Alfred Danicourt’s Gallic coin collection

Alfred Danicourt, former mayor of Péronne, was one of those 19th century philanthropists who devoted their fortune to the purchase of archaeological objects, which they then donated to their fellow citizens. Inspired by Georges Vallois sous-préfet of Péronne (who wrote several erudite articles on the Somme and the Cher), Danicourt went even further once he was mayor, launching in 1874, the idea of creating Péronne’s first museum, financing its installation in half of the town hall in 1877, and then bequeathing all his collections to the town in his will in 1887 (some were kept in his Paris apartment in Place Vendôme).

Miraculously surviving two world wars, the Gallic coin collection, which today includes just over 400 coins in gold, silver, bronze and potin (called medals until the 19th century), was put together by Danicourt over a period of several decades. He relied on a network of contacts in the great auction houses of Europe, and was also already contributing to conservation by buying back many local finds. The tribes situated to the north of Paris are thus well represented (Ambiani, Bellovaci, Suessiones, Viromandui, Atrebates, etc.), but more broadly it is the coinage of all the Gallic peoples from the 3rd century BC to the 1st century AD, from Gallia Belgica to Gallia Narbonensis, which are on display in a state of conservation that is often remarkable.

In a letter to the Picardy Society of Antiquaries in 1879, Alfred Danicourt described to his colleagues the coin cabinet that he had created to showcase and classify his collection. On a 1m2 frame representing Gaul, the collector arranged several hundred compartments to hold the coins, classified on the map according to their attributed provenance. The entire collection was placed under plate glass and remained in Danicourt’s Paris apartment, and more specifically in his bedroom, until his death. 

In an article in the Revue Archéologique in 1886, Alfred Danicourt presented around twenty coins from his collection to his contemporaries. But this unique collection has become better known to us, above all, through the publications of Jean-Baptiste Colbert de Beaulieu, through Simone Scheers’ key work in 1977, Les monnaies gauloises de la collection A. Danicourt à Péronne [The Gallic Coins from the A. Danicourt collection in Péronne], (Cercle d’Etudes Numismatiques de Bruxelles) which inspired the current classification of the collection, and also through the Nouvel Atlas des Monnaies Gauloises (3 volumes, Editions COMMIOS, 2002-2007) established through the work of Louis Pol Delestrée and Marcel Tache. 

See the full history of the Musée Alfred-Danicourt in Péronne: