Collection of Ancient Coins
One of the most captivating sections in the Department of Coins and Medals is dedicated to the Collection of Ancient Coins. This collection is not only the centrepiece of our holdings but it is also the premiere collection of this type in Poland and among the best in central Europe. The collection encompasses over 40,000 items in four categories: Greek Coins, Celtic Coins, Roman Republic and Roman Empire Coins, and Byzantine Coins.
Originally established by Dr. Władysław Semerau-Siemianowski, the collection numbering nearly 30,000 items was bequeathed to the National Museum on 2 July 1921. In addition to specimens of ancient glass, terracottas, and tablets with cuneiform writing, the Semerau- Siemianowski collection included 27,711 ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins. Dr. Semerau-Siemianowski amassed this bountiful assortment during his 45-year medical practice in the Balkans, on the Black Sea, and in Constantinople. Consequently, coinage from these areas is best represented in the collection. Among the collection’s most valuable pieces is an octodrachm of the Derrones tribe found on the shores of Lake Doiran in Macedonia. The Semerau-Siemianowski bequest also included a much-prized set of 133 lead Byzantine seals.
This group was later supplemented with additional specimens and currently numbers 184 items.
From 1925 to 1930, the museum purchased 1,751 coins from the collection of Ignacy Terlecki, a doctor living and working in Kerch, Crimea. There, he built up his collection of coins from Greek colonies along the Black Sea and coins issued by kings of the Cimmerian Bosporus on the Crimean Peninsula. Standing out in the collection is a beautiful and valuable set of electrum staters bearing the image of the Bosporus king as well as of the Roman emperor.
In 1938, the State Art Collections endowed the National Museum with an excess of 3,000 ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins to further expand the museum’s holdings. Included were series of coins minted by Roman emperors as well as coins issued in the Roman Republic, much rarer that the Imperial ones. The indisputable highlights of this collection are specimens of the aes grave, an early coin cast in bronze, and some very early didrachms. Further acquisitions and bequests expanded the section of Roman Republic coins to its current 1,598 items, described in an English-language catalogue issued by the museum in 1996. Also noteworthy is a stock of coins minted by Byzantine emperors which, although numbering fewer items than the Greek and Roman coin collections, boast a large proportion of gold pieces.
In 1939, several months prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, the museum acquired Prof. Jan Lewiński’s collection of 446 Roman and Greek coins as a bequest from the professor’s wife. Before the war deprived it of its most precious specimens, the museum’s collection of ancient coins numbered over 30,000 items, including 361 gold and electrum coins. Post-war efforts to restore the dwindled collection saw many bequests and donations from private individuals as well as endowments by state institutions (including Bank Handlowy in Warsaw, the National Bank, the Ministry of the Treasury, the Central Jewellers Authority and the police). The acquisition of coins continues to this day and helps not only to replace what was lost during the war but to enrich the collection with new items, including some very rare and well-preserved items.
- Collection of Polish Coins
- Collection of Coins from Lands Historically Affiliated with Poland
- Collection of Ancient Coins
- Collection of Foreign Coins
- Collection of Eastern Coins
- Collection of Banknotes and Paper Securities
- Collection of Polish and Foreign Medals
- Sigillography Collection
- Faleristics Collection
- Collection of Religious Pendants and Miscellanea