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Research Coins: Electronic Auction

 
3640001

ROMAN REPUBLICAN COINAGE

364, Lot: 1. Estimate $200.
Sold for $320. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Anonymous. Circa 260 BC. Æ (21mm, 9.02 g, 4h). Mint in southern Italy. Female head right, with ribbon in hair / Lion right, holding broken spear in jaws; ROMANO in exergue. Crawford 16/1a; BdC 19; Sydenham 5; RBW 10; HN Italy 276. Near VF, dark green patina, light roughness, edge irregularity.


From the RBW Collection.

Roberto Russo (RBW p. 10, note to no. 12) thought Crawford 16, 17, and 23 to be part of the same series (comprising a unit, half unit, and double unit, respectively) struck at Neapolis at some point after the Battle of Beneventum (276 BC). McCabe notes the different fabrics between Crawford 16 and 17 and points to the shared type between Crawford 17 and the coinage of Cosa. Crawford gave his number 16 to an unspecified mint in southern Italy, 17 to Rome, and 23 to Messana.

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In February of this year, the numismatic community suffered a great loss with the passing of Richard (“Rick”) B. Witschonke following a long battle with illness. Born in 1945 in Washington, D.C. , Rick attended Bowdoin College for a year before transferring to the University of Bridgeport, Connecticut, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1969 with a B.A. in English. He received his M.B.A. in 1972 from Harvard Business School, earning the honor of being designated a Baker Scholar. After graduating, he took a position with American Management Systems (AMS), a technology consulting firm, where he spent most of his professional career. Rick began volunteering at the American Numismatic Society following his retirement and became a curatorial associate in 2006. At the ANS, he took great pleasure in training the next generation of numismatists through the society’s annual Summer Seminar.

Rick’s passion for numismatics began early in life. As a young boy, he received Whitman penny boards as a gift from his grandmother and soon after began collecting US type coins and foreign crowns. At the age of 15, he purchased his first Roman Republican denarius out of a Lou Riggs auction. The relative affordability of Republican coins struck the young collector, and he soon acquired a copy of Edward Sydenham’s The Coinage of the Roman Republic (London, 1952) in order to learn more about the subject. Sydenham’s book would lead Rick to focus on the Republican series, a pursuit that would occupy him for more than 50 years.

In 1969, Rick attended his first major auction – Hans Schulman’s sale of the Thomas Ollive Mabbott Collection – at the Waldorf Astoria, New York, where he first met the collector and “gentleman-scholar” Charles A. Hersh. Hersh would serve as a mentor to Rick, and the two remained close until Hersh’s death in 2000. Like his mentor before him, Rick not only became the foremost collector of the Republican series, but was also widely respected as an authority on the coinage. This led Rick, again much like Hersh, to forge friendships with not only dealers and fellow collectors, but with a wide circle of academics as well.

Over the last decade and a half, Rick not only published a steady stream of articles in scholarly journals, but was also a frequent contributor to the ANS magazine. His final publication was featured in the Festschrift for his late friend Roberto Russo (“Some unpublished Roman Republican coins,” Essays in Honour of Roberto Russo [NAC, 2013], pp. 305-363), which he co-edited. Through Roberto, Rick sold a large portion of his collection (NAC 61, October 2011, and NAC 63, May 2012), his Republican gold having previously been offered by CNG (Triton III, December 1999). The lots sold in these three sales were recently compiled for the publication The RBW Collection of Roman Republican Coins (Zurich/London, 2013). The catalog not only features a significant amount of previously unpublished material and presents interesting new insights into the chronology and mint locations, but also serves as a near-comprehensive illustrated catalog for the Republican series. It will long remain an important reference for students and collectors of Republican coinage.

Rick’s contributions to the discipline of numismatics, however, go far beyond his publications. Less well known was his frequently anonymous sponsorship of numismatic projects, his willingness to support colleagues or upcoming numismatists by serving as mentor or editor, and his proclivity for connecting serious students, collectors, and scholars in an effort to encourage enlightening numismatic discussions.

In addition to the nearly 200 Republican lots being offered in the current sale – including coins from other important collections like Hersh, Garrett, Goodman, and Ringe– some might be surprised to find that Rick also collected imitations of the Republican series, Greek and Provincial coinages contemporary with the Republican period, and medals and tokens relating to Republican history or antiquity in general. He also collected medals related to numismatics, and we conclude this offering with a small run of such lots. These include a number of medals of the New York Numismatic Club, where Rick was an active member.



A note from Victor England:

I had known Rick since I first started in business back in the mid 1970’s. He had one of those delightful four digit customer numbers that we used for the first couple of years we operated.

Rick was always encouraging dealers to find pieces for him. In hindsight, looking back over what he managed to put together over the years, he certainly purchased plenty of items he did not need to.

Years ago, when I was running one of the small Classical Numismatic Bourses in San Francisco at the old Jack Tar hotel, Rick invited the dealers out to dinner after a long day. Not only did he invite us out to dinner, he catered the whole event with special commemorative menus, napkins, and matches. He introduced us to his San Francisco wine cellar. I had heard he had a love affair with wine – this only introduced us to his passion for it.

Over the ensuing decades, he introduced me to an international dining group that met regularly. Members included Charles Hersh and Simon Bendall, among others. These early dinners became the start of an annual get together that lasted up until this past January.

Rick was a consummate and generous scholar. Not only did he publish extensively, he encouraged others to as well. He underwrote numismatic projects in the United States and Europe, many anonymously. After he retired from a successful career, he turned his energies full time to academics. He became a full time volunteer at the American Numismatic Society and for a number of years helped run the Summer Seminar. His enthusiasm for numismatics will be missed by all.

When asked to run a small final sale for items that did not end up going in his final donation to the ANS, we gladly agreed. I must admit, I was shocked by the breadth of material that showed up at the office. Running the gamut from the expected Republican and Provincial to a wide and varied selection of historical medals and plaquettes relating to early Roman history, to commemorative medals for the New York Numismatic Club, this current sale will have something for most everyone.

At the request of a number of his academic friends, we have been asked to produce a catalogue for this sale, which will be mailed to all successful bidders and to a number of institutions Rick communicated with on a regular basis.