Kansas University professor’s ancient coins to be offered for sale on 3rd July
Kansas University Professor Jim Seaver was a collector of epic proportions. Through his love of opera, he amassed a vast number of operatic recordings, one of the largest and most important ever assembled, which he shared with listeners to his weekly programme “Opera is my Hobby”, aired on Kansas Public Radio.
His other remarkable collection, amassed over the course of his long life, was more than 5,000 ancient Greek and Roman coins, which he used as teaching aids in his classes on ancient history.
Mr Seaver died in 2011 and his family have instructed specialist London auctioneers Morton & Eden to return them to the market so other collectors can enjoy them as he did.
Part One of the Seaver Collection of Ancient Coins will be offered by Morton & Eden, in association with Sotheby’s, on Tuesday 3 July, while the remainder will be sold later in the year.
This first sale will include Greek coins as well as Mr Seaver’s extensive series of coins of the Roman Republic from the early bronze cast “aes grave” coinage of the 3rd century BC through to denarii from the time before Octavian was granted the title of “Augustus” to become the first Roman emperor in 27 BC.
An unusual piece is a denarius struck by the Marsic Confederation of Italian tribes centred in Corfinium which they renamed Italia. They rebelled against the Roman Republic in the so-called Social Wars of 90-88 BC and issued their own anonymous coinage which is nowadays very rare. The Seaver coin was mis-struck at the time that it was made, showing only the obverse head of Italia, the reverse type replaced by an incuse image of the obverse. The coin has come about by an error in its production, commonly referred to as a “brockage”. The first such brockage from this series seen by the auctioneers, the coin is estimated at £1,500-2,000.
Among the Greek coins are a number of well-preserved specimens including a rare Corinthian silver stater of the early 4th century BC depicting Pegasus walking and the head of Athena, estimated at £700-900 and a Bactrian gold stater struck in the name of Antiochus II of Syria (250-235 BC), estimated at £2000-3000. There are also numerous lots containing multiple numbers of coins. In all, this first sale is estimated to fetch £60-80,000 and the whole collection ought to realise in excess of £100,000.
James Everett Seaver (1918-2011) was born in the rapidly growing city of Los Angeles during the great influenza pandemic of 1918. The youngest of three children, he grew up in great luxury in the heady Hollywood milieu of the Roaring Twenties, but by the time he went to Stanford University in 1936, like many other families during the Great Depression, his family had lost nearly everything.
A combination of waiting on tables, a scholarship and financial help from his sister and brother-in-law allowed him to stay in school where he excelled. He went on to become captain of the Stanford tennis team, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with high honours in history.
Mr Seaver’s long and distinguished career as a professor of ancient history at the University of Kansas began in 1947. As notable as his professional career was, it is his legacy as a volunteer that had the greatest impact on the wider public. His radio programme ran weekly from 1952, while the full range of his coin collection he used in his classes on ancient history.
His son Richard Seaver said: “Ultimately our father’s collecting was a result of his desire to learn and share knowledge with others. His calling in life was that of a teacher. Nothing reflects this better than his collection of ancient coins. Our father’s wish was always that the coins re-enter the market so that other collectors would have the same opportunity he had to add to their collections.”
Tom Eden, of Morton & Eden said: “It has been both enjoyable and challenging working with the Seaver collection which is so comprehensive both from the Greek and from the Roman perspective. The Seaver collection forms part of our two day coin auction on 3-4th July, which contains ancient coins from other properties as well as Islamic, British and foreign coins and commemorative medals.”
The collection will be sold in Sotheby’s Upper Grosvenor Gallery in the Aeolian Hall, Bloomfield Place, off New Bond Street W1. It will be on view at Morton & Eden, 45 Maddox Street, on 28-29th June and 2nd July or by previous appointment. For further information, please contact Tom Eden, telephone +44 (0)207 493 5344 or [email protected].