Sunday, April 22, 2018

Anti-pollution medal by Vasco Berardo

Another anti-pollution art medal.

Portugal, 1974. Vasco Berardo (1933-2017). 95mm. Mintage 400

Obv: Poluição / Cavaleiro do Apocalipse (=Polution / Horsemen of the Apocalypse); Bust wearning gas mask and headphones; demon birds behind; artist's signature below. The entire field engulfed in poisonous vapors.

Rev: Caped rider wearing armor and shield on left arm, holding wrench in right hand, riding right on armored horse motorized horse through wisps of pollution.

From a series of six horsemen. Pestilence is one of the original four horsemen described in the Biblical book of Revelation. In Berardo's vision the horsemen are Peste (Plague), Fome (Hunger), Poluicao (Pollution), Morte (Death), Guerra (War), and Droga (Drugs).

Friday, April 20, 2018

Anti-pollution medal by Isolino Vaz and Luciano Inácio

(Image from, a Portuguese medal blog.)

For Earth Day (April 22) here is an anti-pollution medal from my small art medal collection.

Portugal, 1972. Designer Isolino Vaz (1922-1992), Engraver Luciano Inácio. 80mm, 272g

Obv: Poluição (Pollution); bust of a malnourished and bald figure, turned to the right, with the hand on the forehead in sign of agony.

Rev: Girl with braids and school gown kneeling plants a tree in the ground. Next to you a shovel. Behind, four flowers, two on each side and in the sky are three stylized figures of birds.; Salve Mos o Mundo; Valadares - V. N. De Gaia / 30-VII-1972 (Save the World; Valadares - Vila Nova de Gaia - July 30 1972. Valadaras was a parish in Gaia city.)

Edge: 147 / 500

Note: This medal was executed in the workshops of João Baptista Cardoso, for the initiation of the Promoting Committee "Recordar é viver" (Recall is living), formed by former students of the primary schools of Vila Nova de Gaia. 500 examples were made in bronze and another 20 in silver, distributed by the "Galeria Arte e Medalha", in Oporto.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Ball Terminal

Here is the inscription on a coin of Mithradates the Great, circa 85-75 BC. (Not mine. A dealer photo.)

The characters have circles at the ends. If the ends had been lines we would call them "serifs". Many years ago I tried to learn the term for characters with circles on the ends but eventually gave up. Today, while reading an article on the typography of James Mitchener's novel cover art, I stumbled onto the term “ball terminal”.

Exactly what I was looking for. Now I can search for this term ... and find very little.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Recording provenance in the blockchain

An October 2017 article by Peter B Campbell in The Guardian, “Archaeology and blockchain: a social science data revolution?” discusses using blockchain, the computer technology that ensures Bitcoins are not counterfeited, to record provenance data for antiquities.

Campbell is an archeologist and his article mentions Islamic State and blood antiquities. Those claims might be overblown but the technical scheme described by the article seems workable for medium and high values items. The startup Kapu already conducted a test of using a digital 'coin' to create a provenance ledger.

Were an artifact to have a blockchain record, each time it crossed a border or was sold to a new collector the record could be updated to show it was legitimate. Conversely “blood antiquities” would have no record and faked records could not be manufactured as they often are today. Border security could then compare records of artifacts declared at customs to databases such as INTERPOL.
Some of the ideas, like swabbing antiquities with synthetic DNA, seem fanciful. The basic claim seems solid. Using blockchain technology for art isn't science fiction. An article by Jason Bailey on Artnome explains that the technology is already in use for proving ownership of digital artworks. Verisart and Codex are startups in this space. They hope to convince auction houses to use their technology to record sales.
Codex Protocol is designed as industry infrastructure for art and collectibles. So it's fine wine, classic cars, jewelry, fine art, anything else that sort of fits into that category of items.
For ancient coin collectors one problem is that we would like to be able to prove ownership before 1970, or before the 2007 agreement between the United States and Cyprus. These technologies are for recording transactions now, not 50 years in the past. I would be interested to learn what the legal community thinks of these things.

The SciTech Lawyer, a publication of the American Bar Association, just published an article on that very topic. Unfortunately for me, law professor Derek Fincham's article “Can Blockchain Technology Disrupt the Trade in Illicit Antiquities?” is not available to non-subscribers.

In the comments section, discuss if you would be interested in using blockchain to record your ownership of coins, and if you would pay a premium to know the previous owners of a coin back to 2019.