The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 38, September 9, 2012, Article 18


Howard Berlin (a.k.a. The Numismatourist) submitted this report on his latest travels to the British Museum and the State Coin Collection in Munich, Germany. Thanks! -Editor

With the Summer season over, the Numismatourist is back on the road again. First stop (as is almost always the case) was London, at least when flying British Airways. But I had another reason – to finally see the new Citi Money Gallery at the British Museum. I’ve been in Londinium in the early Spring and even in late May trying to get Dr. Catherine Eagleton to let me sneak a quick peak at Room 68 during the renovation but to no avail.

British Museum Money Gallery hands-on table
The “Hands On” table manned by a museum docent at the Citi Money Gallery.

There have been several reports about the new gallery in Coin World, MünzenWoche, even in The E-Sylum, so I won’t repeat most of the details. In addition to the six display cases against both side walls, six floor mounted display cases, plus there was also a “Hands On” table manned by a museum docent. I was there on a Sunday and this table attracted a good amount of attention, especially by the young visitors curious about the various types of money they were able to actually handle instead of just seeing them behind the glass.

British Museum offering to Buddha
This vase and the 66 coins were part of an offering to Buddha

While Room 68 gets all the headlines, past and present, what does not seem to get a proper airing is that there are other rooms in the museum that have coins on display if you know where to look as they are integrated among the artifacts of the various sections as follows (with the exception of Room 69a):

Level -1: Room 34, The Islamic World
Level 1: Room 33, China, India, Asia and Southeast Asia
Level 2: Room 67, Korea
Level 3: Room 69, Greek and Roman Life
Level 3: Room 69a, Exhibitions and Changing Displays
Level 3: Room 70, Roman Empire
Level 3: Room 71, Etruscan World
Level 3: Room 73, Greeks in Italy

After leaving London, it was on to Munich, where I’ve been to several times before. I stopped by to see an acquaintance, Dr. Hubert Lanz. He heads the auction house, Numismatik Lanz which holds two public auctions a year. We first met at the American Numismatic Association convention in Chicago and again at this year’s ANA show in Philadelphia. After renewing acquaintances, I walked a few blocks to what is the “Residenz.” This complex served as the seat of government and residence of the Bavarian dukes, electors and kings from 1508 to 1918. The complex has been transformed by the rulers from what had begun as a castle in 1385 in what was the northeastern corner of the city walls, the Neuveste or new citadel, into a magnificent palatial complex.

Outside State Coin Collection Munich Today, the palace complex is a collection of museums, one of which is the State Coin Collection Munich, Germany’s second largest. At most of the entrances from the street are a pair of lions. There is a quirky superstitious custom or ritual that many people do as they pass by these lions. They rub one spot, which is a small lion’s head, for good luck. This is the only spot on all of the statues that is shiny - the rest is blackened.

Gallery State Coin Collection Munich
Gallery room for the coins of the middle ages and the
modern era of the State Coin Collection Munich

The numismatic museum is on the first floor (2nd level for us Americans). Its director, Dr. Friedrich Klose, was on vacation and one of his assistants, Dr. Martin Hirsch, helped me in his place. The collection’s exhibition occupies four rooms – one room for a temporary exhibition, from which lead to the entrances to the other three rooms for the permanent exhibits: Room II - medals, plaques, and cut stones; Room III – ancient coins and cut stones; Room IV - coins of the middle ages and the modern era.

From Munich I traveled to Nürnberg (Nuremberg, in English). There I visited Germany’s largest museum, the Germanisches Nationalmuseum. The director in charge of the numismatic collection, Dr. Matthias Nuding was away but arranged for me to be guided by one of his assistants. Although many museums have large numismatic collections, some choose not to exhibit their collection to any great extent if at all. Fortunately some of the National Museum’s collection is on display in three areas: Pre- and ancient history: mainly Roman coins; Art and culture form late antiquity to the 15th century: medieval coins (which was being renovated currently); and Art and culture form late antiquity to the 15th century, consisting of medals.

I decided ahead of the time while in Nürnberg to take a day trip to Dresden to visit Germany’s third largest coin cabinet at the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen (State Art Collections) Dresden, or SKD. It’s a 4-hour, 15-minute train ride each way. I met with Dr. Wilhem Hollstein, an assistant to Dr. Rainer Grund, the Münzkabinett director, who was away on a jury in medal art in Halle that day. The SKD has about 300,000 items in its collection and the 30,000 library is open to the public on Wednesday – advance appointments are recommended. I needed details about SKD’s Münzkabinett for my book which I couldn’t wait until November when the trip from Berlin would have been much shorter.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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