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Online Figleaf

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Collection goes semi-public
« on: January 17, 2008, 10:58:45 AM »
Princeton acquires collection of Greek coins
Wednesday, January 16, 2008, BY ROBERT STERN

PRINCETON BOROUGH -- Princeton University shelled out hundreds of thousands of dollars in November to get less than a thousand coins from a London-based businessman.

The university's move wasn't some dramatic hedge against the sinking value of the dollar. Rather, it was done to make Princeton the premier public research repository of Greek coins from the late Middle Ages, said Alan Stahl, curator of the university's numismatic collection. (Numismatics is the study or collection of coins, tokens and paper money.)

Princeton made the purchase of the more than 800 medieval Greek coins to help researchers deepen their knowledge about a period of Middle Age history that has been little understood by scholars be cause of a dearth of primary historical accounts from that time, Stahl said.

Until now, there has been no specialized collection of the coins of the Greek lands of the later Middle Ages -- the 13th and 14th centuries -- available for study in a public institution anywhere, he said.

The seller, London businessman Theo Sarmas, had assembled the collection gradually as a hobby over the past 20 years or so -- acquiring them mainly from English dealers and through auctions, Stahl said. Most of the coins are silver or a silver-copper alloy called billon.

But the collection also includes a few dozen gold coins -- generally its most valuable pieces -- such as one depicting Dorino Gattilusio, lord of Lesbos and Ainos from 1400 to 1449, which imitates the popular gold ducat of Venice.

That coin identifies Gattilusio as "Duke of Mytilene," kneeling in front of a saint on one side. The reverse depicts a standing figure of Christ.

The Sarmas specimen is the only known example of the coin with an "M" beneath the standard, apparently an identification of the place of its minting, he said.

The collection is rich in currency that imitates important trade coins of Italian cities, especially those of Venice and Naples.

Princeton learned that Sarmas would be willing to part with his collection for the right price after Sarmas let a couple of coin dealers know that he would entertain offers.

Stahl won't specify how much Princeton paid other than to describe the purchase as "well in the six figures."

Princeton's numismatic collection bought the coins with matching funds from the university's program in Hellenic studies, which contributed with money from the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund, established at Princeton to promote the understanding of Greek culture.

The coins were minted in the lands of the eastern Mediterranean in the 13th and 14th centuries following the fall of Constantinople by armies of the Fourth Crusade.

"This makes Princeton an unrivaled resource for the study of a coinage about which there are many unanswered questions," Stahl said.

The largest part of the collection features coins of the rulers of mainland Greece in the late Middle Ages, primarily members of the Villehardouin family of Athens and the Angevin rulers of the Peloponnesus.

Princeton's numismatic collection was started in 1849 when friends of the university bought and donated plaster casts of Greek and Roman coins. Today, it has vast holdings of ancient Chinese, Greek and Roman coins and includes others from the Byzantine, Western medieval and U.S. Colonial eras.

Part of the collection is on display in the university's Firestone Library as its "Numismatics in the Renaissance" exhibition, which is on view for free to the public through July 20 in the library's main exhibition hall. The Sarmas coins are not part of that showcase because they are being catalogued for the university.

But Princeton's numismatic collection is available for research to the public and scholars at the university. To view the online data base, visit

To make an appointment for viewing specific items from the col lection, including the Sarmas coins, contact Stahl at astahl@princeto

Source: New Jersey Times
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Globetrotter

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Re: Collection goes semi-public
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2017, 10:07:09 PM »
Hi Peter,

let's just hope the collection wasn't "Chinese" oriented....


If you're interested in coin variants please find some English documentation here:
and in French on Michel's site (the presentations are not the same):