Collecting International Gold and Silver Coins
Josiah K. Lilly Jr.
Josiah K. Lilly Jr., chairman of the American pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co., was an avid collector of many things, but his interest in coins was focused solely on gold. Between 1951 and his death in 1966, he carefully acquired 6,125 gold coins, one of the finest collections in the world.
The Josiah K. Lilly Jr. Collection
The Lilly Collection is now a part of the National Numismatic Collection. An act of Congress in 1968 brought the coins from Lilly’s estate to the Smithsonian. This acquisition included 1,227 U.S. gold coins, including the unique Brasher half doubloon coin of 1787.
“Brasher” Half Doubloon Coin, United States, 1787
5 Dollar Coin, United States, 1822
Collecting Gold from Around the World
Lilly’s interest in gold coins began with 17th and 18th century doubloons from Spanish colonies in Latin America. Over time he developed an interest in gold coins from around the world. His collection includes rare ancient and modern coins from Latin America, East Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.
8 Escudo Coin, Peru, 1708
2 Stater Coin, Macedon, 336–323 BCE
100 Ducat Coin, Poland, 1621
5 Toman Coin, Persia, 1896–1907
1.5 Ducat Coin, Zierikzee (Netherlands), 1576
20 Won Coin, Korea, 1906
The Paul A. Straub Collection
Paul A. Straub donated his collection of about 5,650 European gold and silver coins from the 14th to the 20th century to the National Numismatic Collection in the 1950s. Straub was passionate about developing his collection with the intention of filling gaps in the Smithsonian’s holdings. He sought coins that he believed would be so impressive that they would inspire a feeling of pride in the national collection. His donation is regarded as a cornerstone of the National Numismatic Collection’s international holdings.
5 Ducat Coin, Hamburg (Germany), 1679
50 Zecchino Coin, Venice (Italy), 1779–89
10 Ducat Coin, Czechoslovakia, 1934
Paul A. Straub collected both gold and silver coins, but he believed that they should be displayed separately. He thought that large silver coins, like this bulky six thaler coin minted in Brunswick dated 1679, would overshadow small, delicately engraved gold coins in his collection.