Coins Come Alive for Clain-Stefanelli

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  • The author begins the article with a short biography of the co-curator of the Smithsonian's National Numismatic Collection, Elvira Clain-Stefanelli: her birth in Rumania at the beginning of World War I, marriage to numismatist Vladimir Clain-Stefanelli, experience of a World War II concentration camp, and post-war emigration to the U.S. She had developed a keen interest in numismatics herself, and worked in commercial numismatic enterprises with her husband. He was named curator of the Smithsonian's Division of Numismatics in 1956, and she joined its staff in 1957; they expanded the numismatics collection from 64,000 items to almost 900,000 in 25 years, all through private donations.
  • In the interviews, Mrs. Clain-Stefanelli, along with expressing other opinions, gives special credit to commercial numismatists, who, unlike most academics in the science, must be familiar with all fields of numismatics; she is excited by the history of each coin; she expresses the need for the collection to be more complete by securing additional middle-priced pieces, but is disappointed by cost-cutting measures taking place which make her work more difficult.


  • Clain-Stefanelli, Vladimir
  • Clain-Stefanelli, Elvira E (Elvira Eliza)
  • American Numismatic Association
  • National Numismatic Collection
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.)
  • National Museum of American History (U.S.) (NMAH)
  • National Museum of History and Technology (U.S.) Division of Postal History


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


This article was written as a tribute to Elvira Clain-Stefanelli, winner of the American Numismatic Association's Farran Zerbe Memorial Award in 1996. The author includes the titles of works written by Mrs. Clain-Stefanelli, and lists the names of other awards given to her; he notes that she was awarded the Smithsonian's Gold Medal for Exceptional Service in 1973. The latter part of this article is material from the author's interviews, the majority of which first appeared in the April 1989 issue of LEGACY magazine (a publication of Heritage Rare Coin Galleries and Heritage Numismatic Auctions); additional interview segments were conducted on May 31, 1996.

Contained within

The Numismatist Vol. 109, No. 8 (Journal)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520,


August 1996


  • Women
  • Money
  • Awards
  • Coins
  • Farran Zerbe Memorial Award
  • Collectors and collecting
  • Museums
  • History
  • National Collections
  • Museum curators
  • Women--History


Washington (D.C.)

Physical description

pgs. 943-946 and 976-977

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