Friday, January 30, 2009

Howgego's Ancient History from Coins

The most popular e-Book reader is the Amazon Kindle. I haven't used one. Only Seven numismatic books are available in Kindle format.

Christopher Howgego's Ancient History from Coins is available in Kindle format, and also in Microsoft Reader and Mobipocket format, Sony eBook format, and Adobe Reader format.

Why is this Howgego's book on ancient numismatics so widely available in electronic format? Almost no other books on coins are available electronically, but this one is in every online e-Book store.

I read it years ago, in dead-tree format, and thought it was pretty good. I no longer have a copy.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Eric P Newman Seminar reading list: numismatic bibliographies listed in the Greek section

(this is part 7 of a series on the ANS Seminar reading list.)

The Greek Bibliography is in Microsoft Word format. It begins by recommending the general bibliographies Numismatic Literature and Surveys of Numismatic Research.

Numismatic Literature gives English summaries of every important numismatic article published in every language. There are a few useful web resources for it. (The title makes it hard to search the Internet for it!) The ANS has a search engine for volumes 1-6 and 95-140 at This page doesn't seem to be linked to the main site any more. Harry Bass paid for the digitization and he has a page explaining the search although the links are stale. The data for volumes 144-149 are also available online.

Volumes 141-149 can be purchased from David Brown, the price is $4 for 141 and 142, $22 for 143, $40 for 144, and $50 for the others.

I purchased about 100 issues of this journal, including many duplicates, cheaply at auction. I had hoped to sell the duplicates to recoup my expense but no one wants them. (Drop me a line if you want any issues from the '70s-'90s cheap.) The volumes are worthwhile but storage is a problem. I could make room for a bibliography of ancients but that's only a fraction of each volume. At the ANS book sale I was offered a complete set back to the '40s for free and didn't take it as I lacked a way to transport it and shelves to put it on.

The Surveys of Numismatic Research are similar but I haven't actually read any. Van der Dussen sells the 1972-2001 volumes for between 29 and 127.50 euro per issue. The volumes are pretty massive. The 1966 three volume set can be had cheaply; $10 from David Brown and sometimes cheaper on eBay.

The final bibliographic item is the ANS library Dictionary Catalogue which is just a photocopy of the card catalog before it went online. Use the online version.

BMC Greek

23 of the 29 volumes of BMC Greek are available online. I've updated my BMC Greek links page with four more volume links supplied by FORVM user GAT. The new volumes are Mysia, Alexandria, Caria, and Galatia/Cappadocia/Syria. The Italy link which had been failing recently is back.

No one has yet made available Lycaonia/Isuria/Cilicia nor Lydia. The final four volumes are also not available but may still be under copyright (Phoenicia, Palestine, Arabia, and Cyrenaica).

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Copyright law

US copyright law represents a bargain between creators and society. The government agrees to provide free enforcement of monopoly publishing rights for a certain number of years (currently the creator's life plus 70) to creators on top of any payment provided by readers. If the government didn't provide this benefit it would be hard for creators to sell copies of their works because unauthorized publishers could undercut the creator's own publishers.

This arrangement benefits society only when the creator makes use of the monopoly by selling the work. If the creator refuses to sell the work then the monopoly means no one can reproduce the work — an arrangement that benefits no one except used book dealers.

When the US adopted modern copyright law, in 1909, it was expensive to reproduce books. It was so expensive to set type that unless hundreds of reproductions were expected to sell it wasn't economical to reproduce a book. The invention of the photocopier (in 1938, but not available commercially until the 1960s) made it possible to reproduce single copies, but it wasn't until the founding of the Copyright Clearance Center in 1977 that creators could earn money when their works were photocopied. Today creators don't have to worry about keeping their works in print: they can merely register them with the Clearance Center.

Unfortunately very few works are registered with the Clearance Center. When a work is out-of-print and not registered with the Center it's difficult to pay the creator to copy it. So why isn't everyone registered? Many copyright holders don't know about it. Others don't feel enough users would license the work to justify the time to set up an account. Others don't even know they own the copyright. (Imagine you wrote a journal article. Do you own the copyright or does the journal? If you got hit by a bus tomorrow, would your heirs understand that they inherit your copyright and the ability to license it?)

Sometimes a work is licensed with the Clearance Center but not for the purpose you'd like. For example, the Israel Numismatic Journal is coded to direct professors wishing to photocopy classroom handouts to a PO box in Jerusalem to discuss reproduction permission. Business users aren't even given that address! If an auction house cataloger wishes to do the right thing and pay the Israel Numismatic Society to make a research photocopy the signal that they won't take the money! Clearly this is intentional. The Society has set up an account and coded it to give an address to academic users and blanket refusal to business users.

I prefer the clear prices set David Sear's Greek Coins and Their Values: five cents a page for schools, ten cents a page for businesses.

My preference for clear prices and the possibility of businesses licensing works doesn't mean anything under the law. The rightsholder makes the rules and the readers must live with it. It's clearly the right of the INS to refuse business from businesses. Yet I feel the exercise of reproduction refusal is harmful to society. Denying others a legal avenue to photocopy scientific papers does not promote the Progress of Science.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Douglas Saville describes Kolbe book auction

Yesterday's e-Sylum included a description of Kolbe's auctions 107 and 108 in New York by Douglas Saville.

Jonathan Swift's numismatic essay “A Defence of the Conduct of the People of Ireland in their Unanimous Refusal of Mr. Wood's Copper-money, &c” realized $12,000 against a $5000 estimate.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ancient Coins Were Shaped Like Hams

Barbara Seuling's children's book Ancient Coins Were Shaped Like Hams: and Other Freaky Facts About Coins, Bills, and Counterfeiting came out in February 2008 but I was previously unaware of it. I'd like to nominate Matthew Skeens's cover art for most rediculous cover to a numismatic book for 2008.

Only $5 new from Amazon. I haven't actually seen the book; if any readers have a copy please post a mini review in the comments section.

(Why am I shilling for Amazon on the blog? I now have an Amazon Associates ID; if you order the book through the link above I get a few cents. Since joining this program two months ago I've earned $2.16.)

How creativity is being strangled by the law

The most popular post on this week is about copyright law. I was shocked. It's a topic few care about.

Is there any interest in a series on copyright law on the blog? I'd like to start with this video of Larry Lessig at TED talking on How creativity is being strangled by the law.

Lessig's examples are about amateur remixing audio and video. In his examples, the audio and video rights holders are known but won't license for less than tens of thousands of dollars. I'm particularly interested in is remixing catalogs, pictures of ancient coins, and amateur translations where the source material is out-of-print and the rightsholder is unfindable.

Charles Davis Mail Bid Sale January 31st

Charles Davis will be holding a mail bid sale January 31st. 556 lots with over 150 lots on books of ancient coins.

Included is a complete bound first edition of SNG Copenhagen estimated at $10,000.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sylvia Hurter has passed away

Cultural Property Observer reports that Sylvia Hurter has passed away.

She was an expert numismatist and authenticator and the former chairman of the IAPN Anti-forgery Committee. She wrote for the Bulletin on Counterfeits using her initials S.H.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Celtic Coins and the Copyright Clearance Center

The British Museum also has a reading list for numismatists. It includes a few categories missing in the ANS' seminar list, including Celtic. It's not an academic list and even includes a category "Children's Books on Coins and Paper Money".

Not included in this list, nor in the British Museum's list of numismatic publications, is Derek F. Allen's 1987 Catalogue of the Celtic coins in the British Museum. Volume I: Silver coins of the Eastern Celts and Balkan peoples. This book is worth tracking down because it is the only book on Eastern Celtic coins in English. I can't find a copy online. I recently borrowed the ANA's copy.

(A short biography of Allen says he died in 1975, a full 12 years before the book came out!)

Usually when a book becomes as rare as Allen's that's the end of it. Maybe it will turn out once or twice in an auction. You'll bid five times what the book sold for when the author was alive and be outbid. There is usually no other legal option for getting a copy. What's different about Catalogue of the Celtic coins in the British Museum. Volume I is that it's been registered with the Copyright Clearance Center. It is completely legal to make photocopies of the book for a small fee!

This is a wonderful development and I look forward to a day when all books have this option.

The CCC page for Allen's Catalogue gives the fee as nine cents a page for classroom use and 61 cents a page for general business use. I can't recall home many page are in the book, as I recall it's only about 80 pages plus about 30 plates. So figure ten bucks for collectors/scholars and $67 for coin dealers.

Ancient Rome 3D Curriculum Competition

Bruce Sterling mentions Google's Ancient Rome 3D Curriculum Competition, saying “Imagine trying to explain this development to K-12 educators from 40 years ago.”

Sorry for light posting lately... I've been busy with other stuff. Feel free to talk amongst yourselves in the comments section.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Eric P Newman Seminar reading list: the general Medieval and Islamic titles

(this is part 6 of a series on the ANS Seminar reading list. I haven't actually read any of the basic Medieval and Islamic titles so take this post with a grain of salt.)

The Medieval and Islamic general titles seems to be more available than the ancient titles.

Philip Grierson's Coins of Medieval Europe is available from Charles Davis for $75.

Grierson and Blackburn's Medieval European Coinage volume I: The Early Middle Ages can be previewed on Google Books. Amazon will sell the paperback for $89 new. The hardcover is worth much more; at least one was recently sold for $200 by Charles Davis.

P. Spufford's Money and its Use in Medieval Europe can also be previewed on Google Books. Amazon will sell a copy for $52 new with used copies for less.

Alan Stahl's Zecca: The Mint of Venice in the Middle Ages can be had for $20 from David Brown. Amazon still wants $80 for it. Google has a preview of it which surprised me. Previously ANS titles have been in snippet format. So either the ANS has given permission or the Google/rightholder suit, which settled out-of-court, is already yielding benefits.

Recommended reading are the “dinar”, “dirham” and “fals” entries in the Dictionary of the Middle Ages, a 13 volume set that costs $800. Also recommended are the “coins and coinage”, “dinar”, and “dirham” in the Encyclopedia Iranica. Some volumes of that encyclopedia are available from used Amazon starting around $70 but I don't know which volumes include these entries.

Steve Album's A Checklist of Islamic Coins (2nd ed.) is hard-to-find. Used copies of the first edition can be found for $50. Album often sells copies at NYINC for $20, so it is possible he has some but doesn't advertise them on his website

Michael Bates, Islamic Coins (ANS Handbook 2, New York, 1982) is a complete mystery. I have never heard of ANS handbooks and they don't appear on the list of ANS publications series. The library entry says it's 52 pages plus 36 color slides. The library has sets of slides made in 1971 and 2 for Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins, numbered 1, 2 and 3, but the Islamic slides are not #4 of the Education slide program. I couldn't find an ANS Handbook 1.

The final general Islamic titles is a three part paper, “Islamic Numismatics”, in the Middle East Studies Association Bulletin from 1978 and 1979. These issues are no longer available from the publisher.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Eric P Newman Seminar reading list: the general Roman and Byzantine titles

(this is part 5 of a series on the ANS Seminar reading list. I haven't actually read any of the basic Roman and Byzantine titles so take this post with a grain of salt.)

Andrew Burnett's Coinage in the Roman World has been reprinted by Spink and is available new from Charles Davis for $38 but not in the usual online shops.

Ted Buttrey's paper "The Morgantina Excavations and the Date of the Roman Denarius" is in Morgantina Studies II: The Coins which is out-of-print but can be found in the usual online shops like ABE starting at $60. This is supposed to be a pretty important title for Republican numismatics. Before this paper (1961) different dates were assigned to the coin types. This paper proves and explains the new dating.

Ken Harl's Coinage in the Roman Economy, 300 B.C. to A.D. 700 has a preview on Google Book Search. It's in print; Amazon sells it new for $56.80.

P. D. Whitting's Byzantine Coins can be found on ABE starting at $25. Philip Grierson's Byzantine Coins is available but pricey: $295 was the cheapest I found. Amazon thinks it has a used copy for $626.

New York International Numismatic Convention

The New York International Numismatic Convention is this week. I was there on Sunday to inspect some auction lots I'm considering bidding upon. The auctions run throughout the week. The floor sales start with a $100 'preview' on Thursday. The regular show runs Friday-Sunday. Admission is $10 or $5 with coupon.

The free educational program is on Saturday. The lectures are Prue Fitts, Money as a Means of Propagranda: Visual Propoganda on Coins of the Eastern Roman Empire in the Heraclian and Isurian Dynasties; John Sallay, Technology and Numismatics (Medal Collectors of America); Howard A. Minners, The Origins of the Taler; Patrick Guillard, The French Numismatic Market: No Bailout Required; David Michaels, Address to the Troops: Adlocutio and Related Scenes on Roman Coinage, Arthur Fitts, Tudor and Stuart Propaganda: How Money Talks.

Most coins at the show look expensive because the dealers put their best coins on their tables under glass. Ask if there are any boxes of coins to look at. Doug Smith's account of a coin show is good. He is talking about a Baltimore show which is much smaller for ancients than NYINC.

Note: I hope to attend this show Friday afternoon. The rest of the week is iffy for me because of personal stuff.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Lenticular €10 coin

I recently received a €10 coin from the Netherlands whose reverse depicts Princess Catharina-Amalia of the Netherlands and her parents. The parents and baby cannot be seen at the same time. The appear when then coin is viewed from different angles, using a technique similar to lenticular printing.

The images don't look as great as the attached photo but they are really there. I think I have a silver plated base metal coin, which isn't mentioned on the Wikipedia page for Netherlands commemoratives.

I think this is the first coin featuring the technique. It was struck in 2003. A page on the Royal Dutch Mint's website goes into great detail on the marketing campaign for this coin but neglects to mention or explain the technique. The artists are Erwin Driessens and Maria Verstappen.

If anyone know the name of the multiple-image technique when applied to coin production please leave it as a comment!