Monday, November 23, 2009

CoinArchives Pro Academic Edition

CoinArchives is now offering academic subscriptions with results that don't include auction prices realized. The yearly fee is less than the $600 professionals pay. How much less? I don't know: “Pricing is based on the number of accounts requested per institution.... Academic Edition accounts are for non-profit research and educational use only.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kirtas Books

Kirtas, the folks who make book scanners, has a new venture to sell print-on-demand copies of scanned books. The web site has a store full of public domain books.

Unlike Elibron, Kirtas is offering to sell books they haven't yet scanned. They have loaded the catalog of the University of Pennsylvania library and the New York Public Library into their database. These libraries have many desirable numismatic works that Kirtas claims to offer in reprint; for example the Photiadès Pacha auction catalog (1890), Imhoof-Blumer's 2 volume Kleinasiatische Münzen (1901), or the three-volume The Weber collection: Greek coins (1922-1929).

I ordered four volumes of BMC Greek published post-1900 that Google doesn't offer.

Kirtas claims to offer these books for $10 in paperback or $20 in hardcover. Download-only will be $2 once someone has paid for paperback or hardcover. I am curious to see if Kirtas can deliver quality and if they seriously intend to sell The Weber Collection (317 plates!) for $20 in hardcover.

To fund this Kirtas offers something I haven't seen before, a patent-pending business model they call “Invest in Knowledge”. For abour $30 you get the paperback plus a 5% royalty whenever anyone buys another copy of the title from Kirtas. So you'll break even if 20 copies sell. (Kirtas is suggesting you should buy this for your grandchildren (!?!) so they must think it will be a long-term money maker.)

I thought about “investing” in the BMC Greek volumes but I somehow doubt Kirtas will sell 20 more copies of these books. Maybe I will be kicking myself for the next century when Kirtas turns itself into the Wal-Mart of 19th century books.

It's not just books on Greek coins, I found the 1866-1869 American Journal of Numismatics also for $10.

If these prices aren't low enough the coupon code Save20%KirtasBooks gives $8 paperbacks and $16 hardcovers.

1824 medal commemorates man hanged for check forgery

Stephen Adams reports for the Telegraph of London on a medal made in 1824 for check forger Henry Fauntleroy.
Timothy Millett, who is selling the coin at the Olympia Winter Fine Art and Antiques Fair in London, said: "At the time it really was a sensational case. He was 'doing a Madoff', you might say. The press absolutely loved it."

[Millett] thought perhaps a few hundred of the 'medals' were made by an entrepreneur looking to make a quick profit from the hanging, bought by people to show they attended "in the same way as we might buy a t-shirt".
Henry Fauntleroy was apparently the last man hanged for check forgery in England.

Using the Optical Mouse Sensor as a Two-Euro Counterfeit Coin Detector mentions a paper by Spanish researchers Marcel Tresanchez, Tomàs Pallejà, Mercè Teixidó and Jordi Palacín on detecting counterfeit Euro coins using the sensor from cheap optical mice.

The full report PDF is available from MDPI - Open Access Publishing. The abstract claims the software does as well as a trained human and better than an untrained one. The report was published in Sensors volume 9 issue 9.
The researcher does explain that not just any optical mouse sensor will work, as images must be captured in real time, with a minimum resolution of 15x15 pixels (the team used 30x30 pixels). It is also better to use an LED- or infrared-based sensor, and not laser technology, as these[sic] provide images that are too wide.

Hadrien Rambach library auction

The catalog for the auction of the Numismatic Library of Hadrien Rambach is now online. 255 lots of books. There are also 48 lots of ancient coins.

The e-Sylum mentioned this last week, but the catalog wasn't available then. Hadrien Rambach is a coin specialist at Spink & Son.

The estimates seem low. Lot 572, Babelon's Inventaire sommaire de la colleciton Waddington (1898, 4 volumes), his Rec. Gen. (1904), and his son's Catalogue de la collection de Luynes (1924-1932), is estimated at only 100 euros.

Whoever made the catalog has copying text to the clipboard disabled, which is profoundly irritating.

A correspondent recently asked why auctioneers make low estimates. He mention the usual reasons (unfamiliarity with the market, desire to inspire new bidders) and the usual problem (bad estimates send a false signal to collectors who then don't research what the usual price is). For books I would add the irritation of storing and returning unsold lots. If a coin doesn't make reserve it can go back into the safe. Who has space for a book that doesn't sell?

Princeton computer science professor and ancient coin collector Kenneth Steiglitz wrote a book, Snipers, Shills, and Sharks: eBay and Human Behavior which is apparently on the psychology of auctions including ancient coin auctions on eBay. Has anyone read it? Perhaps it includes the latest research on how buyers and sellers make decisions.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Countermarked Perseus bronze

Bronze coin of king Perseus of Macedon, 179-168 BC.

This coin has a counterstamp, I believe of a prow.

I couldn't find any other prow counterstamps online. Perseus and his father Philip V struck other coins with prow types though. Is there an online database of counterstamps? I searched ISEGRIM and found Roman coins of the 2nd and 3rd century AD with prow counterstamps, but nothing Hellenistic.

A recent eBay auction of another countermarked Perseus had a similar countermark that could be a prow but could also be almost anything.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stack family book auction

The catalog for the Stacks family numismatic library, to be auctioned in New York in January 2010, is up on George Frederick Kolbe's web site.

400 lots. The catalog itself is 171 pages! The lots include Guillaume Bude's De Asse et Partibus (1524!), Haeberlin's Aes Grave (1910), Gnecchi's I Medaglioni Romani (1912) and first editions of BMC Greek (all 29 volumes as a single lot.) The IBSCC's Counterfeit Reports are there, “possibly complete” for 1976-March 1981.

A lot of volumes 1-6 of The Numismatist is estimated at $25,000! Some rare correspondance on the Colonel Green collection and its sale to Egypt's King Farouk is estimated at the same price.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NYC lecture: “Persian gods and kings: the coins of ancient Iran”

Vesta Sarkhosh Curtis, curator of Islamic and Iranian coins at the British Museum, will be lecturing at the ANS tomorrow on “Persian gods and kings: the coins of ancient Iran”.

Google says Ms. Curtis is the project leader of The Sasanian coins project and author of a book on ancient Persian love poetry.

The coinage of Kea

A reader wrote to tell me that Charikleia Papageorgiadou-Banis' The coinage of Kea (1997) (20mb, 107 pages, 21 plates) can be downloaded from the Helios Repository of the National Hellenic Research Foundation. This book covers the ancient Cycladic mint of Keos (also called Ceos), not the larger island of Chios.

The repository also offers Jennifer Warren's “The bronze coinage of the Achaian League: the mints of Achaia and Elis” (just 4 pages), originally published in Achaia und Elis in der Antike: Akten des 1. Internationalen Symposiums, Athen, 19.-21. Mai 1989 in 1991. Ms. Warren later wrote The Bronze Coinage of the Achaian Koinon.

The site's search showed some other titles but I couldn't download them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Stahl, The Rebirth of Antiquity: Numismatics, Archaeology, and Classical Studies in the Culture of the Renaissance

Alan M. Stahl, The Rebirth of Antiquity: Numismatics, Archaeology, and Classical Studies in the Culture of the Renaissance (2009), Princeton University Library (not Press!), 178 5x9’ pages, $40 (currently $35 on Amazon).

A collection of papers on Renaissance numismatics, edited by Alan Stahl, is now available on I got a $20 copy in May after an e-Sylum announcement. I don't know if those copies are still available.

For $20 I was expecting a photocopied paperback. I received a quality hardcover.

All of the papers are about coin collecting except for Tamara Griggs' which is about antiquities dealers.

I found this book interesting even though I'm not curious about the Renaissance and collecting back then. I'm reasonably educated but not as well as Stahl's contributors — I had to consult a dictionary when reading this. The authors also like to throw in an Italian word here and there which did not help!

For the beginner I'd recommend Bassoli or maybe, if you can find it, Cunnally's Images of the Illustrious (Cunnally also contributed to this volume). If you already have those then you may want this.

John Spring, Ancient Coin Auction Catalogs: 1880-1980

John Spring, Ancient Coin Auction Catalogs: 1880-1980 (2009), self-​published, distributed by Spink (but not yet on their website). 369 large pages describing 886 auction catalogs. Charles Davis is selling this for $110 and CNG is selling slightly bumped copies for $95.

It's a nice book! Every catalog is described by size and color. The number of plates — Celtic, Greek, Roman aes grave, Roman Republican, Roman Imperial, Roman Provincial, Byzantine, and "barbarian migration" — is given. There is often information about the collector, collection, or auctioneer. Sometimes that information comes from the catalog, but Spring also seeks biogrpahical information from other published sources such as obituaries in numismatic journals. The photos depict the collector or firm. The catalogs themselves are not pictured.

The author does not judge the paper quality, the method of reproduction of the plates, nor the numismatic merit of the coins. Tables of the "most important" sales are provided, broken down by category (Greek, Republican, etc), but imporantance for Spring is the number of plates. For example, Spring lists some Alex Malloy sales among the "most important" for Greek and Provincial. I don't know if those Malloy sales were well-made but the Malloy sales I know from the late 1990s were newsprint-quality affairs. If so it is hard for me to accept them as among the most important.

This catalog will shine is when used in conjunction with an auction catalog from a numismatic book dealer by putting the offered catalogs into context with the series of catalogs available. It will also be handy to use this within a large numismatic library like the ANS'. I only have a few of the catalogs and I'm finding it frustrating looking at Spring's book while unable to follow his leads.

I still haven't decided if I want to own and study old auction catalogs. I'm excited about old digitizing catalogs and having the coins online and individually searchable. I enjoy the few catalogs I have. Yet these old catalogs are not cheap. Very few of them illustrate more than 500 Greek coins. Anyone off the street in 2009 can email a dozen dealers and receive sample catalogs postpaid with more illustrated coins. Are these old catalogs still relevant for coin collectors? There is something lovely about the Collotype plates in the better old catalogs.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

ANS twitter feed

The ANS has a good numismatic twitter feed. It's both frequent and high-quality. There is good brief numismatic news and daily numismatic book recommendations.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Sestini's Sopra i moderni falsificatori di medaglie greche antiche

Google has scanned Domenico Sestini's 1826 book Sopra i moderni falsificatori di medaglie Greche antiche nei tre metalli e descrizione di tutte quelle prodote dai medesimi nello spazio di pochi anni (“On the modern forgers of ancient Greek medals in the three metals and description of all produced by them in the space of a few years”).

Google's copy was scanned at the University of Ghent in March.

I believe this is the oldest illustrated book on fakes meant to deceive coin collectors. There are four plates of drawings. Imagine the difficulty of the collector or dealer in 1826 with this book in determining if a particular ancient coin was a die match for Sestini's drawings.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Counterfeit 1970 Lincoln cent in gold

A Brooklyn woman received an 18 karet gold counterfeit cent in change at a C-Town grocery store according to New York Times blogger Jennifer 8. Lee.

The fake copper-plated gold penny was put into circulation in Los Angeles in 2007 as a publicity stunt by artist Jack Daws to publicize his limited edition of 10 counterfeit US cents in gold. A Seattle art gallery is selling the other Daws coins for $1000 each.

The melt value of the fake is $100.

The US Secret Service says “Anyone who manufactures a counterfeit U.S. coin in any denomination above five cents is subject to the same penalties as all other counterfeiters.” which seems to rule out a counterfeiting beef for Mr. Daws.

The blogger's middle initial, 8, is not a typo.

Database of Macedonian royal bronze coins

Macedonian Kingdom: the bronze coinage is a web site with a searchable database of 1470 Macedonian bronze coins.

I found several rarities that I've never seen elsewhere. Although there is a lot of duplication there are some very rare pieces.

The main site is in modern Greek, to get an English version click the image of the Philip bronze then click the tab labled 'English'. This link takes visitors directly to the English search page (but without the intended frames.)

The coins are from the Alpha Bank collection, the Charles Hersh collection (now dispersed), and the Dimitris Portolos collection (now in the Archeological Museum of Thessaloniki).

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Medal exhibition opening in NYC on Saturday Nov 7th

Palva Burroughs / A Great Gnashing of TeethPalva Burroughs, A Great Gnashing of Teeth, 70x108x30mm.

There will be an opening at Medialia ... Rack and Hamper Gallery on Saturday, November 7th (3-6pm). The exhibition is New Ideas in Medallic Sculpture 2009-2010.

Medallic Sculpture from WW I will also be on display, a tribute to medal collector (and friend) David Fleischmann who passed away this year.

Monday, November 02, 2009

English translation of Weidauer's Probleme der frühen Elektronprägung

Dane Kurth has translated Dr. Liselotte Weidauer's 1975 classic on archaic electrum coins, Probleme der frühen Elektronprägung (Problems of Early Electrum Coinage) into English.

The translation is available in electronic format only (PDF or Word document), and does not include plates. To obtain the translation contact There is a US$20 fee to cover costs of translation. The translation is authorized by Dr. Liselotte Weidauer.

The book itself, with German text and plates, is available from CNG for $45 plus shipping. $45+$20 is a great deal; a few years ago used originals were selling at auction for $175 plus juice.

Jeffery Morin's $5 million CoinsForAnything empire

A Washington Post story by Thomas Heath covers the history of coin entrepreneur Jeffery Morin, whose “coin” dealership brings in $5,000,000/year.
During lunch breaks, Morin would run to his barracks, package the coins into bubble-padded envelopes, address them by hand and walk them to the base post office for mailing; the envelope and postage for each coin cost him $1.05, which came off his profit.


His mother lent him $500 to buy more coins, and he was quickly earning $300 to $500 a month from the business. Profits went in to buying more coins.
Morin started with “military challenge coins” a kind of military-themed artist's medal.

The web site organizes the medals for sale by artistic theme: Marines, Navy, Air Force, Army and Other. These ‘coins’ cost anywhere from $9 to $16. The more expensive coins have unusual shapes and features, such as this Air Force Knife coin. Visitors can also order coins based on their own artwork (minimum quantity 100 coins, $2.20 per coin).
Morin was 22.

In the past five years, Morin has expanded his coin business beyond the Marines to include other service branches, weddings, sports teams, and corporations such as Starbucks, Delta Air Lines and United Parcel Service. He hired a Web designer to jazz up the online site. He changed his company name from Marine Corps Coins to Coins for Anything and has expanded into trophies, pins and lanyards (the neck straps to which security badges or credentials are attached).

The enterprise now encompasses five companies that will generate around $5 million in revenue this year, with the coins and trophies representing the vast majority. His costs include $2.5 million for the products, $500,000 in payroll for 16 employees, and about $7,000 a month in rent on a 4,000-square-foot headquarters in a Stafford office park. He pays Google around $1 million a year.
The knife coin looks cool! I think Jeffery Morin even beat the Pobjoy mint on that one. Maybe next year Palau or Liberia will be minting legal tender folding knives.