Many dictionaries state that the word “provenance” comes from the French word “provenir” (to come from), and is variously used to describe the origin or the source of something (wine and even fresh meat are two topical examples), or covers to the history of the ownership of an object (as in the case of art or collectibles).
In numismatic terms, a provenance provides a chronology of previous owners, and often the channel through which the item was purchased.
Documented evidence of provenance can help establish that a coin or note is genuine, has not been altered, and that it comes with good title.A provenance can not only establish the background to a coin, but it can confirm the importance that a coin had in the collections it was previously in, and also highlight the care and attention that previous owners accorded it.
A detailed and interesting provenance can significantly enhance a coin’s liquidity and market value.
The degree to which liquidity and market value is enhanced is determined by the status of the previous owners as collectors within the numismatic community, and also the degree to which the provenance can be proven.
Provenance of a coin or note can be recorded in a number of ways, nearly always through a dealer’s stock card or as a written entry in an auction catalogue, and less often in an introduction to an auction catalogue, or perhaps in the context of published research.
In an age when independent grading of coins is taking hold in Australia, and more buyers are choosing to only purchase coins that have original surfaces, a provenance that extends over a series of decades can provide some assurance that the condition of a coin remains as it was when owned a generation earlier, and further that it hasn’t been tampered with since then.