In memoriam Georg Baums

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=4]

by Fritz Rudolf Künker

March 9, 2017 – On 16 February 2017, Georg Baums died within the family circle. He was 81 years old. Shortly before his 80th birthday on 17 November 2015, he received the message that he had to live with a terminal disease. Nevertheless he spent his remaining time making new plans, wanting to continue his life as he did before the disease. He did so, bearing his illness with great dignity. Thus the Goethe-quote in the obituary of Georg Baums is particularly accurate: “For I have been a man and that means to have been a fighter.” 

Advertising expert and collector of coins and medals Georg Baums died on 16 February 2017 aged 81.

This ability to fight for his goals also let Georg Baums become a successful advertising expert. After learning advertising from the bottom up, he founded the advertising agency BMZ in Düsseldorf together with Thomas Mang and Peter Zimmermann in 1971. Prior to that, he had already made practical experiences in different agencies. He started an impressive career in the 1960s with Team / BBDO in Düsseldorf, which was the most creative address in Germany at the time. The three associates of the agency BMZ decided to sell their business to the French advertising giant Publicis in 1990. Georg Baums became chairman and CEO of Publicis in Germany and between 1995 and 2000 he was also responsible for Austria and Switzerland. In 1988, Baums became part of the board of the GWA (general association of advertising agencies) and he was their president from 1992 to 1996. In 2003, he was accepted into the “Hall of Fame of German Advertising”. The Federal President awarded Georg Baums with the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his special merit. Looking back, Georg Baums said in an interview in 2011: “Well, I would do it again today.” 

This stellar career never changed Georg Baums’ modest outward appearance. His private life mostly consisted of his wife Marlies, whom he had married in 1964, his three children and his family with his grandchildren. He had an intimate and intense relationship with all of them. 

Despite all commitment to his job and his family, Georg Baums also sought out possibilities of retreat. His piece of land and his house in Canada were certainly part of that. But also, last but not least, numismatics.

It was already in the 1970s, that I had my first personal encounter with Georg Baums. It must have been at an auction in Düsseldorf or Giessen. At the time he had already decided to start his first collection of “siege coins”. 

Later he widened the subject to objects with a connection to war and peace in numismatics. Thus an impressive collection developed, which was auctioned off by the auction house Künker in Osnabrück on 27 September 2006. The title of the auction 116 read “Belagerung, Krieg und Frieden auf Münzen und Medaillen – die Sammlung Georg Baums” (“Siege, war and peace on coins and medals –  the Georg Baums collection”). Georg Baums said that the auction sale was a great success for him, too.

The creation of his first numismatic collection showed the creative businessman Georg Baums that – in collecting, too – one can achieve something meaningful through personal commitment and creativity. And whoever has suffered from the “bacillus numismaticus”, just like him, will be stuck with a passion for coins for good. That is how, shortly after his first collection was auctioned, he came up with the idea of creating a medal collection that would exemplarily show the history of the medal from the Renaissance until the present.

He once commented on the subject of collecting: “It is not just collecting, like honeybees do. True collecting means, the work only starts after one has bought the object. Which history is hidden in there, what do the symbols and images mean, which other objects are related? Exploration, research, tests. This is not going to happen right away and it will not be the same systematic for every object, but the tesserae of the collection will form a complete picture over time.” 

The result of this passionate dedication has had some influence on the Künker auction catalogue 247. The medal collection of Georg Baums with the title “500 Jahre Geschichte und Kunst im Spiegel der Medaille” (“500 years of history and art as reflected in medals”) was auctioned off on 14 March 2014 in Osnabrück. Wolfgang Steguweit has honoured the achievement of his friend Georg Baums with a foreword to the catalogue and got to the heart of the matter with a Goethe-quote: “Every collection needs love.”
It was also Wolfgang Steguweit, who introduced his friend Baums to the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Medaillenkunst e.V. Baums became a supporting member and underwrote the costs for the festschrift of the 25-year jubilee. 

In a foreword to his medal collection, Baums left no doubt that he had the firm intention of starting a third collection of coins. He decided on special gold coins and only a few days before his death in February 2017, he obtained a few objects for his collection from the Künker auction in Berlin. 

Among all reflections of the collector Georg Baums, the most important ones were always about the question, which historic or art historical meaning would make an object desirable. It is this connection to history, which motivates many collectors to approach the historical context through coins and medals and to better understand it. 

Georg Baums wanted to continue to learn, even after his retirement. He was inquisitive and curious and these character traits drove him. In the last ten years, he repeatedly sought talks with Andreas Kaiser and me. We always enjoyed these meetings, because – aside from the numismatic exchange of knowledge – he was always willing to share his experiences from his professional life with us. 

Through his warm-hearted and friendly nature, Georg Baums was always close to his fellow men. He was the centre of his family and an exceptional figure in the German advertising industry. Everyone who feels close to him will miss him deeply.