Controversial Deaccession
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11 posts in this topic

Provides acquisition opportunity of a lifetime

 

I guess I don't pay much attention to general numismatic news because the events surrounding the deaccession (elimination of items by a museum) of the Huntington Collection of coins and medals from the Hispanic world passed by without my notice. I only started to check out what this Huntington Collection was after I won an interesting 8 reales from an auction house that specializes in ancient coins.

 

Archer M. Huntington (1870-1955), philanthropist and patron of the arts, is known for founding the Hispanic Society of America (HSA) as well as his scholarly works in the field of Hispanic Studies. He was also a member and benefactor of the American Numismatic Society (ANS, not to be confused with the ANA). His interest in all things Spanish included a 38,000 coin collection spanning ancient to near modern times that was mostly completed by 1908. This collection was bequeathed to HSA and placed on long term loan for study with the ANS.

 

In 2008 the HSA, facing financial troubles, decided to deaccession the coin collection, but not without a legal challenge from the ANS on the grounds that it violated Huntington's intention for the preservation of the collection for future study. With the legal issue resolved in their favor, the HSA sought but failed to find a buyer that would keep the collection intact. Sotheby’s auctioned off the collection in 2012, estimated between $25 -$35 million USD, to a consortium of European coin dealers. Several of these houses (Jesús Vico, Morton & Eden, Numismatica Genevensis, Jean Elsen & ses Fils) have subsequently auctioned off parts of the collection to the public. A few anonymous benefactors have arranged the purchase of large and important parts of the collection and placed them, on long term loan, back with the ANS.

 

I stumbled upon this story recently, when I scanned through an email auction notice from the Classical Numismatic Group (CNG) and saw a 1614 Spanish 8 reales hidden among the typical ancient fare in the listing. My main date range for 8 reales is 1760-1789, covering the reign of Charles III, but I also collect a few examples of other series. Seeing a fine specimen from the reign of Philip III (1598–1621) come up for auction is a rare occurrence. Even more special, when I found out that this coin had been in such an important collection for over 100 years. Whoever bought it from the Jesús Vico auction, in June of 2012, decided to put it back on the market and I bought it from CNG this year in September.

 

The 1614 8 reales, minted in Segovia, Spain, is fairly pedestrian compared to some of the stellar rarities from the Huntington collection (just search for the Sotheby's catalog for examples). The obverse shows the crowned coat of arms of Spain at the time, with Portugal included, as the Spanish monarch held the Portuguese crown from 1581-1640. To the left of the arms is a two story aqueduct of five arches, the mint mark of Segovia, and the assayers initials, AR. To the right is the denomination in Roman numerals, VIII. On the reverse is the quartered arms of Castille and León, with date above. The impressions are strong and what appears to be rim damage looks more like nicks and cuts that were present on the planchette prior to minting.

 

~jack

 

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Wow! Great coin and Word of the Day all in one. When I saw the post with "Deaccession" in the title, my first reaction was "what did he misspell?" Discussion? Decision? Then I saw your username and knew from your previous posts it was not an error, but probably an interesting and well-researched writeup. Thanks for the education!

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Well, that coin is far from "pedestrian" in my book (I realize you are using the term in a relative manner). That is a great tale and a great coin! Thanks for sharing your knowledge regarding these pieces and congratulation on "accessioning" a fantastic coin for your Own Museum collection!

 

Best Regards,

 

George

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Incredible that you were fortunate enough to be at the right place at the right time to have the privilege to oversee that beautiful coins well being.

 

Great read.

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