by Hadrien Rambach
Leo Biaggi was an industrialist, whose company processed beet sugar. Although a Swiss citizen with a French mother, he lived most of his life in Liguria (Italy) but died in Spain. A delegate to the International Red Cross during WWII he received the Grande Ufficiale Ordine al Merito from the Italian government in 1961, and in 1974 the silver medal of the Red Cross.
He formed an exceptional collection of ancient coins – notably over 2,000 Roman gold coins – which was purchased en-bloc in 1978 for a price rumoured to be 27 million Swiss francs (= US$ 13.5m = c. 64,000 gold ounces) by Marco Ratto in partnership with Bank Leu. Biaggi’s heirs subsequently created the Bogliasco Foundation, to honour their grandmother and father’s passion for the visual arts, music and literature. A fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society (London) since January 1951, Biaggi resigned in April 1975 – suggesting maybe a diminished interest in numismatics, reflected by the sale of his coins a year previous to his death.
The Biaggi collection of Roman gold coins was never published, but it is accessible thanks to photo-plates by Silvia Hurter of the gold coins, and to casts, which document the contents of this exceptional collection. A manuscript inventory also exists, which meticulously documents the purchase dates and costs. The coins from Biaggi’s collection were sold privately and in auctions over the years. The first group was auctioned by Bank Leu in their auction 22 (1979), and a large group reappeared in NAC auction 49 (2008).
Records of Biaggi’s collection of Greek coins, on the other hand, are unfortunately not available, which is most regrettable considering that this was a “superb collection”, and that “while much smaller than Gillet’s, the quality was the same if not better” (A. Walker).
- Alan Walker, “Silvia Hurter: some memories and a new coin from Aetolia”, in Schweizerische numismatische Rundschau, vol. 88 (2009), pp. 15-22: p. 17.
- Hadrien Rambach, “Provenance glossary”, in Numismatica Ars Classica, Auction 91: the George W. La Borde collection of Roman aurei – part I, Zurich, 23 May 2016, pp. -.
- Hadrien Rambach, “Provenance glossary”, in Numismatica Ars Classica, Auction 99: the George W. La Borde collection of Roman aurei – part II, Zurich, 29 May 2017, pp. 47-63.
- Hadrien Rambach, “Provenance glossary”, in Numismatica Ars Classica, Auction 105: the George W. La Borde collection of Roman aurei – part III, Zurich, 9 May 2018, pp. 82-105.
This article was first published in a catalogue of auction house Numismatica Ars Classica.