Numismatic literature sale includes Lilly Collection archive, photographs

Controversial donation to Smithsonian subject of Kosoff research
By , Coin World
Published : 10/22/14
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When Josiah K. Lilly donated his coin collection to the Smithsonian Institution, it required Congressional intervention to grant a tax write-off for the donor, causing a great controversy. 

Dealer Abe Kosoff maintained an archive on the Lilly collection and the controversy surrounding its acquisition by the United States as part of the National Numismatic Collection, including inventories, photographs, pedigrees, prices paid, correspondence and other materials.

Now, one buyer can own all that material. The archive is among several notable highlights in Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers’ Nov. 1 auction of numismatic literature in Baltimore, Md. The auction will be held in conjunction with the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo at the Baltimore Convention Center.

The archive content spans from 1967 to 1981 and includes approximately 800 pieces, comprising various typescripts, correspondence items, handwritten and typewritten inventories, photographic prints of ingots and coins, photographic negatives related to those images, numismatic newspaper clippings, and more. 

Researchers in 2003 announced that two gold bars in the Lilly Collection were modern forgeries.

The research was apparently archived by Kosoff to author a book about the subject, but the project never came to fruition, according to the auction catalog.

“[Since then], technology has helped to advance numismatic research by leaps and bounds, though absolute truth, as always, remains elusive,” according to the catalog. “The material present here may further aid in the separation of wheat from chaff, hero from villain.”

The archive is estimated at $20,000. 

Other highlights from the auction, which includes the library of a “Journeyman Numismatist” and other properties, include 31 different “plated” Henry Chapman auction catalogs (meaning they contain photographic plates of some of the coins in the sale). Many of these sales are some of the earliest, notable collections, including Matthew Stickney, Charles Bushnell and John Story Jenks, among others. 

The auction also includes 10 plated Thomas Elder catalogs, including Lyman Low’s copy of a 1917 auction. The auction firm also offers the original photographic paste-ups of the plates for the 1975 Early American Coppers sale, featuring the collection of Connecticut coppers formed by Q. David Bowers.

The sale includes many other notable works, most especially on American colonial coins, featuring early plated sales and standard works as well as rarely offered photographic plates depicting specialized series. A number of items are unique, and many others are rarely encountered. 

A PDF of the catalog is posted at the Kolbe & Fanning website, where prospective bidders may access the live, online catalog and register to bid. 

For more information, visit the firm’s website or email David Fanning. 

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