Tuesday, October 07, 2008

BMC Corcyra 89

The British museum owns a unique ancient Greek fraction depicting on one side a gorgoneion and on the other side a kantharos. It was first published by Percy Gardner in his catalog Thessaly to Aetolia in 1883 (page 120). David Sear also published it (#2013). However, neither author included a photograph.

Some of my readers know that in addition to collecting coins I collect pictures of coins depicting gorgons. I wanted a picture of this unique type. There are a number of mysteries. Gardner claimed to see a Δ above the kantharos. He attributed it to Corcyra (= Korkyra = Corfu), a city that otherwise did not depict the gorgon on it's coinage. Today Corcyra is associated with gorgons because of an amazing gorgon temple excavated in 1911 by Kaiser Wilhelm II (who later abdicated the throne of Germany to become an archaeologist!) In Gardner's time there was nothing to attributed it other than similarity to other Corcyra types with kantharos reverse. It seems a poor attribution: Neapolis, Mytilene, and Koroneia all issued coins depicting both gorgons and similar pottery (although not near 1.85g with both gorgon and kantharos together.)

I had hoped that I could just ask nice and get a picture of this unique treasure. It ended up costing £60 and taking five weeks. For me it was worth it but if one needed a lot of images this is a costly proposition. £60 is the photography fee; to reproduce the image would have been an additional fee (so I have traced it for my readers.)

Amelia Dowler, the Curator of Greek Coins was very friendly and obtained the “PRN code” and even searched the Department of Coins and Medal's internal partial database for other coins with gorgons. I then had to send that code to folks at British Museum Images, a division of the British Museum Company Limited. They emailed me a form which I had to print out and mail with my credit card number. (British Museum Images doesn't accept credit cards by email). Eventually I received an email with a URL and password that unlocked a very high resolution image of each side of the coin.

The coin itself is terrible. I'd grade it G, but not a pleasing G. The corrosion makes it difficult to tell what is a feature of the coin and what is corrosion. If the Δ that Gardner saw is there I can't see it!

I'd love to show a photograph here. I don't know how much it would cost me. I tried to calculate the price but blogs and non-commercial web sites were not options on the bmimages.com fee calculator. The categories for licensing an image are advertising, merchandise, corporate/promotional, and editorial. This blog is basically a long rant so I chose editorial. It then asked the types of media: books, prints, newspapers, film, and TV. I hope to one day write a book based on my research and I attempted to inquire about the price to license the image for an academic book. I was then asked the print run, and the only choice was <750. I knew academic books were not popular but 750 copies max seems kinda sad.

As an American I have no standing to complain. I'm grateful that the British Museum bought the coin and preserved it these past 150 years so that I could see it. I've found many other coins mentioned in old Numismatic Chronicles in private collections and I despair of ever seeing them.

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