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.

Views of display case with Greek coins.

For the modern period, one of the most important single bequests was C. W. Betts’s collection of medals pertaining to the American Revolution, which was the basis of a scholarly study from 1894 that remains in use today. The collection also includes paper money, with many thousands of Confederate notes selected to represent virtually every issue of the Civil War period, as well as a superb run of Connecticut coppers from the 18th century. The numismatics collection has recently been fortunate to receive transformative support from Susan G. and John W. Jackson, B.A. 1967, and the Liana Foundation, Inc., which will see the department’s activities, and its holdings of paper currency and related artwork, expand exponentially.

View of display cases in the Numismatics gallery.

Numismatics Highlights

Coin of Septimius Severus, Emperor of Rome from Halicarnassus

Artist: Unknown
Mint: Halicarnassus (Caria)
Ruler: Septimius Severus, Emperor of Rome, A.D. 146–211, ruled 193–211

Cistophorus of Hadrian, Emperor of Rome from Halicarnassus

Artist: Unknown
Mint: Halicarnassus (Caria)
Ruler: Hadrian, Emperor of Rome, A.D. 76–138, ruled 117–38

Medallion of Commodus and Annius Verus

Artist: Unknown
Mint: Rome
Honorand: Annius Verus, son of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina II, A.D. 162–169
Honorand: Commodus, Emperor of Rome, A.D. 161–192, ruled 180–92
Ruler: Lucius Verus, Emperor of Rome, A.D. 130–169, ruled 161–69
Ruler: Marcus Aurelius, Emperor of Rome, A.D. 121–180, ruled A.D. 161–80

Coin of Gallienus, Emperor of Rome from Temenothyrae

Artist: Unknown
Mint: Temenothyrae
Ruler: Gallienus, Emperor of Rome, ca. A.D. 218–268, ruled 253–68

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