Our personal introduction to our catalogs usually launches right into talk about what you can find in these pages. I want to start somewhere else this time—discussing a few of the past owners of these pieces who deserve our thanks for the care they gave them and the fact that their collections are now available to others.
The Greek section of this sale has many superb pieces from two collections. One was a collector who left behind a file of his letters and invoices, dated around 1950, from still-remembered people and firms, an earlier era of numismatics—Spink & Son signed by L. Forrer, Glendining and Co. signed by Wm. French, and Numismatic Fine Arts on West 55th Street in New York signed by Edward Gans. Imagine a letter offering “Type of Alexander the Great with the name of Seleucos $25.00.” He had a fine eye and, in that era, obviously had the pick of many choice pieces. Other choice Greek pieces in this section came from a collection formed by a scholarly collector who searched out the finest examples of the types that interested him. And thinking of earlier collections, the Roman section includes some “uncommon common” types from a collection formed in the 1920’s—stylistic gems that bear a close look.
Frank Robinson—we go way back with Frank. I don’t know when we first met but it must have been very early in our numismatic career. We were delighted when he offered his English collection, and we are still working through what began as several double-row boxes of carefully collected coins covering the three-and-a-half centuries of English milled coinage, mostly in good Extremely Fine to Uncirculated condition. He was careful in his selection and careful in his storage—everything was kept in acid-free envelopes with extensive notations on each. In addition to the obvious rarities this comprehensive collection has made many unexpectedly elusive pieces with modest catalog values available.
Michael Sussman’s collection is another outstanding group—a comprehensive collection of high quality formed over a couple of decades. Every one of his tokens has been stored in a cloth insert inside an acid free envelope. He sought quality and comprehensiveness. In this sale we are offering the Spence tokens, a fascinating group with intriguing designs from a fascinating character trying to make a living with coins and tokens while fighting for free speech in Georgian London.
The collection of coins formed around the inventory of the collection of the US Mint published by James Snowden in 1860 forms the last major section of this auction. This large collection will be featured in all our 2021 sales. It represents a major effort by this thoughtful collector who used a variety of sources in Europe and America. We will offer it all—including inexpensive (and often seldom seen) pieces in upcoming sales. For this sale we concentrated on a broad sampling of silver with an emphasis on crowns. The history behind these pieces and the appeal of the designs has made the cataloging work particularly fascinating. (A Napoleonic kingdom that lasted six months, a short-lived 1790 insurrection inspired by what was going on in America, a monument to a king leaving his mother—these are a few of the quirkier reminders of the world from the mid-17th to the mid-19th century).
Finally, a few individual pieces have compelling stories:
Two of the hammered gold pieces have been prized possessions for some time, the angel and the leopard. I remember when I bought each and was fond enough that I held them until a time when I wanted to be sure our gold section offered something special. (I still remember attending the remarkable sale of the Strauss collection in London in 1994—the extensively annotated catalog still sits on my shelf as a reference to consult.)
Before Lief came into our business I wrote the ancient section with help from Marnie. He and Marnie now handle it. When I looked at what they had assembled for this sale I was amazed. Our Greek section is more substantial than we often achieve, and we have been able to select many pieces of exceptional style and condition. Though last year’s was no slouch, this is one of the more extensive representations of Greek silver we have had.
Our hammered English section is smaller than usual. Three pieces stand out because of the unusually choice condition of pieces struck under the most demanding circumstances—a Henry I quatrefoil penny on an even round flan, a deep strike on fresh metal and choice toning, a Stephen Watford penny with an impeccable pedigree that goes back to Rashleigh in 1909, and a Tealby penny that shares with the other two the same expertise exercised at the hands of a shearer who produced a round flan and a hammerman who got an exceptional amount of detail onto the piece.
Why would I be the only person to handle two of the extremely rare Henry-the-Pretender irregular strikings of a Mary Stuart ryal where his name appears first as if he were actually declared king? I think the piece we sold for $7500 in 2015 drew this one. Outside of the Lockett example in the Edinburgh Museum, these are the only examples I have been able to trace. The life of Mary Stuart was an ongoing drama that has been preserved in coins and medals from the infant-head copper penny to the magnificent gold and silver that marked marriages and widowhoods. This fascinating piece is a footnote for one of the unfortunate chapters in her tragic life.
We always seek “interesting and unusual” material to offer. This category has its expression on the last page of this sale—the Wells Fargo semicentennial, western silver mining, the British anti-slavery movement, a German Fire Brigade medal (very collectible), and a Boston School Medal (a series begun by Benjamin Franklin and also very collectible).
It is Sunday evening, the day before this catalog goes to the printer. I am well into my third page—so much to say. But when you see this, Marnie will have reduced it to fit the page.
It has been exciting to think back over the months we have been working on this, our 40th major auction.
Thank you for your interest.
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