MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – A coin collector from Lewiston, Maine, with no prior connection to Middlebury, has donated more than 1,000 ancient coins to the Middlebury College Museum of Art.
Gary Guimond, who started collecting ancient coins in the 1950s, was looking for an educational institution where his gold, silver, bronze, and electrum coins would be preserved, appreciated, and studied as primary sources of history.
Using online resources, Guimond learned about the Middlebury College Museum of Art and its extensive holdings in ancient civilizations, particularly from the fourth century BCE to the third century CE. The donor approached President Laurie Patton, who put him in touch with Middlebury’s Office of Advancement, which connected him to the Museum of Art and its curator of ancient art, who was pleased to accept the gift.
“There are a good number of beautiful and interesting coins from ancient Greece, ancient Rome, the early and middle Byzantine eras, Parthia, and even the Gallic Empire,” said Professor Pieter Broucke, the associate curator of ancient art. The collection is particularly strong in coinage from the Roman Empire, he said, with pieces displaying Augustus, Tiberius, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Septimus Severus, and the empresses Faustina the Elder and Julia Domna.
The collection includes a bronze Ptolemy II coin, a Republican silver coin, a number of Justinian coins, and a fourrée coin of Caracalla from the third century CE. The collection also contains several Byzantine cup-shaped bronze coins and some medieval French and Eastern European coins, as well as a cluster of lead tokens and pewter objects that served as currency in Renaissance England.
In an email, Guimond explained the motivation behind his gift: “The most important consideration to me is to find a safe home for the collection and for ensuring the coins will be available to students and faculty to display, conserve, study, and research. It feels that Middlebury [is] the right place for all [these pursuits].”
Indeed, Middlebury’s museum, with extensive holdings in antiquities, was in a good position to accept and utilize the collection. “The gift constitutes a major expansion of our numismatic holdings at the Middlebury College Museum of Art,” Broucke explained. “It will be studied by students and faculty in the Departments of Classics, History, Religion, and Art History for generations to come.”
One coin of particular interest to Broucke is a silver drachm of the Parthian King Mithradates II, who ruled from 121 to 91 BCE. (See photo.) The coin, in fine condition, shows the diademed (or crowned) bust of “Mithradates the Great” wearing a torque (or collar) that ends in a seahorse. The coin was struck in Rhagai (modern-day Ray in Iran) in about the year 100 BCE, the professor said.
The Middlebury Museum is in the early stages of determining how the coins will be used, but Broucke is fairly certain that several will go on view in the Antiquities Gallery, while other coins or tokens, either individually or in small clusters, could be displayed in conjunction with the museum’s Byzantine and medieval objects.
In addition, a number of the coins in less-than-fine condition will go into a “study collection,” where students and faculty will be permitted to handle the objects and scrutinize them for research purposes, Broucke said.
– Reported by Robert Keren; photos courtesy of Pieter Broucke