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.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Victoria and Albert Museum drops reproduction charges

The Art Newspaper is reporting that the Victoria and Albert Museum 'is to drop charges for the reproduction of images in scholarly books and magazines'.

(via BoingBoing)

The collection does have some coins. I could only find a few in the collection search engine.

Triton X

Triton X auction catalog online.

Major expansion at

An important announcement arrived today from
We are pleased to announce that the entire series of The IBSCC Bulletin on Counterfeits has been incorporated into ( with permission from the copyright holder.

Included are all the coins photographed, published and condemned by the IBSCC - the International Bureau of the Suppression of Counterfeit Coins. These all have been classed as 'Forgery - Published' as they have been condemned by a recognised institution and will be the first to be displayed in any search.

The database now contains almost 6000 records - 3000 of these being published counterfeits. The database is by far the largest public counterfeit coin database in the world and is now an essential tool. All purchases made should be checked against this database to help verify authenticity.

We wish to expand the database further and encourage participation, whether this be contributing items, commenting on contributions or sponsoring or making donations so we can incorporate more publised counterfeits.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Judge orders US currency redesigned

Today Judge Robertson of the United States District Court in D.C. ordered the Treasury to redesign federal currency so it can be more easily handled by the blind and visually impaired.

Discussion going on at

Friday, November 24, 2006

Bulgarian police break smuggling ring

Sofia Echo is reporting that Bulgarian police have broken a network that smuggled ancient coins and antiquities to the US. Three men from Sofia were caught with 14,400 ancient coins. Bulgarian police are searching the houses of accused ring members and finding ancient coins.

Obscure Press reprints is offering the 1913 volume of the Numismatic Chronicle published by 'Obscure Press'.

The publisher describes the book as follows:

Originally published in 1913. Eight papers on ancient numismatics, 13 papers on medieval/modern, one on Oriental. Four Notices of Recent Publications, Index (p. 448 f), 22 plates (p. 457 f), Proceedings (p. 478 f). List of Fellows (p. 504 f). The papers on ancients are 'The Coins of Hierapolis in Phrygia', Leo Weber; 'The First Corbridge Find', H. A. Grueber; 'Chronology of the Danubian Wars of the Emperor Marcus Antonius', Rev. C. H. Dodd; 'Greek Coins acquired by the British Museum 1911-1912', G. F. Hill; 'Helena N. F.', P. H. Webb; 'Some Cretan Coins', Capt. J. S. Cameron and G. F. Hill; 'Countermarked Coins of Asia Minor', J. G. Milne; 'Some Uncertain Coins associated with Chios', J. Mavrogordato. Author: Oliver Codrinoton,M.D., And G.C. Brooke

Google Books also has a copy.

Who is Obscure Press? I don't know. Their description of 'their' book seems familiar to me, because I wrote it! The description comes from the Million Book Project page for Numismatic Chronicle 1913.

That page allows anyone to download a PDF of the volume. A Million Book user downloaded the book and sent it to a Print on Demand publisher.

I think this is a great idea. It will be an even greater idea if the Million Book Project, or Google, managed to scan in all the volumes and Obscure press figured this out well enough to create pleasant spines.

It's too bad the Royal Numismaic Society doesn't do anything like this.

If the founders of 'Obscure Press' are among my readers please tell us of your forthcoming titles in the comments section.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Collecting the Past and Illuminating the Future

Philippe de Montebello, the director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, lectured last week on antiquities collecting and will be giving the same lecture on December 7th.

"... the Director traces the history of collecting antiquities from the moment of their creation to the present day."

"... he discusses the growth of independent states and patrimony laws in the 20th century and the present controversies that have pitted source countries, archaeologists, curators, and collectors against each other. Mr. de Montebello concludes with an analysis of today's situation and the implications for the future of the Metropolitan's agreement with the Italian Government."

Last week's lecture was reviewed by The New York Sun.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Illustrations of School Classics

George Hill, former Keeper of coins at the British Museum, wrote a book Illustrations of School Classics with drawings of many coins and antiquities.

A brief biography of George Hill can be found on the wayback machine. This page was part of the International Numismatic Commission's web site when it was hosted by the ANS, but didn't make it to the new site.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Into the Antiquities Trade

Into the Antiquities Trade, by Kevin R. Cheek, Xlibris press, copyright 2003, list price $21.99 (but recently several used book web sites started selling for $2.70).

Chapter 1 describes selling ancient coins wholesale to Harlan J. Berk and visiting the Philip II exhibit at the Museum of Thessalonike in Greece. Chapters 2-3 describes illegally entering Afganistan during the Soviet occupation to buy antiquties from the Mujahideen. Chapter 4 includes attending an NFA auction and meeting people involved with the Dekadrachm Hoard.

A lot of pages discuss 'cultural property' issues. The author, an antiquities dealer and owner of Apolonia Ancient Art) takes the pro-collecting position. Chapter 5 is devoted to cultural property theory.

In chapter 6 the author is recruited by an American spy to watch for terrorists in the art world. Chapter 7 finds the author buying Cambodian antiquities from figures in the Thai military.

Chapter 8 is a return to the US, selling coins to dealer Dennis With. Mr. With turns out to be a colorful criminal.

Chapter 9 takes us to South America to buy antiquities and the discovery of secret Muslim bankers operating there.

Fakes and authenticity is discussed in chapter 10. 11 is about the Taliban blowing up the giant Buddhas. 12 covers Giacomo Medici's trial (the author takes the pro-Medici position). 13 is about that gold phile. Chapter 14 covers the trial of dealer Frederik Schultz and the legal precedent his case may have established. The final chapter is more thoughts on antiquties policy.

The best parts of the book are the author's stories of his own adventures obtaining and selling coins and antiquities. The author has a lot to say about the trials but I sometimes couldn't tell if the story presented came from other published accounts or if Cheek was giving a new inside story.

Xlibris is a print-on-demand vanity publisher. The book could have used additional proofreading. The writing is good and the first nine chapters tell good stories.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

RPC Supplement 2 online

A post on Moneta-L let me know that a supplement to Roman Provincial Coinage is online.

The supplement is 110 pages and 21 MB. It can be downloaded using the browser in the usual way (shift-click, or right-click 'save target as'). Get it from, a personal site at the Universitat de València in Spain.

I assume this is legit. The copy is high quality, not a scan job, and the URL of the download site is in the PDF itself.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Coin of Astypalaea?

A FORVM post asked for an identification of this coin.

The reverse seems the harpa (sometimes spelled harpe), the unusual sword or sickel used by Perseus to behead Medusa. It was used by other figures, such including Saturn on this Republican denarius, Phanebal, the War Deity, and the fighters of Etenna.

If this coin is Greek, the 'C' is actually a sigma. If so, there is only one possibility for this coin, the mysterious island of Astypalaia.

Nothing seems to be known of this island in ancient times. Wikipedia helpfully says “The island had no particular importance during the ancient age.” The current population is 1238 residents, I imagine the ancient population would have been about the same. It's not a small island, either, 99 square Km.

Numismatically, the odd thing about this island is that it copied the types of Seriphos, the home of Perseus. No one knows why. All of the Perseus coins from the island that I've seen use the regular '&Sigma' sigma, so this coin is an oddity if I've identified it correctly.

Müller incorrectly attributed Alexander III staters and tetradrachms with harpa control mark to Astypalaea. Price cites Noe assigning the tetradrachms to Argos and cites Newell assigning the staters to Salamis. BCD seems to suggest the A/harpa bronzes belong to Argos, leaving Astypalaea with very few types.

There is a museum on the island with ancient coins. Perhaps one day I'll be able to visit. I'm very curious to know if they have any of their early gorgon and Perseus bronzes.

If anyone can suggest another attribution for this coin I'd be very interested.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sorry to leave that last post up for so long. It's a downer.

AbeBooks is a website with 100,000,000 books for sale. It consolidates the lists from 13,500 booksellers. Users can browse for authors, titles, and keywords. Results can be sorted by author, title, or price.

Results can also be sorted by 'Newest'. This is useful for finding bargains. Sellers often don't know the market and offer for prices much lower or higher than usual. For example, today I see a copy of SNG Morcom being offered for $15.

If a book is rare -- there are no other copies on AbeBooks -- it makes sense for the sellers to offer the book at some rediculously high price. Maybe shoppers won't know the price is too high, or be in too much of a hurry to care. High list prices also establish the starting point for bargaining.

There are always idiots who enter prices that are oddly high for no good reason. Why did Bob's Books list Sear GCV: Europe for $98.26 when there are plenty of copies at $60. Why did Revaluation Books (UK) offer Wheaton College Collection for $75 when copies are easily had for $6.23 and $10?

I've never sold books through AbeBooks. To become a seller, there is a $25 monthly subscription fee. I sell books (paperback fiction I didn't like) through, which is free. When listing books for sale on it tells you what other copies recently sold for. I always ignored that and tried to come 1 cent or 50 cents below the next cheapest copy. If I didn't do that, my books never sold.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

If you are a writer, you need a will

Novelist Neil Gaiman points out the difficulties folks will have reprinting your work if you die without a will.

(John M. Ford, Gaiman's friend, isn't the same as John J. Ford, the numismatist).

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Unintentional humorous eBay ad

eBay buys a lot of Google keywords. Chuqui shows us one that is especially inappropriate.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Lanz fall auctions

Lanz auctions 131-4 are online at

Auction 131 is a specialist collection of 832 Carian coins, including some great rarities.

Auction 132 is ancients and 134 is numismatic literature.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


Yesterday I became an ANS Fellow. This is a big honor. I'm in good company; David Sear became a fellow at the same time. I had not realized I was nominated, although I see my name at the bottom of a list of 2006 Nominations for office. My biography there says I write legal websites which isn't quite true. I write numismatic websites. I also write software and patents.

Luckily I attended the presentation of Agoranomia to professor Jack Kroll and to hear the lecture by Andrew Meadows, and found out about the nomination, and the election the following day. And my suit was clean. So I went, and was elected Fellow.

Fellows get to vote at the ANS meeting, but it's a one-party system. Fellows vote yes/no on the board's recommendations. There is no electioneering or campaign speeches at the annual meeting.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Burachkov's Catalogue of Coins of the Greek Colonies on the Coast of S. Russia, &c.

I received a PDF of Burachkov's Catalogue of Coins of the Greek Colonies on the Coast of S. Russia, &c. (1884) today from a Ukranian visitor to my web site. It's in Russian. I wanted it for the 32 plates of line drawings, several of which were cited in Historia Numorum.

My intention is to extract the plates from the PDF and place them as navigable .JPGs on the web site, linking the citiations in Historia Numorum to the correct plate in Burachkov.

The PDF is large — 124 MB — so I can't place the whole book on the site. If anyone wants to take a crack at OCRing this Russian-language title, or just wants a PDF to read, let me know and I'll mail you a CD-ROM. has shut down

Michel van Rijn's artnews site has shut down.

The site claims it was shut down after receiving photo-threats against one of his children.

It was a good site. van Rijn bravely kept the site up in the face of threats against his own life. With the site gone, there is nowhere for disgruntled looters to inform on each other.

Looters — please don't send your dirty laundry to this blog. I don't have many incriminating audio tapes to protect me from the 'art world'!

(via PhDiva and

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Electrum coin of Alexander the Great?

Here is the description of a small electrum coin from Imhoof-Blumer's 1883 book, Monnaies Grecques page 465:

35. El. 10m. Gr. 1,965, limée. – Tête diadémée d’Alexandre le Grand? à g.
Rx. Moissonneur, à dr., dans le même costume, se baissant pour couper le blé avec la faucille. Devant lui cinq, derrière lui trois épis debout. Cab. de France. Pellerin, Rois p. 208, vign. Rec. III, p. 3, pl. 86; Eckhel, D. N. V. IV, p. 25; Mion VI, 34, 269; Lenormant, Rois Grecs, p. 160, pl. LXXXI, I.

Imhoof-Blumer is describing uncertain coins of Asia Minor.

In English, a 1.97g electrum coin, obverse Hd. of Alexander the Great facing left, reverse "Harvester" facing r., in the same costume (short chiton with pointed bonnet), bending down to cut corn with sickle. In front of him five, behind him three ears upright.”

The coin isn't pictured in Imhoof-Blumer's book, and because it is uncertain I don't know what mint to look under in more recent books for a picture. I don't know what the word "limée" means.

Anyway, it seems odd to me that an electrum coin would feature Alexander III. Does anyone recall if this coin type ever earned a more reasonable attribution? I searched ISEGRIM for electrum and gold coins but with people on the reverse but didn't find any with sickle or wheat.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Index to BCD Peloponnesos

Coins of Peloponnesos: The BCD Collection gets my vote for numismatic book of the year. Although only an auction catalog, it has better text and more interesting coins than anything else I've seen - so far - this year.

The coins themselves are searchable on coinarchives but the printed book itself contains a great deal of descriptive text, new theories, etc.

Today I was looking for coins of Cranii [= Kranion] from the island of Cephallenia [= Kefalonia or Kephallonia] in the catalog. There aren't any coins from the island, but it took me a while to figure this out. I could have realized this a lot faster if I'd used the downloadable index to BCD Peloponnesos. Highly recommended.

I have acquired the catalogs of all of the BCD auctions. The others are Boeotia, Euboea, and Corinth. This collection will be an important reference in the future, at least as important as SNG von Aulock is for Asia Minor, and the volumes are must-haves for collectors of Greek coins.

Trio of matching fourrees

Today's photo shows three ancient counterfeits, all taken from the same dies. The first has intact plating — it was sold as an official mint issue.

Weights 1.57g, 1.97g, 1.99g.

I purchased these over the course of several years. I also have a fourth example, of the same workshop but of another die pair.

Because these coins are from the same workshop any differences in them come from corrosion in the ground and manufacturing variations at the “mint.&rdquo Having three pieces securely from the same mint might be able to illuminate details of the forger's art. Perhaps in a few years when it gets cheaper I'll be able to test them for composition. For example, is the silver plating of uniform composition? Are the copper cores similar in composition? (They certainly aren't in weight.) Maybe these little coins can tell us something about counterfeiting tech in the 3rd-4th centuries BC.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Vinh Phuc: Antiques sold as scrap

Vietnam net Bridge reports Antiques sold as scrap.

These are not classical antiquities, just 400 year old bronze kettles. “The excavators broke the antiques into small pieces and sold them as scrap” for seven dollars and fifty cents per kilogram.

Does this happen all the time? “In 1987, Minh excavated a jar with about 20 kg ancient coins. He used the jar to store rice, and gave the coins to children to play games.”

In stories from the Far East, 'ancient coins' usually means 400-year-old cast 'cash' (the coins with the square holes.)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dr. Busso Peus auction

The Dr. Busso Peus auction catalogs arrived in the mail yesterday.

The usual wonderful ancients, but also 754 lots of books, many of which I covet. The catalog is online.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Orphan Works Legislation Dead

Photo District News is reporting that the 'Orphan Works Legislation' has been killed, mostly by the photographer's lobby.

An 'Orphan Work' is one whose copyright owner cannot be found. The proposed legislation was going to allow publishers to reprint works if they promised to give the profits to the copyright holder should the author or estate show up to claim it.

(via TeleRead).

Often I'm reading an out-of-print, hard-to-find book and decide it's wonderful and should be introduced to a new generation of readers. It's worthy of a reprint. Unfortunately, no publisher will touch an in-copyright book unless the rights-holder can be found, thus depriving publishers of money and readers of pleasure. So no reprint. Wait for a copy to appear at auction, or beg a photocopy from someone willing to infringe.

Sometimes the author dies or disappears while the book is in print. Authors Registry keeps a list of authors due more than $100,000 in royalties that cannot be found. In some cases this list is rediculous (they claim not to be able to find Bob Dylan) but in most cases the estate is just so clueless as to not know they are entitled to $100,000.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cut Portion of a Silver Dekadrachm

FORVM is offering for sale a cut dekadrachm. The sales blurb suggests that it was cut in ancient times to make change.

A few months ago FORVM offered a dazzling collection of cut coins on eBay, including this and an archaic octodrachm of Abdera. There were so many cut specimens that some lots included more than one piece!

Here are some samples:

Greek Silver - 4 Cut Coins

Kings of Cyprus, Eulthon, 560 - 525 B.C.

2 Cut Ancient Coins, Acanthos? Kelenderis?

Lot of Ten Cut Greek Silver

The eBay buyer is apparently finished with the dekadrachm and is selling on consignment. (I can't recall how much this piece sold for on eBay. I remember a price in the $400s but perhaps am thinking of the octodrachm).

The surprising thing about the dekadrachm is that it is a Hellenistic-era coin. Usually cut coins are very early. Before coinage rough bits of 'hacksilber' were used and some early coins were cut up when they reached pre-coinage regions to join the hacksilber. No word on where all the cut pieces came from, or if they were found together -- did someone collect these over decades, or did they all surface in a single hoard?

It is surprising that this cut piece is so pleasingly centered on Zeus. In The Medici Conspiracy pleasing breaks on Greek vases are a sign of foul play. That shouldn't be an issue here, as no one is claiming that this dekadrachm broke while it was in the ground. It was purposely cut in antiquity, probably by someone who respected Zeus.

(FORVM claims copyright on the photo, used here without permission.)

Saturday, September 30, 2006


New ancient coin blog: SCOTVS CAPITIS. I don't know the blogger, but he is the guy who digitally 'colorized' Roman coins.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Monnaies Grecques by Imhoof-Blumer

An important book, Monnaies Grecques (1883) by Imhoof-Blumer recently appeared on Google.

Just last week I made a special trip to the ANS to examine their copy. But of course that copy was too fragile to photocopy, so I ended up copying paragraphs longhand in a language I don't understand. Not fun. Furthmore, plate J includes a unique coin that I badly wanted a picture of. I usually bring a digital camera to the library to take pictures of fragile book pages but forgot.

So 'yeah!' to Google.

You can download a PDF copy (15.3M), but it won't have text and won't be searchable. If you have access it's better to read it online.

I recently made a CD-ROM for an acquiantance of various public-domain numismatic PDFs from Google. It came to 550MB. Google uses low-ish resolution and compresses agressively so a single CD can contain over 30 books. Next time I make such a CD it will include this classic.

Also new is De la valeur des monnaies romaines (1879) by Emile Levasseur.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Medici Conspiracy

I recently finished The Medici Conspiracy by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini. It's good. It's about crooked antiquities dealer Giacomo Medici and the various looters and fronts he worked with.

There is nothing in this book about coins or coin dealers except for a few paragraphs about Bruce McNall, and that part contained an error (calling Athenian dekadrachms 'the world's rarest coin.')

I like to assume that the ancient coins I buy are not looted, smuggled, then fenced half-a-dozen-times to create a confusing trail before reaching the collector. From this book it seems that vases enter the market exactly that way, and are purposly broken and re-assembled as well! I always assumed that a dirty market couldn't exist, that markets self-police and the 'clean' dealers get fed up with the mad profits the looters made and inform on them. I guess that doesn't happen, at least not for Greek vases? I'm still a supporter of a healthy legal market as a way to avoid the excesses of criminals, but the market's self-policing sure failed in the cases discussed in this book.

In recent news, Medici is offering Italy 'Object X' in exchange for stopping his trial. He won't say what Object X is, just that it's really cool and valuable and stuff.

RPC IV Online

The University of Oxford has put RPC IV online. This is a big deal, as it hasn't even been published yet! The best database for provincial coins of the Antonines (138-193AD), with 9,061 images; 13,730 types; and 46,725 total specimens.

It's very handy and easy to use. The only oddness is that there is no way to specify if a search is to be done over the 9000 images or the 46,000 specimens. One does the search, then gets an option to go back and change the search settings.

The RPC numbers are provisional. However, for each result it will give other publications of the coin, so except for previously unpublished pieces there will be a safe, usable catalogue number.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

New York Invitational Coin Show

I went to the New York Invitational Coin Show yesterday. Although advertised as 100 tables, there were about 20 dealers. One dealer told me that some dealers skipped Friday because of Rosh Hashanah (and perhaps low attendance?) The room was set up for 100 tables so looked pathetically empty.

The ancients dealers were Freeman&Sear, Herakles, Barry Murphy, Smythe, and Dr. Saslow. (Louis DiLauro was there but didn't bring his ancients!)

Other years there have been many more dealers. I was also disappointed that there was no weekend day -- who wants to take a vacation day to see such a small show?

The dealers were grumbling about the venue -- the fifth floor of some old building. The room itself seemed fine to me. Usually NYC coin shows are held in hotels, because there is no nearby parking or security otherwise. Who wants to walk around the streets with $$$ in coins and heavy display cases?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What is ''?'s provider,, gives me statistics about how much traffic I receive and where it's coming from.

When uesrs visit through links (rather than bookmarks) the pageview rank is:

36% from
29% from other pages
10% from, google UK, and google Canada
6% from
2% from
1% from yahoo search

I'm certain the traffic from Wildwinds is people seeking ancient coin info. I get slightly more traffic from Google. I don't know the terms the Google visitors want, but I expect a lot of them are looking for coin and ancient greece info.

I was surprised to see in the top spot. 9185 requests for 'VerifyerLevel.php' from them. Some kind of bot or malware trying to hack me?

Requests from them just started this month. A few web sites have cashsoldier and VerifyLevel.php in their logs, but I haven't seen any report of what is trying to be accomplished by requesting that file from me 9000+ times.

PS This week is the New York Invitational Coin Show. No weekend hour for this show &mdash it's Wednesday through Friday. I am not sure I want to take a vacation day to attend a coin show. If I had a day for coins I'd rather go to the ANS library. Any readers going to the show?

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Google Image Labeler

I've been playing a game called Google Image Labeler. Visitors are connected to another player, picked at random, and are then presented with a series of images. To score, the player must guess how the other player will describe the picture.

This is usually easy, as most of the pictures can be described as 'man', 'woman', 'people', 'building', 'stars', 'moon', 'weather', 'text', 'windows', or 'web site'. The fun comes from odd images that are difficult to describe.

Today while playing I encountered a picture of an ancient coin. After a few false stats my partner and I agreed upon the description of 'broken'. The picture, which can be seen above, comes from the Archeological Museum of Kazan State University in Tarterstan, Russia.

An hour ago I didn't know that there was a 'Tarterstan'! Another part of the fun of a game like Google Image Labeler is the chance to be exposed to random websites that one would never otherwise encounter.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Copyright, e-Sylum, need advice

Science fiction author Cory Doctorow has a nice essay on copyright on Locus Magazine's web site.

My reply to Kerry Rodgers and Bob Knepper on copyright and images of collectables appeared yesterday on the e-Sylum (a numismatic book email list). This week's e-Sylum isn't available on the website yet, but will be soon. Or subscribe.

Need advice: This blog didn't appear in The Celator's round-up of ancient coin blogs. Perhaps I am not promoting it correctly. Where is a good place to announce and promote coin blogs?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Hackers attacking

Attempts to visit are either not being answered or coming up reading 'by kuwait hacker'. hosts an ancient coins discussion site and photo databases. I visit nearly every day. The site is run by Bill Puetz, who also designed and runs Vcoins. Vcoins does not appear hacked but was responding slowly, possibly because it shares resources with

This doesn't seem to be an attack on this specific site; Google reports 46,000 sites with 'kuwait hacker' in the text. Most of these are defaced sites, a few are discussion sites asking about it. Seems to be a mass attack on Linux-based web sites?

The oldest mention I found is this post on announcing the founding of a Kuwait hacker organization.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

PDF downloads from Google Print

Google is now letting anyone (in the US only?) download PDFs of many public domain numismatic books. I see BMC Sicily (6.2 MB), BMC Macedonia (4.7 MB), BMC Corinth (7.4 MB), BMC Parthia (11 MB).

Folks on other websites are saying all the public-domain books are available this way. At least one, Coins of the Greek and Scythic Kings of Bactria and India isn't, probably because oddities in scanning would make that volume huge.

PS: I didn't post last week because I was on vacation in western Newfoundland. I highly recommend it. There is a nice museum and tour that shows how the Vikings smelted bog iron to make nails.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Panormus or Probus?

Here we have a fake coin from Roman sicily, taken from an eBay Germany private auction closing on Saturday. Coinarchives has a real specimen from a Nachfolger auction.

It's tough to get this coin without Medusa's face worn smooth, so if genuine this coin would be valuable. The presumably genuine Nachfolger example sold for 300 euros (plus buyers fee) in 2003.

The forger made an obvious mistake. Not realizing the obverse depicts Athena, the forger has given the head the features of the emperor Probus, including beard! The auction text says the coin depicts Cato! With spelling errors: "bearbed and elmated head of CATO".

The seller is also auctioning a coin of Iaetia with a similar reverse. It looks much better and would have fooled me. The Iaetia fake has the same triskeles legs as the Panormus, but the gorgoneion is at a different angle, suggesting some kind of partial hubbing.

A number of artistic works were involved in the making of this fake. It seems struck, so someone cut a die. Someone used the die to strike a coin. The striking probably wasn't creative, but choosing a color for the false patina probably was. Then someone took a picture of the fake wrote the phony description about Cato.

When I post a picture of this coin I might be infringing the copyright of those three people. Maybe I'm just engaging in "fair use." This seems unlikely, though, because I'm copying the entire artistic work, not just a portion of it.

Copyright law doesn't have an anti-fraud or anti-forgery exemption. I'm probably breaking the law by showing you this fake. What protects me is the unlikelyness of some shady characters in Germany wanting to draw more attention to their crimes by taking me to court demanding I pay them for use of their "artwork."

For my readers who think it is always immoral to use another's copyrighted image without permission, I apologize for this post. I've let you down. I should have asked the seller for permission to expose his fraud.

I could have merely linked to the eBay auction. However, eBay's picture will vanish soon after the auction closes and I wanted a public record of this fake beyond Saturday. There is another reason. You'll note I didn't link to the auction itself. This is because it is considered immoral by many collectors to directly expose eBay sellers to fraud accusations before the seller shows himself to be a repeat offender. I'd rather put up a copyrighted image than levy fraud accusations against a seller previously unknown to me.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Copyright extension is a real problem for numismatic research.

To give an idea of copyright length, Percy Gardner wrote BMC Seleucid in 1879, but didn't die until the 1930s. His works are public domain in the US, but won't be in Britain until next year. George Hill wrote BMC Lycia in 1897, but didn't die until the late 1940s. His books won't be free for more than a decade in Britain. ESG Robinson wrote BMC Cyrenaica in 1927, but didn't die until the 1970s. Most of us won't live to see that book free.

The books were never published in the US, and are legally considered 'unpublished' here.

The BMC Greek volumes are at least in print — but not in Britian or the US. The reprints come from Italy. I have no idea if the Italian publisher licensed them or just prints without permission.

Libaries won't photocopy books if they are still in copyright (they'll often let patrons photocopy the books, although there is a sign explaining the illegality of thee action.) Some books are a century old, still in copyright, but too brittle to let library patrons photocopy. Or the books are so rare that no libary within 200 miles has the title. The book comes up for auction maybe once or twice a year at Kolbe or Charles Davis. They never appear on used book web sites. These books you just can't get.

The lack of access to scholarship is a problem for new research. No one wants to write about coins without having read the important papers or books on the topic. But the books are often unobtainable, and photocopies are difficult to obtain and expensive.

There is a profit to be made for someone, reprinting the works. Unfortunately, most numismatic works are copyrighted and it's illegal to reprint the works without permission. Asking for that permission proves difficult.

Unlike Best-selling fiction authors who register with rights organizations and wait for the phone to ring, lessor authors cannot be traced. It isn't like real estate, where the government keeps a list of who-owns-what. In fact, it would be illegal for the government to keep track of who owns what book! Yes, that's right, there is a treaty that makes it illegal for any government to require copyrights be registered.

Copyright is established by a chain of book contracts and wills going back to the author. Neither the book contracts nor the wills are public records. Hopeful publishers start by writing to the publisher of the first edition asking for rights information. They also try to contact folks named in the authors obituary, asking about wills. If the author has been dead for a few generations this can get expensive. Of course, if the book was written in the course of business, like the BMC volumes, the author's employer may also have a claim.

So everyone photocopies books, or, if the books aren't around, another researcher's photocopies. It may be illegal to photocopy books, but there is a good economic argument to commit copyright crime. It is cheaper to get sued for photocopying and lose in court than it is to hire a detective to track down an author's estate.

I'd like to see legislation allowing anyone to reprint any out-of-print copyrighted work with an agreement to put a small amount, $5 or $10, into escrow for the title. The copyright holder can come forward when the money raised for a title makes it worthwhile.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Two classics by Percy Gardner

Google brings us The Coins of the Greek and Scythic Kings of Bactria and India in the British Museum (1886) by Percy Gardner.

Although not officially part of BMC Greek (it's volume 1 of BMC India) it looks just like the BMC Greek volumes and covers Greek coinage.

Plates begin here.

I'm happy to see this; I have an Indian reprint which is low-quality (smudgey newsprint) and nearly unusuable. There seems to be some problems with the plates here — when you can see them they are high quality but parts are missing. Perhaps the original is brittle and falling apart?

Even if your local library has these fragile original it often makes sense to use Google's copy avoiding further damage to the original. Rather than destroying the originals I'd prefer to see them archived in giant warehouses in Alaska north of the frost line.

Also new is A Grammar of Greek Art (1905) by Percy Gardener. I'd purchased a cheap original on eBay with the intention of scanning the coin chapter and some of the clip-art (it's hard to find copyright free Greek clip art for school presentations, etc). Now I won't have to. The chapter on coins is Chapter XVI: Coins in Relation to History.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Catalogue of the McClean collection of Greek coins

Catalogue of the McClean collection of Greek coins, Fitzwilliam Museum. Provided by ABZU (whatever that is. It's at the University of Michigan).

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3

Hundreds of plates! However, the plates are low-quality .gifs, even using the "large" option. Unlike yesterday's BMC Cyprus, there is no way to get high-resolution .tifs for better manual processing.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

BMC Cyprus online

UC Berkeley's 'Ebind' project has put George Hill's BMC Cyprus (1904) online.

Plate quality is terrible, though.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Early book on Jewish numismatics

Google Print brings Die Unächtheit der jüdischen Münzen mit Hebräischen und samaritanischen Buchstaben by Oluf Gerhard Tychsen. Published in 1779! Not in ANS library.

I had never heard of the book or the author. He has a Wikipedia entry.

I know almost nothing on numismatic books before the 19th century. I've been considering the purchase of Bassoli's Antiquarian Books on Coins and Medals to correct this deficiency. Has anyone actually seen/read Bassoli?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Connecticut Coppers at ANS

Yesterday I attended the first Numismatic Conversations lecture series at the American Numismatic Association. The topic was Connecticut Coppers.

There was a live web-cast of the event. Remote participants were on a conference call and could view the coins through a web site. As far as I know the remote option wasn't pre-announced — I certainly didn't know about it — but at least six folks were on the call, from as far away as California. I don't have any details on the software used. The next Numismatic Conversation is September 13th, the speaker is Geoff Giglierano and the topic is US Military decorations from Civil War to WWII.

Robert Hoge gave the lecture, which was held in the library. A down-facing video camera captured the coins and images were projected on a screen. The video tech worked flawlessly. I was in the back row and could clearly see the screen.

Although the coppers were in the room and being handled by Hoge's assistant they didn't 'feel' close. The lecture felt like a slide-show. (One participant was surprised at the end when informed the coins were present.) The slide-show feel is prehaps caused by the high quality of the projection system. Perhaps presentations such as these would benefit a locked display case holding the trays not currently under the camera?

Attendence seemed good for a numismatic event, about 35-40 folks including ANS staff were present. A much smaller Bronx Coin Club meeting followed the Connecticut presentation.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Amazing bookplates

A collection of attractive bookplates was featured on BiblioOdyssey yesterday. Although none of them are coin-related, the first one featured was an amazing American Indian-themed bookplate used by ANS fellow Murray Gell-Mann.

BiblioOdyssey is a blog of books and historical/scientific illustrations.

(via BoingBoing)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Third Side of the Coin

Yaakov Meshorer's new (Hebrew-language) book, The Third Side of the Coin, is described by Danny Rubinstein in Haaretz online.

The mini-review is a launching pad for Rubinstein's personal reminescences of Meshorer, who was a childhood and army friend.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Fake: Forgery, Lies, & eBay

Regina Hackett's story in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer covers early crimes by eBay art forger Ken Fetterman.

AuctionBytes reviews a book by Fetterman's shill-bidding partner Ken Walton.

Ken Walton has a blog which links to his website and provides an excerpt from the book.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Would you like some help?

A few years ago I added a 'beg message' to the Historia Numorum web site asking for help illustrating the book with plates from the 19th century works cited by Head when he wrote the book. I need volunteers to scan, or sell me cheap books, or let me borrow a few titles from their library.

I figured it would be easy to get 25-50 people each donating a couple of hours, and I'd get the plates to 50 or 100 books online.

That hasn't happened. I got a few BMC volume plates. The biggest contributor has been 'Google Books', although they don't know it.

Let's turn it around.

Maybe rather than you helping me, I can help you. Do you need anything for your web site? I have a decent library and I'm a good researcher. I know HTML and can write Javascript. I can spare a few hours to help a fellow ancient coin webmaster or blogger. Is there anything you'd like for your site, but don't know how to get? Email me or post a comment below.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Counterfeit Coin Newsletter #6 up

Number six of Robert Matthews' Counterfeit Coin Newsletter went online today.

Some good stuff there.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Repatriation in CS Monitor

An editorial in today's Christian Science Monitor discusses the 1970 UNESCO treaty and the rightful ownership of ancient artifacts. (Via Rogue Classicism, where the Rogue Classicist David Meadows expresses fear that trends towards repatriating antiquities and the smuggling crackdown leads to NOTHING being offered to museums and academics never seeing it.) He calls for a “portable antiquities scheme” — what we used to call “Treasure Trove”.

Even without a scheme a lot of coins get turned in. Turkish Daily News recently reported that museums house 1,658,275 coins.

Lack of portable antiquities does incent smugglers. But a lot of coins remain for academics. Richard Ashton has published 1,600 of these Turkish coins — 0.1%. (Studies in Ancient Coinage from Turkey) That leaves 99.9% unpublished.

Academics in the US won't see these coins, but Turkish ones will. I doubt either will publish. Only numismatists — mostly amateur — seem interested in the low-grade bronze. And low-grade bronze is the majority of ancient coins.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Book Fold Correction

Fragile books can't handle being pushed onto glass for photocopying or scanning. These should be photographed as they lie open, without pressure. However, without pressure the pages won't lie flat, so scans look like figure 1. The camera used is sometimes called a 'planetary' camera. They are expensive.

Warped text is fine for reading, but isn't suitable for reprinting or OCR. Some scanning outfits (such as Archive CD Books can correct for book fold warping in software. (I don't know of any software that can do this.)

Google Book Search does this, but often gets it wrong. Google tries to make lines vertical, horizontal, or at a 45° angle. For example, BMC Parthia plate 7 introduces a bizarre 45 degree angle at the bottom right.

Sometimes a few pixels get radically stretched to make a line straight, as BMC Corinth plate 10. That plate is also missing a large rectangle including coins 10 through 13. I don't know if they were removed as part of fold correcting or as part of white space determination. Google also tries to figure out what is text (versus pictures) and replace grey scales with black and white, removing spots in the process. In the case of plate 10 they got it wrong.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

28 Years Sought for Suspects in Usak Museum Theft

Zaman Online brings an update on the Uşak Museum theft. Three suspects remain at large.

(Via PhDiva, which copies the short article in its entirety.)

The identity of the missing ancient coin is still unknown. Interpol's list of stolen art doesn't include the Uşak pieces. There have been many pictures in the Western press of the seahorse, but nothing on the coin. It is possible that the coin is the one that illustrated a 2003 article on the treasure, long before the theft.

I would like to see the coin because 1) it's news and 2) I'd like to spot it for sale in an auction somewhere. Non-specialists think coins are anonymous and there is a chance the thieves will pass the coin to raise money to smuggle out the broach. A specialist will spot the coin if he is looking for it.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

BMC Macedonia Etc

BMC Macedonia, Etc (1879, by Barclay Head) has arrived on Google Print:

Preface, Contents, Introduction, Coins, Indexes

This was the last volume without plates. Coins were illustrated with engravings in line with the text. For the next volume, Ptolemies, Kings of Egypt, plates would be used for the first time.

BMC Corinth and Colonies is back.

Preface, Contents, Introduction, Coins, Indexes, Plates

Previously we reported on this volume appearing on Google Print, then going away. It's back. It appears to be a re-scan — I'd saved a copy of the plates the first time and today's plates look different. Both scans are from Stanford University library. I'm working on the reverse-index. The scanner did a horrible job — not only are there black dropouts as seen in the Parthia scan there are also white dropouts, duplicate pages, and out-of-order pages.

On a personal note, three BMC volumes — physical volumes, on dead trees — showed up at my doorstep yesterday. Forni reprints. I've been coveting an entire set for some time, and at the price I couldn't resist acquiring these volumes towards that end. I didn't really need them — the volumes are Pontus, Palestine, and Mesopotamia. I already have SNG Black Sea which re-does the Pontus coins, and I don't collect much from Palestine nor Mesopotamia.

I've often wondered how Forni got to reprint these. Do they have an arrangement with the British Museum? Or did they merely take advantage of the then-short Italian copyright law.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

... the theft may precede sanctions and war

Recent editorials have discussed David J. Strachman’s attempt to seize Iranian antiquities from University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute.

An article by Safa Haeri provides background. The basic story is that a US court found the government of Iran liable for damages to bombing victims, Iran didn't pay, Strachman is attempting to force the U of Chigago into a 'judicial sale', but now the US Attorney is arguing that foreign nations are immune from this procedure.

An article by Niki Akhavan’s in (left-leaning) Z Magazine calls the court's actions “theft,” implying the judge loots Iran's culture by allowing antiquities to be used to settle debts of the current government.

Wayne Sayles argues the judges actions were correct in a recent blog posting. In Wayne's blog comments I argue that although antiquities are OK for settling debts it is surprising that we US citizens can sue foreign powers in US courts at all — even bizarro governments.

Even when Iran was holding US citizens as hostages then-President Carter didn't attempt to nationalize museum exhibits on tour in the US — we just froze bank accounts.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Sevso Silver

This story is five years old, but still worth reading.

A picture of the silver can be seen on Martin Vickers' web site.

Monday, July 10, 2006

BMC Parthia Online II

Last week we noticed that Google has placed Wroth's BMC Parthia online. Unfortunately, Google blocks users outside the USA from using this work, and their navigation is cumbersome, especially for the plates.

So I've uploaded the plates to my extended Digital Historia Numorum.

Several years ago I decided to upload the plates cited by Head in the Historia Numorum, as a complement to that volume. Everywhere Head cites BMC, I made the citation a hyperlink. This style of remixing can still be seen on Head's Caria chapter.

Adding Google to the mix has allowed me to do things a bit differently. Rather than hyperlinking the references, I am now adding 'BMC' to the navigation bar for each city or ruler. I suspect researchers would rather jump to the first BMC plate and flip through it (although I could do both.) I did this first for the Egypt chapter.

It's too time consuming to type in or OCR the text, but since Google has already provide it I can link each BMC plate to the descriptions of the coins on that page. This doesn't take much work, and looks nice. For example, see BMC Egypt plate I.

One of the complaints I've gotten about scanning Head and the BMC is that the references are old, and often wrong. So I've added cross references to Sear's Greek Coins and their Values and Greek Imperial Coins. If Sear (writing in the 1970s) disagreed with the British Museum (writing 100 years ago) I include the attribution in Sear. This doesn't take long. It is tedious, though. Morten Eske Mortensen once claimed no one would cross-reference numismatic works for free, and I wish I hadn't proved him wrong!

For this most recent volume, Parthia, I've also taken the weights and sizes from BMC and converted them from English to metric. So weights are in grams and sizes are in millimeters.

I'll eventually add the cross-references, plate-to-BMC-number, and unit conversions to the older pages. I'd also like to upgrade the image quality on the Google-derived plates, but that is expensive because the only way to get quality plates is to scan first editions, and once I acquire a first edition of BMC I can't bear to sell it!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Another kind of copyright issue

PdnOnline reports on the struggle of photographer Kelly Fajack. Mr. Fajack did pro bono photography work for a non-profit in Burundi. An engraver used a photo from Mr. Fajack's web site as the basis for a vingette on the Burundi 10,000 franc note.

Mr. Fajack wishes to sue the engraving company but has not been able to find out who does the engraving for Burundian currency.

(via boingboing. I am using the composite photo/engraving from the PdnOnline website without permission.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Google Book Search blocks most 19th century Numismatic Chronicle volumes for non-US web users.

Google Book Search blocks most 19th century Numismatic Chronicle volumes for non-US web users. For example, my site, which allows readers in the US to browse many issues, only lets Canadians browse the 1844 volume.

Searching seems unaffected. For example, searching for "notes on Ilion, numismatic and historical" returns the same hit in both countries but in Canada the link only takes the user to a 'snippet' view, while US users get full access.

In many countries copyright extends 70 years past the death of the author. Each article in Numismatic Chronicle has a different author, but Google doesn't have per-article copyright control, nor does it know when each author died. For this reason, most Numismatic Chronicle volumes are unreadable outside the U.S.

I've added a link allowing readers to view my site via 'proxyguy' to appear to Google as a US web user. Feel free to try it and reply with the results for your country with and without the proxy. Note that using the proxy may cause you to violate local laws. To ensure compliance with your countries' copyright law, please consult Wikipedia's list of countries' copyright durations to find the length of copyright in your country. Look up the death year of the authors whose works you desire in Clain-Stefanelli's Numismatic Bibliography. For example, if you live in Australia it is legal for you to read the works of George Hill (died 1948), but not if you live in Ireland.

There is a similar problem for the book I reported last weekend, BMC Parthia. The full text is available in the US, but not in the rest of the world. I'm creating a web site out of the plates and annotating it with metric weights and reverse-indexes to BMC and Sear. The reverse-index will take the user from the plate to Google's description of the coin — provider the user is in the United States. It is unfortunate citizens of Mr. Wroth's own country will have to spoof American IP addresses to read this important work. (Wroth died in 1911, his work is in the public domain worldwide).

Saturday, July 01, 2006

BMC Parthia Online

Warwick Wroth's 1903 catalog of Parthian coins in the British Museum has been put online by Google Books.

Contents, Introduction, Coins, Indexes, Plates.

I don't understand why Google and the University of Michigan are bringing these volumes to us. Why not the British Museum? Maybe they believe an online version will undercut sales of the Forni reprints?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Google Print

Google Print has changed it's user interface, putting the book page to the left and the search form to the right.

A book I was excited about, the BMC Catalog of Greek Coins / Corinth, has been missing from Google for several weeks. The page is still there but the full, searchable and viewable text is gone. I don't understand what causes Google to take down books already scanned.

BMC Mysia, Cyrenaica, and Lycia have appeared but without searching. Google unfortunately scanned the 1964 Forni reprints rather than the first editions, so believes the copyright date is 1964. I doubt Google will ever make these titles fully viewable — unless perhaps they accidently scan the first editions.

Three publications of the American Numismatic Society are fully viewable/readable on Google Print. Unfortunately, the plates didn't show up (as often happens). The titles are:

Google has a few other ANS publications in "snippet view".

166 coins stolen during shipment

New York dealer Alfredo De La Fe reported 166 ancient coins stolen during shipment. A package from Georgia was opened and re-sealed and the empty envelope arrived in New York.

The coins can be seen at

Stolen coins include Roman silver and bronze, Byzantine bronze, and Greek fractions.

A message on the Ancientartifacts list asks anyone with information to call postal inspector Michael J. Ray.

Monday, June 26, 2006

20,000 gold coins smuggled out of Romania in last 15 years

The Sunday Herald is reporting claims in from newspaper Ziua that 20,000 Dacien gold coins have been smuggled out of the country since 1990.

Romanian authorities have recovered 7845 ancient gold coins from smugglers. So the 20,000 claim is reasonable, an estimate that twice as many coins made it through as were caught.

(via PhDiva)

Friday, June 23, 2006

More follow-ups

People's Daily Online reported the exact amount CNG paid for the Eid Mar denarius seized by the Greek government: £18,000 (or about $32,750). Dr. Hubert Lanz claimed on CoinForgeryDiscussionList to know that the denarius is a recent forgery.

Arthur Brand's book, Het verboden Judas-evangelie en de schat van Carchemish, on the Carchemish hoard was published by Uitgeverij Aspekt B.V. It is described in the publisher's PDF catalog and can be purchased from online Netherlands bookstores including (search on Carchemish). The book is apparently not limited to coin smuggling; the title mentions the Gospel of Judas. The publisher's description says the book also covers the James Brother of Jesus Ossuary and the (Cleveland?) Apollo Sauroktonos. An English translation of some Carchemish material appears on MvR's site and includes pictures of three Athenian dekadrachms, a Delphi tridrachm, and an interesting Cypriot stater.

Monday, June 19, 2006

ANS' foreign decorations auction

This blog brings numismatic news you don't get elsewhere.

Last month the ANS sold part 1 of its collection of foreign medals, orders and decorations. The press release can be found on the ANS web site.

Morton & Eden auctioned the first half of the collection on 24-25 May. The Prices Realized [PDF] is on the Morton & Eden site, but unlike the other auctions there there is no Sale Report. I was curious how the sale went, so I made my own 'report.'

I added up the prices realized and got £898,660 (= approx $1,650,000).

I spot-checked the auction highlights and they seemed to be selling above estimates

Naval General Service Medal, estimate £15-20k, sold for 40k. (lot 23)
Conspicuous Gallantry group, estimate £4-6k or £6-8k, sold for 22k (lot 332)
Most Noble Order of the Garter, estimate £18-22k, sold for 30k (lot 294)

In the pre-sale Press Release director Wartenberg Kagan promised “Money raised from the sale will go into our acquisition fund to improve our core collection of American and world coins.” I wish her and the society good hunting.

Congratulations to the ANS on a successful sale. Part 2 of the auction will be held on 25-26 October.

If any blog readers attended the live auction please write about it in the comments section below. [Disclaimer: I volunteer for the ANS but this blog entry is my own idea].

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Künker auction closes tomorrow; 847 literature lots

This week's Künker auction features 847 lots of literature, the library of Prof. Dr. Peter Berghaus.

This auction includes many early books, including titles from the 16th century, as well as useful recent references.


PhDiva has been collecting newspaper stories on additional Turkish thefts: Time Magazine, Associated Press, New York Times.

CNG 72 Prices Realized are available. Barry Murphy says coin prices are higher, and that many in-print books are selling at auction for over retail. Barry also noticed this at the Malter auction. Perhaps some new folks are becomming interested in books?

David Welsh reports that Joel Malter passed away between days of his multi-day auction.

MvR and Arthur Brand have two new coin reports, neither of which has independent verification. The first is that CNG bought a dekadrachm that turned out to be fake. The second is that the Numismatic Museum in Athens bought a looted dekadrachm. Arthur Brand claims to be writing a book on "the Carchemish hoard" (in Dutch, not in English). I wish him success. Brand claimed for years to be creating a web site on looted coins which never materialized.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

“...a slightly shady background”

(Via Unidroit-L) Times Online is reporting that Classical Numismatic Group has returned an Eid Mar denarius to the Greek government.

CNG had bought the coin from two Greek runners. The runners/smugglers spilled the beans when UK Customs questioned them about 'a large sum of euros' they were trying to carry out of the UK — payment from CNG. The Greek government, whose laws give it ownership over goods excavated from Greek soil, pressed for the return of the Eid Mar using “a European directive on the return of cultural objects that passed into British law in 1994”, and of course CNG returned it.

The article did not name the directive/law under which the denarius was demanded. I am not familiar with UK law. If this had happened in the US, the law would be the stolen property act. It seems unlikely the UK didn't have laws against stolen property in 1994, so I wonder what the Times is talking about.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

CNG Book auction closes tonight

CNG's auction 72 closes tonight, including 800 lots of books mostly on ancient coins.

Some really excellent stuff is being offered at extremely low estimates, including Daehn's Ancient Greek Numismatics — A Guide to Reading and Research in *hardcover* estimated at $20, all three volumes of Lindgren in *hardcover* estimated at $100 (the first volume is nearly unattainable in hardcover). Also a complete run of Bulletin on Counterfeits estimated at $100.

Some turkeys, like An Inventory of Greek Coin Hoards estimated at $30 (available new from the publisher for $7).

There are a number of titles I'd like to purchase for the Digital Historia Numorum image project. Unfortunately I'm going to hold back — too many other commitments this summer, and I still haven't found time to scan my BMC Mysia. However, I'd encourage all my readers who are successful to consider taking an evening and scanning plates for this worthwhile project.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Karkamis treasure

(via MvR) MvR has provided us with a Hürriyet story and English translation on “the Karkamis treasure” — an enormous hoard of 3000 ancient coins including 13 dekadrachms. Found in 1995, smuggled out of Turkey and sold in the last decade. The article says a few dekadrachms remain for sale from Hikmet Gül, but that he's gone missing.

I could not find the translated article on Hürriyet's website. The dollar values for the coins cited by Brand appear to be on the high side. Brand calls the find “the Carchemish-hoard” on his yahoo group EarlyElectrumCoinage and that phrase doesn't occur in the article.... still, no reason to doubt that a major hoard was smuggled out of Turkey and sold through top US dealers.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Dissertatio de Alexandri Magni Numismate

Syvert Haverkamp, Dissertatio de Alexandri Magni Numismate.

Google brings us a 1722 dissertation on ancient coins with 22 pages of somewhat bizarre engravings.

(A search on the general web found a copy for sale for $1350 and one recently sold at auction for €260.)

Google is really doing well with numismatic books, probably because the participating libraries have deep numismatic holdings. Google's book holdings are difficult to search but have recently gotten faster.

I've been hyperlinking titles in the Historia Numorum bibliography directly to titles in Google books. I'm not sure if this is a good idea; Google hasn't guarenteed the links will be permanent. Google has said the Book Search isn't for reading, it's for finding. Which is unfortunate, because Google could make a great library. It could also become, for numismatics, something much better than a library. Imagine if ISEGRIM's search engine could display pages from Google Book Search...

You may enjoy the official Google Book Search blog.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Malter Book Auction

David Welsh describes yesterday's auction of Joel Malter's library and praises the catalog.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Image Rights and criticism

ArtWatch International reports (free registration required) that a small Italian museum, Museo Civico Giovanni Fattori, refused to allow Apollo Magazine to publish a photo of Christ Crowned with Thorns in James Beck's review of the Metropolitan's Fra Angelico exhibition (another free registration required).

The ArtWatch web page's teaser for their editorial says 'Museums Use Image Rights to Hamper Criticism'. It's unclear if any hampering occurred, as Beck's review included Christ Crowned with Thorns. Reproduction rights were received or were unnecessary. ArtWatch doesn't tell us which, choosing instead reminding us of the chilling effect of copyright on art criticism.

Beck doubted the chronology of Fra Anglico's life as offered by the exhibition catalog. Beck's points irritated the Museo, which threatened copyright litigation even though fifteenth century paintings probably aren't copyrightable.

Museums must learn that if their feelings will be hurt by negative reviews of their scholarship they probably shouldn't loan their works to US museums. We have a free art press.

A decent-sized Christ Crowned with Thorns can already be found on the Internet without the hassle of free registration. Free digital copies of fine art and antiquities will soon be the norm for important pieces. Cameras and disk space are cheap. In the future 15th century paintings will be freely discussed by all — no matter whose scholarship gets ridiculed.

In the meantime, I still cannot find pictures of the coins in the Lydian Hoard, recently stolen from the Uşak Archaeological Museum.

The Metropolitan Museum — the same museum having trouble with photo rights to Christ Crowned with Thorns — gave the actual Lydian treasure to Turkey. I wish The Met had chosen to give scholars some high-resolution copyright-free photos. Seems a shame to pack up a famous treasure and send it to a tiny regional museum in Turkey (where less than 800 people saw it in five years) yet ignore a billion Internet users. Many of us on the Internet enjoy pictures of our global heritage.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

The Aitna tetradrachm

The Israel Museum has put a beautiful 50 page booklet online. The Coin of Coins: A World Permiere was their exhibition of the Aitna (Aetna) tetradrachm. This unique coin is believed to be the world's most valuable. No one knows how much it would bring on today's market; Lucien de Hirsch bought it for 8,000 Belgian francs in 1882.

After Hirsch's death the coin was given to the royal library of Belgium. The Belgians never bothered to exhibit it, so the Israel Museum's exhibition was the world premiere.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A puzzling Mule Coin from the Parabita Hoard

In April Discovery News reported a previously unsuspected forgery technique in use in ancient Taras. Giuseppe Giovannelli and Stefano Natali of the University of Rome discovered a fourree of a boy-on-dolphin drachm that was made using a more sophisticated technique than the silver foil used by most ancient counterfeiters.

The first paper on this coin, A puzzling Mule Coin from the Parabita Hoard: a Material Characterisation is available for download. (Via blogographos)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Athenian Agora books — free downloads

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens has made their guidebooks available for free download, including Fred S. Kleiner's Greek and Roman Coins in the Athenian Agora (7MB, 32 pages, PDF). (via PhDiva)

Director Akbiyikoglu believes treasure is cursed

Follow-up on Uşak coin and broach theft:

The New York Times is reporting that nine people have been detained as suspects.

The Times has a picture of stolen gold pin. Also a quote from the chief officer of the Ushak culture and tourism department: "'In the past five years 769 people visited the museum,' in total."

Hürriyet is reporting that 32 other museums are going to take inventories to make sure nothing else has been stolen. Hürriyet says two unidentified thieves tried to sell it to collectors for $2,000,000, but different thieves stole the treasure from the first thieves.

The Scotsman is reporting diretor Akbiyikoglu's theory. It's a curse!

Mr Akbiyikoglu has denied any role in the thefts. "I didn't believe the villagers who found this treasure when they said that it was cursed," he told Turkish journalists when informed of police investigations last month. "But they were right. The curse killed them one by one. Now it has caught up with me too."