Why do we collect ancient coins? This may seem like a rhetorical question, but it is a question with a multitude of answers perhaps one for each of us. For this collector, it is the extension of a more fundamental urge which might be described as the explorer-romantic syndrome. There is something compelling about the past, especially in the sense that through coins we can touch it and bridge the gap of time in a magical way. It's not that the coins themselves are so important as it is that they represent something historically or socially significant. In some cases, it goes beyond the inscriptions or images, and our imagination or intuition tells us that this artifact encapsulates a living experience much like a fossil or the proverbial note in a bottle.
Personally, our study of 12th century Turkoman coins led to the discovery of a wonderfully interesting group of artisans that had been forgotten by time and relegated to the status of footnote in the wake of the Mongol conquests. Likewise, the richness of iconography on Roman coins from the Citi ci an city of Anazarbus tells us a story about a place that history has forgotten. For nearly three centuries this city flourished. yet we know practically nothing about it aside from the evidence of some 900 di e varieties. How could such a prolific mint remain so obscure in contemporary literature. We also collect coins of Tarkondimotus and his son Philopator. Obscure enough? Well, they surely make the point that we find obscurity intriguing. Why are some people and places so clearly remembered in history, while others of equal importance become virtually anonymous?
One of our favorite numismatic treasures is a remarkable bronze coin from Kibyra in Phrygia. It is a Roman Provincial coin of the semi-autonomous variety. On its obverse is a veiled Boule, and on the reverse two hands clasped. What is remarkable about this specimen (apparently one of three known) is that one of the clasped hand s wears a bracelet and the other does nol. The reference is obviously to a marriage ceremony, but whose wedding? We have been searching for over ten years and have yet to unravel this riddle. But that is what makes ancient coin collecting stand out among all of the pursuits that one might indulge in these days. There are challenges big and small. and they are all what we make of them. If you are a romantic or an explorer there is a wonderful world of excitement hidden in some of the most inconspicuous places.
But why do we COLLECT ancient coins? All of the foregoing research could be done without actually owning the coins in question. There is something compulsive about the collecting process that is innate in our psyche. Non-collectors don' t understand us, but that's probably due to some hereditary deficiency on their part. The serious collector is a driven person with a dearly defined sense of mission. Searching for a needed specimen becomes a very personal challenge, and its acquisition a very special success. Conversely, it is not at all unusual for a collector to dispose of his or her col lection when for all practical purposes it becomes complete.
Having a set of the 12 Caesars in silver or gold, for example, is not nearly as exciting as building a set. Psychologists might interpret our compulsion as perhaps a subconscious drive to assert order in the universe. But in the final analyses, collecting provides a means for us to dream and remain in touch with a romantic past. Dream on!
Wc have finally given in and abandoned the line drawing that headed this column the past two months. We received a significant amount of flak from certain dealers at Long Beach, who insisted that the line drawing portrayed too much hair (what do they know?). Then our dear children, Steve and Stephanie admitted that they preferred the old photo. A California collector claimed that he couldn't find us at the Santa Clara show because the line drawing wasn't realistic. Come on- any collector can Spot a VG Nerva or Otho from 20 paces and they can't recognize this face? What really iced it was the opinion of my universally supportive mom, who also found the line drawing less than appealing. Well. l liked it, but that seems to be a minority opinion. So here is the old slug of a photo back-- Iive with it! (Are you satisfied Nick?)
Over the years. we have tried several different features and formats for assembling and producing information that you read on these pages. The only way that we progress is through the feedback of our loyal readers. Not that the above incident is much of an example, but it does illustrate that people not only read The Celator, they pay rather close attention to it. This is heartwarming, but it also bestows upon us a responsibility to serve the reader well. Ideally, we would expend significant resources on prepress editing. Practically, we do not have the staff or time to do as thorough a job as we would like. If we are to produce a limited circulation journal on a regular schedule, economically and without delay, we must accept certain tradeoffs. In eight years of publication, we have never broken a production deadline and we intend to maintain this record. When we do err editorially, we expect and hope for the feedback of our readers to set mailers straight. We expect, and need, to hear from you-and while you're at it let us hear your point of view!