The beginnings: Adolph Hess and his successors

Adolph Hess

At the first of February 1871 a new numismatic publication called Autographierte Numismatische Correspondenz appeared in Frankfurt am Main. The editor was the numismatist and merchant Adolph Hess, who had opened a small coin store in Giessen the year before. The new publication served as his first printed stock list. On October 5th, Hess moved his business to Frankfurt, first to Höllgasse 6 near the Dom, and finally in 1873 to Bethmannstraße 6, where he started to hold public coin auctions.

Hess was a great connoisseur and collector of small works of art, especially of portraits from early Baroque to late Biedermeier. Therefore his coin operation was directly related to his personal hobby. His profound expertise as well as his numerous connections within collector circles soon led the young business to remarkable prosperity. In the seventies and eighties of the 19th century several large and very important collections from all over Europe as for example the famous collection of the Princes Montenuovo were consigned to Hess auctions. Many of his auction catalogues serve as works of reference until today.

In 1894 Hess sold his business, which had moved Westendstrasse 7 by then, to the merchant Louis Hamburger and his son in law, the banker James Belmonte. In the course of the following decade Hamburger and Belmonte succeeded in making the firm under its new name Adolph Hess Nachfolger to one of the most important numismatic auction houses in Germany at the turn of the century. In 1898 they moved to new and larger quarters at Mainzer Landstrasse 49, where the business remained until 1940. Until the beginning of the First World War a number of highly important auctions took place there as for instance the sale of the Eremitage doubles from St. Petersburg. 1910 Dr. Hermann Feith became partner in the firm. Together with James Belmonte, who died in 1924, Feith led the business through the war and the difficult years of the world economic crisis. His main interest was ancient Greek and Roman coins. The leading position in this field, which Adolph Hess Nachfolger acquired during the twenties, is mainly due to him.

Founding of the affiliated company in Switzerland

Dr. Busso Peus

With remarkable foresight Feith, by the time sole owner of the business, saw what was going to come as early as 1931 and opened a second branch of the firm at Luzern in Switzerland. 1933, immediately after the Nazi conquest of power in Germany, the department of ancient and foreign coins retired to Luzern together with all Jewish members of the firm. A substantial part of the firm´s important numismatic library moved to Switzerland as well, to return to Frankfurt and to be sold there only after the closing of the Swiss branch in 1989. At the same time the remaining department of medieval and modern German coins was sold to the young head of the respective department, Dr. Busso Peus, who had joined the firm in 1927, and to the firm´s chief accountant Paul Rothenbächer. The administration of the business in Luzern was entrusted to Hermann Rosenberg, who became first co-owner and in the course of the years sole owner of this part of the firm Hess Nachfolger. Dr. Hermann Feith himself went to New York, where he continued to buy and sell ancient coins and to serve the fast growing American market from his private suite at the Waldorf Astoria, until he died there in a tragic accident several years later.

Until 1940 Dr. Busso Peus and Paul Rothenbächer could continue business under the name of Adolph Hess Nachfolger and at the old address. Then a new Nazi law banned even former Jewish firm names. Thereafter the business had to change its name into Dr. Busso Peus & Co. At the same time Peus and Rothenbächer had to leave the old premises and to move to Schubertstrasse 1. Finally, in 1943, both owners were drafted and the business activites had to be temporarily interrupted.

Paul Rothenbächer did not return from the war. So Dr. Busso Peus after his release from captivity and the monetary reform resumed business alone at about 1950. From 1956 he moved the business to his home at Neuhaußstraße 13. Here the great numismatist continued the successful pre-war tradition of his firm into the fifties and sixties. His auction catalogues of the Lejeune- and the Noss-Collection have become works of reference in their own right.

The development into an internationally recognized firm

Dieter Raab (Foto: J. Zeitz)

In 1967 Dr. Busso Peus retired and sold the firm to two young numismatists, Dieter Raab and Peter N. Schulten. Since then the firm bears the name Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger. 1970 the firm moved to its present location at Bornwiesenweg 34. In 1973 Peter N. Schulten left the firm.

Until the end of 2006 Dieter Raab remained sole owner of Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger. With almost 40 years of uninterrupted professional activity Dieter Raab has served longer at the head of this firm than any other owner before him. Under his management the firm could not only maintain its leading position within Germany but gained also a constantly growing importance at the international market. During this period numerous leading experts have worked for the firm and contributed to the well known scientific quality of its catalogues. They were assisted in their task by the firms large and since 1870 meticulously kept file cabinet with regard to the appearance of rare coins and medals at the market, apparently the most comprehensive of its kind, and by the largest numismatic library in private ownership worldwide. Therefore some of the catalogues composed by members of the firm as for example the catalogue of the famous Bonhoff-Collection of German medieval coinage have once more reached the character of handbooks. Moreover, apart from its commercial importance, the firm has gained a growing reputation as a centre for numismatic research and study. Apart from the sales-catalogues many significant numismatic studies have been composed at the premises or with the resources of Dr. Busso Peus Nachfolger.

Present and future

Christoph Raab

After the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany the firm has been entrusted by the federal government with the public sale of the assets of the former German Reichsbank, consisting on the one hand in coins and bills of the former German Democratic Republic and on the other hand in devaluated stocks and bonds, that had been collected there during the war years. The latter part of this huge task is not yet finished.

Since the beginning of the year 2007 ownership of the firm has passed into the hands of Dieter Raab´s son Christoph. Christoph Raab is going to lead the firm into the future in accordance with its great tradition of almost 150 years in the service of the numismatic community, collectors and scholars alike.