Fig. 1. Azeez Khayat at Haifa in 1931.

Copyright © 2011-2018 John N. Lupia III

Azeez Khayat (1875-1943), was born in Tyre, Lebanon (then Ottoman Syria) on January 1, 1875. He was an amateur archaeologist who excavated sites in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Greece as a treasure hunter who made a lucrative living through non academic digs. Critics unfairly and anachronistically refer to him as a grave robber, though he was neither an excavator with criminal intent nor of sacrilege, but rather, an aficionado of antiquities who made a living bringing many rare and important antique objects into the hands of serious collectors and museums. It was a period of history when excavations were not exclusive to Universities and their Archaeology Departments and a time of political change from Turkish Ottoman rule to French rule; when government permits for digs was neither as yet required nor enforced and when antiquities traded without restriction and restraint. His office in Tyre, southern Lebanon, was near the shore and ancient ruins in an area rich in antiquities, seals, cylinders, and coins. He came to America in 1893 and became a Naturalized Citizen on December 17, 1898.

Fig. 2. Advertisement in The Naturalist Directory (1894).

In America he found a market to sell his finds through his excavations and items found by others through art dealers and his own office at 55 West 11th Street, New York City, New York. He was also a correspondent with the Chapman Brothers and sold them ancient coins.

Fig. 3. Correspondence from Azeez Khayat to the Chapman Brothers postmarked December 11, 1898, just six days prior to his naturalization as an American citizen. Courtesy Lupia Numismatic Library, Special Collection, The Chapman Family Correspondence Archive.

On February 8, 1900 he read a paper, "Discoveries of Coins, Glass, and other Antiquities in Ancient Syria," at the Forty-Second Annual Meeting of the American Numismatic Society, New York. Khayat also donated two Roman terra cotta lamps and six pieces of ancient Phoenician glass to the American Numismatic Society at that meeting.

On February 12-13, 1903, he held his first known public auction of antiquities including ancient coins at The Fifth Avenue Art Galleries, 366 5th Avenue, New York City, New York.

Fig. 4. Advertisement for Khayat's auction of antiquities including ancient coins. Sun, Monday, February 9, 1903, page 4. Not in Gengerke.

On December 15-17, 1904 his second auction at the same Galleries was referred to as "The Annual Sale of the Azeez Khayat Collection" also including coins. However, his frequent importing of large collections of antique glass and ceramics soon led to his more frequent auction sales at the Galleries with his third sale held on February 14-16, 1905. These collections always contained numismatic items including coins, gems, cylinders, intaglios, and seals. His next auction at the Galleries was held November 29-December 1, 1906.

In the New York City Directory of 1906 his office was located at 20 West 34th Street.

On February 14, 1907 he sold some coins among other antiquities at auction through Thomas E. Kirby, Auctioneer, at the American Art Galleries, New York.

On February 12-13, 1908 he held what was titled his "Last Sale" auction through The Fifth Avenue Art Galleries, which included cylinder seals, coins, and gems. The prices realized totaled $12,182.00. Though far from Khayat's "Last Sale" we find more auctions of his collections held at The Fifth Avenue Art Galleries, next on December 4-5, 1908, once again called "Azzes Khayat's Annual Sale".

Fig. 5. Advertisement for another Khayat auction including coins at The Fifth Avenue Art Galleries. The New York Times, Sunday, November 28, 1909, page 52. Also not in Gengerke.

He also sold many collections of antiquities including some coins through Anderson Galleries, New York. Also not in Gengerke. Besides public auctions he began to sell his antiquities and coins through his shop beginning no later than January, 1911, at 366 Fifth Avenue, the same address as The Fifth Avenue Art Galleries. He soon advertised the following month in February that he was conducting "Private Sales" at that address to close out his inventory of glass and coins making reading for a new acquisitions voyage to Egypt. This sort of continual traveling to the Middle East, Greece, and Europe for new acquisitions became routine for Khayat who sold his artifacts through his shop and auction houses for many decades.

Fig. 6. The American Numismatic Society has a splendid sigillographic item ex-Khayat, a carnelian gem/seal engraved with an ancient seven-armed candelabrum or menorah flanked with a botryoid motif, i.e., a cluster or bunch of grapes on either side which is the insignia of the Temple of Jerusalem, donated by P. Romanoff in 1944 originally from the Azeez Khayat Collection in 1922. Accession No. St Gem. 0000.999.36807. Note the menorah is a most probably designed on Zechariah's lampstand.

In the New York City Directories from 1912 to 1949 his office was located at 366 5th Avenue. After his death in 1943 the office was managed by his family.

Bibliography :

The Naturalist Directory (1894).

New York City Directories from 1912 to 1949

The New York Times, Sunday, February 12, 1911, page 41

Proceedings of the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society, Issues 36-43

Hobbies, Vol. 67 (1962) : 56

Sidney M. Bergman, "Azeez Khayat (1875-1943) - A Noted Collector of Ancient Glass," Carnegie Magazine, Vol. 48, No. 10 (1974) : 238-244

Revue D'études Des Cantons de L'Est, (1992)

Martin Gengerke, American Numismatic Auctions