You are here:Home/Visit/ Museum/ Byzantine Collection/ Coin and Seal Collections

Coin and Seal Collections

Coin Collection

BZC.1957.4.64: Solidus of Justinian II (705-715) BZC.1957.4.64: Solidus of Justinian II (705-715)

The collection of about 12,000 coins forms one of the greatest specialized collections of Byzantine coins in the world.

An online exhibit offers insights into the numismatic holdings at Dumbarton Oaks and Byzantine numismatics at large: 118 gold, silver, and bronze coins illustrate the history of the monetary system with its imperial and religious representations. Seven sections set the coins in their larger historical context. The online exhibit is available here (alternate link).

The majority of the coins were published, together with the Whittemore Collection of the Fogg Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in five catalogue volumes, covering coins from 491 to 1453. Volume I, by Alfred R. Bellinger, volumes II and III by Philip Grierson appeared in 1966, 1968 and 1973; volume IV (1081–1261) by Michael F. Hendy, and volume V (1261–1453) by Philip Grierson, were both published in 1999, completing the series.

In addition, there is a considerable collection of late Roman coins of the fourth century: the gold and silver coins were published in Dumbarton Oaks Papers 18 (1964). A substantial number of late Roman medallions was published in Dumbarton Oaks Papers 12 (1958) and 50 (1996). A catalogue of the late fourth- and fifth-century coins (395–491) was published by Philip Grierson and Melinda Mays in 1992.

The collection continues to be enlarged. Among these recent acquisitions, about 150 Arab-byzantine transitional coins struck in Syria, Palestine and Egypt in the seventh century have been published by Clive Foss with a historical introduction and synthesis.

Some 900 uncatalogued acquisitions will be made accessible on an online database in the near future.

Seal Collection

BZS.1951.31.5.51 Seal of Romanos I Lekapenos (931-944) BZS.1951.31.5.51 Seal of Romanos I Lekapenos (931-944)

The 13,000 lead seals at Dumbarton Oaks, together with the Fogg collection of 4,000 seals which are temporarily on loan to Dumbarton Oaks, form the largest and most comprehensive collection of Byzantine lead seals in the world. Six catalogue volumes have now appeared in print, five on geographical seals by Nicolas Oikonomides, John Nesbitt, and Eric McGeer and one on imperial and patriarchal seals by John Nesbitt.

The Byzantine Seals Online Catalogue continues the work started in the printed volumes by publishing the collection online. In this way we can provide access to this unrivalled source to curious visitors, or to scholars studying the prosopography, philology, art history, economic, institutional and administrative history, and historical geography of the Byzantine Empire.