By Numismatica Genevensis SA ……
Anyone interested in truly top-class numismatics will have been following Numismatica Genevensis’ auctions for years. They are a pretty rare occurrence, but they always feature numerous coins preserved in the best possible condition. On November 14 and 15, the time has finally come again.
Across three auction catalogues, Numismatica Genevensis will be presenting a variety of coins and medals that are truly the stuff of any coin collector’s dreams.
Auction 16 will offer numismatic highlights from around the world, many of which are the best-known specimens of their type. Auction 17 will include the collection of a “distinguished gentleman”, with large series from Belgium and Italy. Auction 18 is dedicated to Part 2 of the Geneva Collection, the first part of which was auctioned with great success in November 2021.
Auction 16: Perfect Rarities from Around the World
Let’s begin with a unique drachm from Aetna, a city name that will already be sending connoisseurs into raptures. It was founded by the Syracusan tyrant Hiero, who commissioned the best die-cutters of their generation to design the city’s coins. As a result, the “coin of all coins” was created for Aetna: a unique tetradrachm produced by the Aetna master, which is now kept in Brussels.
It was also a master who designed the seated Zeus on the drachm presented in this Numismatica Genevensis auction, first published in 1961. We don’t know their name, unlike the names of the Syracusan die engravers active in the era of the signing artists.
During this period, this city was home to the most famous die engraver of all time: the great Kimon. He created two iconic coin designs that have shaped our concept of aesthetics: the front-facing portrait of Arethusa and the image of Arethusa facing left, her curly hair gathered into a hairnet fastened above her forehead with a wide band. This most famous interpretation of the fountain nymph combines the portrait-like features of a real woman with the detached abstraction of the divine. Numismatica Genevensis is proud to offer two decadrachms from this ground-breaking series made from two different dies. Both pieces are the best-preserved specimens of their type; their provenance dates back to 1940 and 1941, respectively.
Let’s wrap up our preview of ancient coins with two pieces that would be a highlight even in any of the world’s most important collections. One is an archaic tetradrachm from the city of Athens, of unusual but highly appealing style. The other is an aureus featuring impressive portraits of Julia Domna and Caracalla, the provenance of which can be traced back to before 1910. Around that time, the collection of this coin’s owner, the Vicomte de Sartiges, was published by Parisian photographer and numismatist D.A. Longuet.
Lot 6 – Aetna (Sicily). Hiero I, 478-466 BC. Drachm, 476-470 BC. Dobretsberger, MONG 6 (1961), p. 49-50. From Auctiones auction 20 (1990), Lot 117. Unique piece of utmost historical significance. Wonderful patina. Almost extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 100,000
13 – Syracuse (Sicily). Decadrachm, signed by Kimon, around 405 BC. Max Hirmer, Die schönsten Griechenmünzen Siziliens (English: The Most Beautiful Greek Coins of Sicily). Insel-Bücherei 559 Leipzig (1940), No. 37 (this specimen). Franke-Hirmer plate 40, 116 (this specimen). Kraay-Hirmer plate 40, 116 (this specimen). From Leu auction 81 (2001), Lot 111. Definitely the finest known specimen from this extraordinary issue. Extremely fine +. Estimate: CHF 600,000
14 – Syracuse (Sicily). Decadrachm, signed by Kimon, around 405-400 BC. J. H. Jongkees, The Kimonian Dekadrachms. Utrecht (1941), No. 3 (this specimen). H. A. Cahn et al., Griechische Münzen aus Großgriechenland und Sizilien (English: Greek coins from Magna Graecia and Sicily). The Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig (1988), 479 (this specimen). Moretti Collection, displayed at the Antikenmuseum Basel. From NAC auction 13 (1998), Lot 479. The finest known specimen of this masterpiece of Greek art, with a wonderful patina. Extremely fine +. Estimate: CHF 500,000
32 – Athens. Tetradrachm, around 510-490 BC. Of wonderful style. Extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 75,000
64 – Julia Domna and Caracalla. Aureus, 196-211 AD. From the Louis de Sartiges Collection, published in D. A. Longuet, Collection du Vicomte de Sartiges, Séries grecques et romaines, 1910. From Ars Classica auction XVII (1938), Lot 331. Extremely fine, an exceptional specimen. Estimate: CHF 200,000
Numismatica Genevensis is known for offering great rarities of Islamic coinage on a regular basis, and auction 16 is no different. Among the pieces on offer is an Islamic imitation of a solidus of Phocas, made between the years 679 and 692; a complete collection of all 56 dinars of the Umayyads made between 696 and 750, and some extremely rare mohurs of Jahangir, ruler of the Mughal Empire.
Lot 73 – Arab-Byzantine coinage. Solidus in the name of Byzantine Emperor Phocas, ca. AH 60-72 (= 679-692), Dimashq(?). Of considerable historical importance and of the highest quality. Estimate: CHF 75,000
100 – Mughal Empire. Nur al-Din Muhammad Jahangir, AH 1014-1037 (= 1605-1627). Zodiac series. Mohur “Ram”, regnal year 14 (= December 1618 – October 1619), Agra. From the Philipp von Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha Collection (not included in the Hamburger auction). John Work Garrett Collection. Dr. Lawrence A. Adams Collection. Extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 150,000
World Coins and Medals
And that brings us to the world coins and medals; this catalogue includes many special collections, as well as numerous significant individual pieces and series.
There’s an extensive series of over 70 lots with patterns of Albanian coins from the early 20th century, followed by one of the real highlights of the auction: seven gold off-metal strikes of the famous Bavarian “Geschichtstaler”, which were produced for the prominent collector Philipp de Ferrary (1850-1917).
Ferrary was regarded by his contemporaries as one of the wealthiest men in the world who, once he’d set his sights on a coin or a stamp, would pay any price for it without bargaining. At his request, the state mints were happy to produce circulation coins with years of issue that would otherwise never have been minted. Ferrary also commissioned gold off-metal strikes of the most beautiful coins of the 19th century; after all, the official dies for these coins were still stored at the mints. These include the gold off-metal strikes of the Bavarian “Geschichtstaler” offered by Numismatica Genevensis; these coins are of very special numismatic interest because they are the first ever commemorative coins, in the modern sense of the term. A later owner of this ensemble was one of the truly great collectors: King Farouk of Egypt.
Once again, there’s a vast wealth of impressive material; with so many lots to choose from, it’s rather difficult to pick out just a few to present here. Perhaps the 20 ducat piece of Sigismund Francis, Archduke of Further Austria and Tyrol? Or the medieval Cadière d’or of Anne de Bretagne? What about an “Una and the Lion”, graded NGC PF63 CAMEO (Top Pop)? Or one of the great rarities of the Kingdom of Italy: the 50 lire piece produced in Turin in 1864 in a mintage of just 103, only a dozen of which have been preserved – Numismatica Genevensis will be offering two specimens from this rare issue!
Or perhaps you’d be more interested in a rare medieval piece of utmost historical significance, such as the tremissis of Charlemagne from Lucca, which depicts a bust of Charlemagne – though admittedly a rather crude one. After all, this would be the earliest “coin portrait” of Charlemagne. Or perhaps you collect Portuguese pieces? There’s also a unique, undated escudo of Alfonso V from the Huntington Collection.
We’ll finish with one of the most beautiful Swiss coins ever made: a 20 ducat piece from Basel featuring a detailed cityscape, minted with the dies of a taler from 1741.
And if all these pieces are out of your budget, it’s still worth having a flick through the catalogue. It also features many perfect coins with lower estimates, including an extensive collection of US gold, namely 30 lots of 5 dollar coins and more than 40 lots of 20 dollar coins.
Lot 112 – Albania. Ahmed Zogu, President 1925-1928, King 1928-1939. 100 Franga Ari 1928 R, Rome. Essai in gold. NGC MS64. Very rare. Extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 8,000
181 – Bavaria. Louis I, 1825-1848. Gold off-metal strike of Geschichtstaler “Segen des Himmels” (English: Blessing of Heaven) 1828. From the Ferrary and King Farouk Collections. NGC MS64. Estimate: CHF 50,000
182 – Bavaria. Louis I, 1825-1848. Gold off-metal strike of Geschichtstaler “Otto Prinz von Bayern Griechenlands Erster König” (English: Prince Otto of Bavaria, First King of Greece) 1828. From the Ferrary and King Farouk Collections. NGC MS62. Estimate: CHF 50,000
196 – RDR. Sigismund Francis, Archduke of Austria, 1662-1665 20 ducats n.d. (around 1663), Hall. NGC MS61. Extremely rare. Extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 150,000
268 – France. Anne de Bretagne, 1488-1514. Cadière d’or, undated (1498), Nantes. Extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 125,000
280 – Great Britain. Victoria, 1837-1901. 5 pounds, “Una and the Lion” 1839, London, by W. Wyon. Essai with plain edge. NGC PF63 CAMEO (Top Pop). Extremely fine on polished blank. Estimate: CHF 200,000
295 – Italy. Victor Emmanuel, 1861-1878. 50 lire 1864, Turin. Only 103 specimens minted, around a dozen pieces known to date. Good extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 200,000
314 – Italy. Lucca. Charlemagne, 768-814. Tremissis, undated (post-774). Of utmost historical significance, exceptionally rare and very fine. Estimate: CHF 50,000
349 – Portugal. Alfonso V, 1438-1481. Escudo, undated (around 1475-1479), Toro. From Huntington Collection no. 9187. Unique piece of utmost historical significance. Very fine. Estimate: CHF 175,000
362 – Switzerland / Basel. Multiple of 20 ducats 1741. From SBV auction 5 (1977), Lot 391, and NGSA auction 8 (2014), Lot 581. NGC MS65PL. Perfect showpiece on polished blank. Estimate: CHF 600,000
Auction 17: The Collection of a “Distinguished Gentleman”
The “Collection of a distinguished Gentleman” is a classic collection of coins and medals from all over the world and all periods, spanning from antiquity to the modern era. But of course, the collector had certain areas of focus. One of them is the Kingdom of Belgium. More than 50 lots in the auction contain Belgian coins, including many patterns and some of the rarest Belgian coins we know of. The collector succeeded in acquiring all the 1 franc pieces of 1917 and 1918, with French and Flemish inscriptions respectively. Although almost the entire issue was melted down, these four pieces were preserved at the in-house museum of the Birmingham Mint, which was responsible for minting them.
With more than 370 lots, Italy is definitely the focus of the collection. And within Italy, the collector concentrated on the Kingdom of Italy and the Papal States.
As we take a look at the royal rarities, let’s begin, not with a gold coin (for once!), but with a small 10 centesimi piece from 1867, minted in Brussels. This is probably one of the rarest fractions of the Kingdom of Italy, if not the rarest. To date, only three specimens are known for certain, although Sergio Cudazzo, author of MIR, mentioned six surviving specimens.
Of course, there are also plenty of rare gold and silver coins from the Kingdom of Italy. Here are a couple of examples: a 20 lire piece from 1902, with a small anchor as a mint mark, from the Comte Giovanni Carotti di Falconara Collection, as well as one of the greatest rarities of the 20th century: a 5 lire coin from 1901, only 114 pieces of which were minted.
One hundred and thirteen lots come from the Papal States. We’ll also take this opportunity to mention one of the great rarities of Papal numismatics: a ducaton from 1527. It was minted to pay the ransom for Pope Julius II, who was being held captive by German “Landknecht” mercenaries at Castel Sant’Angelo. According to the story, the Medici Pope was even forced to have his tiara melted down so that the precious metal could be sent to the mint and used to produce the 400,000 ducats needed.
If you’re a fan of 19th-century medal art, you should take a close look at the Papal States series; it features some wonderful works of art – both as individual pieces and in lots. The architectural depictions in particular are in a league of their own.
Lot 1136 – Belgium. Albert I, 1909-1934. 1 franc 1918, Birmingham. From the museum of the Birmingham Mint, sold by Spink in the 1970s. Extremely rare. NGC MS65. Magnificent, extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 3,000
1293 – Kingdom of Italy. Victor Emmanuel II, 1861-1878. 10 centesimi 1867 (with small angel’s head), Brussels. From the PdF Collection. Extremely rare. Extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 50,000
1323 – Kingdom of Italy. Victor Emmanuel III, 1900-1946. 20 lire 1902 with mint mark of a small anchor, Rome. From the Comte Giovanni Garotti di Falconara Collection. NGC MS65 PL. Extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 40,000
1329 – Kingdom of Italy. Victor Emmanuel III, 1900-1946. 5 lire 1901, Rome. From Leu auction 51 (1990), Lot 1422. NGC MS65. Mint state. Estimate: CHF 50,000
1444 – Italy / Papal States. Clement VII, 1523-1534. During the Sack of Rome of 1527. Ducaton, undated (1527), Rome. From Varesi auction 44 (2004), Lot 1422. Extremely rare. Very fine. Estimate: CHF 20,000
1494 – Italy / Papal States. Pius IX, 1846-1878. Silver medal from 1854 to mark the opening of the Basilica of Saint Paul after its renovation. Extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 300
Auction 18: Geneva Collection: Part 2
The last of the three auctions is dedicated to the impressive collection of Genevan coins, the first part of which was auctioned by Numismatica Genevensis last November. And now, in auction November 15-18, 2022, the second part will be presented, consisting of the coins of the Republic of Geneva, i.e. the coins produced between 1535 and 1792.
This is a genuine collection whose collector attached great importance to completeness. That’s why it contains both commonly found pieces, with estimates starting in the lower two-figure range, and great rarities, which we’ll be presenting in this preview.
Let’s start with the only known specimen of a triple sol from 1594, a gold off-metal strike weighing 2 ecu pistolets with superb provenance. Even more exciting is the quadruple taler from 1598; this coin is probably the most impressive piece in Geneva’s entire monetary history and the only Genevan quadruple taler in private ownership. No wonder it featured in some of the most famous collections ever compiled, for example, the Bachofen and Virgil Brand Collections.
This auction will also feature the first gold coin produced by the Geneva Mint after it was reopened and the rarest denomination of Genevan coinage of the 17th century: an ecu pistolet from 1638. The double ducat from 1665 is also the only specimen of its type in private ownership. We’ll finish this preview with a 10 1/2 sols piece from 1714 and a triple pistole from 1771.
Lot 2121 – Geneva. 3 sols 1594, minted in gold, weighing 2 ecu pistolets. From the Duval-Plantamour Collection, MMAG auction 9 (1937), Lot 665. Only known specimen. Extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 50,000
2171 – Geneva. Quadruple taler 1598. From the Helbing Collection (1879). From the Bachofen Collection, Leo Hamburger auction (1921), Lot 2351. From the Virgil Brand Collection, Sotheby’s Zurich auction (1982), Lot 493. The most impressive piece of Genevan coinage. The only known Genevan multiple taler in private ownership. Very fine. Estimate: CHF 50,000
2172 – Geneva. Ecu d’or au soleil, undated (post-1540). From SBG Basel auction 29 (1992), Lot 374. Extremely rare. Extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 40,000
2333 – Geneva. Ecu pistolet 1638. Extremely rare, only a few specimens known. Almost extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 20,000
2357 – Geneva. Double ducat 1665. LHS 101 (2007), No. 178. Only specimen in private ownership. Extremely rare. Extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 15,000
2431 – Geneva. 10 1/2 sols 1714, minted in gold. From Leu auction 1 (1971), Lot 852. Extremely rare. Mint state. Estimate: CHF 12,000
2453 – Geneva. Triple pistole 1771. From Hess-Leu auction 43 (1969), Lot 425. Extremely fine. Estimate: CHF 10,000
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The catalogue is available online here. The printed catalogues can be ordered from Numismatica Genevensis SA, Rond-Point de Plainpalais 1, CH-1205 Genève, Tel: +41 / 22 / 320 46 40, Email [email protected].