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Perry Collection

Perry the Collector

A photograph of Commodore Perry taken in 1852
(A photograph of Commodore Perry taken in 1852. Image from the Library of Congress.)
An Ottoman 1/2 altin from the Perry Collection (obverse)

Commodore Perry is an outstanding example of an early American coin collector. His hugely diverse collection included American and Canadian currency of his own day, Ancient Greek and Roman coins, early medieval and Byzantine pieces, and coins from all over the world from Europe to the Far East dating from the seventeenth century onwards.

Coins have been collected throughout history, but the study and collection of coins only took off in America during the mid-nineteenth century. In 1858 the American Numismatic Society was founded to promote and support coin collecting, and was followed by the establishment of the American Numismatic Association with a similar aim in 1891. Perry, collecting during the 1830s-50s, was thus one of the first American collectors to build up such a varied and substantial collection.

An Ancient Greek coin from the Perry Collection (reverse)

A few early coin dealers did exist in Perry's day, especially in New York where he lived for a substantial period of his life. Many of his modern coins, however, espeically his American coins, he could have taken straight out of circulation. Others he must have acquired during his long and prestigious naval career. As well as the famous trip to Japan in the 1850s, he travelled to the North Sea during the War of 1812, spent time on the African coast during the founding of Liberia, undertook a series of European voyages, and chased pirate and slave ships around the Caribbean. The wide date and denomination range of his collection suggests that Perry sought out specific coins rather than just collecting currency, showing that he was a careful and determined collector.

The links below will take you to pages where you can find out more about Perry's collection, or browse the highlights of his collection.

Commodore Perry's Collection

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Highlights from the Perry Collection

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Perry Collection Database

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