Vol 01 No. 01 - February - March 1987Ancient coins have, from their beginning, been recognized as objects of great beauty and an important part of Western art tradition. It is perhaps only since the Renaissance. however, that they have been thought of as cultural and historical documents that open a door to the past.
The great humanist Petrarch, in the mid 14th century, was one of the fIrst to form a scientific and artistic collection of coins from antiquity. By the 15th century, most of Europe's princes, religious leaders and wealthy merchants legitimized their claim to sophistication with well stocked cabinets of quality specimens. Many of these collections eventually found their way into museums where they remain to this day.
The enduring value of ancient coins is to be found not only in their own antiquity. or their historical perspective, but as much or more so in the fascinating images created for them by the great artists of their time. Perhaps the most concrete evidence of this is in the marketplace itself. A fifth century tetradrachm struck by one of me great master celators can easily bring 1000 times its intrinsic value in today's market. A less artistic example of the same denomination may bring only a tenth of that amount.
The striking of coins in ancient times was a labor intensive business. The striking itself took the efforts of at least three skilled workers; one to align and hold the dies. one to feed the pre- heated planchet into me die. and one to strike the die with a heavy mallet. The process was slow and exacting.
Temperature control of me planchet was extremely important. as was the amount of force applied by the mallet. Quite often, dies were worn or broken which meant re-engraving at the least and more probably a complete replacement of the die. This constant engraving process provided the opportunity for wide artistic experimentation and expression.
The celator's art required a fusion of the greatest advances in painting and sculpture. The impact of sculptural technique was especially evident in the experimentation with facing heads on Greek coins after 450 B.C. as well as in the refinement of human proportions on reverse types from the Archaic to the Hellenistic periods. At the same time, the sophistication of composition and design on these coins reflects a narrative quality that could only have come from minds schooled in a painterly tradition.
As famous painters of the fifth century signed their works. so too did the best of the die engravers. One can find the signature of Heracleidas on coins of Catana, along with that of Euanitos who also designed beautiful coins for the city of Syracuse. Phrygillus, who worked for Greek cities in Italy, also created coins for Syracuse as did the sculptor and celator Kimon. Other cities such as Acragus, Olympia and Clazomenae produced coins of equal beauty and prestige signed by the masters of their art.
Die engraving was a natural medium for experimentation since the coin presented an image isolated in time and space. It did not compliment any architectural device or rely solely on the fall of light and shade for its essence. It was this freedom which allowed and indeed nurtured within the art itself a synthesis and perfection of ideals.
Greek vase painters of the fifth century. tackling the thorny problem of circular space in their magnificent kylix tondo designs, found a number of successful themes which are repeated on coins. One of the most easily recognized is that of Herakles wrestling the Nemean Lion. There is compelling evidence in this example. and others like it, that the vase painter and celator shared common problems and perhaps jointly came to common solutions.
It is not surprising that numismatic art is collectible today, or that it was in the post-renaissance period, but there is both literary and archaeological evidence to prove that collecting of ancient coins was popular as early as the fourth century B.C. and possibly earlier. Certainly, these pieces were not collected at that time for their antiquity, but rather for their appeal as miniature works of art.
The study of ancient coins is not merely a study of names, dates and places; it is a study of our cultural heritage and the tradition of Western art. Collecting, it seems. should be a logical extension of appreciation and study, not just an accumulation of types from A to Z. Holding an ancient coin in one's hand can evoke feelings of wonderment and reverence. These feelings do not come from a coin's catalogue number, they come from the image that our eyes behold on its suface. They are feelings o f appreciation for the celator's art.
Vol 01 No. 02 - April May 1987Here it is, April just around the comer, and another issue of The Celator is about to hit the press. The past two months have been eventful to say the least. We have received so many heartwarming letters of encouragement and support that it is impossible to personally thank everyone or to publish them all (but we tried!).
There were many helpful comments and suggestions, but one recurring theme was the longing for some vehicle that would bring collectors of ancient coins and artifacts closer together as a fraternity. Too often we find ourselves overlooked because of the minority of our numbers. It would be a real source of pride and satisfaction if The Celator could function as that vehicle.
We've been on the road lately and had the pleasure of meeting some of you personally at St. Louis. Charlotte and Minneapolis. In the months to come we'll be looking forward to meeting more of you at Chicago and Long Beach. Following the show and auction circuit is a grueling experience and I tip my hat to those who do it for a living.
They certainly earn whatever compensation the fates may send their way.
The action at a major show is something to behold. There are often as many " inside" trades as there are counter sales. Watching traders work the bourse floor is a lot like watching crap shooters at Atlantic City. To an outsider. the action may seem frenetic and enigmatic - one is never quite sure where the deal is going down. Those on the inside must find it nerve wracking too, trying to figure out who has picked over a lot before it was offered to them. Still, the show is an important part of the process that links collector to coin and at a good show bargains abound.
Inevitably. a new product must work out the "bugs" as it presents itself to the public. The Celator is sensitive to this fine-tuning process and we hope to make each issue better than the last. One change you will see in this issue is our Bid Board. We received a very poor response to our first attempt and obviously need to b'y something a little different In this issue you will find that the board is in a "Buy or Bid" format and we are no longer selling board spaces. In other words, we are running the board as an "in-house" project and personally stand behind every coin offered for sale. We have also extended the closing date for those who find their issues delayed by unpredictable mail service.
A few readers have expressed some difficulty relating to our name. The word celator is not, to some, graphically descriptive of what the newspaper is all about. This is a subject which I have considered very carefully. I wonder if The Voice of the Turtle would still be around if it had been named Ancient Coin News? On the other hand, a great name like Classical Coin Newsletter provides no guarantee of immortailty either. The Celator was chosen not because it had a catchy ring to it, but because it was a statement of purpose. The name reflects Our commitment to "advancing the appreciation of Ancient Numismatic Art" by honoring those artists who carved the dies for coins in antiquity. We never tire of explaining the title's meaning and hope our readers feel the same way. Thanks for your support, and let us hear your point of view!
Vol 01 No. 03 - June July 1987Support for The Celator has continued to grow over the past two months and we thank all of our new friends who have joined the ranks of subscribers or advertisers. Collectors of ancient coins and antiquities will be pleased to see that we have introduced a new Professional Directory of dealers and suppliers with this issue.
Our feature story, about the many auctions held this past two months. shows that the hobby of collecting ancient coins has grown substantially in popularity. As newcomers read the results o f muti-million dollar sales, it is easy to perceive the hobby. from a financial point of view, as "The Hobby o f Kings". While it is true that absolutely premium coins are bringing unheard of prices, a quick trip around the bourse of your local coin show will prove that there are still great bargains and real treasures available ·to the average collector.
On more than one occasion, we have encountered disbelievers who scoff at the authenticity of ancient coins in general. They are, of course, poorly educated in the subject and must never have seen the thousands of varieties filling dealer "junk boxes" at a coin show. It would take quite a talented team of forgers to produce lhis array, not to mention the time and cost
Still, there seems to be a Iiule truth in most every argument, and one can certainly find examples of the forger's work among some of the most prominent collections in the world.
The counterfeiting of coins in ancient times was widespread. In most cases, these coins were struck for circulation and we tend to think of the surviving copies as ancient coins themselves. However, copies made during and after the Renaissance are another matter. Many of these pieces were created to deceive an all-too-eager clientele. with a voracious appetite for classical art and the capital to amass huge collections. Some of the early forgers have earned dub ious reputations as masters in their own right Cavino, Becker, Caprara and Christodoulos for example are perhaps better known to many collectors than the Greek celators Euainetos and Phrygillos.
Although the names of some modem forgers are not yet a matter of record. their works are also masterpieces of a sort. The ability to reproduce artifacts has improved substantially with advances in technology.
For the beginning collector, and the most advanced collector, this threat is minimized. In the case of coins sought by the former, the low cost and wide variety makes sophistocated forgery an impractical venture. In the case of the latter, the resources of experts in the field are available to guard against an ill advised purchase. The danger zone
seems to lie between these two extremes. Coins selling in the $200 to $1,000 range provide the most fertile ground and greatest profit for those who would earn their living through deception.
The best protection for buyers of material in this class is to deal with individuals who are well known and trusted. Even an experienced dealer can be the victim of a sophisticated forger, but the chances of this happening are greatly diminshed when dealing with a conscientious and reputable firm.
Every person who collects ancient coins or artifacts should take the time to acquaint themselves with the techniques of manufacture in ancient times so they can better understand the signs of modem reproduction. The rule of thumb today, which was as true 2,000 years ago, is Caveat Emptor - Buyer Beware!
On a happier note. we attended the Central States Numismatic Society Convention at S1. Louis in May and enjoyed the company of Bart and Linda Lewis (Olympus Coins) and collector Bob Kutcher of Lincoln, Nebraska at the CSNS banquet. Bob's outstanding exhibition of ancient coins won the "Best of Ancients" award (and would undoubtedly have won best of show except for an incredible mishap in the bathtub of the Lewis' camper on the trip down from Lincoln!). Bart and Linda are soon departing for an eight month stay in England, where they will continue serve their customers with listings of ancient coins and artifacts.
Word has reached us that Superior Galleries will hold an auction of the Dr. Fedori Petito collection of 2,150 ancient coins in conjunction with the New Yark International Coin Show in December. Remember, you saw it in The Celator fIrst!
Finally, just a word about mailing. In order to hold down costs, and your subscription price, we distribute The Celator by bulk mail. It is mailed on, or very near, the first day of each even numbered month. If you do not receive your copy within a reasonable time (3 to 15 days depending on distance and mail backlog) please let us know and we'll send a replacement copy. If you change addresses, it is imperative that you notify us because bulk mail is not forwarded and we will not receive an address change from the Post Office. So far there have been no complaints - this is just a precaution.
Thanks for your support and let us hear your point of view!
Vol 01 No. 04 - Aug Sep 1987Perceptions are often as powerful as reality and any business person dealing with a wide spectrum of contacts must constantly be aware o f perceptions that may affect the lines of communication.
We received a very thoughtful letter recently from Bill Raedy of North Carolina. Bill said, in part:
"Your last edition was disturbing because your main story dealt with record prices attained in recent auctions. To me it signals that you are playing to the 10% - the high rollers, the monied speculators and the dealers - or the minority.
Can this really interest the average collector, could he ever possibly imagine himself purchasing such a coin?
The story wasn't balanced and gave the impression that because a few individuals had the money to make some record breaking purchases that the market is healthy and prices are on the rise. I'm sure the market is healthy but that doesn't necessarily imply that prices should rise dramatically.
Don't forget the basic collector, the $50 - $100 purchaser who desires choice coins but can't afford the higher prices that dealers will now place on their lots and on estimates for future auctions. The last thing we want to see is higher prices."
Bill went on to describe some analyses of auction prices realized that indicated that many, if not most, coins sold at or below estimate. He concluded:
"I realize that you are, to a great degree dependent on dealers for advertisement and information that is needed for publishment of your paper and I have found most dealers are reputable and honest - however as a collector I find mylelf in the other camp.
Please, in your future editions, try to do stories on collectible coins and types that will interest the true collector, who will, I hope, be your majority."
If Bill Raedy was disturbed by the nature of our feature article last issue, it is equally disturbing that we be perceived as "playing to" either the minority or the majority. In Vol. 1, No. 1 we outlined the purpose of The Celator . That purpose remains - to advance the appreciation of ancient numismatic art.
Most of the coins discussed in our auction feature :-vere examples of extreme rarity and exceptional artistic merit. It is cenainly impossible for the majority of collectors, regardless of financial ability, to own examples of this type.
The intent of our coverage was to illustrate that some ancient coins are indeed major works of art, not just collectible artifacts of historical curiosity. When a Van Gogh painting brings $14 million at auction, the average collector (who might be able to afford a Rembrandt print) certainly doesn't cry 'foul' at the major network coverage. I doubt seriously if the price of the Van Gogh drove up the price of Rembrandt prints, and 1 haven't seen any indications that the price of Arthur Houghton's Seleucus I tetradrachm did much to drive up the price of 4th century Roman bronze coins.
The perception, as stated in this case, seems to be that The Celator is encouraging the escalation of higher prices for average collectible material. That perception is totally misplaced. From a purely logical standpoint, the more subscribers a paper has, the more successful it can become. There are not so many collectors of ancient coins in this country that one has to beat them away from the door, therefore, new collectors are eagerly sought out by publishers and coin dealers alike.
High prices discourage new collectors and slow the enthusiasm of established collectors. No dealer can continue to carry the same overpriced material around from show to show, or run it in list after list, while paying extremely high overhead costs. Low prices are to the advantage of the dealer and The Celator as weil as the collector.
On the subject of articles about coins that the majority can afford, check Vol. I, NO.2 of The Celator. We ran a front page article about a common bronze coin from Aradus that seems to depict a distinctly narrative scene, probably unique in ancient art. I have seen many examples of the featured coin offered for as little as $10 and never more than $40, even in exceptional condition.
The subject of auctions, and how much a coin is worth, was also raised last issue in a Letter to the Editor from Russell Bobkoskie. Our reply advised collectors to "pay what ~ think a coin is worth, not what someone else thinks a coin is worth.6 We reiterate that advice.
Perceptions are powerful things, they can work to one's advantage or they can be incredibly destructive. W e appreciate Bill Raedy's sharing this perception with us so that we can better communicate our point of view.
Vol 01 No. 05 - October - November 1987Time sure does have a way of getting away from us and here we are two more months down the road. A s we approach the Hest anniversary of The Celator's birth it is time to look back at where we have been and forward to where we would like to go.
The support we have received In this project has been very heanwarming and the prospects for a successful future seem bright As the past year rolled along it became more and more evident that the paper would require a full time effort. Fortunately, we have been able to transition into a situation where that time is now available.
The December issue will be our last bi-monthly issue. After that, the paper will be produced monthly . The subscription rate and advertising rates will for the present, remain the same, except that the $6.00 for 6 issues will become $12 for 12 issues.
We have noted some problems in certain parts of the country with 3rd class mail delivery . While some subscribers get their paper in three or four days, others have to wait as much as two weeks. After investigating the advantages and disadvantages of 2nd class mail, we have decided to forego that option and offer instead, a first class subscription at an increased rate to cover postage for those who want their copy faster. Also, to improve the timeliness of the paper, we have moved our advertising deadline up to the second friday of each month rather than the third as has been the policy in the past. This will allow us to set up an earlier print date and mail earlier in the cycle.
A number o f readers ha ve contributed articles over the past year and we greatly appreciate their support. The exchange of information and viewpoints is what makes any hobby publication worthwhile, so keep it up! Send us your questions, ideas, papers, dissertations, etc. We don't always get our mail answered as promptly as one would like, but we do read all of the mail and use almost everything in some way or other.
We recently have entered into a new venture with Peter J. Rosa of New York to promote pure numismatic art through the sale and distribution of Scholar Copies of major coins in public collections.
These copies are executed in plaster or in silver laminated lead. They are uniface, one side being entirely flat and unfinished. They are in no way mistakeable for actual coinage. but are never-the-Iess very beautiful and educational. They provide an opportunity fo r the beginning collector of ancient coins to study the rarest and most exquisite works of numismatic art, without travelling to a major museum. We will be advertising these copies as the months unfold and I'm sure many of you will find the m appealing. In an upcoming issue we will have an interesting story about their history and that of the man who manufactures them at his little mint in the Bronx.
While we're on the subject of plugs, let me put one in for the "Rome and the Germans" exhibition catalog. U's really a great buy and I encourage every collector interested in Roman coinage to get a copy. See the news item within.
Our kudos also to Dennis Kroh of Empire Coins for supporting the Society of Ancient Numismatics with a first place prize of a $500 gift certificate and a 2nd place prize of a $250 certificate for the bes t article published in SAN during the current volume term.
On a more somber note, we learned this week of the passing of Alex Cox, chairman of Batsford, Ltd., (owner of B.A . Seaby, Ltd.). Mr. Cox reportedly died in London of a heart attack.
On a personal note, the new Sayles home that has occupied so many evenings, weekends, holidays, and delayed vacations, in its construction, is now completed and I can get back to answering all of the kind letters that have been flowing in. In the meantime, thanks ever so much to all of you who have sent me information about my own collecting specialty, the clasped hands motif. I hope someday to publish my research and you will all have played an important role in that effort.
Thanks again for helping to make The Celator a success. Above all.. let us hear your point of view!
Vol 01 No. 06 December 1987This issue marks the end of our 1st year - and what a year it's been! We've travelled to shows at Chicago, S1. Louis, Charlotte, New York, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Atlanta and London. We've met scores of dealers and collectors of ancient coins and antiquities; shared experiences; and developed new friendships along the way.
Vol. I, NO.1 was a 12-page tabloid with a healthy proportion, I must admit, of "house ads." Our past two issues, by way of contrast, have been a meaty 20 pages with major articles and strong diversified advertising. They have in fact been so packed with information that we temporarily had to suspend our in- house series on Master Images, as well as some of the smaller regular features.
The Celator, I am proud to claim, is a resounding success. Partly because it is a much-needed medium, but mostly because of the active participation of its readers. Our circulation now approaches 3,000 copies per issue, over 500 of which are personal paid subscriptions. Those numbers may not seem significant to collectors of U.S. coins, but all of us that have anything at all to do with ancient coins know that they are respectable numbers indeed.
We still have some minor problems, but we are aware of them and are working toward effective remedies.
Some special thanks are in order for ' Kris, Karen and Janet, the girls that help me assemble and distribute The Celator, sometimes working until 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. the night before printing. Thanks also to David Liebert for his faithful l and enlightening series of articles about antiquities; and to Dennis Kroh for his unwavering support in promoting The Celator both through advertising and distribution.
The Empire Coins bourse table has many times served as our "operating location" at shows and conventions.
The excellent feature articles by Diane Schauer, Vince Kosik, Colin Pitchfork, John Barton, Dennis Kroh and Allan Davisson deserve our highest praise, because they exemplify the fraternal spirit that we strive to foster and enhance. In the same spirit, we thank all of those subscribers who have written and shared their views as well as their warm wishes.
We certainly would be remiss not to extend our gratitude as well to the multifarious Publisher/editor of The Lodi Enterprise, Bill Haupt. Bill has shared with us his valuable knowledge and experience, his facility, and his encouragement over the past year.
Our next issue, Vol. II, No.1, (January 1988) will be a special anniversary issue and we are working hard to make it the biggest and best issue yet. It will also mark our transition from a bi-monthly to a monthly tabloid. Current subscriptions will continue to be filled at the standard rate of $1 per issue. For those subscribing late in 1987, this will mean of course that your renewal will come at something less than a calendar year. Renewals will be offered at the rate of $12 for 12 issues (third class) or $18 for 12 issues (first class) to U.S. and APO/FPO addresses. Canadian subscriptions will be offered at the same rate as U.S. 1St class ($18 for 12 issues). Foreign subscriptions, because of the additional postage cost, will be offered at $30 for 12 issues (air printed matter).
We extend our warmest wishes to all for a happy holiday season, may your stockings be filled with numismatic art treasures! See you at the New York International, meanwhile, keep those letters and articles coming in and be sure to let us hear your point of view.
Vol 02 No. 01 January 1988Anniversaries are a time for rededication, and we feel it is time to rededicate ourselves 10 the appreciation of numismatic art. The field of ancient numismatics is so vast that one can easily wander in its forest of new discoveries; and the wandering (if instructive) is not entirely undesirable. Over the past year we have presented quite a variety of topics to the readership of The Celator and plan to continue doing so in the future. We will endeavor, however, to focus a little more intently on the relationship between the art of the ancient Celator, who designed and carved the dies for coin production, and the art of his contemporaries who worked in other media.
From the start, we have expressed the aim of making The Celator an adjunct to the morning cup of coffee or evening glass of Sherry. In other words, we wish it to be enjoyable and relaxing, yet instructive and stimulating. In this issue we are featuring a special pull-out reprint of Vol.I, No. I of Numismatic Pilot to Ancient Coins and Their Uses. The four-page tabloid style newspaper, published in 1876, came to us via Jonathan Kern. It is a virtual treasure trove of insight to the ancient coin collecting fraternity and market in 19th century America.
On page four Dr. Robert Morris, the publisher, elucidates the character of his publication with the motto "Delectando parterque monendo" (equally for pleasing and in structing). Our own sentiments must either be archaic or time-honored, depending on your point of view, for they are unquestionably an echo of this 19th century pioneer.
We purposely did not number or place datelines on the pages of this pull-out, so that it could be enjoyed in it completely original form. It has been reduced to 94% of the original size in order to fit our pages.
Having removed the Numismatic Pilot... pull-out, one will find a second pull-out section of Roman Egypt Nome coinage rarity tables compiled by Keith Emmett. This comprehensive set of tables lists all of the presently known Nome coinage. It is an extremely valuable reference tool for the specialist in Roman Egypt coinage or the beginner desiring information about the potential for forming a collection in this series. I must emphasize that these rarity tables are copyrighted by Mr. Emmett and are only for the personal use of readers of The Celator. They may not be reproduced in any form.
The collecting of ancient art is often perceived as a pastime of the wealthy. In many cases this is true, but the collector of ancient coins can assemble quite an impressive display of original art from classical antiquity with a surprisingly modest investment. In this issue we have illustrated some of the things to look for if you are an art connoisseur on a budget.
Those readers who have experienced mail delays will note, upon receipt of their subscription renewal forms, that we now offer a First-Class mail subscription service at $18 per year. Because of residual advertising, we are still receiving subscription requests at the $6 bi-monthly rate. If you have recently subscribed at this rate, we have credited your subscription with 6 issues (6 months), after which you will receive a renewal invitation.
The number of advertisers in The Celator is growing, and this growth nurtures a corresponding growth in features and services provided by the newspaper. We cannot guarantee that an ad in The Celator will sell our advertiser's product, but we can guarantee that it will be seen by over 1,000 serious collectors, connoisseurs, scholars and antiquarians. It is important that advertisers get positive feedback. If you are contemplating a purchase, I encourage you to consider the advertisers on these pages for your needs. When you write or call be sure to say you saw it in The Celator helps all of us.
We're very proud of your acceptance, and win continue to strive for improvement. Join us in this effort by sending your comments, articles, complaints or suggestions Let us hear your point of View!
Vol 02 No. 02 February 1988There are certain ageless topics within the numismatic fraternity that from time to time flare up as hotbeds of controversy. One of these, with a history that dates back at least to the Renaissance, is the production of coin replicas.
Michele Onana. a Coin World staff writer, recently reported on a growing uneasiness, primarily among collectors of U.S. coins, about the modem production of silver rounds by private mints. The size and design of these pieces is supposed to be strictly controlled by parts of section 18 of the U.S. code. In addition to protections under Section 18. which primarily work against the copying of legal tender, other laws are designed to protect the consumer, HR 9448, known as the Hobby Protection Act, prohibits the manufacture, importation or sale of any facsimile of a coin unless such is clearly marked "copy" on its obverse or reverse. A facsimile, by definition, is an exact reproduction.
Collectors of ancient coins have long been exposed to facsimiles of coins from antiquity. Some have come from the molds of Middle East merchants catering to a curious tourist trade; others have come from such respected institutions as the British Museum.
Even today, with the Hobby Protection Act in force, one can find knowledgeable and reputable dealers offering "copies" for sale that are not in any way marked as such. They may be found in fixed price lists under the heading "fantasy" pieces and in auction catalogs as "Museum Copies", "Beckers" or "Paduans." They may also be found openly displayed and offered for Sale on the bourse floor at many shows. The Hobby Protection Act does not say that it is only illegal to import "modern" facsimiles, it forbids the manufacture, importation or sale of unmarked facsimiles without distinction as to age or origin.
There is, living in the outskirts of New York City. a man with the technical ability and the dies to create copies of some of the greatest pieces of numismatic art the world has ever seen. His name is Peter Rosa.
Before the advent of HR 9448, Peter Rosa conducted a business selling copies of museum pieces, operating under the name Becker Reproductions. Over a period of many years, he accumulated an impressive collection of master casts which were transformed into dies and then into die struck copies. HR 9448, and the subsequent refusal of major numismatic publications to accept further ads for the sale of reproductions essentially curtailed the activities of Peter Rosa and Becker Reproductions.
Some months ago. Mr. Rosa approached me about the propriety of selling uniface (one-sided) plaster and die struck silver laminate recreations of ancient coins. The tradition of collecting, trading and displaying plaster casts of ancient coins, gems and sculpture goes back to the early days of the Humanist movement in the 14th century. Nearly every collector of coins traded impressions and casts with fellow antiquarians. It is a tradition worthy of continuing and, as such, we whole-heartedly supported the production of these scholarly recreations.
Very recently. Mr. Rosa mailed to certain dealer's association officials and media representatives a letter challenging the legality of HR 9448 and proposing to produce copies with· out the built-in safeguards of the Hobby Protection Act. While we actively endorse the production of uniface recreations· so that all can share in the beauty of certain pieces so rare as to be inaccessible to the average collector - we do not support the manufacture, importation or sale of facsimiles. That is, we do not support the sale of unmarked, exact copies of ancient coins, or any other coins for that matter.
We have discussed this point with Mr. Rosa at length, on numerous occasions. We understand his point of view - and he ours. The Celator will not accept any advertisement which offers unmarked facsimiles for sale.
Unifaces are not facsimiles, and the Celator will continue to promote and offer for sale plaster casts and uniface die struck laminates under the name "Scholar Copies." There are some who oppose even the sale of plaster casts. We believe they are reactionary and wrong. We personally feel that Mr. Rosa's copies are no more offensive than those ' copies mentioned earlier in the dealers' lists and auctions. Is the sale of a 19th century copy any more justifiable than the sale of a 20th century copy? There is a law governing the sale of these items and we feel that it should be applied equally to all or else it should be abolished.
The Celator will abide by the provisions of HR 9448 and Mr. Rosa will undoubtedly Challenge those pro· visions. Although we do not entirely agree with his position, we sincerely hope that his argument is not lost on closed minds. How do you feel about this vital issue? Let us hear your point of view.
Vol 02 No. 03 March 1988Nightmarish experiences are usually the stock in trade of another type of tabloid, but we heard one recently that really curdles the blood.
Gene LePere, who has recounted her experience in Never pass this way again (Adler & Adler), was arrested during a vacation trip to Turkey in 1983 for smuggling antiquities. Ms. LePere claims to have purchased three small Stone heads from a street vendor for twenty dollars. One of the heads, to her surprise and eventual dismay, turned out to be an antiquity.
Now anyone who has been to Turkey knows this is not such a preposterous happenstance. Fanners are constantly showing up in the metropolitan bazaars with coins. pots, and all types of artifacts. They sell to merchants who often pass these odds and ends of the ancient world on to curious tourists. Just as often, the merchants pass on modem replicas of things supposedly ancient. The average tourist seldom knows the difference - or cares.
Ms. LePere's plight apparently drew a dispassionate response from the State Department consulate in Izmir and she mentions the low point of her experience as being the proud claim of her attorney that she'd have LePere out of prison in only 31/2 years.
The plucky LePere was released on $1,500 bail in October 1983 and promptly jumped bail via a flight to Munich. The title of her book is well chosen, but she might have considered something bizarre happened on the way to the bazaar" and made a fortune off Broadway.
This seems to be the month for humor (maybe because it's too cold to do anything but laugh at life). First. we received a letter from Bill Spengler (see Letters) in which he shared an old Partch cartoon with us. On the heels of that letter came a hilarious exposition of one-upmanship from John Barton, who claims to know less about more than the beleaguered Frank Kovacs who is relatively limited in his lack of knowledge. Where will this all end'?
When we mistakenly suggested that Frank: was a specialist in Russian coins (Vol. 2, No. I), and he denied knowing anything about Russian coins (Vol. 2, No.2), who could have foreseen an avalanche of responses from people who claim to know nothing about anything in the numismatic world'? All further claims will be forwarded to the Guinness Book of Records challenge committee.
In keeping with the "Let's be funny month" theme, we are initiating, with this issue, a regular cartoon series by Lodi artist extraordinaire Parnell Nelson.
For those of you who subscribed during the past year, knowing that we gave out lots of free copies at shows, we extend our warm appreciation. For those of you who didn't - too bad! We are no longer distributing current issues at the shows and conventions. We will continue to distribute the anniversary issue as a free sample, but those who want the latest news will have to cough up the exorbitant subscription fee of $12. A few dealers will also be selling The Celator across the counter. If they have current copies, you can bet that they paid for them, so please don't confuse these with the free anniversary issues. We will be at the CICF in Chicago, ANA Midwinter Convention in Little Rock, and the Northwest Coin Show in Minneapolis. The best time to find us chatting with dealers on the floor is on Saturdays. If you're in the area, stop by and say hi.
'til next month, keep the antiquarian lues burning and let us hear your point of view!
Vol 02 No. 04 April 1988We rarely find occasion to criticize the scholarship of others. test we be held to close account ourselves. There are, however, some assertions and interpretations that fairly scream for comment.
The March 8 issue of World Coin News contains, on page 30, an article by Henry T. Hettger titled "The Satyr and the Nymph". We are not acquainted with Mr. Hettger, and this would perhaps be warning enough for a prudent person to tread carefully; but we have not always been lauded for our prudence.
In his article, Hettger discusses the well-known Thasian staters with the Satyr/Nymph motif. He contrasts the Archaic example of this coin with its Classical successor. The former he characterizes as "The struggle between a muscle-bound man and a similarly constructed female in his arms. "The struggle between the sexes is portrayed on these coins majestically," he claims. The latter he sees as a "more dignified scene of the 'brides crossing the threshold' type".
Completely ignoring the chronological evolution of style, which forms the very basis of our understanding of ancient art, Hettger compares his "muscle bound" version to the Spartan autocracy and the "less muscular, conservative poses" to the Athenian democracy. Implying that the differing treatment is a matter of aesthetic choice, he suggests that this change may have come about because "the populace of Thasos protested the designs of the early issues or felt the need to change the designs to a more conservative pose." He goes on to assert that the theme is later "imitated by important painters.
Finally, Hettger takes G. Kenneth Jenkins (Ancient Greek Coins) to task for not drawing a comparison between the Satyr/Nymph motif on coins of Thasos and the Satyr and Nymph found on coins of Himera. It is this final outrage that causes one to scream - Enough! Comparing these two motives is like comparing a painting by Poussin to one by Rubens. Stylistically, they have absolutely nothing in common, in fact, they are quite the opposite. Herger's assertion that the design from Himera was influenced by the coin from Thasos. simply because the two coins each have a Nymph and a Satyr in their iconography. is absurd. It is akin to comparing donkeys with dinosaurs because they both have tails.
The importance of coinage as a reflection of ancient culture, and as a major force in the art world of antiquity is a basic philosophical tenet of The Celator. The assumption that art from one time and place influences art in another time and place is unquestionably true. We have. in our series on Master Images, shown that there are certain motives which are frequently repeated throughout many centuries of numismatic art. This is not to say. however. that one can offhandedly link iconographic details as Mr. Hettger has done.
The study of art is not an exacting science, and we certainly have much to learn about the subjects and symbols we find. especially in ancient numismatic art. Mr. Jenkins may be numbered among the most respected authors of our time and his knowledge of the artistic treatment of images on coins is considerable. His "failure" to link the coins mentioned above is no failure at all. The stater from Thasos is an intensely narrative scene which was obviously designed to fit the circular space presented by a coin planchet, rondel, or a kylix tondo. It is indeed quite probable that this design actually came from a vase-painter rather than a Celator as Hettger claims. The coin from Himera presents an unemotional, nondescript votive scene which does not lend itself well to the circular space and may actually be copied from a rectangular panel painting or sculptural relief.
It is always fun to conjecture that coins were the source of designs for the parallel arts of painting and sculpture, but the mass of evidence is to the contrary. It is well to remember that the art on coins was public art, while the works of major painters and sculptors were usually private commissions for the wealthy. The latter became public only through the dedication of works by a patron. It logically follows that major innovations in style or treatment would evolve from the private to the public. There are certainly exceptions to this rule, as in the' coins of Greek Sicily, but the pieces from Thasos and Himera I fear do not fall into that category.
We encourage all types of viewpoints and applaud the efforts of new writers in this field: but let us not become so "popular" in our approach that we lose sight of true scholarship and take too lightly the work of those who have come before us.
We hope to see some of you at the Greater New York show late in April. Until then. keep in touch, enjoy the hobby and let us hear your point of view!
Vol 02 No. 05 May 1988As you might have already guessed, the recent U.S. Postal Service rate hikes hit us pretty hard. The bulk of our distribution has been handled through the U.S. mail and that service is one of our greatest expenses. It has also been one of our greatest consternations. We mail more than 1,000 individual copies of The Celator per month via third class bulk-rate mail. In the recent fate hike. that category of service increased by over 25%. The first-class rate increase was slightly lower at 16%. but the picture worsens dramatically if we want or need to print more than 20 pages in an issue. With the current 20-page format, we are right at the 3 oz, breakpoint. The problem we face is that, because of mailing expenses, further growth could result in a net loss.
After wearing out a set of batteries in the calculator, we have decided that a change is inevitable. In order to provide the best service possible, at the most reasonable cost, we are switching to second-class mail across the board. It means some initial expenses for us, a slight increase in mailing costs, and more effort in sorting and bagging papers for distribution; but the speed and reliability of delivery will be nearly that of first-class mail and copies will now be forwarded in the event of an unreported address change.
To reduce our handling costs, we are converting both third- and first-class mail subscriptions, effective immediately, to second-class at the new rate of $15 per year (12 issues). Those third-class subscriptions already in force will be honored for their full term at the $12 rate, renewals will be charged at the $15 rate. New subscriptions submitted on previously distributed flyers will also be accepted at the $12 rate until those forms are exhausted. First class subscriptions currently in force will automatically be extended by one, two or three months (depending on renewal date) to compensate for the overpayment. Canadian subscriptions, and overseas surface mail subscriptions will be offered at $18 per year with overseas "air printed matter" mailings at $35 per year.
By initiating this change, we feel that we can provide substantially better service to the majority of our readers and allow for future growth without the necessity of a big rate increase.
Moving on to more pleasant news, we are happy to announce that The Celator has a new home. After a year and a half of operating almost literally from the kitchen table, we will now be able to ramble about in spacious comfort (see photo on page IV). Originally built as a branch office of an area bank, the building is located in Harmony Grove, a small community located on the shores of Lake Wisconsin about 15 miles north of Madison. Our address and phone will remain the same.
We have received several good manuscripts recently and will be sharing them with you in the next few months, but we are always looking for interesting historical and related themes relevant to ancient coins and antiquities. If you have a favorite topic. or area of specialization, that you would like to share. give us a try. Dust off some of those college term papers and see how easy it is to become an internationally read numismatic author. Those who teach may want to submit some shorter symposium papers; or if you have a promising student who wants to be published. here's the chance!
We received a letter this month from Michael L. Bates, Curator of Islamic Coins for The American Numismatic Society, congratulating Stephen Album for his series of articles in The Celator about Islamic coinage (Vol. 2. # 2 and Vol. 2, # 4.) Islamic coins are often thought of in a context outside the realm of "ancient" coins. yet they are struck in the same places and during the same time periods as other more traditionally accepted series. Bates and Album have done much to show how this fascinating coinage interacts with contemporary Byzantine issues. Their work will undoubtedly foster new enthusiasm for this period. Islamic coins seem to be involved in a growing awareness among collectors not unlike that which Byzantine coins underwent in the past two decades. We are very pleased to be able to offer this in-depth view of a coin series which certainly deserves to be better understood if not more widely collected.
Our thanks to those who wrote in with their thoughts and suggestions this month, we really do appreciate the input. Keep those letters coming and let us hear your point of view!
Vol 02 No. 06 June 1988One of the" exciting aspects of collecting is the feeling of elation one may derive from the discovery of something hidden or unique. In a sense, we all are looking for something undiscovered or elusive. It is sometimes humorous to note just how far we will go in this quest. One day earlier this month, while wandering down Main Street in Lodi, I was stopped by Jim Peterson. Jim and his father run the local meat processing plant - a standard feature of most small towns in Wisconsin. One of the conditions of small-town living, which has its pros and cons, is familiarity. Now Jim, and most everyone else in town, knows that I am a lover of ancient Greek and Roman coins. So, when Jim noticed an ad in the local "Shopper" announcing a Coin Auction, he took note.
When he discovered that the auction was to include Roman coins, he did the neighborly thing by bringing it promptly to my attention.
Sure enough, upon inspection, the ad did mention some "very old Roman coins" to be included in the Richland Center sale.
Now Richland Center is not known as a hotbed of antiquarian activity. It is a rural farming community about 60 miles northwest of Madison in a rather unpopulated portion of the state. But not too long ago a Raphael painting was reportedly discovered in Medford, Wisconsin; and Medford makes Richland Center look like Gotham City. Willing to risk the hour-long drive (each way), just on the off chance they might have an Otho sestertius hidden in the lots, I trucked off (literally) filled with anticipation in my little Toyota pickup.
I thought of Bob Levy and his experiences at the NF A auction surely, I wouldn't see the same faces ready to challenge my desire to own the treasures forthcoming.
I thought about the time I found a sestertius of Tranquillina for $1.50 in a junk box along the Seine at Paris, and the little hoard of Macrianus and Quietus that came my way for $2 each. Then I thought some more about the Medford Raphael. The drive didn't take long.
The auction was held at the community center in Richland Center, and my heart was pounding as I entered the room. There was only a dozen or so bidders in attendance, and all but one was wearing bib overalls or the like. Now, I am not one to stereotype, but this was definitely not Beverly Hills.
I introduced myself to the auctioneer and asked to view the lots of Roman coins. After some lengthy confusion, he produced a small "baggy" with a rubber band sealing it shut. Inside were five Roman bronzes marked simply "B.C."
One was a centenionalis of Constantius II, one a barbarous radiate of Tetricus I, and three were small AE-34 pieces from the fourth century. My anticipation vanished rather abruptly.
I did notice, however, that the local Lion's club was sponsoring lunch for the auction, and the ladies had put out a spread of home-baked pies that would rival the entries at our State Fair. A cup of coffee and piece of fresh rhubarb pie (the first of the season) did much to relieve the hollow feeling that lot viewing had created.
Out of curiosity, I stayed for the calling of that single lot of ancients; it was only #46. The lot went for $12 - and as some are prone to extol the virtues of being underbidder - I am willing to admit to having been the one to drive that lot to such lofty heights.
On the ride home I had a chance to reflect on the day's experience. It was a beautiful day, one of those days when you're glad you live in Wisconsin. They usually come right at the end of winter. I didn't find my Otho sestertius or another one of Tranquillina. But I did, for a time, enjoy the thrill of the search and the anticipation that goes with it. I certainly have ample opportunity to look at ancient coins and even the opportunity to find bargains, but I seldom take the time anymore to just go out for a drive in the country. I hope Richland Center has another coin auction next spring, and that someone has a couple ancient treasures to entice me away from the office for a day!
Have a nice summer and thanks for letting us hear your point of view.
Vol 02 No. 07 July 1988It was at the Spring 1987 Greater New York show that I first met John Barton. Still a bit naive as an editor. I thought that I had met all of the ancient coin dealers in America and mused that this guy from the New Hampshire hills must be pretty low profile. Well, I was right about the low profile, but I was probably the only one in the room that didn't know John. The situation was very quickly remedied.
There always seems to be some people that you never really are in touch with, and others that just click automatically. Although we had no commonalities in our background. other than a love for the past, John and I hit it off right from the start. Perhaps it was his compassion for a fledgling editor, having lived through the experience himself, but more likely it was our mutual appreciation for satirical humor.
In 1965 John succeeded Harlan Berk at Gold Stella in Chicago as a professional numismatist. Photography was one of his major interests, and the photographing of coins his specialty. Later, as the editor of Numorum - the official publication of the International Numismatic Society, he wrote a comprehensive article on photographing coins. That article was reprinted in the December 1987 issue of The Celator.
John was a writer of rare ability. He could enliven a subject like few others and was a meticulous researcher. One of his best articles, about an important French medallion commemorating the visit of Byzantine emperor Manual Palaeologus to France, was printed in the Aug-Sep 1987 issue of The Celator.
In February 1988 we presented John 's exceptional article about Judaean coins and history, which will also be printed in a forthcoming issue of The Shekel - the official publication of the American Israel Numismatic Association.
In this issue, we proudly offer John Barton's introduction to Roman Republican coins.
Operating under the company name Owl, Ltd., John conducted a business buying and selling ancient and medieval coins. Along with ancients, he specialized in Transylvanian and Russian coins. Of course, he would probably deny any knowledge of the above (see The Celator Vol. 2, No.3, March 1988, Letters). At least as early as 1975, while still living in Chicago, he issued The Owl Quarterly which offered coins and antiquities for sale. Although the "Quarterly" format was abandoned. and the location was changed to Henniker, New Hampshire, John continued to operate the business with an emphasis on high quality coins.
In the art world there is a certain quality that true artists and connoisseurs share. it is simply referred to as "a good eye". There is no college course in developing a good eye, it seems "father to come from the discriminating appreciation born of experience and comparative analysis. A good eye takes not only a strong data base but a certain sensitivity to the subtleties of presentation. John had a good eye and the artistic ability to convert that sensitivity into something tangible. His medium was stained glass, and his work was highly acclaimed (see The Celator. Vol. 2, No.2, February 1988. People in the news).
Returning to New Hampshire from the Los Angeles C.O.I.N. show early in June, driving a truck loaded with family furniture, John Barton apparently succumbed to fatigue and somewhere in Kansas his vehicle left the road. The result was fatal.
The world has lost an inspired artist, the numismatic fraternity a respected scholar. and a lot of people have lost a good friend. Anyone who really knew John Banon will miss him greatly - we dedicate this issue to his lasting memory.
Vol 02 No. 08 August 1988The story that everyone has been waiting for finally was released to the public this July as Connoisseur magazine published an article by Ozen Acar and Melik Kaylan outlining their tale of "intrigue" surrounding the origin and sale of coins from the famed Decadrachm Hoard of 1984. The Connoisseur article was also reprinted in the July 6 issue of Coill World.
Although collectors have for many years witnessed the capricious nature of governments in the Mediterranean area, never has one of those governments touched us quite so close to home. The idea that one might be subject to forfeiting a collectible, bought in good faith. because another nationality considers it a part of their cultural heritage, is more than a little disconcerting. For those who may have been vacationing in the Falkland Islands over the past year. the Turkish government is attempting to retrieve the contents of the Decadrachm Hoard claiming theft of cultural patrimony.
Having lived in Turkey for two years, it is my observation that the vast majority of modern inhabitants of that country are concerned very little with the preservation of a cultural heritage belonging to them little more than it belongs to the Chinese or the Finlanders. They are. in fact, mostly interested in Greek, Roman and Byzantine artifacts only so far as those trinkets of the past produce a cash flow in a land where four-digit annual incomes are above the norm.
It has also been my observation that the application of law in that country is often a product of influence or the lack of it. Violators of certain laws seem only to be apprehended if their ability to influence is not sufficient, or if they have offended the wrong person.
Why then are we so concerned with the Turkish government's attempts to retrieve those coins known as The Decadrachm Hoard? If they left that country illegally, so have tens of thousands more. Let's face it. none of the ancient coins we see on the world market were released to collectors by the Turkish government.
Of course, it is impossible for anyone to prove the origin of 99% of the ancient coins bought and sold every day, so the danger of losing one's prized tetradrachm is not very real. In the case of the Decadrachm Hoard, we may have that elusive 1% whose origin can be proven. Very bad luck it seems for the parties concerned.
What is particularly bothersome to me, is that the notoriety of this case has implicitly branded all collectors of ancient coins as accomplices to smugglers and ne'er do wells. Is there an ethical question here to be addressed? If we should boycott Krugerands, perhaps we should also boycott all ancient coins struck in Anatolian cities or Greek cities or Italian cities. Perhaps we all should collect Celtic coins or British hammered coins. But what if the British government tightened up its view of cultural patrimony? Is it safe to collect American Indian arrowheads? Don't laugh, that may be in danger too.
As a nation, we have a strange propensity to burden ourselves with guilt for any number of the world's supposed ills. The "theft" of antiquities sounds ominous enough, but I, for one, refuse to feel guilty about owning and cherishing my own little piece of classical Greek or Roman art. It's my cultural heritage too, and if someone who cares less about it wants to trade it to me for a few greenbacks they'll always find me a willing buyer.
I find nothing objectionable about a government trying to preserve the best of its treasures for national museums and public enjoyment, but the total ban on export of antiquities does little to achieve that objective. It does, in fact, encourage an illicit trade. I think it is time the governments of these countries take a more realistic view concerning the exportation of ancient coins and artifacts. The past belongs to mankind, not just to the particular authority governing a locality.
Governments come and go, but there have been collectors of ancient coins since the third century BC. I suspect that there will still be collectors of ancient coins long after the present regimes in those Mediterranean countries have perished.
Our letterbag this month was filled with interesting exchanges. If you have opinions or useful tips that you would like to share - Let us hear your point of view!
Vol 02 No. 09 September 1988It never occurred to me that so many readers might be interested in the outcome of my planned vacation (participating in an archaeological excavation) at Phalasarna, Crete. It seems that armchair travel is still a popular pastime. Practically everyone that I have talked to since returning from Europe in June asks about the dig.
Sadly, I do not have a story to tell. Through a combination of unfortunate circumstances, I did not make it to Crete. I did, however, visit some of the museums of Rome and Naples that escaped my attention on earlier visits, and made a trip to the excavations at Pompei. The site and modern city of Pompei are very worthwhile and refreshing diversions in a part of Italy that offers little for the tourist. The hope of participating in a dig still burns bright and one of these years it will happen.
Another Question that continues to surface is that of format for The Celator. Some would like to see the tabloid converted into a magazine, having looked seriously at the question, it seems best at this time to continue with the present format. Although the storage and preservation of issues, for those who want to save them, may be somewhat of a problem, the tabloid is a comfortable format which has distinct advantages for the advertiser, publisher and reader. It is an economical format, both from the standpoint of printing and of layout. It is also a forgiving format, which lends itself well to the philosophy of The Celator as a "popular" publication rather than a scholarly journal. We will, however, be offering a "Best of The Celator" annual in signature format (magazine like). These annuals will be produced on a more durable paper and lend themselves to storage and binding. They will consist of reprints of articles and features from issues of the previous year. Watch for ads in The Celator announcing their arrival.
We have received several comments from readers about the dearth of advertisements in The Celator for lower priced coins. In this issue there are at least four ads which offer fairly detailed listings of individual coins, many in moderate price ranges. The only thing that will ensure more of the same is a solid response to these offerings. If these are the kind of ads that you want to see more of, it would be smart to write to those advertising and indicate your wishes.
Another common concern is that of detecting counterfeits. Readers often ask, how can I detect a counterfeit coin? What should I look for? The answer is far too complex to address in a column like this, however, there are some obvious telltale signs that every collector should be aware of. We printed an excerpt from David Hendin's "Guide to Biblical Coins" in Vol. 2. NO.3 (March 1988) which reminds collectors to check such details as edge marks from filing or hammering, surfaces for casting bubbles, tooled letters, suspicious patina, size, and weight. Another useful indicator may be the tiny stress marks from striking that are found along letters and other vertical edges in the coin design. The cast copy will not, when examined with a glass, bear sharp distinct stress marks. Modem die-struck copies may bear these stress marks. but the overly flat fields found on some of these copies often betray the counterfeiter's work. Generally speaking. if a coin seems a little "off' for some reason, it is not worth taking the risk. That does not necessarily mean it is a counterfeit, but why take the chance? We hope to offer an in-depth treatment on counterfeit detection in a future issue of The Celator.
Our travelling schedule for September includes the shows at New York and Long Beach. In October we will be at Coinex in London and the Classical Numismatic Bourse in Dallas. If you are planning to attend one of these shows, please make a point of saying hello, it's always a great pleasure to meet readers of The Celator in person. Although we won't have a table at New York or London, ask one of the dealers to point us out. Meanwhile, tell a friend about the new voice of the hobby and by all means, let us hear your point of view!
Vol 02 No. 10 October 1988It is inevitable that opinions will differ over an issue as emotional as the "smuggling" of coins or antiquities. This is an issue which not only arouses one's inner sensitivities, but, on at least one occasion, has presented a threat of financial impact. It is an emotional issue of long-standing concern, and unfortunately a problem of equally long-standing resistance to solution. It is, at the core, a question of ethics and law which many would prefer to ignore.
Many countries, throughout the world, have laws prohibiting the exportation of antiquities. These laws are ostensibly for the purpose of preserving each nation's cultural treasures. In the Mediterranean lands, these laws seem to have evolved at least partly in reaction to widespread looting of the region's archaeological sites by foreign "archaeologists" and "antiquarians " of the past two centuries. The famous lords, knights, and diplomats who "discovered" a world of art treasure at exotic historical sites may have provided rich endowments for European and American museums, but they also kindled a bitter resentment which the most inconspicuous collector in modem times has still to contend with. As a result, the exportation of a single coin, once struck by the millions, or a single scrap of discarded pottery from some ancient dump site, may be treated with disdain equal to that of Lord Elgin's stripping of the Parthenon.
We do not advocate the violation of any law, imposed by any sovereign nation, regardless of its irrationality. We do, however, believe that there are good laws and there are bad laws. There are some laws still on the books in this country that should have been abolished a hundred years ago.
Likewise, we bell eve that the unyielding and all-encompassing provisions of certain antiquities laws make them bad laws. They do, in fact, encourage violation rather than compliance.
Buyers of antiquities, including ancient coins, are usually not in a position to know or judge with any degree of certainty the conditions under which an object came to be offered in the marketplace. There are many countries which do not regulate the sale of artifacts, and these include some of the countries in which classical antiquities are commonly found. The attributable origin of an object holds no key to its provenance since coins and antiquities were widely dispersed in ancient times through natural diffusion. For hundreds of years prior to the advent of modern antiquities laws, artifacts were also dispersed by a host of' antiquarians. Indeed, many coins offered for sale today have "pedigrees" indicating that they have been in the hands of (European or American collectors longer than the modern governments. and antiquities laws, of their countries of origin have existed.
It is not incumbent upon the dealer or buyer of a coin to try to ascertain how it happened to arrive at its present geographical location. In fact, it is usually impossible to do so, even when determining the provenance would be desirable. Whether it is an ethical responsibility of the dealer to try to discourage smuggling is another question.
From a legal and practical point of view, there is little to be concerned about in regard to the origin of coins purchased by most collectors. Any buyer seeing an ethical question may ask the dealer about provenance but will probably receive an honest "I don't know" in response. Coins often change hands so many times between their find site and the collector that keeping track is out of the question. In the case of a bronze statue by Lysippus. or a black-figure vase by Euphronius or Exekias. there may be some cause for concern about the provenance and its appearance in the marketplace. With coins, only a Decadrachm Hoard or its equivalent could arouse the same concern. Since most collectors are not going to make an acquisition of that caliber, the question is essentially moot. It would be pointless to lose any sleep pondering the source of an Alexander tetradrachm.
Anyone with ethical reservations about the collecting of ancient coins would do well to keep in mind that they have been collected for at least 2,300 years by kings, princes, popes, priests, philosophers, scholars, students, emperors, archaeologists, diplomats, etc., etc., from all over the world. Collectors of ancient coins have contributed greatly to the understanding of our political, economic and cultural history.
Ethically, ancient coins belong to the whole world - they always have, and they always will.
Don't forget to order your "Best of The Celator" annual, and while you're addressing an envelope anyway - let us hear your point of view!
Vol 02 No. 11 November 1988We have repeatedly stressed the importance of reader response as a pre-requisite to the success of any periodical. It seems our message has been well received since our mail bag was overflowing with letters this month. Of course, the controversial nature of last month's editorial comments and the debate over rights of the press versus rights of the individual brought about a brisk exchange of views. As might be expected, opinions were mixed. What strikes us as unusual is that there is, for the first time in our memory, an actual dialogue developing between collectors, dealers and students of coins and artifacts from antiquity. We are, as a very succinct group of numismatists and antiquarians, developing our own sense of group awareness.
Following the release of our second issue. in April of 1987, we received an insightful letter from David R. Sear in which he said, "I should like to offer you my congratulations on your interesting new publication 'The Celator.' I really hope it flourishes and helps ancient coin collectors in this country to find a true identity. Surrounded by a vast ocean of modem US collectors, the ancient numismatist here really suffers from the 'Robinson Crusoe' syndrome and must often wonder whether he is completely alone in the world. "
While the syndrome is still very much with us, the growing wave of fraternalism and willingness to communicate reflected by our letters the editor show real promise. It is almost certain that a stand on any issue will bring some reaction, but that reaction is a good and necessary element in our overall growth as a fraternity. We welcome and encourage your opinions.
Changing the subject, the first edition of The Celator Annual is scheduled for release on December 1. The annual will be produced in a magazine style format, 64 pages, printed on 50# offset paper with a rich textured cover. Photos will be screened at 100 lines per inch (as opposed to 85 lines in our regular· publication). We plan to produce a similar edition each year to appear on December 1, in time for holiday gift givers. This year's edition will present a selection of what we feel are some of the best articles and features to appear in The Celator during the first 17 issues. Subsequent annuals will present articles from the previous year. At an appropriate point, an index of articles will be included.
To answer an almost certain question in advance, we are not including the outstanding series of articles by Stephen Album. This series about Islamic coinage will; upon conclusion, be presented in its entirety as an independent survey or off-print.
The annual is offered at $5.95 postpaid via first-class to the U.S. and Canada and will be mailed in a plain white envelope. Overseas orders will be accepted at $9.95 postpaid via air printed matter. Since the supply is becoming critical for certain back issues of TM Celator, the annual will be the only source for many of these fine articles in the future. We very highly recommend it
It was a pleasure meeting many of our readers at the Long Beach show and at Coinex in London this month. As we go to press, we are packing for the Classical Numismatic Bourse in Dallas and will also be attending the CNB in San Francisco on November 18-19. We will, of course, be at the NY International show in December as well. We can usually be found on the bourse floor on Friday afternoons and all-day Saturdays. If the photo above doesn't help, ask any dealer in ancients - they'll point a finger in the right direction. Please do say hello! Until then, enjoy your hobby - share that enjoyment with a friend - and let us hear your point of view.
Vol 02 No. 12 December 1988The month of December is always exciting for collectors of ancient coins. partly because of the activity surrounding the New York International Coin Show, and partly because of the holiday spirit which so appropriately takes our minds back to the time when many of our "collectibles" originated. It is a time when many of us think in terms of biblical coins and coins of the early Caesars. We seem to focus more clearly on names and titles that ring out the history of the time of Christ. Similarly, we tend to identify with particular symbols and images that have become part of our culture. In keeping with the holiday spirit. David Liebert has entertained us this month with an article about the Menorah, a candelabra with a fascinating history and one of those ancient images that mirror the season. This is the seventeenth consecutive issue in which David has graciously shared his knowledge of antiquities with us.
This year's NY International promises to be every bit as exciting as in years past. The show runs Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, December 10-12, but the week is full of other delights as well. Stack's will hold an important preshow auction at the Sheraton Centre on December 8-9 with ancients to be offered on the first day of the sale (Thursday). Starting time is 6:30 P.M. Friday morning at 10:00 A.M. classical coins are being offered at auction by Classical Numismatic Auctions, Ltd. The 600+ Lot sale will be held at the Warwick Hotel. On Saturday and Sunday, a joint auction of numismatic books by George Frederick Kolbe and Spink & Son, Ltd. will be held at Swann Galleries. Books about ancients will be grouped in the second session starting at 3:00 P.M. Sunday,
Sunday night at 6:00 P.M. the Moreira Collection Sale, Part 2 will continue with coins and medals of Russia and ancient coins. The ancients will probably not come on the block until after 10:00 P.M. (possibly later) and the 1,000+ lots in this category will undoubtedly keep die-hard bidders up most of the night
Amidst the excitement of these auctions, the incredible bourse that the International always features, and the hustle-bustle of midtown Manhattan, one should certainly try to squeeze in a visit to the American Numismatic Society Museum at 155th and Broadway. Of course, one also should take time to drop in on locals like Harmer Rooke, Coin Galleries, Marvin Kagan, Mehrdad Sadigh, Christie's, and Joel Coen who offer a wide range of ancient coins and antiquities for sale. If you still have time on your hands run over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the' short tour.
New York hosts one of the premier shows of the year, and in spite of the problems one might encounter with transportation and lodging it is an event worth attending. We'll be there of course and hope to rub elbows with some of you. Until then. thank you all for a very enjoyable year. May you have a truly warm and memorable holiday season and a rewarding new year. Next month is already our second anniversary, wish us a happy birthday and let us hear your point of view!
Vol 03 No. 05 May 1989It has been quite a long time since yours truly has written a feature article for The Celator, cause is not any lack of enthusiasm for the process, quite the contrary, but rather a whole string of very good articles from outside contributors.
Well, just to prove that the pencil still has some lead in it, we have commandeered the front page this issue for an article about our latest fascination. Most of you are probably aware by now, but for those who aren't, Bill Spengler and I are collaborating on a rather different type of catalog dealing with the figural coinage struck: mostly in the 12th and 13th centuries by those people commonly referred to as Turkomans. This catalog is different in that it will first of all be comprehensive and not tied to any specific collection. Functionally, it will address in expanded narrative both the epigraphical and figural elements of the coinage. by type, with specific emphasis on firmly identifying the prototypes. Further, there will be a complete concordance to the most well-known collections which are already published. Not the least important aspect of this new work is that it will be written in the English language and. although great pains are being taken for the sake of accuracy, it will be presented in a style that is perhaps more popular than academic. The intent is to provide a relatively inexpensive and hopefully readable reference for the Islamicist as well as the neophyte.
The work is proceeding quite well. with the help and encouragement of many professionals in the field. It is expected that an early 1990 publication date may be achieved.
The article in this issue, about a single coin of Qutb ai-Din Muhammad from Sinjar, is intended to acquaint the fraternity with the art historical significance of this vastly understudied numismatic series. Those who have been subscribers for some time may recall that we earlier ran several installments of a series dealing with "Master Images". It is our belief that many of the images used in art of all periods are simply recycled images from the past. It can be quite effectively demonstrated that certain images became closely related to abstract human values. Symbolism and allegory have long played an important part in the development of artistic expression, and civilizations tend to identify with images much more so than with other cultural influences. It is this phenomenon which explains the frequent Christian use of pagan symbols. If Orpheus could be transformed by early Christian artists into The Good Shepherd, then certainly Nike could be transformed by Turkoman artists into the angel Gabriel.
Although we as antiquarians and numismatists see familiar faces on their surfaces, the figural coins of Islam are exceedingly more complex than a simple borrowing of images. It is hoped that this one illustration will stimulate some meaningful dialogue on that point.
Shifting to another subject, an apology is in order to those we missed at the CICF. We had planned to be in Chicago on Saturday, but a local emergency intervened. We did make it down for Sunday, but apparently missed many readers who had been at the show earlier and asked for us. Of course, no one in their right mind would go to the show specifically for that, nevertheless, we apologize if anyone waited in vain. To make up for that, we are spending five days in New York (May 2-7) and will be at all of the auctions as well as the Greater NY show. The photo above is a fair likeness, if you see us rambling around say hello.
We will also be attending the Classical Numismatic Bourse to be held for the first time this June in Washington, D.C.
One final comment. which concerns advertising. fair business practices, and policing of the hobby. We will not accept advertising from any person or firm who does not guarantee the authenticity of the material sold or offer a reasonable return policy for mail order sales, unless the lack of such policy is clearly and boldly stated in writing. Further, we will suspend the acceptance of advertising from firms about whom we have received a number of complaints, pending resolution of those complaints. Beyond that. we will exercise our right to reject or edit advertisements which seem misleading or inappropriate. It is, however. the advertiser's right to express personal opinions in a paid advertisement and that right shall be protected as long as it does not defame or criticize specific individuals or firms, advocate unacceptable business practices, or promote activities clearly detrimental to the hobby.
That's about it for this month. Let's hope you folks in California have better luck with the U.S. Postal Service than you did last issue! Let us know if you've discovered our clue and guessed who the mystery commentator is, and while you're at it let us hear your point of view.
Vol 03 No. 06 June1989Collecting is a somewhat puzzling activity. Much of the world's population seems not to care at all about acquiring some elusive, essentially non-utilitarian, object, while others may be totally obsessed with the prospect. It seems that collecting must stem from some innate drive - one that is shared by enough people to result in competition for certain collectables. Out of this competition arises an incentive to supply and that incentive creates a market.
One of the peculiar things about the market, at least for ancient coins, is that the demand always seems to adjust itself to the supply. When a coin is very rare, and seldom seen, it does not always find a receptive market. Yet, that same coin may become extremely popular if quantities are found in a fairly large hoard. There have been cases where the discovery of a hoard actually improved the marketability and thereby the price obtainable for certain coins. From this observation one might infer that rarity is not the primary determinant of price, nor is it the criteria for acquisition in many collections. Indeed, if it were the criteria, we would all be collecting the same thing - nothing!
Does supply and demand dictate price? Not, I think, as much as some would have us believe. There are, for example, countless numbers of Alexander tetradrachms, Athenian Owls, Tarentine and Corinthian staters, Byzantine Solidi and the like. Still, the price of these perennial favorites remains fairly strong and stable. There are infinitely fewer Greek Imperials, Late Roman and Byzantine silver, or Oanishmendid coins; but the prices on these seldom exceed those of the coins mentioned previously.
What it all boils down to, at least as far as ancients are concerned, is emotional appeal. Coins with emotional appeal tend to sell well, those without appeal tend to languish in a dealer's tray.
So? Within this not so startling revelation lies a moral and an opportunity. We have heard ad nauseum about "true collectors" and "serious collectors" as well as "speculators" and "investors", but what it all comes down to is appeal. Either a coin appeals to the buyer or it doesn't - and that goes for every class of collector. We have very little control over the offerings in the market, but we do have some control over what appeals to us. Two years ago, I would not have looked twice at an Islamic bronze coin, today I am fascinated by them. I doubt that the coins changed any in the past two years, but suddenly I became aware of a place and time that was only a shadow in my vaguest memories from World History class. The emotional appeal did indeed change, for me, and therein lies the moral. A coin is nothing more than what we see in it.
Now, I also said there was an opportunity. If we are open minded enough to see in a coin something more than its perceived value, we are the discoverers of a real treasure. For some that might mean learning about obscure civilizations, for others it might suggest the interpretation of undeciphered mint markings. The study piece might be a $5 junk box purchase or a $25,000 Syracusan Decadrachm - it matters little.
The basic collecting urge is obviously not tied to dollar value of the collectible. Many people derive immense pleasure out of collecting matchbooks, leaves, and rocks.
The collecting of ancient coins offers so much diversity and can open up so many new horizons that it is easy to see why it was considered the hobby of kings during the Renaissance. Fortunately, one does not need to be a king to thoroughly enjoy it. If you have had some problems understanding market prices and trying to cope with price changes, try relying on that old emotional appeal. If everything that appeals to you is still outside of your budget, then think about some new vistas - the rewards will be about the same.
This summer is going to be a very busy time for us, so we are limiting our travel to the Washington C.N.B. in June and the A.N.A. at Pittsburgh. Hope to see some of you there. It was nice meeting a number of our readers in New York last month. The subscriber list keeps growing and the support and encouragement is tremendous. Enjoy your vacations and keep in touch with your point of view!
Vol 03 No. 07 July 1989If there was ever a doubt in our mind about whether our readers pay any attention to The Celator's Point of View, it was removed this month. Since our recent proclamation, however obscure, that we will not accept advertising from persons not following reasonable business practices, we have received four written complaints from disgruntled collectors.
While we cannot assume the role of "policeman" for the hobby. we are naturally concerned that persons who advertise on our pages offer fair service to those who trust in their veracity and ethical practice. In a community as small as ours it is particularly distressing that customer satisfaction is lightly regarded. The other side of the coin (no pun intended) is of course that dealers should not be expected to cater to whims and curiosities.
As a result of the recent "rash" of negative comments we feel the need to more explicitly define the phrase "reasonable business practice." The following are conditions upon which we base the acceptance of advertising in The Celator:
1. All coins or antiquities offered for sale in The Celator must be genuine and guaranteed (with return privilege) as such. All copies or facsimiles must be clearly identified and marked in accordance with current federal law.
2. Any specific item sold by mail through a direct advertisement placed in The Celator must carry at least a 7-day unconditional return privilege beginning with the date of receipt by the customer. It is the responsibility of the shipper (either customer or dealer) to insure safe transit of material to its destination.
3. Any item advertised for sale in The Celator must legitimately be available for sale at the time the advertisement is submitted.
4. Photographs and illustrations used in ads must be representative of the type and quality of merchandise actually offered for sale.
5. It is understandable that dealers committed to a busy show and auction schedule might occasionally be delayed in responding to a mail order or reques.t. however, once a customer's payment IS accepted (check is deposited) prompt shipment or reply is expected.
6. All advertising copy is subject to editorial approval and the editor reserves the right to reject or edit any advertising deemed inappropriate.
7. Upon receipt of three independent written complaints, advertising will be withheld, withdrawn or suspended until adequate resolution of the complaints is determined.
8. The Celator will not take action against or on behalf of any person in regard to any merchandise sold or offered for sale outside of a direct solicitation for a specific item within the publication itself.
Having said all that, we must point out that the number of complaints received by us in the past two and a half yean has been very minimal. We serve over 90 advertisers ranging from very large corporations to occasional part time sellers. Geographically. they are spread over the entire globe. In view of this, it is comforting that we hear as few complaints as we do. Nevertheless, we will strive for the nth degree when it comes to service and integrity.
We are pleased to announce the addition of our 25-year-old son Steven Sayles to the staff of The Celator. The steady growth of the paper has made it more and more difficult to meet the many demands of production. Steve, with an excellent computer background. will be a great help in maintaining the continued quality of our publication as we serve a growing number of advertisers and collectors. Steve did, in fact, do the lion's share of typesetting and layout this issue. If he picks up the phone when you call don't forget to welcome him aboard.
We managed to slip in a couple days at the Long Beach show and then spent a very relaxing and enjoyable day at Crestline, California attending George Kolbe's book auction. George is a terrific source for books on all phases of numismatics, especially ancients. and is a gracious host as well
Next on our travel schedule is the Classical Numismatics Bourse in Washington D.C., to be held at the Hyatt Regency, Capitol Hill on June 23 and 24. That date will have passed by the time some of you read this, but with a little luck and perhaps atypical performance from the postal service some will still have a shot at it.
Following the CNB we will be in Milwaukee for the Mid-America show (probably on Saturday) and of course will be at Pittsburgh for the AN A convention in August
It is always a pleasure to meet and talk with readers at these events, and we do indeed meet a number of the clan when on the road. We generally drift from table to table so just ask any dealer if we've been around.
Thanks to all of our loyal supporters for the continuous flow of kind words and encouragements that brighten each morning when we open the mail. It sure beats opening a stack of bills (of course we get our share of those too)! Enjoy the vacation season, tell us about your pilgrimages to those exotic sites, and by all means continue to share with us your point of view.
Vol 03 No. 08 August 1989In June, we took advantage of this space to chat a little about collecting and the coin market. That discussion centered mainly on the current conditions affecting our hobby. Although we think often about the history of a particular coin, or the culture within which it was struck, we seldom find commentary about the history of collecting itself.
During a recent trip to a major convention, we engaged in a discussion of the latter variety with a prominent numismatist who flatly denied the existence of coin collections prior to the Renaissance. No amount of reasoning, evidence or rationale could convince this notable and highly respected person that coin collections existed in earlier times. This is not an isolated view, in fact, many scholars have given credit for the first collection of ancient coins to the 14th century Italian humanist Francesco Petrarch.
The collecting of ancient coins is really nothing more than a variety of art collecting. It is a pastime which has amused the more or less cultured for millenia. Joseph Alsop, in The Rare Art Traditions, a work which I have often quoted and think very highly of, sees collecting as a primeval activity. Man, according to Alsop, collected as a natural instinct long before the dawning of the historical period. True art collecting, he claims, evolved in the fourth and third centuries BC.
As for the collecting of coins, specifically those which we now consider ancient; we find ample evidence both in literature and in the archaeological record that this pastime has existed for over two thousand years. There is hardly space here to fully argue the assertion, however a few "points of light" may be offered in defense.
The view that Petrarch formulated the first collection of ancients is wholly misguided. We find documentation of a formal collection of ancients nearly a hundred years earlier (1274 AD) in a manuscript titled Thesaurus Magnus in Medalis Auri Optimi which detailed the collecting of ancient coins at a monastery in Padua. While it is certainly true that numismatics, as a science, is a post renaissance phenomenon, the allure of coins as works of art and geographic curiosities dates to a much earlier era. We tend to think of coin collecting as an activity which requires fastidious cataloguing and analysis. That view is distinctly modem and even the Renaissance Humanists would scarcely have understood its principles or motivation. In earlier times, coins were simply collected for their intrigue and beauty.
Archaeological finds at Gordian, in central Turkey, and at Vitry in Switzerland, as well as an accidental hoard find in Afghanistan have brought to light some fascinating accumulations of coinage that could hardly be called anything but purposeful collections. In all three of these cases, groups of coins were found where no two pieces were of the same type. Most, in fact, were from very widely separated areas and periods with absolutely no logical connection.
Some tend to imagine that the ancients themselves knew little about the coins circulating around them. How we can credit the genius of their designs and fail to credit the connoisseurship of their patrons is a mystery. Even a superficial examination of coin motifs from widely separated areas should serve to convince the skeptical that artists shared their knowledge and patrons appreciated merit wherever they found it Aristotle demonstrated a keen awareness of coinage from foreign lands as he explained the purpose of the god Ammon and silphion on the coins of Kyrene. the peculiar denominations of Syracusan issues. and a variety of numismatic weight correlations.
There are several references by ancient authors which indicate an interest in the collecting or accumulating of coins and gems, especially from distant lands. Julius Caesar and Augustus were among those noted as having a fondness for such things.
One could easily dedicate a lifetime simply to studying the history of collecting coins. It is a subject that, like a good mystery, leads one deeper and deeper into the matrix of the unknown. Why would the grave of an Angle chieftain yield a pendant bearing a coin of Augustus? Why would a 6th century Merovingian necklace display seven different gold coins from the reigns of Honorius through Justin I? Why would a 10th century illuminated manuscript be bordered with illustrations of ancient coins?
We may not have definite answers to these questions, but we can surmise that the feeling we get when holding a coin from antiquity is a feeling that others before us have enjoyed as much as ourselves.
We will be at the ANA convention in Pittsburgh and hope to see some of you there. Until then keep the faith and keep sending those letters sharing with us your point of view!
Vol 03 No. 09 September 1989By all means, take a moment to read, on page 16 (XVI) the poignant commentary aired by Radio Segovia (Spain) this past June. It is a remarkably humorous, and yet equally sad account of the most worthy project to be undertaken in a good while.
Sad, because the support for Project Segovia '92 has not been sufficient to sustain even a meager existence for the two intrepid Americans, Glenn Murray and Ron Landis, who have been the project's "burr under the saddle" so to speak and continue to work on-site as project advisors and coordinators. The two have, through sheer tenacity and incredible willpower. managed to "legitimize" the Spanish mint restoration project and achieve tax deductible status for U.S. contributors. Still, the ardor for American involvement seems lacking.
Perhaps this malaise is fueled by a conditioned response to sending money to foreign lands for "worthy" projects while many continue to exist here at home. In spite of our many foreign aid programs. Americans have always tended to be isolationist. It is understandable that hobbyists interested in U.S. coins and medals would have little interest in the Segovia mint restoration. but we antiquarians should be, as a group, much broader minded.
Segovia has been the site of a mint for much longer than the existing structure would reflect, although the building in question is incredibly significant historically. The Greeks and Romans both struck coins in Spain and several issues were minted at Segovia. The current restoration project recognizes the importance of that fact, and the projected museum dedicates a part of its facility to the history of hammered coinage.
If there is any one spot in the world that would seem ideal for a museum of minting history, it is in Segovia. Although Rome, Athens and other antiquarian tourist sites host myriad Renaissance palaces, loaded with great treasures, there could be no better place for numismatics to shine in its own glory.
We urge those of our readers with the means to help to contact Glenn Murray at Project Segovia '92, EXCMO Ayuntamiento de Segovia 40001, Spain.
We seem to have a problem with The Celator. It just keeps getting bigger and bigger. Now, most publishers would see that as reason to call their travel agent and book a nice vacation to Tahiti with (or without) Mama and the kids. As most of you know, however, we produce The Celator with a very small staff and our circulation is limited (we don't even have a travel agent). Therefore, growth creates rather than solves problems. We believe that all of our readers benefit through a variety of advertising, consequently, it has been our policy to hold advertising as well as subscription costs to a minimum. At the same time, we have invested in the technical improvements necessary to make The Celator a high-quality publication.
To make a long story short, we must make some adjustments to offset the increasing costs of production. It has been over a year since we made a price adjustment (from $12 to $15 per year) and in that year the newspaper has nearly doubled in size and tripled in weight (due to improved paper quality). We also expect another substantial increase in postal service fees soon.
After careful consideration, and value comparison, we have concluded that an increase to $24 per year (U.S. and Canada) is sufficient and appropriate at this time. All overseas subs will be billed uniformly at $48 per year. As a special consideration to our faithful readers, we will accept, through September 30, renewals or extensions for up to two years at the current rate ($15 per year U.S., $40 to Europe, $48 to Asia, Africa & Pacific). We regret price increases but remain committed to quality and service. The latter necessitates and justifies the former.
Thanks to all who have been patient with us during our recent office move. There have been times when I'm sure mail was misplaced, or telephone calls were not returned. If you were missed, it was not through indifference - please try again. See the masthead below for our new express mail address and FAX number.
As we enter the Fall season, activity will undoubtedly pick up and many exciting things are bound to be in store for the fraternity. This month we'll be at the Greater NY Show and the CNB in Chicago, hope to see some of you there. Until then, enjoy the pages that follow and by all means let us hear your point of view.
Vol 03 No. 1 January 1989We often see reference in sale catalogs to coins which are struck in an "excellent style," or perhaps "the best style" or even "superb style." The use of adjectives describing "style" has become so widely, and I submit erroneously, adopted that we must wonder whether catalogers of ancient coins might start to apply grading standards to style as well as condition.
It would help perhaps if we had a common understanding of just what style is. The term, in this case, is one describing the execution of an image or design on a coin. It is an art term and refers, in numismatics, to the subject as a reflection of the engraver's particular method of representation. The New York Graphic Society, in its Dictionary of Art Terms, defines style as: "The characteristic manner and appearance of the works of an individual artist, school, or period."
To refer to style in quantitative terms, with adjectives such as superb, outstanding, excellent, very fine, etc., is to make a value judgment in terms of a sensory appreciation or beauty. Some art critics may judge an artist's fluency or interpretation, perhaps his draftsmanship or creativeness, but never will the sophisticated critic pass judgement on the beauty of a work of art.
St. Thomas Aquinas has left us with the only universally accepted definition of beauty - simply that which pleases the eye. Obviously, not everyone is pleased by the same sensory stimuli and therefore beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. The 18th century German antiquarian, John Winckelmann, attempted to define beauty in his four-volume treatise on the history of ancient art. He argued that the ancients had achieved the ultimate expression of beauty in their art and that works simply echoed their preeminence. Although Winckelmann's view did indeed attract a great deal of support, in the end the concept of beauty could not be quantified.
It is certainly appropriate to comment on an artist's rendering in descriptive terms, however those terms should not be quantitative. For example, we might find that a Celator engraved a particular die with precision, warmth or realism. We might comment that the representation is particularly humanizing or severe, idealistic or veristic, stylized or flattering. A narrative scene may be interpretive or allegorical, perhaps exhibiting a high degree of perspective - but never a high degree of style.
Ah, but this is all a simple matter of semantics! Perhaps so, but we cannot communicate effectively unless we speak a language that is precise and universally understood. The next' time you look at a coin try describing the artist's rendering in terms that are not quantitative - not good or bad, better or worse, but descriptive of what you see and feel. It will do wonders for a person's understanding of coins as works of art.
Thank you all for a glorious two years, this issue takes us into the third with a great deal of enthusiasm and a sincere appreciation for the opportunity that has come our way. It has been a real team effort, with a host of contributors, and one that we are very proud to have been a part of.
Keep those letters coming. Your opinions are valued, so let us hear your point of view!
Vol 03 No. 10 October 1989Fraternalism is defined by Webster's simply as brotherliness. There are all sorts of fraternal organizations in the world, from the college campus types to benevolent associations. While these fraternal organizations are easily recognizable and indeed advertise themselves as such, there are other types of fraternalism which occur spontaneously and without organization. Antiquarians, for example, are often prone to feeling a sense of fraternalism with others who share their passion.
Partially, this is due, I think, to the isolation that one experiences in pursuit of knowledge and intercourse at a satisfying level. In this small Wisconsin municipality, there is most certainly not another human being who shares my excitement about finding a two-headed eagle depicted on a contemporary imitation of a Greek drachm. In fact, most readers of this column will not be particularly excited by the discovery. When a showing of the piece does spark interest there cannot help but be a sense of communion.
This scenario is repeated in some fashion at every club meeting, convention, coin show or get-together where ancient coins are discussed. It is at these events that we gather to share experiences, probe the minds of others, and enjoy a sense of fraternalism that can be found nowhere else, Unfortunately, the accessibility of clubs and shows is very limited except in the largest of metropolitan areas. Those who are able to travel to the larger shows and conventions fare better, but frankly several shows are on the skids as far as ancients are concerned. More and more dealers are turning to their mail order clientele as the mainstay of their business, and understandably so. The costs of supporting a bourse schedule are enormous and the physical toll of a full road schedule has been the undoing of more than a few.
Sadly, if dealers stop attending shows the process may halt because it is through the dealers that collectors meet other collectors, and it is through the shows that we are able to share our interests.
At the recent ANA convention and at the Greater NY Show it was obvious that fewer collectors of ancient coins were visiting the bourse. Some may say that "Pittsburgh is not a good location for ancients" or that "there are 100 many shows in New York", but the growing trend is toward private showings and mail-order sales. Organized shows have become primarily wholesale opportunities for many dealers.
As collectors, we have a vested interest in the preservation of shows and conventions as well as the support of local clubs. Without these vehicles, we are truly isolated and are bound to see fraternalism give way to frustration. Let's get out and support these activities, not just by spending money on the bourse floor. but by attending the special lectures and symposiums, participating with exhibits, and meeting others with similar interests.
We have received a number of letters over the past three years from collectors in rather isolated areas, all asking how they might meet other collectors. In an attempt to facilitate this fraternalism, we will print free of charge the name, major interest. address. and/or telephone number of any person wishing to make such contacts. Simply send your request for this service to The Celator, P.O. Box 123, Lodi, WI 53555.
Speaking of the mail, we heard a tale right out of the twilight zone from David Liebert while at the Greater NY show. It seems that David had corresponded with a client in Canada and the mail delivery from New York to Canada took 87 days. Not so bad you say, as far as mail service goes. No, not so bad if you consider that on the envelope, along with the other typical machine stampings, was a postal processing stamp from Warsaw, Poland!
This month we will be spending 11 days in London. taking in the activities of COINEX week as well as wrapping up some final research on those enigmatic Turkomans. Unfortunately, we'll miss this fall's show at Long Beach but hope to be back there again soon. We highly recommend the show to those who can make it; while you're there tell Sam Lopresto you read about it in The Celator! Have fun looking through all the great auction catalogs coming up over the next three months and when you have a minute to spare write and let us hear your point of view.