Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

Copyrighting individual coin descriptions

The e-Sylum reported yesterday on David Hewett's story on the auction description copyright lawsuit between Heritage and Superior.

Hewett's article shows examples where the same word patterns are used first in Heritage catalogs and then in Superior catalogs, for example in describing an 1879 gold Stella:

The regal beauty of this curious denomination has kept demand very high for an attractive example, such as the coin offered here, and many numismatists have long desired to own such a prize. However, the price of ownership seems to continue to outpace all but those who greatly desire and can afford the cost required to secure an example. Here is an opportunity for yet another collector to fulfill the dream of finally obtaining one of America’s most popular and unusual denominations ever produced.

Heritage, February 23, 2005


The regal beauty of this curious denomination has kept demand very high for an attractive example, such as the coin offered here, and many numismatists have long desired to own such a prize. However, the price of ownership seems to continue to outpace all but those who greatly desire and can afford the cost required to secure an example. Here is an opportunity for yet another collector to fulfill the dream of finally obtaining one of America’s most popular and unusual denominations ever produced.

Superior, September 29, 2006


The problem is that Superior hired an ex-Heritage cataloger, James Jones. It is difficult for a person not to sound like himself when describing the same coin type! This case reminds me of the famous "stealing from himself" lawsuit against rock singer/composer John Fogerty. In that case, a manager who owned part of an old song's copyright sued the singer for rights to a new song that sounded a lot like the old one.

Collectors want the descriptions of similar coins to look similar. If every cataloger put creativity into every description there would be no way to compare descriptions. For example, one of the examples in the suit uses “glossy chocolate-brown surfaces” to describe a colonial Vermont copper. We don't want one dealer using 'chocolate-brown', another using 'coffee', another using 'mocha', another using 'mahogany', etc.

For longer prose descriptions like the Stella quote above it may make sense to ban re-use of descriptions by catalogers who change firms. I don't know. I don't want a large settlement scaring other auction houses into bizarre sentence construction and new adjectives. (I'd also like to see catalogers get bylines on catalogs.)

Israel cracks down on delinquent diggers

A short item by Roger Atwood on Israel's demands that licensed diggers publish their findings. (via PhDiva, who notes that Egypt adopted a similar policy.)

Atwood's book on looting was recently remaindered and can be purchased cheaply at Oxbow books.

United States bans collecting of military medals

The United States banned collecting of military medals on December 20, 2006. It's illegal to purchase, sell, mail, ship, import, or export any service medal, badge, ribbon, or imitation.

A long article by David Hewett in the March issue of Maine Antique Digest covers the law and the response in the medal collecting community.

http://www.maineantiquedigest.com/articles/mar07/medals0307.htm

The anti-collecting law was part of the Stolen Valor Act, an attempt to ban the practice of fraudulently wearing unearned medals. The anti-collecting provisions were the result of over-zealous bill-writing. The article says the Orders and Medals Society of America (OMSA) had its members contact their representatives, which was almost successful -- there were promises of changing the wording of the bill to allow collectors and museums to continue acquiring the pieces. Unfortunately the law passed with the original anti-collector anti-museum wording.

The OMSA website carries further details.

I am surprised that this law was proposed, debated, and passed without my knowledge. I first learned of it this morning!

I do not support con men wearing imitation Purple Hearts but it should be legal for a soldier or heir to donate medals to the local history museum and send them the medal to the museum through the US mail. It should be legal to make and sell replica medals to Hollywood directors making war movies. Schools where they train engravers to make future medals should be able to obtain representative styles of medals. Why not just keep capitalism legal, and ban merely the practice of wearing a medal with intent to deceive?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

New accusations in Veliko Tarnovo Museum coin robbery


Michel van Rijn has a new post on the Veliko Tarnovo Museum robbery of last year, written by Arthur Brand. Van Rijn's site links to this blog because we wrote about Bulgarian reports last year. Brand's post claims to give the names of the robbers. It also claims the coins were moved through eBay sellers 'Pagane' and 'Silenos'.

A better source than this blog for details on the case is this FORVM post.

I haven't been keeping up with the story but there doesn't seem to be anything new other than Brand's accusations. Google has a new News Archive Search; searches there for /Veliko Tarnovo robbery/ offer few details. Most of the details are behind paywalls, and seem to be repostings of the material that came out early last year.

The Sofia Echo claims to have reported, in April, on calls for the museum director to step down. Apparently he did; in September the Echo suggested that the proposed new director of the museum, Hristo Haritonov, might be underqualified. That doesn't make any sense, because Mr. Haritonov was already the director! Perhaps the dates are wrong on the Echo's web site, or I misunderstood before and Mr. Haritonov did get a promotion in August.

(Mr. Haritonov is a numismatist and writer. His books include Coins in the Bulgarian Folk Culture (c. XV-XVII). He also wrote the paper “Semiotic Aspects of the Monetary Iconography in the Context of the Medieval Bulgarian Culture” which was published in the museum's journal.) I have never read these books and would be curious to know if they are highly regarded.)

Anyway, both the police and museum claim to have photos of the stolen coins. It should be a simple matter to check eBay's records. I would have preferred the release of the photos allowing the public to help in the search. Maybe Brand is wrong and the coins are still out there? It would be wonderful if Brand has cracked the case but I am skeptical. I don't recall these eBay dealers moving a better or different product than their usual offerings any time in 2006.

I look forward to more details as they are uncovered.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Harlan J Berk sale 153

Harlan J. Berk sale 153 is online. 442 ancient coins, plus antiquities.

The catalog arrived today. If there was an email announcing this sale I missed it.

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.

Hiding valuables in your home

A burglar offers advice on hiding valuables.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Gorny & Mosch auctions 155-7

Gorny & Mosch auctions 155, 156, and 157 catalogs are online. Auctions are held 5-8 March 2007.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Kolbe auction 102

The Kolbe auction 102 catalog is online. 707 numismatic books. Closes March 15th.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Books (non-numismatic)

Forbes: The 10 Most Expensive Books Of 2006 (via Books Found blog).

Half of the top ten were geographical works by classical authors!

There is a $10/month service called ScoutPal that allows you to look up Amazon Marketplace value of books and CDs from your cell phone.

Slang of the Book Trade: part one and part two, from the great new Bookride blog.