Friday, October 31, 2008

UK export rules for coins

A few months ago there was some discussion on the ancient coin blogosphere about UK export rules for ancient coins — are they antiquities or numismatic or both?

The UK Museum Libraries and Archives Council has a downloadable booklet, Guidance to exporters of antiquities (including numismatic items), which says that Article 2(2) of the EC Regulation on the export of cultural goods (Number EEC 3911/92) allows member states to exclude objects of limited archaeological importance. It goes on to say:
5. The UK has decided to exercise its discretion under Article 2(2) by excluding the following categories of archaeological objects as being of limited archaeological or scientific interest:
(a) numismatic items of a standard type which are published in a reference work on numismatics;
(b) objects, other than numismatic items, which possess no special or rare features of form, size, material, decoration, inscription or iconography and which are not in an especially fine condition for the type of object.
... with some additional rules about being lawfully on the market, etc.

Thus nearly all ancient coins don't fall under the strict rules suggested by the EU regulation.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

New documents from the EU's COINS project

The EU's project to combat numismatic fraud and looting has released new PDFs and Excel spreadsheets describing their work. There is a lot of stuff, including screenshots of the software, and I haven't been through it all yet.

BMC Pontus free download

BMC Vol. 12 Pontus, Paphlagonia, Bithynia and Kingdom of Bosporus, by Warwick Wroth, 1889: Preface, Contents, Introduction, Coins, Indexes, Plates from Google Book Search.

Tenedos Island museum awaits its visitors

Vercihan Ziflioğlu reports for Turkish Daily News on a local history museum in Bozcada, Thenedos, Turkey. (This is the island that was called Tenedos in ancient times. The ancient coins featured a double "Janiform" head (facing forward and back like the Roman god Janus) and a double axe.)

Ziflioğlu reports that Hakan Gürüney, the museum's founder, "has not been permitted to exhibit the ... coins from ancient times ... and other archeological relics he has purchased" ("despite being registered as collector of archaeological works with the Istanbul Archeology Museum"). "Because of that, he took photos of the artifacts and put them on display in the museum."

Gürüney's museum isn't state-operated. "Gürüney then decided to open a local history museum on the area he purchased in Bozcaada. He started the construction together with his wife and completed his dream museum in 2006. He meticulously placed each object he had collected in the museum and opened its doors to visitors."

Turkish citizens seem uninterested in the museum. "... lack of interest in the museum has been frustrating both for [Gürüney] and his supporters. Left to its destiny, the museum opens its doors only in summers and certain holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Its only frequenters are the granddaughters and grandsons of Bozcaada's erstwhile Greek residents who have migrated to Greece in the past decades." "... tour companies do not include visits to the museum on their sightseeing programs because they do not want to pay the YTL 2 [two Turkish New Lira, about US$1.30] price for a ticket."

Commentary: If all ancient "Turkish" coins are cultural treasures and cannot be exported because they are important to the national feelings of the Turkish people why is it illegal to show them to Turkish citizens in a Turkish museum? Ancient coins from Tenedos use the Greek alphabet to the place name and I know there are some hard feelings associated with Greek elements in Turkish history. I don't know a lot about modern politics of the region. Are bans on public displays of ancient coins in museums and bans on exports to American collectors and museums part of the same pattern or am I associating two unrelated policies?

Hoard of Roman coins declared treasure

A story by Laura Hannam in MK News reports on a hoard of 1400 bronze Roman coins, discovered in 2006, and recently declared treasure.
"It was about 5.30pm at this time of year so it was pitch black and we couldn't see a thing," added Mr Phillips.

"We laid on our bellies and kept pulling out coins.

"It is difficult to explain how you feel when you are finding coins left, right and centre.


The hoard has since been identified by the British Museum as dating from the 4th century AD.
(via Rogue Classicism)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

BMC Attica free download

BMC Attica - Megaris - Aegina (1888), by Barclay Head, from Google's scan of Harvard's library.

I scanned the plates from my own copy a few years ago. I hope to cross-reference my plates with Google's soon.

Ancient Greek Numismatics: A Guide to Reading and Research on sale at HJB

A recent flyer from Harlan J. Berk offered copies of William Daehn's Ancient Greek Numismatics: A Guide to Reading and Research for $29. The price elsewhere is $75.

This book offers summaries of most English-language articles and books on Greek coins. I recommend it to anyone who wants to research Greek coins or who buys numismatic books sight-unseen and needs to know which ones are appropriate for a particular collecting focus.

Although easy to use this book can be frustrating to operate at home because it points out tantalizing sources that are expensive or unobtainable.

What in-copyright numismatic books are being digitally pirated?

I have seen bootleg copies of
  • RIC (all volumes together, on eBay and also BitTorrent),
  • Bulletin on Counterfeits (all ISBCC issues, on eBay),
  • and SNG Berry (someone sent me this in the mail).
I urge my readers to post (anonymously if necessary) naming other works being passed around the numismatic file-sharing underground.

I'm curious to know which works are considered to be worth the effort of scanning.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The end of 'snippet view'?

Google announces a settlement with The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers. The $125 million agreement is the result of two years of negotiations.

The bulk of the money will be funneled through a new non-profit, the Book Rights Registry. Copyright holders can register to receive cash from future book sales (!!!) and ad revenues and a cash payment if Google has already scanned the book.

I hope and pray for the Book Rights Registry to include a 'print on demand' feature for out-of-print books. I loath paying some dealer 5x or 10x over the cover price with nothing going to the author.

(via InfoWorld).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New Greek coinage books

Van der Dussen is offering some interesting new books, including Ann Johnson on Greek Imperial Denominations, ca. 200-275 (83 euros) and a new SNG of Greek bronze: SNG Belgium: Bibliothèque royale de Belgique; La collection de bronzes de Marc Bar. The Belgian SNG includes 1373 bronze coins on 196 plates. Van der Dussen is charging 115 euros but the library web site says 98 euros.

Two upcoming events in NYC @ ANS plus exhibition

On Tuesday November 11th François de Callataÿ of the Royal Library of Belgium coin collection will lecture on “Beauty and Sublimity: Why Greek Coins are so admired&rdquo at the new ANS headquarters.

Then on Wednesday the 19th of November Haim Gitler of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem will lecture on “The Thirty Pieces of Silver — a modern numismatic perspective”.

The ANS is also starting a new coin exhibit. The coins are all from the collections of prominent New York area collectors. There will be a members-only viewing on Wednesday the 5th of November. Hopefully the exhibit will be open right before the lectures the following weeks? I don't know how big the exhibit will be or it's focus; the flyer depicts a Nero aureus, a US colonial copper and a 20th century silver medal.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More gorgon/incuse cast fakes

A few years ago I (along with Reid Goldsborough) wrote about cast fakes from Parion. I'm disappointed to see a new batch of cast fakes of this type. The first one comes via an eBay seller located in Bulgaria with vary low feedback. It seems to less finished than the other two, which come from a high-volume eBay seller.

'Book helpdesk' in the middle ages

This Norwegian video (with English subtitles) depicts what is must have been like as monks adapted to the new technology of the book.

(via David Brin)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Any topics?

My last post descended into covering current US politics. This is probably a mistake! What numismatic / computer / digitization topics do readers wish covered in future posts? Reply in a comment with suggestions.

Good time to invest in bulk Lincoln cents

A January 2007 New York Times column by Austan Goolsbee urges the government to declare the Lincoln penny to be worth five cents. Goolsbee credits the idea to a Mr. Velde. (The article proposes doing away with the nickel, but I'd suggest keeping it for a few years as a proof-only collectable.)

Why is this proposal interesting? First, it's a good proposal! We like The Penny but it isn't worth enough to use. This $5.6 billion idea isn't much compared with the "stimulus package." Second, the NY Times columnist proposing it is Austan Goolsbee, chief economic advisor to Barack Obama (who seems about 51% likely to become US President) who is looking for cheap new ideas to reduce waste and stimulate the economy.

I'd say the chances are pretty good this will pass and suggest that holding a few grand in Lincoln cents might pay off during these uncertain times.

A President's chief economic advisor is probably the most important job. Unlike his VP choice it flys completely under the radar. Few people are talking about Goolsbee.

Goolsbee seems interesting! He is a University of Chicago professor in the new field of Behavioral Economics. George Will says he seems like the sort of person you would want at the elbow of a Democratic president. He is associated with the ideas of 'libertarian paternalism' believing that rather than forcing people (on retirement, health care, etc) society should be set up so that there are these Great Society-type programs but folks who don't want them can opt out. I think this is a much better idea that the traditional Democratic idea of forced help or the Republican idea of faith-based non-governmental help.

Goolsbee's former hobby is preforming improv comedy. I share this hobby and think it is good training for thinking on ones feet. Watch a video of the Yale improv team (post-Goolsbee, unfortunately, so we don't know how funny he is.)

Goolsbee is a member of Skull and Bones and was the first member to 'tap' women for the secret society. I can't even think of a spin for this fact; I sense it reveals something important but I don't know what.

Commentary for undecided US voters: Both candidates want to trim waste and massively intervene in the financial sector of the economy. Neither has run a major business successfully. Conservatives shouldn't write off Obama's economics because he is a democrat. Goolsbee has some good new ideas and they aren't the tax-and-spend / borrow-and-spend ideas that we've had for the last two decades.

RPC vol 1 on sale!

The David Brown book company is selling new copies of Roman Provincial Coinage vol. 1 for $260. Usually it costs $325 from there. Volume 1 comes as two books in a slip case.

Just a few years ago this volume was scarce. One copy is being offered on VCoins for $800.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Decima metal detector

This machine could be cool coupled with the brains of a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. The radio-controlled Decima prototype seems more difficult to use than a regular detector. (Disclaimer: I haven't used a regular detector either.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

BMC Corcyra 89

The British museum owns a unique ancient Greek fraction depicting on one side a gorgoneion and on the other side a kantharos. It was first published by Percy Gardner in his catalog Thessaly to Aetolia in 1883 (page 120). David Sear also published it (#2013). However, neither author included a photograph.

Some of my readers know that in addition to collecting coins I collect pictures of coins depicting gorgons. I wanted a picture of this unique type. There are a number of mysteries. Gardner claimed to see a Δ above the kantharos. He attributed it to Corcyra (= Korkyra = Corfu), a city that otherwise did not depict the gorgon on it's coinage. Today Corcyra is associated with gorgons because of an amazing gorgon temple excavated in 1911 by Kaiser Wilhelm II (who later abdicated the throne of Germany to become an archaeologist!) In Gardner's time there was nothing to attributed it other than similarity to other Corcyra types with kantharos reverse. It seems a poor attribution: Neapolis, Mytilene, and Koroneia all issued coins depicting both gorgons and similar pottery (although not near 1.85g with both gorgon and kantharos together.)

I had hoped that I could just ask nice and get a picture of this unique treasure. It ended up costing £60 and taking five weeks. For me it was worth it but if one needed a lot of images this is a costly proposition. £60 is the photography fee; to reproduce the image would have been an additional fee (so I have traced it for my readers.)

Amelia Dowler, the Curator of Greek Coins was very friendly and obtained the “PRN code” and even searched the Department of Coins and Medal's internal partial database for other coins with gorgons. I then had to send that code to folks at British Museum Images, a division of the British Museum Company Limited. They emailed me a form which I had to print out and mail with my credit card number. (British Museum Images doesn't accept credit cards by email). Eventually I received an email with a URL and password that unlocked a very high resolution image of each side of the coin.

The coin itself is terrible. I'd grade it G, but not a pleasing G. The corrosion makes it difficult to tell what is a feature of the coin and what is corrosion. If the Δ that Gardner saw is there I can't see it!

I'd love to show a photograph here. I don't know how much it would cost me. I tried to calculate the price but blogs and non-commercial web sites were not options on the fee calculator. The categories for licensing an image are advertising, merchandise, corporate/promotional, and editorial. This blog is basically a long rant so I chose editorial. It then asked the types of media: books, prints, newspapers, film, and TV. I hope to one day write a book based on my research and I attempted to inquire about the price to license the image for an academic book. I was then asked the print run, and the only choice was <750. I knew academic books were not popular but 750 copies max seems kinda sad.

As an American I have no standing to complain. I'm grateful that the British Museum bought the coin and preserved it these past 150 years so that I could see it. I've found many other coins mentioned in old Numismatic Chronicles in private collections and I despair of ever seeing them.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Lincolnshire detectorist sees Thatcher in ancient portrait

The Lincolnshire Echo is reporting (no byline) on a Celtic coin that appears to depict Margaret Thatcher.

Treasure hunter David Baker is quoted as saying "But I couldn't believe it when I cleaned it up a bit and saw this image of Margaret Thatcher glaring up at me".

Why isn't this being reported in US papers? Our media is obsessed with the bailout and looming elections. Few mainstream newspapers even have full-time reporters covering offbeat coincidences and numismatics. It's been over two months since the New York Post reported on the Roman Elvis.