Friday, February 27, 2009

Fort Knox Receives $85 from Cash4Gold

Other blogs are reporting that the government of China is unhappy that some palace decorations claimed as spoils during the Opium war were recently auctioned by a collector.

On the lighter side we bring you The Onion's coverage of Fort Knox Receives $85 from Cash4Gold (audio clip).
Geitner: “I believe we could have pawned the Liberty Bell for more than that!”

Opening at Medialia in NYC on March 7th

Two exhibits open next Saturday at New York's Medialia Gallery. In space 1 will be The Second International Medallic Sculpture Competition for Emerging Artists featuring work by grand prize recipient Nicole Vlado and others. USA FIDEM will be shown in space 2. The opening is from 3-6pm.

Modern coins may not look as good as ancient coins. Modern medals are pretty good! It is hard to learn about art medal collecting as their are almost no books and the magazines are only available with membership in little-known societies. I urge coin collectors interested in modern art to visit the gallery. There are works for sale there by many living artists, some of which really push the bounderies of medallic art.

The web site, includes some interesting pictures, although not of the medals from this opening. Medialia is a commercial gallery; many works will be for sale but I don't know if the medals from this exhibition will be.

Kolbe auction 109 on Thursday

George Kolbe's numismatic literature auction 109 closes this Thursday, March 5th.

863 lots, including part two of Dr. Bassoli's library. The catalog is available on Kolbe's site.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ogilvie, _Medals and Coins from Bude to Mommsen_, WantItNow

I recently stumbled across Brian W. Ogilvie's “Collection, conviction, and contemplation: or, Picturing coins in early modern books, ca. 1550-1700” [27 page PDF]. Some readers of this blog will find it interesting.

Ogilvie cites some interesting sources, includng a paper collected in Medals and coins from Budé to Mommsen (1990). That book is rare! I have been looking at Internet sources for a year without discovering anyone selling it. I have never actually seen a copy although the ANA has one in their lending library. I will probably give up on getting my own and borrow the ANA's.

The first hit searching Google for the Budé to Mommsen is my request to buy a copy using eBay WantItNow. WantItNow is/was eBay's attempt to create a “reverse eBay”. Buyers enter requests for things they want. Sellers were supposed to look over the listings and respond. All of eBay's usual catagories are available, but the responses in the coin sections are quite poor. For example, in the Ancient Greek WantItNow there is only one request. A man looking for Greek coins to give to teenagers was offered a rosary necklace (for HongKong$ 28.88) and some US silver coins.

On the Chronological Sequence of the Coins of Ephesus

Barclay Head's book On the Chronological Sequence of the Coins of Ephesus was first published in 1880, by Rollin & Feuardent. British Museum keeper Head lays out his theories of when the different coin types of the city were struck.

Head's essay was first published in the Numismatic Chronicle as a two parter, in 1880 and 1881. It was reprinted in 1979 by Obol International. The original is in the public domain and Oxford's copy was digitized and can be downloaded from and Google Books.

Two 'publishers' recently reprinted this title. BiblioBazaar issued a paperback that is $14 from Amazon on November 13th. Just a day later, BiblioLife issued a hardcover On the Chronological Sequence of the Coins of Ephesus for $22 and a paperback for $16.

It is unlikely that these books are high quality. I expect they are derived from one of the scans above and printed cheaply, perhaps at the wrong size. I wonder if these books are collectable? What a strange coincidence to see two different publishers issuing the title just a day apart, 19 years after the Obol International reprint.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bill Daehn's website

Bill Daehn, author of an important bibliography on Greek Numismatics, has a small web site. His site includes a very useful table of Greek weight standards that has been helpful to me.

The site includes many of his articles. A good one is his Asylum article on his copy of Pinkerton's An Essay on Medals (1808) [PDF].
Pinkerton was born at Edinburgh, Scotland, on February 13, 1758 ... Pinkerton's interest in coins began as a child, when a lady, who had received an ancient Roman coin in circulation as a farthing, gave the coin to him.
If reading Daehn's essay makes you interested in Pinkerton's book both volume 1 and volume 2 can be viewed and downloaded from Google Books.

If you believe, as Daehn does, “When holding and reading an original edition, the collector feels a closer connection to the time and place in which the book was written. In comparison, the reprint feels ‘too modern,’ and part of that all-important connection is lost” you'll be happy to know that sellers on are offering Pinkerton two-volume sets, both 1st editions and the 1808 reprint, at prices ranging from $37 to $316.

$37 is actually quite a good price for a two-volume 18th century numismatic work in English with plates! I am tempted to buy it myself.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Coins auctioned by the US Postal Service

Alfredo De La Fe explains how coins stolen in the mail ended up auctioned by the USPS on the JAN blog.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Giant vacuum sucks modern coins from ancient well

An amusing BBC story (no byline) on an English Heritage operation to remove coins tossed by tourists into Clifford's Tower in York.
Claire Hogan, the tower's operations manager, said: "We last emptied the well in May 2006, although it took us nearly two years to clean, sort and count the £1,000-worth of small change in there that had accumulated over 10 years, so we have made a conscious decision to empty the well more often.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Copyright law and transient copies

A commentator on recently tore into me for claiming for claiming that it may be infringement to copy something for personal use. It turns out that one can infringe without even making a copy!

MAI Systems Corp. v. Peak Computer, Inc. holds that copying from a computer disk into RAM infringes without permission from the copyright holder. Although there was no permanent copy made it's still considered reproducing. This is why web radio broadcasters need both a license to perform a work and a license to make “ephemeral copies”. (These laws may be based on on precedents in the 1970s regarding per-seat licensing of mainframe software.)

It may even be an infringement to tell someone how to make a transient copy without actually making one! Hacker Eric Corley (AKA “Emmanuel Goldstein”) published computer code to load DVD movies into main memory from a DVD-ROM device. This code is necessary for software engineers to write DVD player software and requires a secret key that had been a trade secret until a Norwegian teenager had figured it out. Movie studios greatly feared this code because playing a DVD is half the process to copying one. They were worried that the code published by Corley would aid bootleggers. Mr. Corley lost Universal v. Reimerdes and this case forms a precedent in New York. A similar case in California went the other way. (Often when there is a split between high courts the Supreme Court jumps in to explain things but that isn't happening here.) Lower courts must follow precedent so in New York it's probably an infringement crime to tell people how to make a transient RAM copy of even a single DVD frame.

I believe that making transient copies shouldn't be infringement. It would be ridiculous to say that holding a book in front of a mirror is infringement. Only a fool would claim that opening a book in daylight and allowing photons to bounce off the ink is an infringement. Copying into a computer's RAM is more like those activities than operating a printing press. My government disagrees with me and until that changes an infringement apparently happens every time a bootleg PDF is opened up in a PDF viewer. FTPing a file may trigger thousands of infringements as each packet stops in a different router.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Turkey jails ten for museum theft

Hurriyet contains a brief notice that former director of the Uşak Archaeological Museum Kazim Akbiyiklioglu has been sentenced to 13 years for the theft of an ancient coin and gold broach.

Nine others were given lesser sentences.

The broach is part of the Lydian treasure that was displayed in New York between 1987 and 1993. A US museum paid $1,200,000 million for the teasures, which turned out to be smuggled illegally out of Turkey. After a court battle the artifacts ended up in Uşak where 769 visitors saw them before Akbiyikoglu switched them for fakes. He later claimed that he was the victim of a supernatural curse on the objects.

(via Looting matters)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

American Geophysical Union v. Texaco

Most of copyright law rests not on rules drafted by lawmakers but by interpretations made by judges. An important case is American Geophysical Union v. Texaco.

American Geophysical Union is a non-profit society for geophysicists and publishes several journals. The oil company Texaco's research center in Beacon NY had a library with three subscriptions to the Journal of Catalysis. Dr. Donald H. Chickering had photocopies made of eight papers from various issues of the Journal of Catalysis and kept the photocopies in his files.

Judge Jon O. Newman ruled that Chickering's copies were not made through fair use. Texaco infringed.

The judge didn't address if it is legal for independent researchers to photocopy. He was only talking about Texaco's researchers.

Many people feel the judge made a good call. Texaco is a rich multi-national; they need to pay the geophysicists for their journals.

Copyright law makes no distinction between rich companies and poor companies, so it's probably an infringement if a tiny company also photocopies for employee use. Many people feel OK with that too. It would be nice if a judge would rule on use by independent researchers. A legal bright line between for-profit independent researchers and gigantic public corporations would also help small organizations from knowing if they are breaking the law.

The law also makes no distinction between journals that are in-print and have sales departments and journals that went defunct many years ago. This is what I have a problem with.

I don't know a lot about catalysis but presumably the experiments in those papers can be re-recreated if necessary from the abstracts. Much numismatic evidence is unique — die pairings, overstrikes — and is needed by today's researchers. If we cannot photocopy papers then research stops. If a copyright owner isn't willing to register with the Copyright Clearance Center or even maintain a PO Box why should I respect his rights?

Some copyright holders purposely refuse to sell. For example Disney puts children's movies into the Disney Vault in the hopes of driving up sales. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about copyright holders abandoning their work and leaving it as an 'orphan', with no licensing body to take care of it.

I believe the historial sciences would benefit from orphan works legislation providing some kind of legal mechanism to allow scholars to pay for out-of-print works.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Author's Guild claims text-to-speech software is illegal

I have been too busy to write part 2 of my series on copyright law. Part 2 will be about the exciting legal case American Geophysical Union v. Texaco so you will all want to stay tuned for that.

Instead today I link to a bOING bOING post by Rob Beschizza mocking a claim by the Authors Guild that text-to-speech software infringes copyright. The scenario: a reader pays to download a Kindle book and activates the Kindle's read-out-loud feature causing a transient copy of the work to manifest as vibrations in nearby air molecules.

Monday, February 09, 2009

German police seizing coin collections?

Nathan Elkins has a response to Cultural Property Observer's post on ancient coin seizures happening in Germany.

3D Aegina stater

From the National Numismatic Museum in Athens Greece, a digital Aegina stater in 3D.

(requires QuickTime VR)

AntiquaNova replica Greek coin video

Video of Petr Sousek and Pavel Neumann of AntiquaNova striking replica Greek coins.

(via Moneta-L)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Counterfeit Coin Newsletter #11

Issue 11 of Robert Matthew's Counterfeit Coin Newsletter is up. Topics include the controversy on the recent auction of an ancient gold stater of Pergamon, a police auction for counterfeiting equipment seized from Louis Colavecchio, recent Chinese counterfeits of US coins, and counterfeit NGC and PCGS slabs.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Why is gold golden?

It turns out that the color of gold can only be explained using special relativity. Another brief article says that if relativity is ignored, gold would be silvery in color.

This isn't a new result but I hadn't heard it before.

(via reddit)

Monday, February 02, 2009

German police are seizing ancient collections

Cultural Property Observer reports with English translation on German seizures of ancient coin collections containing undocumented items.
In one case, German police seized a pensioner's entire coin collection after he bought four coins on an Internet auction site (eBay?). Apparently, unbeknown to pensioner, the seller was under some sort of police investigation related to cultural property issues.