World Coins

Key Renaissance medal catalogs in auction

Kolbe and Fanning Numismatic Booksellers will host Sale 142: Important Numismatic Literature online June 24, with a mail-bid-only section on June 25. 

Among the highlights are important works on Italian Renaissance medals. 

One is George Francis Hill’s 1930 two-volume work titled A Corpus of Italian Medals of the Renaissance Before Cellini, estimated at $1,500. 

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The two volumes have matching tan cloth covers with gilt lettering and include 1,333 detailed descriptions of medals. The set was published by the British Museum. 

Kolbe and Fanning describe the offered set as, “The magnificent original edition of this classic and still most important work, covering in great detail ‘the known varieties of medals produced by Italian artists from 1390 to about 1530,’?” before citing Elvira Clain-Stafanelli who called the work “a monumental achievement.” It is estimated at $1,500. 

The next lot is the first volume of Hill’s 1931 three-volume catalog The Gustave Dreyfus Collection: Renaissance Medals, published by Oxford University Press. The 311 pages include 141 plates depicting 667 individual Renaissance medals, and this volume is bound in a later black cloth binding. 

The collection the work catalogs now resides as part of the Samuel H. Kress Collection at the National Gallery of Art. 

Hill’s preface states, “Gustave Dreyfus appreciated all his beautiful things, he had a particularly soft place in his heart for the Italian medals. ... His was perhaps the finest collection that has ever been in the hands of a private collector — the ‘perhaps’ might be omitted but that it is difficult to range the great collections in a true perspective.” 

The lot description concludes, “The limited initial printings and concentration of copies in institutional holdings combine to make the appearance at sale of any of the three volumes a noteworthy occasion.”

The offered single volume has an estimate of $2,000. 

Key Ancient catalogs

Also in the sale is A Catalogue of the Greek Coins in the British Museum, a set of 29 volumes published between 1965 and 1988 consisting of 10,688 pages and 952 plates of coins. The lot description states that the set represents of the most comprehensive and important standard reference work on ancient Greek coins ever published. The 29 volumes, with occasional annotations from a previous owner, will be offered as a single lot and estimated at $1,800. 

Also included is a complete first edition set of Coins of the Roman Empire in the British Museum, published between 1923 and 1962, with the early volumes formerly in the Wigan Free Public Library, estimated at $1,000. 

As the Kolbe-Fanning sale catalog notes, original examples of this series are coveted since the halftone plates found in various reprints are less clear than the original photographically printed plates found in the present volumes, which provide readers with the ability to see, under magnification, enlargement of details in the plates. 

The sale includes as a single lot a run of 188 auction catalogs dated between 1978 and 2015 from Chicago dealer Harlan J. Berk, among the most extensive groups of this dealer’s catalogs offered at auction. 

Later in the sale, a set of more than 100 catalogs and fixed-price lists from Joel L. Malter & Co., dating between 1973 and 2010 will be offered as a single lot. The Kolbe and Fanning description calls the Malter grouping “a remarkable collection of these important catalogues, which can be rather difficult bibliographically,” adding that the works are “notable for antiquities and books as well as coins.” Both groups are estimated at $600 each. 

The auction and full lot descriptions are available online at and the firm may be reached at 141 W. Johnstown Road, Gahanna, OH 43230, or at 614-414-0855. 

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