The History of Byzantine Coinage
Uses of Coins
Christianization of the Coin
Representation of Christ
Representation of the Virgin
The collection of Byzantine coins at Dumbarton Oaks is one of the largest (ca. 12,000 coins), and certainly the most comprehensive, that exists. It was assembled in quite a short period of time, between 1947 and 1960. Relatively few coins were acquired by the founders of Dumbarton Oaks, Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, before they established it as a scholarly institution and transferred it to Harvard University in 1940. However, it was their continued and generous support that allowed the collection to be built so quickly.

The first important group of coins, some 150 in number, came in 1947 as a gift of G. Howland Shaw (1893–1965), a friend of the Blisses who had been in the diplomatic service in the Near East. The real origins of the collection date to 1948, with the purchase of the splendid coin cabinet of Hayford Peirce (1883–1946), another family friend and cultivated amateur. His collection of over 4,300 coins included some 3,000 Byzantine specimens.

In 1950 Harvard University was bequeathed the large collection (ca. 4,000) of Byzantine coins by the art historian and archeologist Thomas Whittemore (1871–1950), best known for his work of uncovering the mosaics of Hagia Sophia in the 1930s. These are kept at the Sackler Art Museum in Cambridge, MA, with duplicates on loan to Dumbarton Oaks.

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