HomeAuctionsKolbe & Fanning Auction Features Clain-Stefanelli Archives

Kolbe & Fanning Auction Features Clain-Stefanelli Archives

Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers will be holding their 2013 New York Book Auction at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City on Saturday, January 12 in conjunction with the New York International Numismatic Convention (NYINC). While the sale includes books and other publications spanning the entire range of numismatics, some of the most important material offered includes the personal papers of Vladimir and Elvira Eliza Clain-Stefanelli.

Vladimir Clain and Elvira Eliza Olinescu began their numismatic careers in Europe. The couple’s early lives were continually affected by warfare, with Elvira’s family fleeing their native Romania in her youth and her formal education at the Cernăuți university ceasing with the 1940 Soviet invasion of northern Bukovina. In 1939, she had married Vladimir Clain (born Waldemar Günther Klein). Vladimir held a doctoral degree, being a student of history and archaeology—and increasingly of numismatics. Their lives were upended when they were sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp by the Germans in 1943. They survived a year and a half in Buchenwald before being released. With Romania being under Soviet rule, they decided to live in Italy, where they worked for the Santamaria firm. At some point, they began to go by Clain-Stefanelli, Stefanelli being Vladimir’s mother’s maiden name.

In 1951, they moved to the United States, where they would live out the remainder of their lives. Among other firms, the couple worked for Hesperia Art and Stack’s, and were instrumental in the development of the latter’s Coin Galleries subsidiary, with Elvira writing their first sale catalogue (July 13, 1954) and Vladimir managing the operation. Vladimir was appointed curator of the National Numismatic Collection in October 1956. Elvira joined him there the following year, and succeeded Vladimir upon his death in 1982. During their tenures, the numismatic collection housed in the National Museum of American History grew from some 65,000 objects to over 1.6 million pieces. Elvira Clain-Stefanelli died in 2001. The two left behind a legacy of scholarship and curatorship that continues to influence numismatics today.

Included in the personal archives of this extraordinary couple are:

  • Vladimir’s earliest serious numismatic work, including his doctoral dissertation on the ancient coins of Callatis.
  • Early notes and historical writings by Elvira.
  • Vladimir’s numismatic correspondence from 1948 to 1951, when the couple were living in Italy. Includes letters from many of the most notable numismatists of the period.
  • An extraordinary group of 77 binders filled with handwritten notes compiled by Elvira, including ten notebooks constituting a major unpublished work on Roman republican coins.
  • Vladimir’s extensive archive of materials on the USAOG controversy, including his copy of John J. Ford, Jr.’s rare PNG report. This is the most complete archive of material on the subject ever offered for public sale.
  • Original manuscripts and typescripts of several of the couple’s published works.
  • Their archives on early American medals.

The Clain-Stefanelli archives are being offered in a number of different lots in the sale, allowing specialists to pursue those parts of the archives in which they are most interested.

For more information on the sale, or to download a PDF version of the printed catalogue, please go to the firm’s website at www.numislit.com. Live online bidding will be provided by the-saleroom.com (prior registration required). For full bidding instructions, please see the catalogue and read the terms of sale.

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  1. I have a presentation folder about “America’s First Medals” It
    contains a 43 page pamphlet by Vladimir & Elvira Clain-Stefanelli
    and 10 what looks like pewter medals that commemorate the Battles
    of the American Revolution. Can you tell me where I can find out
    more information amd value of this collection? It looks like a thin blue book when folded. All is in very good condition.


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