The Gallery’s numismatics collection is among the University’s oldest, dating to the early years of the 19th century. By 1863 the holdings numbered some 3,000 items; two decades later, the Greek and Roman portions alone totaled over 3,200. Formerly known as the Yale Numismatic Collection, jurisdiction over it passed from the University Library to the Yale University Art Gallery in 2001. The collection now comprises well over 120,000 pieces and is by far the largest assemblage at any American university.
Its great strength remains Greco-Roman, including examples of the earliest coinage of western Asia Minor, the supreme artistic achievements of Syracuse and southern Italy, and masterpieces of Hellenistic and Roman portraiture. Silver coinage from the Roman Republic has been systematically acquired, and the collection of imperial coins is comprehensive; in 2004 it was augmented by the purchase of the collection of Professor Peter R. and Leonore Franke (over 4,100 pieces from Greek cities and the provinces) and, in 2007, by the acquisition of roughly the first half of the collection of Ben Lee Damsky (about 900 pieces), which has enhanced the Gallery’s imperial holdings. The strengths of the collection include fine examples from the English and German traditions, a broad selection of Renaissance medals, and the coins from Dura-Europos, which complement the Gallery’s other holdings from this important Yale excavation in the 1930s.