Nicoleta Demian


1 Ianuarie 2022

Cuvinte cheie:
monetary finds
coin dealers
the collection of National Museum of Banat
Ormós numismatic collection
Ormós Zsigmond



An outstanding personality of the political and cultural life in Banat in the 19th century (region – within the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy – known as the Southern Hungary), Ormós Zsigmond (February 20, 1813, Pecica, Arad county – November 17, 1894, Budapest) was a historian, art critic, collector, numismatist, politician, writer and Patron. While focusing on the public administration as a young man, Ormós worked his way up from the position of vice-notary to that of prefect of Timiş County (1871) and city of Timişoara (1875), his exceptional career of almost six decades ending with his retirement upon request in 1889. In 1861 he was elected the corresponding member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Philology and Art section, due to his literary merits. In May 1872, during the visit of emperor Franz Joseph to Timişoara, he was awarded with the small cross of the Order of St. Stephen (as a knighthood), and in 1883, on his 50th anniversary of public activity, he received the middle cross of the Leopold Order. He was the founder, protector and president of numerous scientific and cultural societies. In 1872, from his initiative, and given his support, they founded the Society of History and Archaeology in the Southern Hungary, the first scientific historical society which, by merging with the Museum Association in 1885 (founded in 1879, also at the initiative of Ormós), transformed into the Museum Society of History and Archeology (SMIA), whose museum is the forerunner of the National Museum of Banat in Timișoara (MNaB). The generosity of Ormos towards the museum in Timișoara was proved not only in the material and moral support provided (including the headquarters), but also in the donations he had made starting in the spring of 1889. In May 1893, the donations provided by Ormós consisted in more than 800 objects, 1200 books and magazines and 1500 documents and, considering the 251 paintings and objects in the gallery, more than 200 were donated by him. In the period between 1857 and 1860 he laid the foundations of his collection of paintings and began collecting archaeological objects and coins, thus in a few years he transformed from an amateur collector into a connoisseur. On the list suggesting the members of the Österreichische Numismatische Gesellschaft in Vienna (a society he had been connected to since 1879) one can notice his collection of Roman, Hungarian and South-Slavic coins. The numismatic collection of Ormós, although famous at the time and the most valuable of his collections, is also the least known nowadays. There is neither a published catalog of the collection except for the gold coins (but without illustrations), nor a work or monograph dedicated exclusively to it. Given my personal research in the historical archive of the MNaB and in the funds from the Timiș County Service of the National Archives of Romania (SJTANR), I present the structure of this collection, consisting primarily of monetary finds in the area of Banat but also from purchases from the European companies trading coins. Ormós expressed his preference for firms from Vienna: Brüder Egger Münzen und Antiquitäten Handlung, S. Egger und Compagnie and from German cities: Berlin - Julius Hahlo and Edmund Rappaport, München - Otto Helbing, dr. Eugen Merzbacher and Franz Josef Wesener, Frankfurt am Main - Adolf Hess. He kept in touch with the numismatists of the time: Dobóczky Ignác and Szuk Lipót from Budapest, dr. Franz von Raimann from Vienna, Dimitrie Alexandru Sturdza from Bucharest and others regarding different topics of numismatics, exchanges of coins, purchase prices etc. If in 1870 his numismatic collection included more than 4000 coins, in 1889 it reached over 9600 coins. We find the collection’s structure in a note dated November 3, 1889: 3574 „Roman” (imperial, republican) coins, 2665 Hungarian coins (the 12th - 19th century), 1447 so-called „international” coins, 1567 Friesach coins (from the hoard in Deta, discovered in November 1880), 153 medals (a number that refers exclusively to the medals kept separately from the coins suggesting various laic or religious representations) and 239 golden coins (ancient, Byzantine, medieval), a total of 9645 pieces. Ormós considered his numismatic collection a form of investment, its sale was meant to ensure some financial security after his retirement both for him and the children of his nephew, Ormós Zsigmond jr. In time, he often intended to sell his numismatic collection partially or in full: in 1888 and 1889 to Heinrich Egger, in 1891 to the Hungarian National Museum in Budapest. Finally, one year after the death of Ormós (in November 17, 1894), in October 7, 1895, SMIA decided to buy the collection of 9424 coins and the two numismatic cabinets where the collection was preserved at the price of 4500 forints. The most important numismatic collection in Banat at that time was saved from destruction by its complete purchase in November 23, 1895 by the museum from Timișoara, yet it suffered (like the entire numismatic collection of the museum) a high level of irretrievable loss in the first half of the 20th century. In 1904 the first large-scale theft was recorded in the history of the museum; Nagy József jr., the son of the museum’s employee, had stolen 49 golden coins (all these related to the Ormós collection) from the total of 235 exhibited ones and eight other golden coins and several of silver from the museum custodian’s desk drawer. The stolen coins have never been recovered. Other pieces, gold and silver coins and medals, disappeared at the end of the World War I, in the troubled days of autumn 1918. A delegate of the National Inspectorate of Museums and Libraries in Budapest took some small items from the museum’s collection, bought over the years from the annual subsidies received by the museum from the already mentioned Inspectorate, in order to transport them to Budapest. The fate of those pieces is currently unknown. During the World War II, following the bombardments in the centre of Timișoara, and the disruption of the city’s sewage system, two numismatic cabinets with coins from the museum’s collection (placed individually in small paper envelopes displaying the written information), sheltered in the basement of the Cultural Palace (today the Opera and Theatre Building), were flooded. Although the coins were physically recovered, the scientific information was lost forever through the destruction of the paper envelopes. The successive moves determined by the changes regarding the museum’s headquarters (in the Cultural Palace in 1937 and in the Huniade Castle, starting with 1950), the numerous re-organisations of the collection and the re-writing of the inventory registers (sometimes by unprofessional persons), influenced both the heritage and the museum’s records and the information about the provenance of the items in the old collection of the museum was lost. In this context, the preserved numismatic notes of Ormós Zsigmond are particularly precious. On one hand, they can lead to the further identification in the museum collection of some coins from the Ormós collection (with surprising results), on the other hand, they outline the portrait of a numismatic collector in the second half of the 19th century which – although located in a city on the edge of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy – was still connected to the European numismatic reality.