An Early Rothschild was a Cataloguer

In 1755, Mayer Amschel Rothschild’s parents both died. He was eleven years old, and had four younger brothers and sisters. He was sent to Hanover to stay with the Oppenheim family. In the six years he spent in Hanover,

he saw many wealthy and powerful men and their agents….How, he must have asked himself, did they use their money? What did they spend it on?…His specialty was old coins. In the days when he had helped his parents run their business he had learned to identify specimens which were unusual because of their fine moulding or antiquity…Some time in the 1760s, he begain supplying coins to [prince William of Hesse], always at bargain prices, sometimes at less than cost. He was not interested in immediate profit. He was building a relationship…In the meantime he set up in business as a general trader. The eighteen-year-old head of the family dealt in all kinds of cloth, in wine and skins, in anything brought by merchants to the fairs and markets of Frankfurt which might yield a profit, while at the time continuing to act as a money-changer. But…he had developed a taste for and a knowledge of luxury items affordable only by a discerning and wealthy clientele. So, year by year, he ploughed surplus cash into his side-line. Year by year, he produced a catalogue for his customers, describing the rare and beautiful objects which he could offer. And, year by year, these increased in variety and value. By 1783 he was able to offer besides coins, medals and prints, “several figurines, stone sculptures and framed pictures set with diamonds. If any art lover wishes to examine these items we will deliver them and arrange the lowest possible prices.” These catalogues were distributed to noble courts within a wide radius of Frankfurt…

(From “Rothschild: A Story of Wealth and Power,” by Derek Wilson, pgs 9-11, emphasis added.)

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