Here is one of my favorite coinsAR Denarius (18mm 3.06g) Struck A.D. 92, Rome
Obv: IMP CAES DOMIT AVG GERM P M TR P XII Laureate head right
Rev: IMP XXII COS XVI CENS P P P Minerva standing right on prow, brandishing spear and holding a shield, owl at her feet
RIC-II 172 C. 281 Ex William C. Boyd Collection Baldwin’s Auction (42) 9/26/2005, Purchased by Mr. Boyd from London dealer W.S Lincoln Dec. 1898
The coins is a beauty, I love the old cabinet toning. The reverse is especially nice, right down to the owl on the prow and Minerva’s gown flowing behind. All in all it is a very nice example of a relatively common ancient coin.
So what makes it so special to me? You guessed it, provenance! I value that old collector’s ticket nearly as much as the coins itself. It adds a whole new layer of flavor to my enjoyment of the coin. The coin comes from the William C. Boyd (1840-1906) Collection. Mr. Boyd was a London business man and avid collector. His interests weren't just in coins, but also included butterflies, moths, and Neolithic and Paleolithic stone implements. He was a collector’s collector! He was a member of the Royal Numismatic Society, and was it Treasurer at the time of his death. Mr. Boyd purchased this coin from W.S Lincoln in December of 1898. (W.S Lincoln operated a shop on Oxford St at the turn of the 20th century. He and his brother Edgar sold coins, stamps, coin cabinets and produced some numismatic references)
When we handle ancient coins, we cannot help but feel a connection to the past.
Who made it, who spent it, what was it spent on? We can imagine legionnaires, gladiators, and senators handling our coin, the mind boggles! However, when a coin has a recorded provenance, we know for certain who had the coin for a period of time. In my coins 1900+ year journey, I have no idea where it was until December 1898 when it magically appears from the past!
Now when I handle this coin, not only do I imagine legionnaires, gladiators and senators, I imagine Mr. Boyd. I can see him in his study, carefully filling out coin tags. I see him pulling trays from his coin cabinet and peering at a coin with a magnifying glass, struggling to make out a legend or other detail. I am the caretaker of a coin he was once caretaker of. The coin spent 1800 years getting to Mr. Boyd, and took a little over 100 years more to find its way to me. From a business man in 19th century London, to a lumber yard manager in 21st Century Michigan. As separated as we are through time, and location, we have this coin in common. Two collectors handling, studying and enjoying the same coin at different times in its journey. Of course I didn't know Mr. Boyd, but perhaps though this coin I can know him a little bit. How cool is that! Thanks for reading.