Sunday, February 8, 2009

New ANS Work on the Athenian Decadrachm

The Athenian Decadrachm is a scarce, high value coin. It was worth a small fortune in antiquity. Though hardly as beautiful as its counterparts from Ancient Syracuse, the type remains one of the most valuable ancient coins today.

Fischer-Bossert has authored a new work about this important coin. The ANS has published "The Athenian Decadrachm" as part of its Numismatic Notes and Monographs series. Numismatists with an interest in ancient Greek coinage will consider it an important work. But, this is a blog about cultural property issues. So, here are a few brief thoughts from that perspective.

1. The ANS, an organization largely, if not wholly, funded by coin collectors and coin dealers published this work. In addition, the author thanks several well known collectors and coin dealers who specifically helped make this work possible. Those who wish to suppress the trade in ancient coins might want to consider the impact of their efforts on the kind of numismatic scholarship the ANS (and few others) supports.

2. Though struck in Greece, the find spots (where known) of most of the coins are in the Levant or the Near East. Again, this supports the proposition that ancient coins were meant to travel in antiquity, making it difficult to associate them with any one specific modern nation state.

3. A number of the coins can be traced back at least to 19th C. collections. Other coins come from more recent hoards.

4. At least one specimen with only a recent provenance is on display in a Greek museum. Yet, as far as I know, no one has sought to hold that museum to the same provenance standards as demanded of the MET and other US museums.