Thursday, February 08, 2007

Numismatic literature

This month's Celator contains a full-page 'People in the News' segment on new firm Douaglas Saville Numismatic Books. Kerry Wetterstrom talks highly of Saville's FPL No. 1.

A highlight of the FPL is the complete set of 17 Ars Classica/Naville auction catalogs bound in eight volumes (£2200). Kerry Wetterstrom, apparently quoting Saville, calls this series the “single most important series of auction sales relating to Greek coins ever published.”

I wonder why? Although I've seen the catalogs in person at Charles Davis's NYINC booth I've been afraid to open them up and look at them. What makes them worth $200 each?

These catalogs have about 1500-3500 lots and 30-100 plates. That was a lot of photographs for their day, but modern catalogs reach that. Modern catalogs are in color and free.

Some auction catalogs are purchased by literature collectors who want the catalog as an object. I am interested in catalogs for the information they carry. A finite budget forces me to be selective. How shall I choose which old catalogs to acquire?

Warren Esty's site discusses the merits of ancient coin auction catalogs. Mr. Esty has done a great service to the coin collector by inventing a series of codes to compactly describe the focus of ancient coin auction catalogs. For each catalog in his collection he tells us how many Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Celtic coins are presented. He has also invented codes for the quality of the coins inside (he uses MV, HV, and VHV, which mean $, $$, and $$$!) and for the presentation of the catalog (photography, printing, etc). If a catalog has a special focus (a city or denomination) he calls that out.

I wish book dealers would adopt Mr. Esty's codes.

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