock flying upward to the right.
    Rome Mint
    RIC 6

    Ex Hans Schulman April 21, 1962
  4. Carausius

    Carausius Brother, can you spare a sestertius?

    Well done. Note that HANS Schulman and Jacque Schulman are two different firms. Jacques Schulman is in Amsterdam, Hans was in New York City..
  5. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    It is mentioned in the article. How Hans started shop in USA.

    In 1938, Hans Schulman graduated the Sorbonne, Paris, and did not return to the family business as Jacques had done, but rather,
    left to the United States on the outbreak of the rise of the Nazi regime's terrorist campaign against Jews. Funded by his father, he opened
    shop at 545 Fifth Avenue, New York. As Herman Herst, Jr. relates his personal account in Germany at the outbreak of the Nazi regime
    Jews were forced to convert their wealth into postage stamps in order to get their money out of the country. With Maurits and Hans working
    with Americans in the New York Stock Exchange and in the new coin shop in New York it gave the Schulmans leverage during WWII.
    On July 2, 1943, Morits Schulman was killed by the Nazis during WWII. With Hans in New York it left his nephew, Jacques Schulman III to serve as the business manager.

    The reason I pursued ANS was because of the article, I assumed ( Incorrectly that the record of both firms were included, I thought Hans Schulman was the US Office. )

    "From the start Jacques Schulman kept meticulous records of every coin and medal in his inventory, sales, and auctions. These were index cards that formed a database in the exact same way libraries kept their catalogue card index for books, and other printed materials. The 400,000 cards were donated to the ANS library in 1987."

    This last statement from the online bio was incorrect and so was my assumption.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
  6. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    A new hunt begins for the original catalog. J Schulman Auction 226 of 30 jan. 1956. I guess I am a glutton for punishment.

    Any assistance would be very much appreciated.

    I found an image.
  7. Pellinore

    Pellinore Supporter! Supporter

    As a youthful collector (I was about 15) I went to Schulman's in Amsterdam and talked with the old man, he was in his sixties - Jacques Schulman. He told me how valuable Dutch silver coins were worth just about the silver price just after the war. He had had a bucket full of 3-guilder pieces, heavy silver coins of the 18th and early 19th century - the 3-guilder coin of king William I that I very much wanted to buy, but was too expensive for my youthful resources.

    Drieguldenstuk 1820.jpg

    Here is a three-guilder from 1820. I never acquired one, because I decided to ditch Dutch and start collecting Ancients.

    But I have a catalog of Schulman, issued by the grandfather of Jacques, the founder of the dynasty, Jacob Schulman (1849-1913). This is an article, in Dutch, but you can easily translate it with Google Translate.


    It's about Masonic medals and portraits of famous Freemasons.
  8. THCoins

    THCoins Well-Known Member

    BenSi likes this.
  9. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    THANK YOU @THCoins I have ordered.
  10. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

  11. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

    May I surmise that that "1939" on the back of my Schulman envelope is a sale date? With a 15-lire price written above? And some name I can't quite make out before the "1939"?
  12. BenSi

    BenSi Supporter! Supporter

    It is different paper than mine so I suspect it is a prewar sale

  13. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

    Thanks. Must have been to an Italian collector, since that "mezzo grosso" on the front is Italian, not Dutch, obviously.

    Italy ... 1939 ... oh, what that coin and envelope must have seen ...
    BenSi, Curtisimo and Theodosius like this.
  14. Carthago

    Carthago Does this look infected to you?

    i believe that Harlan Berk in Chicago owns the Hans Schulman photo files, though I’m not certain if that is the same card file mentioned in the article. I bet it is. Contact them at www.hjbltd.com
    Curtisimo and BenSi like this.
  15. Julius Germanicus

    Julius Germanicus Supporter! Supporter

    I found my Medallion of Numerianus in a Jacques Schulman catalogue ("The Richard J. Graham Collection" 1966):
    Bildschirmfoto 2019-06-19 um 12.55.23.png
  16. tibor

    tibor Well-Known Member

    In the article it says the card catalogue was sold/donated to the
    ANS in1987. The Schulman company that still operates today
    seems to still own it.

    When Jacob Schulman started his business in 1880, he had the foresight to found a card-index of all the pieces that passed through his hands. Over the years this card-index has become one of the most cherished and sought-after possessions of the business. Through it we can trace individual pieces through the decades and knowledge and experience has not been lost, but is accessible even today.
    SorenCoins likes this.
  17. SorenCoins

    SorenCoins Well-Known Member

    How fascinating! I would love to acquire a piece from his firm at some point.
  18. Kavax

    Kavax Member

    I have this auction catalogue but the coins your mention are not illustrated.

    Schulman 1956 1.JPG

    Schulman 1956 2.JPG
    BenSi likes this.
  19. Andrew McCabe

    Andrew McCabe Well-Known Member

    Well done but your sleuthing is far from over. Have a brief rest and then get onto pursuing the information that modern Schulman provided you
    - one coin was bought by "Basel" ie Monnaies et Medailles Basel (later known as Muezen und Medaillen Basel) who issued over 500 illustrated fixed priced lists and nearly 100 auctions; available to consult at some major numismatic libraries but anyway M&M probably illistrated your coin for sale some time in following years. Pin it down. And the other coin "Ratto" ie in 1950s Mario Ratto who ran some major auctions and also had a FPL run in 1960s onwards. Likewise. More information can be found. Also, if you go to the Schulman sale(s) where your coin(s) appeared in 1950s, you may find either information about a collector or you may find general hints about where coins in the sales often came from, by looking at sample provenances quoted. So you can look back as well as forward in time. Its especially nice to get an early provenance confirmed but thats a start point.
    BenSi, Curtisimo and Fugio1 like this.
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