Saturday, December 30, 2006

Thieves steal valuable art for scrap metal

An anonymous UPI report shows thieves in the US stealing art treasures for scrap. Dozens of bronze scuptures by John T. Scott were stolen from a warehouse in eastern New Orleans.

(Hat tip: Art Law News).

More details are given in a Times-Picayune story by Doug MacCash, 'Famed sculptor falls prey to thieves'. A followup offers a $5000 reward for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the thieeif (sic).

Photos of Scott's art are shown on the Arthur Roger Gallery web site, and there is a nice page on Scott at the Tradtional Fine Arts Organization site.

Ancient coin collectors sometimes argue that we shouldn't respect the export laws of countries which nationalized undiscovered antiquities. By buying coins we save them from the melting pot.

Even with our brick warehouses and honest police detectives art is being stolen and melted in the USA.

It wouldn't be ethical, for example, for a German to buy and keep Scott's hacked up sculptures to save them from the furnace. So the policy shouldn't be “It's always worthy to acquire smuggled goods to save them from the pot.”

Nationalized undiscovered coins are somehow different enough from named modern sculptures that different ethics should apply.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Kolbe moving sale

George Kolbe Fine Numismatic Books is having a sale. The sale started on December 9th but I just found out about it.

A 16 page PDF catalog containing 1659 lots is online. Much of the material is highly obscure, specialist stuff, on ancient and modern coinage.

Mr. Kolbe is also offering 50% off many of his own titles, for orders before December 31st. This includes Elizabeth Savage's translation of Babelon's Ancient Numismatics and it's History, which describes all the important books of the 19th century. Highly recommended.

New Malter numismatic literature auction

Malter Galleries will be auctioning 332 lots, including many important ancient titles. Closing January 7th.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Lake Books numismatic literature auction

Lake Books sale 87 is now online. 476 lots of numismatic literature. Closing February 6. Only a fraction of the lots are about ancient coins.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Copper is the new gold

USA Today reports: New rules outlaw melting pennies, nickels for profit.

People used to believe in Gresham's Law, which says “When there is a legal tender currency, bad money drives good money out of circulation”. That 'law' no longer applies — no one has the time to hoard cents and nickels. USA Today reports that a zinc cent contains 1.12 worth of metal, a 5¢ nickel is worth seven cents. The mint doesn't pay the full value for the cent — they are locked into futures contracts.

The new law makes it a crime for travellers to carry more than $5 of nickels, although $100 (face) can be shipped. Why is it a crime to hand-carry $6 of nickels but legal to ship them?

Suppose a Canadian coin dealer brings 200 nickels to a US coin show. Is it really illegal for him to bring them back in his car if he doesn't sell them? The article says violators face five years in prison. That seems like a long time. Probably violators wouldn't get that for just three nickel rolls.

The US Department of justice reports median sentencing of 4 years for rapists, 3 years for robbers, and 9 months for assault. Carrying too many pennies is more like assault than like raping/robbing, so the five years sentence will probably be unusual and reserved for the really hardened melters.

I grew up in the 70s and remember pamphlets warning me the government might declare gold illegal for US citizens to hold again, as in 1933. The fear mongers were right, just about the wrong metal. Copper is the new gold.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The New York Sale

The New York Sale auction XIV catalog is online, and includes 494 ancient coins. The auction will be held January 10th, at the New York International.

Lot 93 caught my eye. It's an 520-500 BC obol of Athens.

Google and Microsoft books searching

The Classics in Contemporary Culture blog has put together lists of Google Books on Greek and Latin literature.

(via rogueclassicism)

I've been annotating the Historia Numorum bibliography with Google Books entries, for much the same reasons. Google Books is hard to search.

Google books now has competition from Microsoft. TeleRead reported last week that Microsoft's engine can already be searched using It works. I didn't find much there, although the British Library is supposed to be onboard.

Microsoft's search led me to Berlin banker to California numismatist, 1887-1987: oral history transcript / 1983-1987, a 326 page interview with dealer Edward Gans, founder of Numismatic Fine Arts. (Text starts about page 11).

The copyright page on the Gans manuscript clearly says the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley owns the rights. Written permission is needed for quoting and publishing. Presumably the and/or Microsoft obtained these rights? I know of no way to check. It's an interesting historical document. Probably a copy should be at the ANS library, as Gans mentions the ANS and Newell a lot. Would it be breaking the law to print a copy for the ANS library?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Portable Antiquities Scheme

The Portable Antiquities Scheme, which records all archeological objects found in England and Wales, has partnered with eBay UK in an attempt to stop sales of unregistered treasure.

The Ancient Coin Collectors Guild has sent a letter to the Scheme expressioning concerns. The text of the letter is available on the ACCG web site.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

One Year Blogging

A Gift for Polydektes is one year old this week. I've done 125 posts, so about 1 post every three days. The subject matter is computers, numismatics, and digital numismatics.

I'd like to post more frequently, but I'm having a hard time finding great things to write about or link to. Most blogs link to important stories on other blogs, but there aren't many coin blogs. Wayne Sayles has some good stuff on his blog, but his posts are not frequent. The most recent is Beware the encroachment of dilettantes, about the value of amateur authors, and is worth reading.

Ed Flinn's HobbyBlog is the only ancient coin blog with regular content. Mr. Flinn posts an ancient coin with discussion nearly every day. My favorite are his coins of Anemourion featuring Artemis wrapped as a mummy (second specimen) because that coin is one of my favorite types.

Sometimes I see something that is so great I want to share it, even though it has nothing to do with coins. Professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka has created some new motion illusions, including an amazing graphic of waving purple sweet potatoes. These images appear animated, but are not.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Egyptian government forcibly ejecting 3,200 families from their homes

I don't discuss current politics here. I doubt my readers care what I think about electronic voting machines, Supreme court decisions, or mid-term elections. However, these articles might be of interest.

The Egyptian government is forcibly confiscating the homes of 3,200 families in al-Qurna town, some of whom have lived on the spot for 1000 years. Their crime? Living in homes above archeological sites.

I am not expert in archeology, urban planning, or law. Perhaps these evictions are good? Yet it seems cruel to eject families from their homes merely to allow other people to dig up the town looking for stuff. If the land is valuable, why not offer to buy it from the residents? This forced eviction has been the life dream of 'Zahi Hawass, Egypt's head of antiquities' (according to the Al Jazeera story which runs without a byline). Mr. Hawass claimed that 'archaeology is regaining its rights here'. It seems unlikely to me that archaeology had rights in the past! I suspect 'archaeology' is getting new rights.

I wonder any of the 10,000 displaced citizens had any 'life dreams' that involved keeping their homes?

(quotes from articles linked above)

'We have been living here for a thousand years,' said another resident, Alaa Ahmed, a local tour guide and one of al-Qarna's younger residents.

The government began trying to get the families to leave after World War II, but talks repeatedly bogged down. Many residents, who depend on Luxor's tourist business to earn livings, argued that new homes being offered were too small and didn't come with new jobs.

In an effort to preserve the ancient tombs, the authorities prohibited the homeowners from adding to their residences or installing modern plumbing, which forced people to bring water uphill using donkeys.

Elina Paulin-Grothe, an archaeologist involved in tomb excavation, said the best way to preserve the artifacts below is to move the residents.

Zahi Hawass, Egypt's head of antiquities, said: 'The fact that archaeology is regaining its rights here is the dream of my life. Hidden treasures are there.'

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Fun While it Lasted: My Rise and Fall in the Land of Fame and Fortune

Google has scanned Bruce McNall's book Fun While it Lasted. I mentioned this book last year. Now you can search it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Picture Book of Ancient Coins

The Million Book Project, now called The Universal Library Project, brings us another book on ancient coins.

Picture Book of Ancient Coins (1960), by Fred Reinfeld and Burton Hobson, 64 pages.

This book is part of the 'Visual History Series' and seems to be written for school children. The PDF file provided by the Archive is black-and-white and the coin images are just black blobs.

I couldn't find the original high-resolution scans, and thus can't re-encode this as a grayscale PDF. This is bad news for the Archive -- if people are to use art books, the Archive must provide them in grayscale.