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The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 5, February 4, 2023, Article 3

FRANK ROBINSON AND BCD

Frank Robinson published an article about the BCD library sale on his blog, The Rational Optimist. Here's a lengthy excerpt - see the complete article online. -Editor

The BCD Numismatic Library Sale, and Human Endeavor

Coin collecting might seem a very solitary pastime; the coins themselves mere objects. Yet for me its rewards have been not just interior, intellectual (and financial), but also very human in its interactions and relationships.

Frank Robinson xerox catalog Forty years ago, I started ancient coin sales. With a xeroxed listing, illustrated by just putting a few coins on the copier. The crappiest images imaginable.

A letter from someone in Greece requested the catalog, making it sound like those few pitiful pictures were somehow important. I thought he must be a weirdo.

But that was BCD — he likes to be kind of anonymous — who I eventually learned is in fact the greatest collector ever of ancient Greek coins. Not only collecting them, but building the world's greatest library devoted to them. Open to other researchers, as a resource for study of every minute variation, thus seeking to include every publication that ever illustrated an ancient Greek coin. Hence his interest in my own humble productions. BCD's quest left no stone unturned.

BCD coin He became a regular correspondent, a sometime coin buyer, and I'd often ship him boxfuls of publications I'd acquired.* He even sent me a few coins to sell for him. (I remember a dual portrait bronze of Octavian and Zenodoros, a local potentate in Chalkis, rather uncommon, that fetched a strong price.) When in 1992 I mentioned a forthcoming tourist trip to Greece, he invited us to visit. I recall eagerly sharing this exciting news with my wife — just as she was sharing hers of a positive pregnancy test!

So we got to see the actual BCD library. Tucked away in a building in Athens, it was an impressive full-scale facility, employing a full-time librarian, Pat Felch. (My wife was a professional librarian too.) Then the four of us went out to dinner.

Over the decades, I've regularly encountered BCD at the annual New York international coin shows; unfailingly gracious, he's bought some of my (non-numismatic) books and has even posted comments on my blog.

Now well past eighty, his coins were pretty much all sold over the years, with some major auctions (spread among many different firms) each devoted to just one Greek locale.

BCD coin tags The collection was immense; when I visited Classical Numismatic Group in Pennsylvania, a top ancient coin company, I was shown a cabinet taller than me and told it contained all BCD coins. Recognizable by his meticulously hand-written identifying tags — so frequently found with coins of Larissa, in particular, that in my own auctions I'll sometimes write up a Larissan piece saying NOT ex-BCD and rare thus!

Still it was a shock to see announcement of the BCD Library Sale. By Kolbe & Fanning, the leading numismatic booksellers. I can't begin to imagine what was involved in transporting this huge library from Athens to Ohio where K&F operates.

* There was a cheap seamail rate. Today it's prohibitively expensive.

To read the complete article, see:
The BCD Numismatic Library Sale, and Human Endeavor (https://rationaloptimist.wordpress.com/2024/01/31/the-bcd-numismatic-library-sale-and-human-endeavor/)



Wayne Homren, Editor

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The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address: whomren@gmail.com

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