Lycian coins

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by Ursula Kampmann
translated by Christina Schlögl

March 9, 2017 – The catalogue “Lykischen Münzen in europäischen Privatsammlungen“ (“Lycian coins in European private collections” in translation) has been published as volume 4 of the Turkish series “Gephyra”. It was penned by Wilhelm Müseler, whom many may know as the antiquity specialist of the auction house Dr. Busso Peus Nachf., Frankfurt. He was already interested in Lycia during his professional career and he was involved in the creation of some of the most significant private collections of Lycian coins. Now he has summarised his knowledge of the numismatic aspects of this highly interesting area between west and east, between the Greeks and the Persians. He has done so by means of the mints from the most prominent German private collections, like the Theo Reuter collection, the Dr. Hans Maag collection and Dr. Kaya Sayar collection. 

Wilhelm Müseler, Lykische Münzen in europäischen Privatsammlungen. Gephyra Monographien Vol. 4. Istanbul 2016. 230 p. with black-and-white images. Hardcover. 21.3 x 30.2 cm. ISBN: 978-605-396-421-6. Euro 69.

His book is preceded by a preface of several pages, which might make some archaeologists’, some museum curators’ and some culture-savvy politicians’ ears burn. In order to counter the misconception that only coins from “archaeological contexts” are relevant for scientific research, Wilhelm Müseler consciously decides to use only coins from private collections for his Lycian history of money. The reviewer understands this, but is not inclined to endorse it. Science needs both: Museums and excavation findings as well as private collectors. Just because some Archaeologists are stupid enough to ignore one side, we should still think hard, whether we really want to repeat their stupidity. 

The book is divided into two parts: An introduction and a catalogue part. In the 71(!) pages of “introduction”, Wilhelm Müseler gives an account of his notion of the Lycian history of money. He does so mostly by means of the coins, which he analyses in great detail. This includes chapters on weight standards, the legends, the images and the mintmark. Regarding chronology, although he offers his own solutions for some eras, he mostly follows Novella Vismara and the chronology she has worked out for the collection Winsemann-Falghera.
This truly extensive “introduction” ends with the historic conclusions, in which Wilhelm Müseler reconstructs the history of Lycia based on the coins as far as possible. He does it thoroughly, knowledgeably, sometimes a bit apodictically and with an exuberant delight in academic controversy. 

For the coin trade, the catalogue will be the most useful part of the book, especially because it entails numerous coins, which often turn up in trade but never in the relevant publications of museum collections. The division of the catalogue into chapters follows the chronology. Every single coin is described with all data relevant for catalogue creation: Minting dynast, minting city, denomination, approximate date and – when dynasts are concerned – the assumed mint. In addition, Müseler gives a detailed description and quotes the corresponding literature, if provided, names the weight and the auction where the piece was sold. It is obvious that Wilhelm Müseler has written many coin catalogues in his life and knows, which data is needed. One piece of information is missing though – in which collection the coin can be found today.

If one wanted to utter criticism, it would be that it is more or less today’s standard to arrange coin and description in a manner, where the reader can see both at the same time. This has not been done however. Plate and description are separate. 

This does not take away from the book’s merit of finally compiling the rich material, that has come on the market from Lycia over the last decades and interpreting its meaning for history and the history of money of this area. Due to its usefulness, the coin trade will surely receive the “Lykischen Münzen in deutschen Privatsammlungen“ quickly. Let’s hope, that the book will get the same attention from scholars. 

You can order the book via amazon.