The Passau Treasure

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by Ursula Kampmann

December 15, 2011 – The international media loved that news! While cleaning a store room, a curious concierge opened a little wooden box and found a “treasure” composed of 172 coins and medals; its value was estimated generously at a six-digit figure in Euro.

Now, the state library Passau publishes these coins in an exemplary manner on the Internet. And everybody is able to see for himself, what’s the real value of these coins. Concerning the financial aspect the impression might be somehow disappointing. The original estimate is much too high. A five-digit figure is much more reasonable. (If the silver medals are tin, which could be indicated by the little dot of copper in the exergue, it will be even less.) But does that really matter? It is much more important, what kind of a collection has survived!

Before the secularization, the prince-bishopric Passau was one of the most powerful bishoprics in Germany. I am sure, that these coins can’t be the showpieces from the collection of a prince-bishop, which were thought to be worth taking the risk of saving them from being confiscated!
The state library Passau suggests it might have been the collection of a Jesuit, which served as teaching material. But is there any system in that collection?
We should not overlook the fact that the 18th century was the century of collectors. A happy coincidence has delivered us the collection of an average collector of the 18th century. Once there must have been tens of thousand collections like this. The true value of this collection is that it was not – like all the other small collections – dispersed and sold, but survived as collection!

If you want to see the coins of the collection, click here.

If you want to know more about the circumstances, click here.