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."

Monday, May 29, 2006

Turkish Museum switcheroo theft

The Independent is reporting “The director [Kazim Akbiyikoglu] of a state museum in Turkey has been arrested after police discovered that.... a gold brooch depicting a winged sea monster and a coin” have been stolen and replaced with fakes.

The article went on to say “The pieces were part of a 363-piece collection which became known as the ‘Lydian Hoard’... The Metropolitan Museum in New York bought the pieces... and was forced to return them in 1993.”

Google revealed that Akbiyikoglu is director of the Uşak (or Usak) Archaeological Museum, and that the Turkish name for the Lydian Hoard is the Treasures of Karun. An about-turkey.com web page describes the hoard but doesn't mention any coins being in it. The hoard and the museum are described in a 2003 article which does picture a coin (perhaps the one that was stolen?)

The smuggling and the return of the Karun Treasure merit that its exhibit be showcased to fill a whole museum. But the Usak Archaeology Museum is not equipped to display it, let alone to showcase the dimensions of its history. It is a small museum. Ancient stone artifacts are stacked on each other in the garden, because no storage place is left on the lower floor. Furthermore, all the historic carpets of Usak were placed in the museum by the local mufti when some carpets were stolen from the mosques of Usak. There is no room in the museum. During negotiations, the Americans made an offer. They said, “Leave 30 percent of the artifacts to us and we will build a museum for you.” This offer reflects a bitter reality.

Does anyone know which coin types were in the Lydian Hoard AKA Treasures of Karun? Were coins included in the 55 objects published in the Metropolitan Museum Bulletin (Summer 1984 issue)?

Can coin numbering systems be copyrighted?

In a March 13, 2000 post to southasia-coins, noted author Stephen Album wrote

... the abandonment of the C and Y numbers was not just an attempt to stifle the competition. Rather, there were fears at the time that Krause could be subjected to a lawsuit if they continued to list the numbers. I recall as far back as the mid 1970s, Whitman refused adamantly to sell the rights to the numbering system (Craig & Yeoman) to Krause, even though they had phased out the respective catalogs and sacked the editor (Holland Wallace). Western Publishing, which owned Whitman outright, was a difficult company...

Interestingly, copyright law 102(b) says “In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.”

If a coin numbering scheme is a “system” it doesn't qualify for copyright protection.

Writing in the June 2006 issue of Communications of the ACM, law professor Pamela Samuelson cites court cases that test the law.

The Kanebridge catalog of industrial latches and handles copied the numbering system and product names from Southco, it's rival. Southco's numbering system encoded characteristics of the product, for example their small Door Position Torque Hinge in black is part# E6-10-101-20, but the same in white is E6-10-101-30.

Southco sued; judge Samuel Alito (now on the Supreme Court, then on the 3rd Circuit) held that the system was not copyrightable. Although divising the system required creativity “[o]nce these decisions were made, the system was in place and all of the products in the class could be numbered without the slightest bit of creativity.”

Samuelson also mentions the Baker v. Selden decision decided by the Supreme Court and the Mitel v. Iqtel decision on the Tenth Circuit which establish the uncopyrightability of systems and industry standards.

A decision that went the other way provided by Samuelson is PMIC v. AMA. Practice Management Information Corp sells medical coding and compliance books. They wanted to publish the American Medical Association's codes numbering and labelling procedures. The 9th Circuit ruled in favor of the AMA. This case was decided on different grounds, Samuelson thinks some of PMIC's claims have merit.

A similar legal battle cited by Samuelson involved Delta Dental, an insurance company, who published a book containing the American Dental Associations codes and procedure names. Delta won, but lost on appeal. The appeals court thought that the name of each procedure and the number associated with it were original works of authorship.

Professor Samuelson's article was about industrial codes developed by industrial organizations. She doesn't feel copyright law should protect such codes. However, she is talking about moral considerations where industria consortia declare copyright on standards written by volunteers.

The numbering systems used in coin publications are developed by individual authors. The typical numbering system is sequential numbering of every coin the author knows about, ordered perhaps by denomination and date.

Some books, like Sear's Greek Coins and their Values only include a representative selection. Sear uses his judgement to pick the most representative coins. The selection might be copyrightable. In other cases, like the SNGs, judgement was used when forming the collecting but when cataloging all the genuine coins get a number. Judgement might still be used if the dating of a series of coins is controversial and is used to determine the numerical order. However, it is unclear if either of these selection and ordering techniques is actually creative, for 102(b) clearly says that systems are uncopyrightable.

Important sites like Wildwinds.com and ISEGRIM depend on being able to use the numbering systems developed by others. Could these sites survive a legal challenge like the one threatened against Krause by Whitman? I suspect they could, but because the court precedents are unclear it would be expensive.

Related: Are photos of ancient coins copyrightable?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Numismatic eBooks

Some numismatic-related eBooks I found on ebooks.com:

Excavations at Nemea III by Knapp and Isaac. List price $70 (as opposed to $135 for the hardcover). Adobe eBook format, allows 10 pages to be printed every 30 days, no copying.

Coins and Power in Late Iron Age Britain by Creighton. List $90 (as opposed to $90 for the hardcover; but Amazon sells the eBook for only $72). Adobe format, allows 20 pages to be printed every 30 days and 5 pages to be copied every 30 days.

Ancient History from Coins by Howgego. Adobe, Mobipocket and Microsoft formats, $30 (as opposed to $30 for the paperback; but Amazon sells the download for $25). No printing, no copying.

Money and the Early Greek Mind by Seaford. $26 (as opposed to $32 for the paperback and $80 for the hardcover). Adobe format, allows 20 pages of printg and 5 pages of copying every 30 days.

I haven't seen them as eBooks and can't review them as such. The Seaford and the Howgego I've read (or started to read) in paperback. Both are excellent.

I haven't purchased an eBook since Elibron/Adament stopped selling them. The lack of "copying" (I assume this means cut-and-paste) is maddening. I like to copy small snippets, like coin descriptions, to my word processor. Any DRM that prohibits that would drive me mad.

Anyone know of other titles?

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Printed in China

The 2004/2005 issue of American Journal of Numismatics arrived yesterday. This volume has 303 pages and 48 plates and combines volume 16 and 17.

I enjoyed Janick and Santini's paper “Street Money: distribution and analysis” which analyses statistically some 8331 coins and bills found on the street in West Lafayette, Indiana over a 10 year period. The methodology is similar to the analysis of finds of ancient coins.

Volume 16/17 was printed in China. The name of the printer isn't given, nor the typesetter. I don't have volume 15 handy but my other ANS books (SNGs and Numismatic Studies) were printed in the US or Belgium.

Perhaps the ANS has found a way to print the Journal cheaply? I don't know how much it costs to print a volume — but the ANS charges $25 more for a year's membership to members who want the Journal. The ANS annual report says the ANS spent $106,023 on printing and publications in 2004, which I imagine includes the 2003 AJN, 3 issues of the magazine, and any books that came out that year.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Network effects

I have disabled blog comments for folks not registered with blogger.com. Sorry numismatic readers. Spammers were leaving comments.

R.J. O'hara points out in a blog comment that publishers must underestimate demand, since scholaly numismatic publications go out of print fast and cost even more on the used market than they cost new.

Certain numismatic books will never be popular. No matter how many copies were printed of SNG Newcastle, no matter how good Andrew Meadows' writing turns out to be, it was too many copies.

Numismatic references, the kind with a number-per-coin, are like dictionaries to the language of numismatics. A few books capture the discourse and become popular. These books are necessary to understand the global coin 'conversation.' There is a network effect — once a few people start using a numbering system it becomes more useful to use that system than to use a better but less popular system.

When someone asks me to identify a coin the reference books I consult are ones 1) likely to have the coin and 2) that the questioner is likely to have. For a book to become popular it has to be be strong in #1 (findability), to compensate for being new and having no #2 (popularity).

That's how I know SNG Newcastle will never be a hit — it has 1000 coins from all over the Greek world. If it had 1000 coins from Thessaly I would want to consult it. 1000 random Greek coins makes the odds of finding a specific coin too low to justify walking over to the shelf and picking it up. (Luckily SNG Newcastle is part of the great sylloge-nummorum-graecorum.org/ so people will still use it, and scholars will still quote it. It just won't sell many copies.)

A book like Roman Provincial Coinage I includes every provincial coin from 44 BC to 69 AD. This makes the findability 100%. It is the only book for the period with 100% findability. So of course it became popular among numismatic catalogers and writers. Once a numbering system is adopted by other authors suddenly everyone else needs the book to look up the numbers and see what they mean, ensuring continued popularity. A book like that can never have enough copies printed, no matter how big the print run.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Economics of coin book publishing

Bekircan Tahberer suggested (on the coinstudies list) that RPC 7, 8, and 9 have been finished by Edoardo Levante but funds cannot be found to publish them.

Volume 1, which sells for $700 and is offered at even higher prices, indicates a desire from collectors for the series. Perhaps the British Museum Press doesn't think academic libraries are ready to acquire the rest of the series, and that they make up the bulk of buyers?

RPC 7 part 1 is to be published this year, so mr. Tahberer is perhaps talking about 7 part 2? David Brown Book Co is offering the title and claims the author is Marguerite Spoerri Butcher. Amazon is taking pre-orders, and claims the authors are Ivana Marková, Per Linell, Michele Grossen, and Anne Salazar Orvig.

I stumbled across a thread on Collectors Universe on the economics of publishing books on US numismatics. The post by user and book author C. D. Daughtrey (AKA 'coppercoins') is especially worth reading.

'coppercoins' claims that although 'the Red Book' has a print run of 75,000 copies the typical book on US coins has a run of 1,000 to 3,000 copies. Mr. Daughtrey self-published his book and quotes his costs. Looking Through Lincoln Cents is paperback, spiral bound, and only 5.2"x8.8" inches, assume a bigger book will cost more. Amazon seems to offer an earlier edition, and has 'Search inside this book' enabled.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Two books on Greek coins published

Oxbow is offering a book I haven't seen before: Agoranomia: Studies in Money and Exchange Presented to John H. Kroll

Since this is 'edited', rather than 'written', by Dr. van Alfen it must be a collection of papers by other people. Presumably the ANS will 'announce' this book in a few months and then we'll get more details.

Amazon and Oxbow are both offering Excavations at Nemea III : The Coins. Amazon's site has 'search inside this book' enabled.

Monday, May 15, 2006

More on numibooks.com

Dave Millington, whom I had previously only known by his FORVM handle millimoo, contacted me after I described his site numibooks.com here. He asked for suggestions.

The name 'numibooks' is hard to remember. The site itself lacks graphics (except for other people's book covers and a huge webring bottom banner.) Normally I approve of sites with minimal use of graphics but the total lack reminded me of some numismatic splogs. (I'm not going to link to any coin splogs, but one is http://www.btbfx.info/ ). Add some ugly custom banners or spring for one of the $25 custom logos.

(My coin web site, http://www.snible.org/coin also lacks a useful name. I thought about buying a clever URL or begging for digitalhn.ancients.info but I was lazy and just bolted my coin stuff onto my old web site. The coin stuff is now most of the site.)

Second problem with numibooks: no original numibooks reviews. At least I couldn't find them. For example, the April book of the month, Sceattas - An Illustrated Guide copies its synopsis from the publisher's web site. numibooks users (just Mr. Millington at this point) are entering availability and price metadata but not writing custom descriptions or even ranking the books by number of stars. (Follow-up comments can add number of stars but can't describe availability or price.)

Registered numibooks.com users can enter comments rating books. The software doesn't preserve newlines so a multi-paragraph response gets bunched up into a single paragraph.

Books can only have one category, so for example Not Kosher is listed under fakes, not 'Biblical Jewish'. There are a lot of categories, including one just for The Celator magazine! Mr. Millington must have broad interests, or many numismatist friends, if he is to rate everything from 'Sylloge Numorum Graecorum' to 'Paper Money'.

There is no way to add links to the publishers site or other web reviews.

The site has a complicted legal agreement. Sites that bind users to agreements not to reproduce content while at the site time asking users to write content for free irritate me. (numibooks.com's agreement is much better than the one for AsiaMinorcoins.com).

This mini-review sounds harsh but remember than I'm reviewing the 0.1 version of the site. All that is needed for this site to become useful is for it to have ratings that let readers know if a book is worth buying for their purposes.

I wish 'millimoo' the best of luck!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Two books on Greek coins liberated by Google

New this week, Google brings us Guide to the Principal Gold and Silver Coins of the Ancients (1895) and BMC Sicily (1876): Preface, Contents, Coins, and Indexes.

BMC Sicily lacked plates. The Guide was published with plates, but as sometimes happens Google either isn't making them available or is hiding them. Luckily, I scanned the plates for the Digital Historia Numorum.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Numismatic book reviews

http://www.numibooks.com/ looks like it would be a useful site if people actually used it. Site seems like a ghost town, although someone went to the trouble to put a lot of book information in.

Google has a feature (part of Advanced Search) that reveals who links to a web page. According to Google, only numibooks.com links to the numibooks main page.

I was wondering how the site was doing and tried searching for it but had a hard time finding it. I couldn't remember the name and searching on terms like 'numismatic', 'book', 'review' didn't help.

I don't know if the site is a labour of love by some collector or just a way to harvest Amazon referral money.

I still haven't found an Internet replacement for my trusty copy of Kroh's Ancient Coin Reference Reviews. At $25, this is one of the bargains of ancient numismatics.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Greek coin inscriptions

I started this blog to discuss the Digital Historia Numorum.

There was a post on FORVM today about coin inscription web sites.

I have two very large Greek coin inscription databases on my site. None of the followups mentioned DHN. Perhaps this is because my site is about Greek inscriptions. But maybe not. Maybe my site just isn't well known for inscriptions, or it is too hard to use.

The two main tools on my site are Muensterberg's lists of magistrates and the Remarkable Inscriptions appendix of the Historia Numorum. I don't provide a partial inscription search, or any form-based stuff, preferring to let readers get the whole list as a page and search it however they want.

I use the Firefox browser, which just lets me start typing letters and finds their occurance in the page. Unfortunately, most inscriptions are in Greek and I don't know how to make Greek symbols appear using the keyboard. So I often just search alphabetically, by hand.

I purchased a first edition of Florence's work on Greek ethnics used on coins but haven't bothered to typeset it, thinking there would be little interest. Muensterberg was such a pain to type in, I don't relish typing in another 94 pages if no one is using Munsterberg and HN. Still, it would be nice to have Florence — those ethnics would get Digital Historia Numorum up to the point of having most of the inscriptions in Icard, maybe more than Icard. With a few script hacks I could make up something very close to Icard and Google-searchable.

One of the down-sides of Muensterberg is that it is in German. This doesn't matter much, as he doesn't say much other than quote Greek legends and cite standard works, but perhaps I should get the two pages of General Remarks made into English for my (most English-speaking?) readers. Does anyone reading this blog have time to translate two pages from German to English?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

CNG 72 includes 800 lots of literature; Malter

CNG Mail Bid Sale 72 is up, and includes 800 lots of books. Closes June 14th.

Malter Galleries is auctioning Joel Malter's library. 1688 lots including rare stuff. The PDF catalog was emailed to customers but is not on the website.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Tkalec auction on Sunday

The Tkalec auction is Sunday. I didn't receive a catalog and sixbid.com doesn't carry this auction, so I nearly missed it completely.

283 lots, many FDC quality. The web site seems a bit poor; the 'index' still describes last years lots.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Reverse-index for Byzantine coin monograms

A new table on NumisWiki provides a reverse-index for Byzantine monograms. http://www.forumancientcoins.com/numiswiki/view.asp?key=Monogram The table was originally done to simplify typesetting of Sear's book, but Mr. Cole's additions makes the table useful for coin identification. This is an example of building on a work that makes the built-upon work more useful.