E-Auction 33

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Closed December 11, 2019
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    E33, Lot 47:

    Classic Greece. Robert Ready British Museum electrotype--copy of coin in the BM. Lucania, Velia. Circa 334-330 B.C. Silver nomos copy. 21 mm. Helmeted head of Athena left / A lion standing left, head down, feeding on a ram's head. Not listed in Head. Perfect copy of an extraordinary fine style ancient Greek coin residing in the British Museum.


    An in-hand experience of the finest of Greek coinage

    Robert Ready British Museum Electrotypes


    Invented in 1838, electrotyping involves coating a mold of the coin being duplicated in a conductive material, graphite, then connecting it to a wire and running a current through it while suspending it in an electrolyte solution along with a copper anode. The copper dissolves from the surface of the anode and is deposited on the conductive graphite. The final result is a uniface replica of one side of a coin, which was sometimes then joined to a copy of the other side and the edges smoothed to create a more accurate replica. The copper shell was also often gilt to represent silver or gold coins more accurately.


    Electrotypes were widely produced by Robert Ready and his sons for sale by the British Museum between 1859 and 1931, using examples from the Museum’s collection. Electrotypes were a popular display and educational product that, while convincing, are usually fairly straightforward to distinguish from the actual pieces by examining the edge for a seam, comparing the weight to an actual piece, or by a stamp of RR, R, or MB on the edge (which stand for Robert Ready, one of his sons, or the Latin name for the British Museum respectively). The examples offered here have not been joined and are still in two separate pieces, obverse and reverse, with the Barclay Head reference number written in marker on the inside of each piece. They fit together perfectly, if you would prefer that they be united we can suggest a product that we believe works well. The examples we have sold in the past seemed to have been held together by something that was a bit granular (and a bit fragile after a century plus), possibly plaster of paris.


    The best of the British Museum coins were published and finely photographed in a 19th century classic reference by the scholar Barclay Head, A Guide to the Principal Coins of the Greeks. Subsequent (and little changed) British Museum editions of that historic book can still be found for very reasonable prices. The numbering of the medals is taken from that reference.


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