Friday 23 December 2011

Prospero and Other coins of Lost Realms

The New York Times has a rather uncritical piece on two early-January coin sales in New York (Eve M. Kahn, 'Preserving Artifacts of Anti-Semitism' (sic), NYT, December 22, 2011), these are being held by Bonhams and the British coin auction house A. H. Baldwin & Sons and they both "feature ancient Greek coin collections, covering five centuries B.C. and territories scattered from modern-day Libya to Pakistan".
For the Baldwin sale, on Jan. 4, estimates for the 642 lots range from $250 for a silver coin embossed with helmeted goddesses to $650,000 for a gold coin marked with a bearded satyr and a horned griffin. Baldwin is not identifying the seller of what the company is calling the Prospero Collection. It did disclose that the coins had spent decades in storage.

On Jan. 6 Bonhams will offer 107 lots from a Texas couple who collected avidly during the last decade. Estimates range from $70 for a half-inch-wide silver speck stamped with a gorgon face to $125,000 for one of a handful of surviving gold coins that depict Alexander the Great’s illegitimate son Heracles wearing a lion-skin cape. (Another version made from similar dies is estimated at $50,000 in the Baldwin sale.)
There is a lot of money to be made from digging up and dealing in this sort of stuff,
The market has been healthy lately, with buyers emerging in Asia, [Paul Inho Song, director of coins and medals at the Bonhams auction house] said. Rarity is a significant factor, and ongoing archaeological digs can sometimes drastically increase the known numbers of a particular coin. “There’s always a chance that they’ll find another hoard, which generally tends to depress the prices,” he said.
but of course it's not about the money, is it? These people all collect for the love of history, and in order to study these coins. Mr "Prospero" no doubt can easily be identified from the series of monographs he wrote about the items in his collection as a result of his numismatic studies. Or was he instead one of those who merely got their kicks from "holding" a "piece of history" all of their very own?

The Prospero Collection was mentioned on his blog a while back by Ed Snible. One wonders about the name, on a blog like this I cannot help but voice the misgivings the obvious association with the character's closing speech arouse:

And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon'd be,
Let your indulgence set me free
The coins will be being "set free" on the market on Jan 6th, where they came from remains a mystery.

1 comment:

Paul Barford said...

For more on this collection, see here:

and now here:

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