collecting of coins at Yale goes back at least to the
early 19th century. The collection was once housed in
the Trumbull Gallery, but by 1860 was
in the University Library where its arrangement was undertaken in the middle
years of the century. A catalogue published in 1863 enumerated some 2,400
coins; by 1880 the Greek and Roman portion of the collection alone amounted
to over 3,200 pieces.
Today the total number is closer to 100,000, making Yale's by far the largest
university collection in the United States. It has been enriched over the
years by the generosity of many donors, most of them Yale alumni; among
prominent 19th-century names are C. Wyllys Betts, Henry Champion, and Jonathan
Edwards, M.D.; in the twentieth century Alfred R. Bellinger, Elvira Clain-Stefanelli,
Jonathan P. Rosen, Eduard Thraemer, and Irving Dillaye Vann. The Rev. William
T. Owen, who was curator of the collection for many years, probably gave
more coins than any other individual. Greek, Roman, and Byzantine coins
account for about a quarter of the total; there are relatively few United
States coins. Outside the ancient world the strength of the collection
lies in early modern coinage, struck by machine after ca. 1600. While no
area of the collection can claim world-class stature, there are broad holdings
in French, German, Italian, and especially British coinage. There are over
600 coins of the Russian empire, many of which are on view here.
Administration of the numismatic collection was transferred to the Yale University
Art Gallery in 2001, though it will continue to be housed in Sterling Memorial
Library until the completion of renovations at the Art Gallery.