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Provenance Research & Schaefer Binders/ANS Roman Republican Die Project (RRDP)


Curtis JJ:
While preparing to share some recent provenance research, I noticed the resource has only been mentioned here in passing. It might be worthwhile to give some background on the (Richard) “Schaefer Binders” and American Numismatic Society's (ANS) Roman Republican Die Project (RRDP).

The RRDP and Binders weren’t designed for provenance research, but good data can always be put to unanticipated purposes. I’m sure others here will have many different uses for it. Some may have worked with the project; please don’t hesitate to correct any errors. Further reading and links at the end.

Apologies – first of multiple – for length. Four sections covering (1) RRDP/Schaefer Binders, (2) Three Provenance Research Exemplars , (3) Links & Info, (4) Questions.

(Note about images: Per ANS, the project is an “Open Database” (link) and photos/data “public domain, fair use objects” (link) one may “freely share, modify, and use” (open data license link). All images from this post are in a gallery here: )


The “Schaefer Binders,” created by Richard “Dick” Schaefer (mostly c. 1995-2019), hold raw data for a massive die-study of Roman Republican Coinage, now housed at the ANS in New York. A screenshot of Page 2 from Binder 22 (where I found one of my coins illustrated twice):

(To my eyes, the binders are beautiful artworks and fascinating artifacts of qualitative science; I hope they stay up permanently so I can keep staring at them!)

The Roman Republican Die Project (RRDP), as it’s called, uses Schaefer’s dataset of c. 300,000 photographs and corresponding notes, mostly collected from auction catalogs. (For anyone who has collected any kind of data, especially alone, this is a mind-boggling accomplishment!) Since he partnered with the ANS, many others have also helped bring it online, worked on the analysis, or presented research. (I’ve seen mention of the roles played by Miriam Bernstein, Lucia Carbone, Ethan Gruber, Jeremy Haag, Erin Richardson, Alice Sharpless, and Liv Yarrow, among others, I’m sure.)

There have been several waves of data released since 2020, with increasing levels of organization. It seems to me there are now three levels at which the public data are organized:

(1) 14 “unprocessed” binders, hundreds of pages, containing photos roughly grouped by Crawford type:;
(2) 8 “processed” binders with photos arranged precisely in order by Crawford number (and by dies?), same link; and, finally,
(3) the SITNAM database (link), searchable examples of the types, with details (e.g., provenance, weight) & often die numbers.

An example: For Crawford 359/2 (Sulla’s Venus/Trophies Denarius) (link), SITNAM includes 238 individually-linked RRDP records, plus 3 from ANS and 75 from other public collections. All 316 are incorporated into CRRO (link). returns only 222 for “359/2,” all post-2000 (including some in error).

Other types are only in the unprocessed or processed binders and may have only a few examples. Those are slower going, but still orders of magnitude more efficient than going to the ANS library in NYC or Fitzwilliam in Cambridge to search catalogs one-at-a-time! Some types may not be included yet (at least publicly). Maybe I missed them.


Since most photos are from commercial sources (e.g., auction catalogs), I’ve been trying it out for provenance research. Three coins (five matches) to illustrate, all from my own collection (but one departed). I found all in the “processed” binders (18, 19, 22) after purchase. (I also check active auctions against the binders.)

(Always the same dilemma: Keep one’s provenance-hunting strategies to oneself or discuss with others, who may then find lost provenances and buy first or bid higher…. But always the same answer: The research still takes work, and, in the end, more information benefits the community; or so I believe. Apologies again if it was anyone’s secret weapon.)

Example 1: Thorius Balbus (316/1) Brockage. Acquired from Aureo & Calicó, Auction 339 (Barcelona, 14 Nov 2019), Lot 1398, from the Alba Longa Collection (Jose Fernandez Molina) (ACSearch link). Binder (#22) contains “Brockages and Miscellaneous” (link). Happily, Schaefer recorded my coin’s appearance in two Spanish auctions, 1981 and 1998 (neither of which I’d have found otherwise).

One must work out Schaefer’s codes/abbreviations if a coin isn't in SITNAM. The first was easy: “15 Dec81 / ANE / 508.” The second, tougher: “4MAZ98 / ARE / O / 3.87 / 1345.” Schaefer has a habit of writing in ligate, I learned…. After following up with the Fitzwilliam Museum’s Catalog Collection (link) and other resources:
•   Asociacion Numismatica Española, Xavier Calicó (Barcelona, 15 December 1981), Lot 508 [Schaefer Binder #22, p. 2].
•   Aureo Auction 89 (Barcelona, 4 March 1998), Lot 1345 [Schaefer Binder #22, p. 2].
•   Colleción Alba Longa (J. F. Molina), vol. II, Aureo y Calicó Auction 339 (Barcelona, 14 November 2019), Lot 1398.

Example 2: Censorinus (346/2b). Deciphering was harder for the next one. Schafer took examples where he could find them, including ebay and elsewhere. His label reads, “LONG ISLAND / NOV10” (“64” is the die number). It was purchased by my father (c. 2001-2015?) for our family collection, but he doesn't know where.

I’ve checked multiple sources (Gengerke’s American Numismatic Auctions (2009 link), Pete Smith’s American Numismatic Biographies (2021 lin, ACSearch, NNP) with no luck. Perhaps Paramount or NASCA’s auctions at the Grand Central Coin Conventions, hosted by the Long Island Coin Club (LICC) each November (c. 1960s-1980s). Maybe LICC ran its own auction in November 2010. Or Schaefer photographed it at the show himself. Or one of the several auctions by Stack’s / Coin Galleries (the Stack family was from Long Island) on November 10 (1987, 1992, 1993, 1998, 1999). I might have to wait for the coin to be entered into SITNAM or contact Schaefer to find out.

Example 3 (SOLD, 2 Dec 2012): Quinctius (297/1b). I’m sure other provenance-hunters will feel my pain at finding a pedigree (even minor) 9-10 years after selling a coin. Hopefully I can forward this info to the buyer (or, if you see this, J., please let me know!).

I hate seeing my old coin listings & online activities from a decade ago, but my embarrassment is dampened by the appreciation I feel for Ras’s Coryssa database (link for my coin's record), formerly Coinvac. I use it regularly, as it does the important job of archiving many ancient coin sales that might otherwise go undocumented (link to site; another I hope sticks around).

In Schaefer's notes, "Imperator" must be Joseph Mostrario on VCoins (did I buy it from him "AVG ‘12"?), the other CNG e-285, Lot 281, also August 2012 (which I could've easily found on their website or ACSearch). Sure sold a bunch of times quickly for a nice coin I really wish I'd just kept (speaking of which, I really need to stop looking at RRC prices from 10 years ago, very depressing!):

Schaefer Notebooks (22 Binders) on ANS Archer (my favorite):
CCRO on ANS:   

Liv Yarrow’s blog (many RRDP updates):
- Her most recent on RRDP, 11 Aug 2020 (link)
- All her Schaefer posts:

ANS Pocket Change Blog:
- Schaefer posts (link)
- Original announcement of folders 1-14 (unprocessed) with lots of background (link)
- July 31 2021 Announcement, preceding an excellent ANS Long Table on the Project (link)
ANS Magazine:
- Carbone and Yarrow’s ANS article, 2019, Issue 3, pp. 7-19, via (link)

Other Provenance Resources mentioned above:
Coryssa (link);
Fitzwilliam Museum Numis. Catalog Coll. (link);
Martin Gengerke (2009) American Numismatic Auctions (link);
Pete Smith (2021 edition) American Numismatic Biographies (link);
ACSearch (link);
Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington U. in STL (link);


Do Schaefer’s unprocessed data cover all Crawford RRC issues?
Will all the records eventually be included online in SITNAM?
Will the RRDP's analysis/results be (or have they been) published in print journals, chapters, or as monographs -- or is it going to remain a digital project and leaving print publication to scholars using the data?

I’d heard of Mr. Schaefer’s massive die study, but was unaware of the specifics. Thank you for the illumination.
I was planning to look through the Banti corpus and coin archives for provenances if I ever found time (probably after retirement!), but this would appear even more comprehensive. Perhaps by then, machine learning image classifiers will be up to the task!

I don’t have answers to your questions, but I believe I’ve seen Schaefer post on lists such as Moneta an RROME—perhaps he can be contacted?

Steve Moulding:
Wow! Thank you, Curtis. That's a phenomenal amount of information and a great set of resources. I'm still looking through it all.  Looking forward to hearing more about your provenance research - something I'm also actively interested in.



Curtis JJ:
Here's another fun provenance find from the Richard Schaefer notebooks. I knew about the Leo Benz Collection, but the catalog (Lanz 88, Nov 1998, Lot 407) didn't mention the Kricheldorf sale (Auction 29, 3 Mar 1975, Lot 249), so the binder helped me push back the earliest known provenance by another 23 years. (I bought if from the Scipio Collection of Denarii that was sold in several auctions by Soler y Llach.)

(By the way -- if the person who outbid me today on the unique [for control symbol] Numerius Fabius Pictor Denarius at CNG sees this [LINK], check the Schaefer Notebook 18, also a "plate coin" in Numis. Chron.)

Here's my Lf. Julius Caesar Denarius auction photo, followed by the Schaefer photos:


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