The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 8, February 23, 2014, Article 20


In the February 22, 2014 e-newsletter of the Künker auction house is a profile of collector Georg Baums, whose medal collection is being offered by the firm. -Editor

Georg Baums I have known Georg Baums for more than four decades now, and an interested and curious customer has in that period become a friend. He has racked up notable success not only as a collector, but also in his career as an advertising professional. A partner in the advertising agency Baums, Mang and Zimmermann, with over 100 employees, he was from 1971 to 1990 an independent entrepreneur in Düsseldorf. When his company BMZ was sold in 1990 to the international advertising group Publicis, he initially became head of the German branch and was later given responsibility for Austria and Switzerland as well. As Georg Baums left active professional life in 2000 at the age of 65, “his” company had more than 1,000 employees in Germany only.

Georg Baums didn’t let his busy life prevent him from buying interesting items and adding them to his collection. He wanted to know more, and once expressed it himself in the following manner: “It’s not collecting in the way that honey bees do it. With real collecting, the work doesn’t begin until the item is won. Which stories are there to be found... what the symbols and pictures mean... which other objects have some connection. Investigations, research, examination. That process will not follow the same pattern immediately with each object, nor with the same classification scheme, but in the course of the collection’s life, the mosaic pieces come together more and more to form a whole.”

The medal collection on offer in this catalogue represents the second numismatic project which Georg Baums has entrusted to us for auction. Over more than three decades Georg Baums assembled a significant collection of “siege coins”, which also contained historic medals under the heading “war and peace”. This collection was sold during the 116th auction of the House of Künker on 27 September, 2006 which was, according to Georg Baums, also a major success for the collector.

Through this first focus, Georg Baums was already well acquainted with medals and their specific historic and artistic significance. As a medal collector, however, he no longer wanted to limit himself to a specific subject, but rather to get to know the entire historical span of medals from the Renaissance up to the present, and collect based on various subjects which he personally enjoyed.

Over the centuries, one thing has been generally applicable to medals: within the narrow space which the medal – by its nature as a small object – sets for the artist, he must introduce the subject in such a way that the observer immediately recognizes the subject or historical personality, and is prompted to desire further knowledge. It is the necessity of reduction to the essentials which imparts to the medal its special charm, when the artistic goal is met.

The medal’s origin in the 15th century Italy, whence it spread throughout Europe, represents during the Renaissance for a century simultaneously the period of the greatest artistic blossoming of this miniature artform. Thus in large museums, medals of the Renaissance are rightfully collected and displayed. But the medal collector Johann Wolfgang von Goethe had already established that the originals of Renaissance medals were only rarely to be found on the market. Goethe therefore pronounced himself satisfied with recasts of pieces which interested him. As with so many other collectors, Georg Baums actually wanted to collect only originals. The Renaissance period is thus represented by only a few examples.

Baums became fascinated repeatedly by various subjects, as was the case with a silver medal from 1702, coined on the occasion of the introduction of streetlamps in Leipzig, a discovery at an auction in Zurich. In the course of one decade Georg Baums assembled a collection of more than 1,000 medals. This brought him great pleasure, a phenomenon which must remain unknown to non-collectors. Besides his interest in history he has also attained knowledge and insights which can be valuable to other collectors.

A collection of historical objects never reaches an endpoint. Some objects are only to be found in museums and cannot be bought. But one’s own lifetime creates limits for each collector. My colleague and friend Bernhard Schulte of Basel, who died much too early, once put it so: “All objects which we acquire are really only on loan, either for our lifetime or until they are sold during our lifetime. The price which we pay is a kind of loan fee, which is however more than worth paying in return for the pleasure we receive from the object.” p>

The next article shows some of the highlights of the Baums medal sale. -Editor

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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