World Coins

372-year-old numismatic book sells for $1,250

Numismatic literature continues to provide rich opportunities for collectors to purchase rare and important items at relatively reasonable prices (especially compared to coins).

While several key players have dropped out of the rare numismatic book market in the past few years, the partnership of George Kolbe and David Fanning continues to produce impressive auctions, including Kolbe & Fanning Numismatic Booksellers’ 2017 auction held on Jan. 14 in conjunction with the New York International Numismatic Convention.

The firm noted in the introduction that while the world has changed since its first NYINC auction in 1982, “our shared love of the historic and the beautiful, the original and the authentic, remains the same.”

Here is one of three recently sold numismatic books profiled in this Market Analysis: 

The Lot:

Impressively illustrated Icones imperatorum romanorum, 1645 printing

The Price:


The Story:

Occasionally, rare numismatic books appear in non-numismatic auctions, and Sotheby’s Nov. 29, 2016, Music and Continental Books and Manuscripts auction in London featured an important and impressive 1645 printing of Icones imperatorum romanorum. The book is noteworthy because it contains 144 large woodcut chiaroscuro medallion portraits of important rulers from Julius Caesar to Ferdinand III. It is also popular because of its engraved title page after Flemish artist Peter Paul Rubens.

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The book was originally published in Bruges, Belgium, in 1557 with engravings by Hubert Goltzius. The offered book was part of a series of printings of Goltzius’s work by printer Balthasar Moretus in Antwerp and is generally considered the finest edition of Goltzius. The 1645 printing extends the original sequence of portraits, leaving several blank medallion forms.

The book sold for £1,000 (roughly $1,250 in U.S. funds) on an estimate of £1,000 to £1,500 and was consigned by a European noble family. Another example, finer, was offered at Kolbe & Fanning’s NYINC sale at an estimate of $3,000 but did not meet its reserve. 

More Notable Numismatic Books That Have Sold Recently:

Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society bookBook with the first article on American coins a winner in auction: James Mease’s article “Old American Coins” is considered by most to be the first numismatic article on American coins published in America. A copy just sold.

Plain Talk issuesStart of the ANA foreshadowed in recently sold set of 1891 publications: Numismatic editor Charles T. Tatman asked in the March 1891 issue of Plain Talk, “Why should there not be an American Numismatic Association?”

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