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Research Coins: Feature Auction


Ex Biaggi de Blasys and Ryan Collections

CNG 111, Lot: 681. Estimate $7500.
Sold for $9500. This amount does not include the buyer’s fee.

Domitian. AD 81-96. AV Aureus (19mm, 7.56 g, 6h). Rome mint. Struck AD 82. IMP CΛES DOMITIΛNVS ΛVG P M, laureate head right / TR POT IMP II COS VIII DES IX P P, cuirassed bust of Minerva left, wearing crested Corinthian helmet and aegis, showing breast and shoulders; transverse scepter over right shoulder. RIC II 138 (R2); Calicó 938 (same coin as illustration); BMCRE 33 (same rev. die); BN 36-7; Biaggi 438 (this coin); Jameson –; Mazzini 609 (same dies). Good VF, minor marks. Rare.

From the Brexit Collection. Ex Leo Biaggi de Blasys Collection (Numismatica Ars Classica 49, 21 October 2008), lot 168; V. J. E. Ryan Collection (Part IV, Glendining, 20 February 1951), lot 1715.

Leo Biaggi de Blasys (1906-1979) was a Swiss sugar magnate and sportsman whose fascination with ancient Rome led to the creation of one of the world’s greatest collections of Roman gold coins. Born in Genoa to a Swiss-Italian diplomat and a French mother, he became active in the Red Cross after 1943 and, with his father, he repeatedly helped Jews in Italy escape persecution in the later years of World War II. He was also alleged to have knowingly aided in the escape of high-ranking Nazis, a notion dismissed by his friends and relations. In 1961, he received the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic for his services. His collection focused on Roman gold from the Republic to late Empire, ultimately comprising over 2,000 specimens. The gold collection was purchased en bloc by Bank Leu (Zurich) in 1978, and slowly sold off to collectors over the next few decades. More than 500 ex-Biaggi coins were sold by Numismatica Ars Classica in their Auction 49 in 2008. The Biaggi pedigree remains highly prized among collectors of Roman gold.

Valentine John Eustance Ryan (1882-1947) was a wealthy Irish landowner who divided his time between his homeland, the United Kingdom and Switzerland. His early passion for coins benefited from his association with Herbert Seaby, and in 1926 he was instrumental in establishing B.A. Seaby Ltd. in London. A founding member of the British Numismatic Society, his interests spanned British, Scottish and ancient coins. His collection was sold posthumously by Glendining’s 1950-1952, with the fourth sale devoted to Roman gold aurei and solidi. His coins consequently found their way into other important European and American collections, including Biaggi, Stack, Vermeule, Ebert, and de Wit.