Copyright 2011-2018 John N. Lupia, III

The house of Hamburger sold coins at Uhlandstrasse 56, Frankfurt am Main, Germany from 1864 to 1929. However the firm at the original address went through two phases of its history. The first phase headed by Leopold Hamburger until his death in 1902. During this first phase or first period the House of Hamburger traded as L. & L. Hamburger being that of Leopold and his cousin Leo Hamburger. The second phase or period came after the death of Leopold from 1902 to 1903 when his son Joseph apparently fought a dispute over control of the business and Leo Hamburger broke off opening shop at Scheffelstrasse, Frankfurt a. M. The dissolution of L & L Hamburger was made clear in the adjacent advertisements published in the July 1905 issue of Frankfurter Münzzeitung. From January 1, 1904-1933 the firm of Leo Hamburger thrived at Scheffelstrasse 24, Frankfurt a. M.

Leopold Hamburger (1836-1902), founder of the establishment jointly held auctions trading as L & L Hamburger since 1875 with Leo Hamburger (1846-1929), his the cousin. Leopold Hamburger had a son Joseph Hamburger (1874-1929), who took over his father's share of the firm after his death on February 12, 1902. Leopold is buried at Alter Jüdischer Friedhof, Frankfurt am Main. In 1906 the firm had a branch office in Berlin at Hafenplatz 3 run by Madame Loewen. In January 1912, Leo Hamburger took on three partners who were all relatives : Felix Joel Schlessinger (1879-1944), son-in-law David Nussbaum (1871-1941), and Moses Schnerb (1863-1937). The partnership of L. & L. Hamburger ended on January 26, 1929 upon the death of Joseph Hamburger and by that of Leo Hamburger on February 16, 1929. Leo's relatives Felix J. Schlessinger and son-in-law David Nussbaum and later on by his grandson Hans Nussbaum (1902-1939) took over the establishment. Schlessinger soon left opening his own office at Berlin. In 1933, Hans Nussbaum fled Germany during the Nazi pogrom and worked from an office in the renown Bank Leu in Zurich, Switzerland. His final coin auction at Leo Hamburger was on April 3, 1933, selling Greek coins and coins of Sicily. After that sale the firm of Leo Hamburger came to an end. Hans Nussbaum took refuge at Zurich. Sadly, he was killed in a plane crash in February 1939 at Senlis, Switzerland. His father David sold off his coin inventory after his death at Bahnhofstrasse 32, Zurich, Switzerland. David Nussbaum died on May 17, 1941 at Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Leopold Hamburger (1836-1902), was born on June 1, 1836 at Hanau am Main, Germany, son of Sephardic Jewish immigrants from Portugal Josef Emmanuel Hamburger and Dorchen Hamburger. He began his career working for the banking and money exchange brokerage firm which also sold antique coins, J. N. Oberndörffer at Munich, established 1829, run by Samson Oberndörffer (1791-1866), who headed the firm and his brother Joseph Nathan Oberndörffer (1793-1866). Leopold Hamburger began working there about 1850 or perhaps after the death of Kele Oberndörffer (-1851), in January 1851, the Lebanese wife of Samson Oberndörffer. Leopold Hamburger's co-worker and fellow apprentice at Munich was Heinrich Aufhäuser (1842-1917), who later established his own bank, and who was related to Oberndörffer. Eventually Hamburger headed the branch office at Vienna, Austria, where he also sold besides antique coins, minerals and other items typical of the old world curiosity cabinet. He established his own concern as early as 1861 in Vienna working as a mineral and coin dealer. In 1864, at the age of 28, he transferred the business opening the coin shop at Frankfurt am Main taking on a partnership with the old time book dealer Hermann Joseph Bäer (1811-1881). In the early days Adolf-Emil Cahn (1839-1918), worked as an apprentice for Hamburger eventually leaving in 1890 to form the House of Cahn at Frankfurt, which competed with Hamburger's establishment.

Franz B. Döpper, Frankfurt und seine alten Firmen (Deutsche Großstädte im Spiegel der Wirtschaftsgeschichte. Band 8, 1991) relates the establishment of various coin firms in Frankfurt. Adolf Hess (1846-1912), moved his shop from Giessen to Frankfurt in 1872 and competed with Hamburger as a numismatic auction house. From 1889-1910 Eugen Seligmann held a coin shop at Frankfurt. Later on Sally Rosenberg opened her shop at Frankfurt in 1899.

Soon after opening shop at Frankfurt Hamburger was recognized as an important numismatist. In July 1869 he traveled back to Vienna to attend the much celebrated auction of the Graf von Klebelsberg collection held by his old acquaintance Georg Kraus. On February 6, 1871, he married Caroline Gutel Rothschild (1849-1925). They had five children : Caecelie (1871-1943), Hedwig (1873-1874), and Joseph (1874-1929); Dorchen (1876-), and Mathilde (1878-). In August 1871 Hamburger and his partner held their first auction. In 1875, his cousin, the 29 year-old Leo Hamburger also joined him in partnership. The firm of L & L Hamburger began publishing the coin journal Allgemeine numismatische Blätter.

As the Frankfurt numismatic market expanded by 1906 the Frankfurter Numismatische Gesellschaft was established. Joseph Hamburger was a charter member of the Frankfurt Numismatic Society.

Joseph Hamburger, Leopold's son and successor was born on September 11, 1874. On July 25, 1907 Joseph Hamburger married Emilie Mases. Leopold Hamburger died at Frankfurt am Main on February 12, 1902, at the age of 65.

Leopold Hamburger was a very devout Jew and loved Jewish history which led him to amass antique Palestinian coins and travel to the Holy Land. [1] At his death he is reported to have owned the largest collection of antique Palestinian coins known. He bequeathed his collection to the British Museum. His expertise on Palestinian coins resulted in two published works, which undoubtedly were inspired by the 1873 seminal dissertation of Eugen Merzbacher. Leopold Hamburger's two studies are : Die Silber-Münzprägungen während des letzten Aufstandes der Israeliten gegen Rom. (Zeitschrift für Numismatik. Berlin, Volume 18, 1892); and, Die beiden palästinensischen Münzstätten Nikopolis-Emmaus.

The firm of L. & L. Hamburger auctioned hundreds of notable collections of European nobles during its 54 years in partnership. For example, in 1875 they auctioned the collection of Count Heinrich Stecki.

A noteworthy sale of German coins and medals of this partnership was the auction of Baron Hugo von Saurma-Jeltschheld on February 21, 1898, and the following days. On October 24, 1898, also was a cabinet of antique German coins but it also had many Italian rarities. On January 7, 1902, and the following days they sold the collection of the renowned Italian numismatist Ercole Gnecchi of Milan. A second Ercole Gnecchi of Milan auction was held January 12, 1903 and the following days.

Fig. Leo Hamburger opened his own shop on Schefflestrasse 24, Frankfurt a. M. Advertisement in The Numismatist, January (1910) : 30

Leo Hamburger (1846-1929), was born at Hanau, Germany in 1846. He began working as a young man at the metal firm of Philip Anton Cohn, Frankfurt, a. M. He developed an interest and knowledge of Italian and Swiss numismatics and entered the firm of his cousin Leopold Hamburger probably between 1870 and 1875, though some historians prefer the latter date. Beginning in 1910 Leo Hamburger kept another branch coin shop on Scheffelstrasse 24, Frankfurt a. M., which was independent of Joseph Hamburger and the partnership L & L Hamburger. By January 1912 Leo Hamburger took on three partners aforementioned : Schlessinger, Nussbaum and Schnerb.

Fig. Prices realized of Leo Hamburger's coin auction sale of November 21, 1910. The Numismatist, January (1911) : 7

On December 16, 1907, Hamburger auctioned the collection of Greek and Roman coins and medals of the renown classicist, Professor Ernst Curtius of Bonn.

In 1909, Joseph Hamburger donated coin auction catalogues of the firm to the ANA Library.

Leo Hamburger handled several coin auction sales of Adolf Iklé (1852-1923), a German businessman who lived in England and St. Gall, Switzerland, and was a member of the Swiss Numismatic Society (Schweizerischen Numismatischen Gesellschaft) in 1899, amassing vast coin and medal collections over decades of buying the best material. This was Leo Hamburger's forte, Swiss and Italian numismatics making him the ideal dealer to handle the Iklé collections.

Fig. Prices realized of Leo Hamburger's coin auction sale of the collection of Adolf Iklé (1852-1923), held on May 23, 1910.

The Numismatist, August (1911) : 281

On September 22-23, 1913, Hamburger held an auction at Frankfurt on Main of the collection of Maurice Faure, which contained many rare Italian Renaissance medals.

On April 28-29, 1914, Hamburger's auction sold many Swiss rare coins and medals.

Fig. Hamburger correspondence with Henry Chapman, Jr., postmarked February 15, 1923, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

Acknowledgements :

Thanks to David Fanning for pointing out reference to John Spring, Ancient Coin Auction Catalogues 1880-1980 (Spink, 2009)


[1] E. Petry, "Leopold Hamburger und Sigismund Simmel : zwei fruhe deutsche Zionisten in Palastina," in H. Hausmann, ed., Der Traum von Israel : Die Ursprunge des Modernen Zionismus. (Weinheim, 1998) : 89-107. Perhaps a bit anachronistic projecting contemporary militant Zionism on a rather peaceful intellectual as Leopold Hamburger.

Auctions :

Katalog- Sammlung des Herrn Maurice Faure, Paris u. A., Florentiner und sonstige italienische Munzen und Medaillen; alte Kunstmedaillen und Plaketten; Auktion am 22 und 23 September 1913 - Frankfurt am Main.

Bibliography :

The Numismatist, December (1894) : 277

The Numismatist, May (1896) : 110

Frankfurter Münzzeitung, 12 Februar, 1902

Spink Numismatic Circular, April (1902) : 5276

Frankfurter Münzzeitung, July (1905)

The Numismatist, March (1908) : 89

The Numismatist, January (1909) : 14

The Numismatist, July (1909) : 215

The Numismatist, March (1912) : 90

Monatsblatt (1914) : 109

The Numismatist, February (1915) : 65

The Numismatist, April (1929) : 242 Leo Hamburger obit

John Spring, Ancient Coin Auction Catalogues 1880-1980 (Spink, 2009) : 100-109