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A. Introduction. — B. General information.
COLLECTIONS AND COLLECTORS
On collectors in general.
I. Considering that this little work is meant for the use of those who are taking their first steps in the field of Numismatics, I have thought that before entering properly into the subject some observations may be useful concerning the history, the aim, and the various kinds of collections, and that perhaps it may be necessary to give some general information to young readers on the value and rarity of coins, on deposits, on false coins, and in fact on various matters which may be considered introductory, not only to this, but to any other elementary Manual of Numismatics. 2. As an encouragement to those who may read my work, I hasten to say most decidedly that the collector is a most fortunate person He who is born with the bump of collecting has the inestimable advantage of being able to exclude ennui from his life; and ought to be grateful to Providence for having accorded to him an inexhaustible fountain of satisfaction absolutely free from remorse or regret. The pleasures of society, friendship, or gaiety may be at times desirable if taken in due measure and order, but are often on the contrary full of disappointments, and are sure to fail some day or other. The collector on the other hand possessing in himself the germ and continual source of his own happiness is dependent on no one, solitude has no terror for him, and he can exclaim with the philosopher “me interdum taedet societatis hominum, nun
When, tired of work, weary of society, worried by business, the collector withdraws into his own room; he finds there the most pleasant rest in his favourite occupation which he prefers to idleness. Never is the collector short of employment, to whatever kind of collection he may be given.
First there is the work of arrangement which is infinite, then of classification, and again of cataloguing, and last of all the more serious but yet most delightful work, the most useful and durable (when one reaches it) that of study and of making notes for others, with a view to publishing in due season the results of one's own researches.
The enthusiasm of the Collector is among the most reasonable, strong and lasting emotions. Sir Henry Holland, the friend of Marco Minghetti, towards the close of his long life regretted that he had not been a collector from his youth, expressing his thoughts in these words : “The interest of a collector grows with
continual increase and brings satisfaction, and there is no danger
lest it should cease through satiety; very often it survives when the tumultuous vicissitudes of life, stirring business affairs or pleasures
have ceased to exist.” He who is not a collector in his youth will
repent in his old age. Just as the unmarried man feels in his old age the want of a good wife who renders him in the last days of his life the comfort of affection and of old memories, so he who was not a collector in his youth cannot experience in his old age the satisfaction of reviving the memories of a life-time among these old and faithful friends, or of having this infinite and unspeakable comfort to accompany him even to the extreme limit of his life. And in this also the collector has the advantage over the married man whose wife may die before he does, whilst the collection always survives the collector. 3. But to bring these reflections to an end, if my own words should prove to be (“Esser denseme che frutti”) “seed bearing the fruit” of a new collector, is they should be as the little spark destined “to promote a great flame '..., stirring and fertilizing, I shall consider my time has been well occupied in having done good to some one, and I shall dare to hope from this that some day the apostle may be blessed by the neophyte.
THE HISTORY AND AIM OF COLLECTIONS
4. The enthusiasm for collections arises in all countries with the advance of general culture.
From the dawn of the historical period — not to go back too far into the past — every civilisation has found another which preceded it, which has furnished to the later the materials for a collection. Hence it happened that the Mediaeval culture arose from the ruins of the Roman Empire and collected from it its inheritance, and we find the first collectors of Roman antiquities, and moreover of coins, among the first learned men of the new civilization. We learn that Petrarch was an enthusiastic collector, and possessed a splendid collection of Roman gold coins. Such a one indeed we should like to regard as the first great master among collectors of coins. 5. Amusement and curiosity were the first causes of collecting, but these were soon united with ambition, and the pleasure of possessing rarities. The luxury of a collection of coins became at length a sort of obligation among the great, and in the small Mediaeval courts; most of which up to the fourteenth century were furnished with cabinets chiefly devoted to Roman coins, among which preference was always given to the Imperial series, as these were both the best known, and therefore most interesting, and also the most easy to classify. Thus we have had in Italy the cabinets of the Este, the Farnese, the Medici, and many others, of which some remain to our day intact, of others the memory only is preserved by the monumental catalogues printed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The enthusiasm for collections of coins passed in the course of time from the courts and principal castles to the lesser gentry, and spread among the common people, until in our own day we do not count collections by hundreds, but by thousands. 6. Our ancestors have fortunately taken care to place in security coins enough to satisfy the desires of all. Every year new treasures come to light, and certainly in the rich bosom of the earth there are still enough to satisfy even the desires of our grandchildren. 7. If indeed the original cause of collections was pleasure or curiosity, ambition or luxury, it was not long before a nobler aim was added to these. Very soon the coins awoke interest in study, and the dilettante collector saw that these small relics of Roman antiquity were evidences from which we might learn the history of that wonderful people who for so many ages held the empire of the world. Let us then examine their coins attentively, classify and catalogue them; then comparing our own specimens with those of other collections or with those already published, if we find we possess new specimens we shall be eager to make them known, and
thus to take part in advancing numismatic knowledge. We shall
then undertake some special or general work, give lectures, or
write dissertations, or pamphlets. Among collectors there will arise discussions on this or that point not yet cleared up, the ingenious will be incited to examine historical, economic, and artistic problems of past ages, and then our collections will attain their true scope, that of being not an end in themselves, but rather a means by which knowledge may be advanced. The Emperors and Empresses, the Tyrants, the Generals, represented by their coins no longer seeming dead men buried in a silent and useless cemetery, will rise to new life and speech telling us themselves the story of their own times and throwing new light on points unknown or disputed, confirming or correcting what historians have handed down to us in their narratives; in short shewing the evidences of the history of human civilization. 8. No doubt it is not all collectors who will get beyond the first step, that of simply collecting as best they can. Many will there linger and even come to a standstill. It happens indeed rarely enough that anyone begins to collect with the determined object of serious study; but many pass on to this without having intended to do so. Circumstances, information, unexpected opportunities, emulation, or true enthusiasm, will sometimes unconsciously lead on the simple collector to rise gradually to scientific study. Let us then encourage beginners in this natural desire to collect and study coins.
ANCIENT AND MODERN COLLECTIONS
9. The first collectors did not lay much stress on the state of preservation of their specimens, to which in the present day very great, and I might say excessive importance, is attached.
All the old collections were rich enough in specimens, but their condition left much to be desired. Every fresh coin found, whatever might be its state of preservation, was included as part of the Collection, hence it happens that coins in mint condition are found only as exceptions, while coins in a second, or third rate state of preservation are the rule. Modern collections on the other hand — I speak of those in the first class — come before us with an entirely different aspect. The specimens are much less numerous, because none but perfect coins, or those at least in very fine condition are admitted. This means that our artistic sense has become so refined that what sufficed to content our ancestors no longer satisfies modern collectors, but I should add that to-day there is available a larger number of coins in mint or fine condition especially in the more valuable metals; a fact which can only be explained by taking into consideration that the number of i. — much increased in this century by the greater works of digging and excavating — gives scope for a more careful and exacting choice. This greater abundance has rendered possible the formation of admirable collections, such for example as those made by the Viscount D'Amécourt of Paris, and H. Montagu Esq. of London sold in 1898, which were each composed of about a thousand gold coins nearly all in mint condition.
Io. The right mean in this as in all other things is hard to decide and to keep to, since if our ancestors were too easily contented it is not less true that modern collectors go to the extreme in the opposite direction. The taste for fine art, and for perfect condition in coins has been gradually increasing, and prevails to such an extent that it has become the principal, and I might say almost the sole attraction to collectors, who have put in the second place the scientific interest, and rejected on account of their imperfect condition specimens which were lacking in their collections. We have seen in the recent sale-rooms coins of extreme rarity allowed to be sold for relatively low prices on account of their deficient preservation, whilst common coins artistic in finish, and in good preservation were competed for at hitherto unheard-of prices.
11. This is well known moreover to the forgers of gold and silver Roman coins, who swarm now as of old, for they no longer give themselves the trouble to reduce their forgeries to a reasonable appearance of wear as it is recounted that the famous forger Becker used to do. This man when driving about to sell his productions used to put his forged coins into a little bag containing sand and powdered charcoal, in order that by the shaking of the carriage on the road he might wear off the crude new look of the freshly struck CO111.
Modern forgers have their task simplified and place their productions in circulation as soon as they have issued from the work...} It is only natural that they should follow the fashion of their
ON THE RARITY AND VALUE OF COINS
12. Rarity and Value are two entirely distinct qualifications which should not be confounded. Rarity is one of the principal elements which go to form the value, but it is not the only one nor