Princeton University Acquires Donald Collection of Byzantine Coins

July 20, 2017 – The Princeton University Numismatic Collection announces the acquisition of Peter Donald’s vast collection of rare Byzantine coins. Comprising 5,280 coins, the London-based numismatic scholar’s collection is one of the most comprehensive private collections in the world. The Peter Donald Collection of Byzantine Coins provides an in-depth representation of virtually all known varieties of Byzantine bronze and silver issues, from all eras and mints. It includes 179 gold coins, 324 silver coins, and 4,777 bronze coins ranging from 500 to 1450 C.E. The collection is complete as assembled over the past seven decades with the exception of gold issues before 1204, which the collector sold off by auction in 1995. 

Bronze 2-nummus piece of the Heraclian Revolt, 610. From the Peter Donald Collection. Photo: Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.Bronze 2-nummus piece of the Heraclian Revolt, 610. From the Peter Donald Collection. Photo: Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Bronze 2-nummus piece of the Heraclian Revolt, 610. From the Peter Donald Collection. Photo: Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

During the past 65 years, Peter Donald worked to make his collection remarkably inclusive, including rare mints and short-lived rulers, and consistently upgraded pieces. His favorite coin is a unique two-nummus bronze coin of Heraclius, the Exarch of Alexandria, with his son the future emperor of the same name. Peter Donald is a well-known English scholar of Byzantine coinage, a Fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society and author of many articles based on his collection. He is co-author with Simon Bendall of the standard work on late Byzantine coinage, “The Later Palaeologan Coinage, 1282-1453” (London, 1979).

Silver miliaresion, Leo IV, 741-745, overstruck on an Ummayad dirhem. From the Peter Donald Collection. Photo: Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.Silver miliaresion, Leo IV, 741-745, overstruck on an Ummayad dirhem. From the Peter Donald Collection. Photo: Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Silver miliaresion, Leo IV, 741-745, overstruck on an Ummayad dirhem. From the Peter Donald Collection. Photo: Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

The acquisition of the Donald Collection constitutes the central component of building Princeton University’s numismatic holdings into the premier collection in the world illustrating the interrelations of coinage systems of the medieval Eastern Mediterranean. Princeton University faculty enthusiastically supported the acquisition. Historian Peter Brown calls it “a magnificent and very comprehensive collection, of huge interest to scholars, even outside the Byzantine field.” John Haldon, Professor of History and Hellenic Studies, highlights “the way in which this collection will enhance our research and teaching potential. With this acquisition we jump into first place in respect of the teaching, study and research of Byzantine and medieval coinages in the Americas.” 

Gold hyperpyron, John V, 1341-47. From the Peter Donald Collection. Photo: Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.Gold hyperpyron, John V, 1341-47. From the Peter Donald Collection. Photo: Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

Gold hyperpyron, John V, 1341-47. From the Peter Donald Collection. Photo: Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

The purchase of the collection was made possible through funds from Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies with the support of the Stanley J. Seeger Hellenic Fund, and from the Friends of the Princeton University Library.

The Princeton University Numismatic Collection is part of Princeton University Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Those parts of the collection already in its digital database can be accessed by clicking here; objects in the collection may be viewed by appointment, please write an e-mail to the curator Alan Stahl.

To obtain additional information on this acquisition and the collection, please click here.

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