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News Flash: American Numismatic Society Retrieves Another 7,291 Ex-Huntington Coins (plus a visit to “Brutus” at the Met)

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Ute Wartenberg Kagan, executive director of the American Numismatic Society, in the ANS’s vault
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

Great news from the American Numismatic Society!

Thanks to a second anonymous donor, the ANS has now retrieved a total of about 26,500 of nearly 38,000 Spanish coins and tokens that had resided at the ANS since 1949 on long-term loan but had been removed by their owner, the Hispanic Society of America, for disposal at a sealed-bid auction at Sotheby’s last March. That sale took place despite provisions in the trust indenture of the HSA’s founder/donor, Archer Huntington, that appeared to prohibit such dispersals of his HSA benefactions.

Purchased by a friend of the ANS (with the help of Alain Baron of Numismatica Genevensis SA, a Geneva coin dealer), the 7,291 new arrivals—5,923 bronze and silver tokens (ca. 1300-1800) from various European countries and 1368 ancient bronze coins from Spain, pre-Roman period—join about 19,000 other ex-HSA coins that were purchased and placed on long-term loan to ANS by another benefactor.

A number of the other ex-HSA coins have been (and continue to be) widely dispersed in a series of European auctions.

“I am overjoyed that the Society has two good friends who realized the importance of saving as much as possible of this collection for the public,” said the ANS’s executive director, Ute Wartenberg Kagan, who has made it her mission to get the coins back. “We will do our best to honor Archer Huntington’s intention of keeping and publishing his amazing collection of coins.”

The ANS’s staff has already put the previous arrivals—some 19,000 coins—in their original boxes and updated the collection’s computer records. The ANS reports that “an ongoing program of photographing all Huntington coins is underway, and almost 2,000 digital records of coins have been added to the ANS’s database of the Huntington collection. Thanks to the generosity of the two donors, the Society will have sufficient funds to ultimately create an online complete catalogue of all available Huntington coins.”

A group of ex-Huntington coins will be sent by the ANS to the French town of Auriol for an exhibition of the Auriol Treasure, a famous trove of more than 2,100 Archaic silver coins that was discovered in 1867.

Meanwhile, you can stroll over (as I did) to Gallery 166 in the Metropolitan Museum”s Greek and Roman galleries to see a small Roman silver coin of enormous historical importance that the HSA had foolishly deemed expendable but is among the coins happily retrieved by the ANS. It’s showcased in solitary splendor (beneath a bust of Caligula) in our country’s preeminent art museum. (More on this, including a closer look, later.)

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Installation at Metropolitan Museum of silver denarius with head of Brutus, commemorating the murder of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March, 43-42 B.C.
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

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