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About the heritage and the right to its possession (speaking of coins)

This entry is both a reflection and proposal of solutions to the one published by Adolfo on October 27 entitled "Monedas expoliadas (Coins plundered)"; entry that has generated an interesting discussion on his blog.

The problem in my opinion is far more complex than appears at first sight, and touches on matters as basic as social organization, freedom and the essence of man as a human; in a comment in his post I expressed my opinion on the current situation about 'plundered' coins and the social implications that I believe stem from this.

Elaborating on the situation we have a framework that for me in particular I find unacceptable: it is what I call "aim to collectivize the Heritage" that holds on the many State manifestations, from central to local government. Aim that is clearly substantiated as hostility to the citizen, that in full use of their right to private property wants to posses (focusing on the numismatic case) a 'historical' coin.

The unsuitability of this public policy, that transcends ideological boundaries —in administrative regions (Comunidades) of both political sides we have the same picture; remember that Heritage competences are mostly transferred— is given both by the blatant violation of a fundamental human right (the private property) that performs, and that, with the legal text in hand, its constitutionality is clearly questionable . Let's see it (Article 33, on page 14 of this PDF):

  1. It is recognized the right to private property and inheritance.
  2. The social function of these rights will delimit its content in accordance with the Laws.
  3. No one shall be deprived of their property and rights, except for cause of public utility or social interest, with a proper compensation in accordance with the provisions of the Laws.
Clearly the first paragraph leaves the question settled; we have the right to own a denarius of Caracalla, to mention an example, thus, the idea held by many public employees that "no citizen should have the right to own historical heritage", strongly grounded among archeology professionals and members of the university dedicated to the subject, is unconstitutional.

But then, also, as I said in the blog of Adolfo, it is a very bad idea; because the Heritage, substantiated in objects and ideas, must necessarily be part of the social sphere —including ownership— of the people, both public and personal; if it does not, the viability of their conservation ends up in nothing, since this effort is necessarily a joint enterprise of all concerned, that is, the whole Society; the 'historians' may not seek to rely on the State to carry out his idea, and then secure the necessary resources to 'enjoy' their "private" public reserve in exclusivity, because it's obvious that if the general public lose interest in the Heritage, sooner or later the responsible politicians of the chest of money will lose it also, ending up not having work even; at the end their goal turns against them, and we all lose the most important, the Heritage.

Of course, the militants of the collectivizing side can pursue the second paragraph, and indeed is what they do, but no person will be able to convince me that the "social utility" of the coins require that all end up in state hands (usually in museums), and more when we talk about objects that:

  1. Were produced in series, by crafting or industrial methods.
  2. Were assigned generally to public use by the entire population.
  3. Its proper maintenance is achievable by all collectors.
  4. Are possibly the documents/objects of primary historical character more 'accessible' to the general population.
  5. His collection is a custom that dates back to Roman times, and in Europe in general has been followed since at least the Renaissance.

All these reasons seem to me that are of sufficient weight to argue against the prohibition of numismatic collection (which may be extend to archaeological objects of common character, such as ornament pieces, the household furniture, military objects, etc ...), but I want to analyze in detail the d. part, because I think is a very solid argument for promoting numismatic collection, for the implications I think it has.

The kernel of the argument is the 'accessibility', defined very broadly; implying not only price, but also by how easy it is to start to interpret even briefly the historical and documental load of the piece; is this facility, properly exploited, which could allow to involve more seriously more people in the knowledge and conservation of historical heritage, easing the task for professionals involved in it. The idea of ​​being able to hold in hand an antique piece, the denarius of Caracalla in the example above, a piece that circulated and was used by people 1,800 years ago, is powerful; we also have in it the image of the Emperor, which in some cases (Vespasian is my favorite) is so reliable that would permit identify the person of the portrait in a personal meeting. They also include legends, and images that can make reference to historical/political events of relevance, as the Roman Annonas, games, military victories, rises to power, etc ..., or cultural events such as religious motifs, holidays, everyday actions and so on. All this may serve as a hook for people who collect coins to ask himself the whys and hows of the motifs that appear in coins, and end up being interested about and studying history, an unavoidable way for people to appreciate, understand and finish feeling part of his heritage and its conservation; and I do not doubt that this is an ideal of every worthy historian. Therefore it would benefit (indirectly and for long term, yes, but without doubt) the professionals that they were in favor of collectors, since it would increase the general interest of population in history, and they would have more dedicated resources and work.

Having said all this, I return to the subject that gives rise to this discourse, the plunders; in my opinion, they turn out to be one of the worst 'crimes' (not in the legal sense, but in the social) without violence suffered by society, because they destroy information that may be central to understanding our own history; is a loss that affects everybody, whether or not aware of it; but it is common sense that we can not be on this issue as Manichean as the Spanish law, that holding in the legal fact (for myself abusive) that any underground thing or object is state-owned, consider the intentional collection of any buried object plunder; because is not the same thing that a detectorist that is dedicated to 'comb' farm fields in search of shells of the civil wars or the French invasion, and finds an Andalusian felús, that someone who enters the archeological site of Segobriga to see if he has luck and falls upon a few Roman or Hispanic coins; in the first case, the loss is very small and easily remedied if appropriate legislation exists, and obviously the second case is extremely serious, and may involve the loss of irreplaceable data, such as the finding not yet documented of a coin from other Hispanic city, or the mere fact of its stratigraphic position, especially if it can be dated with precision; as it is now, the law does not comply with their 'intended' duties of preserving the Heritage, because the detectorist puts the felús in his pocket without informing about it, and the plunderers, whatever it is the law, will continue to go into the fields to see what it takes from them.

But this has not to stay that way; the first thing to understand is that, as I said above, people collect coins because we like it, and we have the right to do it; so do the collectivists like it or not, coins have its own market, which by its nature can give huge profits to those engaged in search and sale of unearthed pieces. This is unavoidable; whichever is our position, let the law be as repressive as we want, the market exists and will exist as long as there are people interested in numismatics; and if by law they can not get coins, some will do it by lawless or illegal ways. This, what is a truism, should be reflected in legislation, and not to demand the impossible, which is that all people are legally compliant, is not engaged in active search, give everything they find by chance to the state and only buy coins of 'legitimate' origin.

The collectivist side response to this reality is awful, never trying to analyze whether the law is just or not, even if it is effective in its intended ultimate goal; in their monopolist eagerness what does is to make a direct attack on the market, because they think that without a market, all coins will be for them, but ignoring that there is no numismatics without market, even the academic, who quickly will fall from political favor and stay out of resources. This is reflected in various attitudes and behaviors, of which there are two that particularly anger me, so I want to mention them specifically; the first, which I consider an attack and distortion of paragraph 3 of Article 33 of the Constitution, is the legal fact of the right of pre-emption for State, which establishes conditions totally unfair, as the payment within two financial years (as provided by law; as it is currently the Administration on funds, that can take much longer), the forced intervention in auction or private sales taking the place of the purchaser at the price obtained previously by him —rather than the Administration attend as a bidder, or set an expropriation procedure in which the affected party may request judicial review— and the uncertainty of the administrative action which reserves too long time (six months) to exercise the pre-emption. The other attitude is the no interest on the part of public professional 'numismatics' and legislators on tackling the phenomenon of counterfeiting, as is well evidenced in the interview that Adolfo conducted with Eliosa Wattenberg, director of the Archaeological Museum of Valladolid, that at the question of whether it was prejudicial to the historians the counterfeit of coins (ie, current reproductions made with intent to deceive the buyer about its authenticity), said: "They do not represent a particular concern for us. Just do not buy coins in the market, so will be difficult to acquire a fake. ". Well, if that's the general opinion among the professional community of History in Spain, my opinion about them is on the ground, but very low down; Are these people, the self-proclaimed conservators of National Historic Heritage, with a spirit of exclusivity, who have to care for him? For trembing; because it is common knowledge in the numismatic collective that from that side the issue of counterfeiting is seen by some as a tool in their collectivizing goal, arriving the gossip to warn of the possibility that forgers are being given access to publicly owned pieces to create molds for their activity, which flood the market and depress trade in the types concerned; I'm talking, specifically, of Hispanic-Roman and Roman coins, and the issue is gaining strength after the latest wave of forgeries that have entered public auctions, which seem to come mostly from a single source (and I do not extend more on it because I do not know about the subject directly).

To finish the analysis of the situation, I point that this attitude is not exclusive to Spain, also occurs in other countries such as USA, where the group of historians/archaeologists have lobbied successfully to effectively remove some types of coins of the numismatic market, especially ancient Greeks, using the resource that foreign countries appeal to the State Department claiming the exclusion to imports of coins minted in its territory on the grounds that may come plundered from its territory (which is completely illogical, because many types had a wide circulation throughout the Old World, and a Roman coin minted in what is now Serbia, for example, may be buried in Britain, where it is perfectly legal to unearth and market it); the requirements to legalize importation are so strict, that immediately remove from the North American market virtually any coin whose prominence is from abroad, even in the case the coin is clearly of a legitimate origin, excluding, as always, the less affluent collectors. The last nation to enter this dynamic, after the cases of Greece and Italy, has been Bulgary, which can affect many types of low-imperial Roman coins, Byzantine, medieval and modern Slavic, and Ottoman.

Let us go to the solutions; the following are proposals open to discussion, constructed from common sense and the philosophy that we must be realistic about human nature:

  1. The role of museums should be channeled towards excellence in their role; in my opinion the tasks, in order of importance, of these institutions are the conservation, research and exhibition; and the criteria of the collections should be completeness and scientific relevance and not another; centering the subject in numismatics, it is logical that museums, especially small ones, specialize in certain series, looking for completeness and/or representation (for example, in an ethnographic museum, the territorial; therefore Andalusian pieces in a museum in Galicia certainly have nothing to do there, except coming from an archaeological site in the area). The coins that do not add anything to that end should be transferred to other museums, and in the end, what remained after this selection, sold at public auction, which would bring some good funds to the institutions involved. It adds nothing but maintenance costs that a museum mantains in its collection twenty pieces of the same type of Trajan; preserve one or two, document the rest, and finally offer abroad, first to other public institutions, then individuals. The procurement policy should be directed to further increase the scientific value of the collection, not simply to increase the stock of pieces.
  2. Legislation about Heritage property should be remodeled, ideally by modifying the law on ownership of the subsoil (with the exceptions deemed necessary); only involving the owners ensuring ownership of heritage on their land we can expect that they collaborate actively in their protection and research, especially in the case of the historical one. After changing this, allowing the active search of objects, requiring the permission of the landowner and an administrative informative license of the activity; after that can then be established that all the found objects are declared, so that researchers can document it, and after this period to pass to public auction, dividing the proceeds between the seeker and the owner; also could be made any safeguard deemed necessary for the State (a preferential right to purchase, for example, or as in the UK, an independent expert legal appraisal of the coins reserved which compensates the owner of the land and the seeker of the non-release to market) to preserve objects of most social-scientific value.
  3. After this, focusing on archeology and numismatics, can plead certain sites of special interest and proceed with expropriation, so everything becomes public property; what is obtained from the excavations, after investigation, would be deposited in a museum, which will apply the same criteria above showed, retaining the most relevant and auctioning the rest, thereby generating additional funds that could be used to cover new digs, science scholarships, public education programs, or even reduce the dependence of the museum on the state budget. And moreover it would provide a flow for the collectors market, decreasing the pressure of the seekers.
  4. At that time we could severely punish the plunder, defined as the illegal excavation of a protected site; that, plus heavy fines for seekers who exercise outside the law, and buyers who purchase pieces obtained illegally, would redirect most of the activity to a less destructive one, more controlled, of which historians would be constantly informed, allowing then both to access data that are now irretrievably lost, and to ask for special protection to new sites that are important.
  5. It should also be pursued modern counterfeiting of coins and other archaeological objects, first because their sale as authentic pieces are a scam, a criminal offense, and second because it would increase market confidence, resulting in improved particular collections, collections that may have an unquestionable scientific value as a compendium of types and social promoting awareness from citizens about heritage and its conservation.

To end this long entry, I ask the pursuers of collectivization to reconsider their position and realize the trap implied; if they are so fond of Heritage, to think first of its conservation, not now and just by them, but also for the long term and by all citizens; there are many examples in which, after losing the citizenship respect for her Heritage, it has ended up totally lost. And finally to request to the professionals, especially the public ones, its views on all exposed the above in this paper.

Numismatic chronicle (VIII)

New year, new chronicle; since the last one has passed three months, and obviously a lot of things speaking of numismatics; first I will go into this subject, and later to the central one of this chronicle, to make my numismatic review of 2010.

The last two months of 2010

A constant in this period was that I had little time for the subject; anyways I could follow last year's auctions in Spain and prepare the ones at the New York International Convention which was held in the second week of January; most of the purchases have been of ancient coins, mostly Roman, with some rather interesting additions as this tetradrachm of Hadrianus
Tetradrachm of Hadrianus. Harlan Berk Buy or Bid Sale 171th, lot #486
Alexandrian tetradrachm of Hadrianus, from Harlan Berk. One of the ideas that I have grasped in the recent months, confirmed again in the New York auction, is that all is sold especially if it is at a fair price, and the good is very difficult to be sold cheap. Prices are not changing very much; I get the impression that the middle coins have more or less the same prices, and the good ones are slightly more expensive (at least in my opinion), but the number of lots not sold is significantly lower than at beginning of year .

The bibliographic part has been very active, mainly in ancient numismatics. Among the titles purchased I highlight three: Estudio de los reales de a ocho, by Tomas Dasi; this monumental compendium-study (it is composed of 5 volumes of 400 pages each), focusing on reales de a ocho, is particularly interesting for the compilation of legislation concerning the Spanish mintings from the Catholic Kings. Coins of the Roman Republic in the British Museum, by H. A. Grueber; this is the second edition of 1970, driven in part by the work of Crawford1 on the Republican coinage, showed, between several of his published works, in the canonical manual on this series Roman Republican Coinage; the work of Grueber, especially this second edition with corrections and an appendix illustrating the museum's acquisitions since the first edition (1910), is an excellent addition to Crawford, especially because Grueber presents a set of notes of historical character to place in context each coin type of exceptional interest; also it is worth to mention the corpus of coins imaged, in 123 plates, of a pretty good quality, making a visual archive very comprehensive and useful for this series. And last of all, Byzantine coins, by Philip Grierson, an excellent primer in a single volume on the Byzantine coinage, from Anastasius, emperor in the East from 491, until the fall of Constaninopolis in 1453, including a brief discussion of the various succesor 'states' of the empire that appeared after 1203 taking of Constaninopolis by the army of the 4th crusade. It presents an interesting corpus of images, which together with Byzantine Coins and Their values by Sear are a good guide to get started with collecting these series.

And little more to outline; a visit to the Vincente Craven-Bartle's numismatic convention held in Valencia in late October, which resulted in a couple of very good acquisitions, and a visit to a coin shop in Madrid that led to the purchase of the last year coin. I had no time for much else, really.

Numismatic review of 2010

Although my numismatic activity began in the last quarter of 2008, I can set the full year as a good calendar of my activities without excessive loss of precision; so 2010 was my second year of numismatic activity. Looking back I think it was a really interesting year, in which I consolidated strongly my hobby, and I learned a lot (although much less than I had liked); as well, as a summary, it may be said that it has been the year of the ancient coins, both in monetary and bibliographic character. Most coins and books added to my collection are primarily of the Roman series; also present was the Iberian and Celtic coins; I consciously set aside the Greek and Oriental series, not because they uninterested me, but because my budget does not allow me to attack so many fronts at once, and the literature on Greek coinage is especially onerous and dispersed, which makes having a minimally complete library incredibly expensive (we are talking of a minimum of 5.000€, just for a library containing the minimum compendiums to have controlled most of the types of Greek coins, and the monographs needed to complement the compendiums); for example, the double volume Greek Coins and Their values by Sear, that for many is the introduction on the subject, devotes four pages to pre-Roman Iberian coinage, and only a few more to the very complex series of Alexander the Great, both the Macedonian and the imitation. One must keep in mind that a lot of Greek poleis minted enough to have material for a rather bulky monograph for themselves: Athens, Syracuse, Rhodes, Cizicus, Alexandria under the Ptolemies, Carthago, etc... if we go to eastern series, we have enormous corpus in the Bactrian, Partian, Sasanid and the Kushan Empire coinages; this is something that attracts me especially, but I have to leave for later; for now, I just pick the part of the Iberian and Celtic Britain that connects with my collections of coins.

To illustrate it, at the part of my coins, we have both the coin with which I began the year, this denarius of Faustina denarius of Faustina
Denarius of Faustina. Gemini VI, lot #450
I acquired at the Gemini VI, and with which I ended it, this Alexandrian copper tetradrachm of Aurelian and Vaballathus, tetradrachm of Aurelianus and Vaballathus
Copper tetradrachm of Aurelianus and Vaballathus, private purchase.
purchased privately

But the 2010 coin in my collection, which I emphasize above all others is this one: a countermark of George III on a columnario 8 reales of Carlos III of Mexico of 1762, to give a value of 4s.9d. Countermark of George III ovear a columnario 8 reales of Carlos III
4 shillings 9 pennies of George III countermarked over a columnario 8 reales of Carlos III from Mexico of 1762, private purchase.
; this coin, which was acquired privately, is almost a dream come true, because I could buy it at a very small price; a similar piece, albeit in better conservation and from the Lima mint, is the one that I put in the la moneda con mayuscula IV, and ironically, I exposed it as one of the pieces that I wolud like to have more, and a few days later after writing that entry I put my hands on my coin.

From a less personal point of view, I think that the year has been quite positive; in the auction field we have seen important landmarks such as the auction of the collection 'Hispania' of "el Centenario" by Aureo on October 26th, or the BCD collection Lokris-Phokis by NAC on October 8th; I want to note especially these two auctions because are not the typical with more or less good lots collected from a few vendors, but are systematic series with the intention of completeness, and therefore become necessary reference points; for a discussion of the 'Hispania' I refer to Adolfo; for BCD's Lokris-Phokis I refer to the same catalog, which culled the auctioneer Roberto Russo's comment: "[...] the current way of buying coins that it makes BCD look like he’s come from another world and randomly landed among us. Today, all too often, small groups of coins are gathered with the main aim of making a lucrative investment. In this framework, the search for quality becomes an obsession and it matters little if there is no logical link between one specimen and the other or even a real plan. The only excuse for today’s collector is the limited time available to study and the inadequacy of most dealers to convey the right approach with this only seemingly easy discipline. Unfortunately today the coin trade is full of coin dealers (many of which are highly successful), but true numismatists are few and far between"

On the purely economic side, and as I mentioned in above, it seems that the market is getting hotter, the unsold lots are scarce, and if the pieces come at a good price will sell all, no matter that we speak of 100€ or 10,000€; the search for the coin quality seems to be more exacerbated than ever, and can be seen at some auctions that the best pieces are fought in hot biddings that inevitably end in too high hammer prices, while the next lower set in the ladder bring up just the estimated price. About this, I highlight the PCGS landing in Paris, something I think is bad news, but what I will deal in future publications; it seems that continues to enter money from non-numismatic investors, and in large quantity; I suppose that guided by professional dealers, going for the 'big ones'; this is leading to absurdities, such as those I saw at live at the Gemini VII, which I will discuss in the next chronic, such as pieces ending at 10x hammer prices of its initial estimates.

To end the auction section in Spain, to say that in general, it seemed a good year, with notable events such as that held by Marti Hervera/Soler Llach/Numismática Segarra in the philatelic convention, the above before mentioned 'Hispania' and Vico's last bringing a magnificent collection of Iberian coinage; and by other side — negative— to note something that I have not finished yet fully to understand, as was the German coinage auction held earlier this year by Cayon, in which many of the lots eventually got not sold. Overall I have the impression that prices have remained stable, but as I said before, with fewer lots not sold.

1 Showed, between several of his published works, in the canonical manual on this series Roman Republican Coinage; in regard, it seems that Crawford asked the British Museum to republish the work of Grueber, completely out of print in 1970 and very difficult to achieve, to make it more accessible and to enable to be purchased with his book; he prefaces the new edition.

The Capital Coin V. Tridrachm of Delphi

Today I bring a very special piece, a tridrachm of Delphi, minted about 480 B.C., which is one of the great coins (without doubt a big game) of the most ancient greek series; auctioned by NAC on October 8th in Zurich as lot #376 of his 55th auction —the BCD Collection. Lokris-Phokis— graded as EF and with an estimate of 150,000CHF;tridrachm of DelphiTridrachm of Delphi. Lot #376 of NAC 55th this unusual denomination (with a weight of 18.5gr. approx.) presents very curious and gorgeous motives: on the obverse two rhytons shaped as ram's heads; over them two dolphins, a symbol of the city; below the legend DAΔΦ I KON, all bordered by a dotted circle; the reverse is split in four square sectors, each containing several additional incuse squares into one another, and a dolphin and three branches in the background field.

The Delphic coinages are a rarity; this small town was home to the famous temple of Apollo where the oracle officiated. The temple kept the gifts offered by individuals who consulted the oracle; from them the temple made some coinage to finance expansion or repair works. This tridrachm minting is associated with the Persian defeat at Plataea, from whose booty come the ram-shaped rhytons. It is also a fairly rare piece, until the discovery of the Asyut hoard (Egypt) in 1969 were only knew three coins; in that hoard surfaced seven more, only two of them well preserved (the rest had test cuts), one of which is this piece.

Added to the rarity of the piece and the remarkable circumstances of its coinage, is the fact that the reverse is supposed to represent a coffered ceiling, probably of the very temple of Apollo. All this makes this coin as one of the great pieces of Greek coinage, and in very good condition, for which its owner had to pay 475,000CHF plus comission to enjoy its possession.

· 100 greatest ancient coins, Harlan J. Berck. 2008
· NAC auction #55 - The BCD collection of Lokris-Phokis. 2010.

La Moneda con mayúscula IV. Dolar de George III resellado sobre un real de a ocho columnario de Carlos III

Hoy traigo una preciosa moneda 'doble', un columnario contramarcado de gran rareza: en concreto un real de a ocho de Carlos III de Lima de 1772 contramarcado con el busto de George III en un oval para darle valor de 4 shillings & 9 pence en 1797; fue subastado por St. James's Auctions (en asociación con Baldwin's) en su venta 14-15 el pasado 30 de septiembre como lote 246, en conservación AU55 (capsula NGC) y 5.000 libras de estimación;Dollar George III
Dollar de George III resellado sobre 8R de Carlos III de Lima. St. James Auctions 14-15, lote 246
la razón de ser de estas piezas fueron los graves problemas financieros que acuciaban al Banco de Inglaterra en pleno enfrentamiento con la Francia Revolucionaria (con España neutral entonces); hubo una corrida bancaria contra el Banco desde 1793 (declaración de guerra de la convención), y en 1797, por miedo a una invasión francesa, se precipitó dicha corrida de tal manera, que el stock de oro bajo del millón de libras, y se decidió suspender la convertibilidad de los billetes en el mes de febrero; a continuación, en marzo, para proveer liquidez en metal, se decidió sacar a la calle parte de la plata hispanoamericana acumulada por el Banco, dándole un curso legal de mayor valor que el contenido de plata (4s8d) para evitar su exportación y atesoramiento; de ahí la valuación de 4s9d.

Para contramarcar se usaron los ocho, cuatro, dos y un real que tenían almacenados (las dos últimas denominaciones en cantidades muy pequeñas); los reales de a ocho eran los más significativos -mayoritariamente piezas de Carlos IV de las cecas de Mexico, Lima, Potosí, Madrid y Sevilla- ya que venían a 'sustituir' en cierta medida las crowns (5 shillings) que eran las piezas de plata principales del sistema inglés (y que dieron origen a un par de chascarrillos en Inglaterra buenísimos: "The Bank, to make their Spanish dollars pass, stamped the head of a fool on the neck of an ass [El Banco, para pasar sus dólares españoles, estampó la cabeza de un loco en el cuello de un idiota]", y "Two kings' heads are not worth a crown [Las cabezas de dos reyes no valen ni una corona]"). Más escasas fueron las contramarcas sobre monedas de monarcas anteriores, por la diferencia temporal entre la acuñación de estas monedas y su remarcado. Y entre estas, la mayoría de las contramarcadas fueron sobre piezas de busto de Carlos III; los columnarios son pues las piezas más raras de esta serie (exceptuando algunas piezas francesas o useñas que algunos consideran dudosas) y no suelen verse en subasta pública (ni, añadiría, en venta abierta al público). En total se marcaron un poco más de 550.000 libras de plata, sobre los 2.350.000 monedas.

La sobrevaluación de estas monedas sobre su contenido en plata, más lo pequeño del diseño del punzonado, significó la aparición casi automática de piezas reselladas 'no oficiales'; la proliferación de resellados 'falsos' (en la práctica, las falsificaciones buenas del punzón son indistinguibles de los oficiales) hizo que se suspendiese la circulación de estas piezas en el mismo mes de octubre, retirándolas de la circulación cambiándolas por oro (incluyendo resellos falsos, mientras la moneda fuese buena -hay que recordar que el año anterior se empezaron a fabricar las falsificaciones de los talleres de Birmingham). Años después, en enero de 1803, se volvió a resellar, y a principios de 1804, se introdujo el cambio de la sustitución del punzón, haciéndolo más grande y de perfil octogonal; pero ocurriendo lo mismo que con el resellado oval (resellados falsificados), en mayo, usando prensas de vapor, se procedió a resellarlas con cuños que ocupaban toda la superficie de la moneda, con valor de 5 shillings primero, y después 5 shillings y 6 pences, marcados como dollar; estas monedas estuvieron en circulación hasta su retirada en 1817.1

En esta pieza en concreto, se añade el gran estado de conservación del real de a ocho, buen EBC tirando a EBC+ en mi opinión (el AU55 me parece algo optimista, aunque habría que tener la pieza en mano para opinar mejor), un más que aceptable MBC+ para el resello, y una gran patina; conjuntandolo todo, una grandísima pieza, que une una de las más bellas y significativas acuñaciones hispanas, el real de a ocho columnario, con la plasmación de unas circunstancias historicas que modelaron la historia del siglo XIX de Europa y el Mundo. Pieza estrella sin lugar a dudas para el feliz propietario, que tuvo que pagar finalmente 4.200 libras+comisión para hacerse con ella.

Personalmente esta es la moneda de las cuatro que he presentado hasta ahora que más me gustaría tener, por ser tanto un moneda española (un real de a ocho, y encima columnario) como una inglesa, y de un periodo sumamente interesante como es el de la Revolución Francesa y las Guerras Napoleónicas.

1 la historia de los resellos está tomada de "Token money of the Bank of England", de Maberly Phillips, F.S.A., 1900.

La Moneda con mayúscula III. Aes grave as de Roma.

En esta ocasión traigo un extraordinario Aes Grave, subastado en la Triton XIII celebrada los pasados 5 y 6 de enero en Nueva York como el lote 280, en conservación EF y estimación de $5.000; Crawford 35/1, Sydenham 71, Sear 570; As republicano
As romano. Triton XIII lote 280
esta moneda fundida entre el 225 y el 217 a.C. fue la primera en llevar los conocidos motivos caracteristicos de los bronces republicanos del Janus bifronte en al anverso y la proa de una nave de guerra en el reverso; además fueron las últimas piezas de bronce de estandar libral (esto es, 1 as = 1 libra de bronce = 324gr.1), aunque especificamente este tipo pesaba un poco menos, aproximadamente 10 onzas (=270gr.), posiblemente debido al inicio de la devaluación del circulante de bronce; en el 217 a.C., ya Roma un año en guerra con Cartago en la Segunda Guerra Púnica, y posiblemente después de la derrota de un ejercito romano ante los cartagineses en la batalla del lago Tresimeno, se pasó a producir bronces con estandares cada vez más reducidos, primero a 1 as = 6 onzas = 162gr., después, sobre el 214 a.C. 1 as = 3 onzas= 81gr., para acabar el 211 a.C. en 1 as = 2 onzas = 54gr., más o menos en el apogeo de la campaña cartaginesa en Italia; interesante fenómeno monetario que muestra la pérdida de recursos de los romanos quemados en dicha guerra, que todavía se prolongó hasta el 202 a.C. en Africa con la derrota definitiva de los cartagineses en Zama.

Respecto a la moneda presentada aquí vemos un ejemplar en una conservación realmente notable para una pieza de bronce de 288gr.; en el anverso tenemos la cabeza de Janus bifronte, genuino Dios romano quizás procedente de la tradición etrusca, asociado a los inicios/finales de acontecimientos importantes, muy apropiado para el comienzo de la serie monetaria2 caracterizada por aparecer en el reverso la proa a derechas (el as marca la primera denominación que sigue con sus fracciones: semis (1/2), triens (1/3), quadrans (1/4), sextans (1/6) y uncia (1/12)); debajo del busto una raya horizontal, haciendo referencia al valor de 1 as; en el reverso tenemos la proa de una embarcación de guerra, probablemente una declaración explicita del creciente poder maritimo de Roma3, ejemplificado en la anterior primera guerra púnica que tuvo un importante componente naval, y arriba una raya vertical, de nuevo señalando el valor de 1 as; una auténtica joya de la república romana, que le costó a su feliz propietario 6.000$ más comisión.

1 los datos de los estandares de peso y su evolución temporal están tomados de "Roman Republican Coinage" [RRC], de Michael Crawford.
2 pag xxii en "Coins of the Roman Republic in the British Museum. Vol I", de H.A. Grueber.
3 nota 6 en pag 718 de [RRC]

Crónica numismática (VII)

Vuelvo... veremos que pasa; Iria ya tiene seis meses, y aunque sigue sin dejarnos tiempo (sobre todo a su madre), ya estoy mucho más habituado al ritmo de vida que impone el tener que cuidar a un niño tan pequeño. Y sin más preámbulos, pasemos a lo que nos importa aquí, las monedas:

Unas reflexiónes

Por estas fechas va cumpliendo mi segundo aniversario del inicio de mi actividad numismática; en todo este tiempo he cambiado bastante mi enfoque, he aprendido mucho, he aumentado considerablemente la colección, y sobre todo he disfrutado como un enano.

Una de las cosas buenas que me quedan de todo el proceso es la sensación de evolución; la maduración intelectual que implica el estudio de la numismática, en todos los ordenes, es realmente compleja y enriquecedora; tomo por ejemplo la lección que enseña sobre la economía actual y su sistema dinerario. Por ejemplo, la devaluación monetaria que más pronto o más tarde todas las autoridades acuñadoras acometen, ejemplificada con la plata romana; de los primeros orgullosos denarios republicanos y alto-imperiales de plata casi pura, a las burdas imitaciones que supusieron los antoninianos justo antes de la reforma de Diocleciano, planchas de cobre plateado. Acontecimiento este que se repite en casi cualquier serie que observemos: estateras de algunas pueblos británicos de antes de la invasión romana, que empezaron siendo de electrón muy rico en oro y terminaron siendo solo de plata; los trientes visigodos, que siguieron prácticamente el mismo camino (solo hay que ver la diferencia de color de los trientes de los primeros reyes visigodos con los de los últimos); las monedas de menudo castellanas, inicialmente de vellón muy rico en plata, y que por la época de los RRCC eran practicamente solo cobre; incluso en épocas más proximas, se ve como la moneda británica evoluciona con el tiempo; el six pences es de plata hasta bien entrado el siglo XX, pero después de la Segunda Guerra Mundial solo se acuñan en plata los de las Maudy Sets, monedas que no están destinadas a circular.

Centrándome más en el objeto de la numismática, las monedas en sí, en este tiempo también ha habido una evolución notable; por un lado he ampliado mucho las series que me resultan de interés, hasta el punto en que me es imposible seguirlas todas (y mucho menos coleccionarlas); del propósito inicial de coleccionar reales de a ocho y RRCC, he pasado a las series romanas (en general, aunque más centrado en la plata, y las acuñaciones alejandrinas), las ibericas, la moneda medieval castellana, desde los RRCC hasta Alfonso XIII toda la moneda hispánica en general; y para acabar de redondearlo, la moneda inglesa, centrado en exclusiva por ahora en las acuñaciones de unos 200 años antes de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Por supuesto esto hace (ya lo dice el dicho, quien mucho abarca poco aprieta) mi colección muy dispersa, pero teniendo en cuenta que mi marco temporal numismático lo cuento ahora en decadas, creo que tengo tiempo de sobra para formar por lo menos unas colecciones, seguramente cortas, pero creo que solidas de estas series. Solo falta que me acompañe el tema económico.

Próximas subastas

Octubre viene cargadísimo; como es habitual las casas de subastas vuelven tras el parón veraniego con fuerza, y sus primeras subastas otoñales suelen ser bastante potentes.

Empecemos pues con la más cercana de todas, la subasta doble que ofrece NAC el 8 de octubre. Como #55 ofrece un espectacular catálogo especializado en Phokis y Lokris, parte de la colección BCD, ofreciendo 1115 monedas en 475 lotes; el catálogo, descargable en la página de NAC, es un portento de documentación, y ha sido elaborado por el mismo coleccionista. Esta colección sistemática está llamada a ser referencia obligada de la serie, y me resulta gratamente sorprendente que semajante catálogo se haya producido, en un mercado actual tan dirijido por el interés económico.

Como segundo plato tenemos la subasta denominada por NAC #56, que trae 1030 lotes del bajo imperio romano, los bizantinos y la edad media europea; para mi gusto, lo mejor, sin dudarlo, los lotes de monedas germánicas y las musulmanas (o con inscripción musulmana) sicilianas, por lo poco que se ven en subasta. Como piezas a destacar remarco dos que me han encantado (lástima sus precios): la primera este bronce Ostrogodo, un Follis de Roma de Theodahad, lote 543, al que dan gVF y 2.500CHF de estimación; follis de roma de theodahad
Lote 543. Follis de Roma de Theodahad
esta moneda es una muestra espectacular de la pretensión de los ostrogodos de continuar la idea imperial; en el reverso vemos un motivo claramente romano, Victoria alada portando corona y palma, y las letras S C (Senatus Consulto). La segunda es este magnífico y raro pierreale de Messina de Pedro de Aragón, lote 1006, al que dan aEF y 8000CHF de salida pierreale de messina de Pedro
Lote 1006. Pierreale de Messina de Pedro de Aragón
; estas piezas italo-aragonesas me encantan por su magnífica factura y su fino balance entre la doble fila de leyendas en la orla, y el motivo del centro del cospel (una de las tipologías típicas de la moneda medieval europea); la Caballero de las Yndias-Europa ya traía otra, en aún mejor estado, que terminó adjudicandose en 6.000€.

Continuamos con Martí Hervera/Soler y Llach, que esta vez en Madrid, en colaboración con Segarra Numismática y en el marco de la Exposición Filatélica Nacional presenta un catálogo potente con 431 lotes muy variados; entre ellos, algunos áureos y un extraordinariamente raro sestercio de Agripina Hija, lote 27, que en EBC- sale por 15.000€; una interesantísima colección de 51 trientes visigodos (colección Hans Berckhoff) que incluye varias grandes rarezas; un impresionante ral de oro de Pere III de Mallorca, lote 116, MBC+/EBC- (rara en esa conservación) que sale en 2.900€; 4 doblas de 35 maravedís de Pedro I de Sevilla; una rarísima media dobla de Alfonso de Ávila de Toledo, lote 143, que en estado EBC(aunque MBC+ como mucho para mí) sale por 15.000€; un cuatro excelentes de los RRCC de Segovia en estado MBC+, lote 148, que sale por 16.000€ (ex-Caballero de las Yndias lote 1702 que se adjudicó por 13.000€); 4 cincuentines de Felipe IV; este extraordinario 5 rals de Argentona de 1642 5 rals de Argentona
Lote 179. 5 rals de Argentona de 1642.
, lote 179, en un estado de conservación increible (lo dan como el mejor conocido, y puedo decir que es de los mejores que he visto nunca de todas las cecas) al que dan como EBC y 2.000€ de salida; un 4 escudos de Segovia de Carlos II del 1687(sobrefechado a 3), lote 192, extremadamente raro y con una espectacular conservación EBC+, que sale por 18.000€ (la Caballero de la Yndias traía otro en la misma conservación que se adjudicó por 11.000€); 4 escasos reales de a ocho de la ceca de Madrid de Felipe V, dos de ellos en muy buen estado de conservación; un precioso 8 escudos de Carlos III de Madrid de 1773, lote 242, que dan como SC y 3.950€ de salida (curiosa cifra, ¿el mínimo del cliente?), y que ciertamente es una de las mejores onzas de este Rey que he visto nunca; un 2 y media pesetas y un 5 pesetas de la ocupación napoleónica de Cataluña, lotes 260 y 263, en conservación SC ambos, los dos con unas patínas bellísimas y ciertamente impresionantes; un 20 reales de Fernando VII de Madrid de 1833, lote 284, en conservación SC y salida de 2.200€; un 20 centimos de la Primera República de 1869*69 SNM, lote 363, al que dan FDC y 15.000€ de salida; y para acabar, un duro de Alfonso XIII de 1888*88 MSM, lote 417, en conservación SC y 10.000€ de salida, con una patina muy atractiva y seguramente uno de los mejores lotes de toda la subasta. Como final, comentar que esta es una de las subastas de más calidad que he visto últimamente por la cantidad de lotes extraordinarios que trae (posiblemente la mejor subasta de Martí Hervera/Soler Y Llach hasta la fecha), y si no fuera por la subasta de la colección Hispania, que comentaré más abajo, la mejor de este año en España sin lugar a dudas; añadir que aunque entiendo el motivo comercial detrás de ello, la no atribución de los lotes que provienen de la Caballero de las Yndias (yo ya he localizado dos, el 4 excelentes mencionado antes y un escudo de Burgos de Carlos y Juana) me parece una falta de 'lesa numismática' a esas dos monedas ya que les hurta un tramo importante e interesante de su historia por provenir de tan extraordinaria colección; en otros casos para mí no tendría la menor importancia, pero en este demuestra una falta de visión e incluso hasta de respeto a uno de los momentos cumbres de la numismática de este país, a la altura de las celebérrimas colecciones de Tolrá y Vidal Quadras.

Continúo con Aureo & Calicó, que el 26 de octubre presenta una subasta en sala con triple sesión, la última de las cuales es la de la colección Hispania, más una sesión exclusiva por correo. Empezando por el catálogo de la subasta regular, que trae 1250 lotes para sala y 1084 para correo, destaco una interesantísima colección de dos reales de los Borbones de cecas peninsulares, consistente en 237 monedas, la mayoría en calidad media-baja, pero que conforman un buen ejemplo de colección sistemática al alcance de muchos bolsillos. En la parte de moneda romana tenemos algunos denarios y sestercios interesantes en conservacion media-buena; entre unos cuantos ases hispánicos destacables tenemos este extraordinario hemidracma de Agadir, lote 1139,hemidracma de Agadir
Lote 1139. Hemidracma de Agadir.
al que dan EBC+/EBC, 1.500€ de salida y 2.500€ de estimación; preciosa moneda que muestra un busto de Melqart impactante, tanto por su calidad artística como por extraordinaria conservación; entre las medievales destacan el conjunto de monedas de oro de Fernando II, de las cecas de Barcelona, Mallorca, Valencia, Sicilia y Nápoles; también un precioso Enrique de la Silla de Sevilla, lote 1289, en conservación EBC+, al que dan 4.000€ de salida y 7.000€ de estimación; en la parte de los RRCC viene lo que parece parte de la misma colección, una serie realmente estupenda de monedas de oro de todas las cecas y denominaciones hasta los cuatro excelentes, algunas en muy buena conservación; la mejor oferta de monedas de los RRCC desde la Caballero de las Yndias sin lugar a dudas. Después la subasta decae un poco, aunque encuentro algunas piezas muy interesantes entre los reales de a ocho de los Austrias y los de Carlos IV.

Pero el colofón del día en Áureo viene de la mano de la colección Hispania, un extraordinario Tour de Force numismático por cuanto, y citando el catálogo, es una colección completa del Centenario, que incluye además una buena parte de las pruebas; y el apelativo no le queda corto, ya que el Centenario es la serie más popular entre los coleccionistas de este país, ante lo cual cualquiera se enfrenta al reto de la fuerte competencia por todas las monedas, lo que dificulta mucho la obtención de las más raras. Hay además otro componente adicional que contribuye a la excelencia de esta colección: la extraordinaria conservación de la mayoría de las piezas, incluyendo el más que aceptable MBC- para la peseta 1946*48 con el busto de Benlliure. Por destacar algún lote (debería hacerlo en más de un tercio del catálogo), me quedo con una pieza mítica del Centenario, este duro 1869*69 SNM de la Primera Republica, duro 1869*69
Lote 34. 5 pesetas de 1869*69.
al que dan SC-, 30.000€ de salida y 50.000€ de estimación, con una patina que le da un estupendo aire antiguo; el sueño hecho realidad de todo coleccionista. Por acabar, esta es sin duda la colección de cabecera de todo coleccionista del Centenario, el espejo donde mirarse, y más que por la completitud por la grandísima calidad de la mayoría de las piezas; Aureo se apunta otro tanto, y un año después de la extraordinaria Caballero de las Yndias riza el rizo y presenta otra colección que está destinada a recordarse durante mucho tiempo. Los que no tengan el catálogo que lo busquen, es un imprescindible.

Mi colección

Por acabar esta crónica, comentar un poco que ha ocurrido en mi colección estos últimos seis meses; quizás lo más destacable sea el que me he decidido por comprar también piezas alejandrinas del periodo romano. La serie en sí es fascinante, por lo inmensa, y por la múltitud de motivos diferentes que trae; y por otro lado es relativamente barata, ya que se pueden adquirir buena parte de las piezas en unos precios que oscilan entre los 50-300€; además está bastante menos trillada que otras series romanas, y aún siendo parte de las acuñaciones proviciales, mucho menos documentadas que las imperiales en Roma u otras cecas principales, de la ceca alejandrina se sabe bastante más que de otras, lo que facilita la incursión en su moneda; quizás al final no sea si no fruto de la compra del catálogo de Dattari, que tras tanto ojearlo me haya metido el gusto por estas fascinantes piezas.

Pero a parte monedas, quizás lo más reseñable sea la fuerte inversión en literatura que he hecho, y que ha ampliado grandemente los recursos bibliográficos de que dispongo en algunas series; por mencionar algunos títulos: "El duro" de Herrera; "Roman Coins" de Kent y los Hirmer; el catálogo de moneda republicana romana del Museo Británico de Grueber; el "Byzantine coins" de Grierson; una serie de catálogos de subastas de Schuman de los años 50 y 60; y el catálogo de reales de a ocho de Yriarte. Al respecto, añadir que encontré un página sumamente interesante, LibraryThing, en la que poder hacer un catálogo de mi biblioteca;todavía en elaboración (y aun tardaré un montón en acabarlo, con prioridad los libros numismáticos), ya puede consultarse mi catálogo en mi cuenta como blogpolis.

Por otro lado he empezado la catalogación definitiva de mi colección de monedas, y tengo ya preparadas las plantillas de formato para colgar las fichas en internet; en breve empezaré a publicarlas, cosa que anunciaré debidamente en esta crónica.

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