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News Flash (with video): American Numismatic Society Retrieves Another 9,000 Coins Sold by Hispanic Society

Ute Wartenberg Kagan, executive director, American Numismatic Society, in her New York office
Photo by Lee Rosenbaum

They’ve done it again!

Last month, I broke the happy news that the American Numismatic Society (ANS) had retrieved about 10,000 of the 37,895 coins from Spain and Spanish-speaking countries that had been on loan to the ANS since 1949 from the Hispanic Society of America (HSA) and integrated with ANS’s expansive collection.

Now let’s break some more happy news: The same anonymous benefactor who purchased the first batches of coins for long-term loan to the ANS (with anticipated future donation) recently scooped up another 9,000 pieces from Huntington’s former trove, which arrived last Tuesday at the ANS’s New York vault, again to be placed there on long-term loan and eventually donated, if all goes according to plan.

In a two-part CultureGrrl Video (Part I, below), you can join me on a visit to the ANS and hear the details of this latest coup, as described to me by ANS’s exultant executive director, Ute Wartenberg Kagan. In Part II, we’ll join Ute in the vault to view some of the recovered collection, now being identified, sorted and rehoused.

ANS’s entire group of 19,206 coins reclaimed from the Huntington Collection now includes:

—All of the ex-HSA Islamic trove (6,159 coins), one of the largest Spanish Islamic coins collections in the world
—All 400 French coins
—6,316 medieval Spanish coins
—All 1,004 Visigothic coins
—2,178 Celt-Iberian and Roman Provincial coins
—3.098 Roman Republican and Roman Imperial coins
—51 Admiral Vernon medals

[CORRECTION: The Roman Republican and Imperial coins were inadvertently omitted from an earlier version and the number of Admiral Vernon medals was misstated.]

The ANS is also planning to purchase (pending trustee approval) about 114 Ancient Greek and Ancient Gaul coins from the ex-HSA collection, including Carthaginian examples and more than 70 pieces from the Auriol Hoard, discovered near Marseilles in 1867.

The HSA had received its 37,895 coins from its founder, Archer Huntington, who had directed that they be deposited at the ANS on long-term loan, for safeguarding and study. But the financially pressed HSA, disregarding donor intent, sold them last March to an anonymous consortium at a Sotheby’s sealed-bid auction. The winning consortium included Madrid dealer/auctioneer Jesús Vico, who offered some 1,004 of the coins in a June 26 auction conducted by his Madrid firm.

Wartenberg Kagan told me that additional coins that she recognized as coming from the HSA’s former collection were offered June 4-6 by H.D. Rauch, the Vienna auctioneers. The break-up of Huntington’s collection, painstakingly assembled for the benefit of scholars and the public, is scheduled to continue with two additional Vico auctions this fall.

Wartenberg Kagan said the Rauch lots included this medieval gold coin (front and back), which fetched a winning bid of €25,000, against a minimum of €7,000:

Medieval gold siege piece (minted when city of Ulm was under siege), 1704

Still, a large proportion of the coins with the greatest scholarly and historic importance have been rescued for the public (at an undisclosed multimillion-dollar cost). Come with me now as I visit Wartenberg Kagan in her Varick Street office, while she contentedly riffles through a box of Ancient Greek coins (her specialty) that have just landed on her desk, thanks to the ANS’s secret donor:

COMING SOON: Part II of my video—Let’s go to the vault!

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