Friday, November 04, 2011

"Fighting illicit traffic of cultural property in South-East Europe"

A 16 minute documentary video by Anthony Krause and Matteo Rosati. It was produced by UNESCO's Venice office. Coins are briefly shown being repatriated to Bulgaria (from Canada) at 12:30. Coins are shown being repatriated to Turkey (from Serbia) at 12:50. Coins also appear for a few seconds at 3:30 but are not discussed.

New Unicode 6.0 Money symbols

The Unicode standard has some new currency and banking symbols.

1F4B0 💰 Money Bag
1F4B2 💲 Heavy Dollar Sign
1F4B3 💳 Credit Card
1F4B8 💸 Money with wings (!)
1F4B4 💴 Banknote with Yen Sign
1F4B5 💵 Banknote with Dollar Sign
1F4B6 💶 Banknote with Euro Sign
1F4B7 💷 Banknote with Pound Sign

1F3E6 🏦 Bank
1F3E7 🏧 Automated Teller Machine
1F4B1 💱 Currency Exchange (Glyph can show various coins and notes)
1F4B9 💹 Chart with upwards trend and Yen Sign

I can't see these symbols in my browser because I lack a font that includes them.

The characters were added because they were needed to render the Emoji characters used for emoticons and shopping glyphs on Japanese cell phones, not as an aid to numismatists.

The flying wad of money is my favorite. If anyone knows how this symbol is typically used in Japanese cell phone signage I would love to know! Many of the other Emoji symbols are even stranger: space aliens, Japanese ogres, someone getting a face massage, a cat that's crying, even a “Moon Viewing Ceremony”.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Ilya Prokopov on coin forgery

New introduction to coin forgery by Ilya Prokopov: “The World of Coin Forgery - Part 1”.

Prokopov's books can be purchased from SP-P Publishing House.

Friday, October 07, 2011

The solidus mark

The solidus was a Roman coin but it is also the name for a punctuation symbol that looks exactly like a slash. The Wikipedia article explains that '2 pounds, 10 shillings, and 6 pence' was written as £2 ⁄ 10 ⁄ 6 (as an alternative to '£2 10s. 6d.') and '10 shillings' would often be written as 10 ⁄ -.

The / has the form it does because it is an abbreviation for “Long S” sometimes known as the integral symbol. It is also called a shilling mark.

So we have a single-stroke symbol that is an textual abbreviation for another single-stroke symbol. The abbreviation has two names, both derived from denominations of coins.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Badly tooled Kushan coin

I usually avoid tooled coins but this Kushan coin is one of my favorites. I really like the three-fingered Santa Claus but not as much as as the goggle-eyed horse rider. I see this piece more as the equivalent of a hobo nickel than as a damaged ancient coin.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

NAC auction import guarentee

Many collectors are looking with amazement at the catalog for the upcoming part 1 of the RBW collection. The catalog can be downloaded in three parts from Numismatica Ars Classica.

Numismatica Ars Classica is offering an import guarentee to US customers. This is the first guarentee of this type that I have seen, but I expect such guarentees to be increasingly important. Here is the guarentee:
The RBW Collection is an American collection and all of the coins that make up this collection were outside Italian territory prior to 19th January 2011. Furthermore, almost every item was exported from the United States using a special procedure: Certificate of Registration (CBP Form 4455), which proves American provenance,
therefore none of the coins offered in this sale are subject to any kind of US
import restrictions.

Nonetheless, Numismatica Ars Classica NAC AG endeavours to provide its American clients with the best service possible and we will therefore take it upon ourselves to carry out all of the customs formalities for importation into the USA and will then ship the lots to each individual client from within the United States.

NAC guarantees importation to the US of any coins purchased in this sale.
Blank copies of “Form 4455” can be downloaded from the US Customs web site.

I was previously unaware of this procedure. Has anyone tried it? Could I take my collection to Toronto for a long weekend to prove its provenance for the future?

Saturday, September 03, 2011

3D scanning of ancient coins

I recently became aware of a paper on 3D scanning of ancient coins delivered two years ago at the 22nd CIPA Symposium. The paper, by M. Kampel of the Pattern Recognition and Image Processing Group at the Vienna University of Technology along with S. Zambaninia, M. Schlapke, and B. Breuckmann, is available online.

The group scanned 16 ancient Roman coins and 9 medieval coins using a 3D surface scanner. They produced 3d models of the coins that look quite good! I would be curious to know how long it takes to scan a coin.

I have mentioned Martin Kampel's work before. He worked on automatic classification of ancient coins for the European Union's COINS project. This new research was partly paid for by the same European Union grant that underwrote COINs.

I would also be curious to know if a commercial service could scan my collection for a fee. This technology, if commercialized, could benefit collectors who are often obligated for insurance reasons to keep their coins in a safety deposit box at the local bank.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hilary Clinton's comments at MOU signing

This English-language TV coverage is from New Tang Dynasty (NTD) Television.

Illegal export of old coins

In this case, pre-2004 cupronickel 1 peso coins of the Philipines. According to a story in the Manila Standard by Roderick T. dela Cruz, “In 2006 it even discovered that an international syndicate was smuggling out the copper one-peso coins”. The central bank switched to nickel-plated steel.

The purpose of dela Cruz's story is to urge citizens to spend their old coins to relieve the Philipine Central Bank the burden of minting new ones. “The central bank always loses when minting coins with a face value lower than five pesos because the average cost of minting them is two pesos per coin.”

Amazingly, not only is the Philipine Central Bank minting 1 peso coins at an expense of 2 pesos, it is also minting 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavo coins, although one web page suggests the 1 centavo coins cannot be found and the 5 centavo coins are mostly used as decorations. A peso is worth 2.4 US cents; 25 centavos would be 0.6 US cents.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Outrageous shipping and handling fee

One topic that is ever-popular in online discussion groups is outrageous shipping and handling fees. Reuters blogger Felix Salmon recently described a transaction in which the shipping and handling fees alone are expected to be $400,000,00.

Hugo Chávez intends to ship 211 tons of physical gold from London to Caracas Venezuala. The bullion value is $12,300,000,000. Shipping and insurance will not be cheap.
... my gut feeling is that Venezuela would be do well to get away with paying 3.3% of the total value of the gold in total expenses...
Always look at the shipping fees before purchasing, Dictator Chávez.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Prospero Collection

Next year Baldwin's will auction The Prospero Collection. Baldwin's site doesn't yet have the catalog but it does have a 19 page Flash animated brochure featuring many rarities including an Alexander the Great Poros dekadrachm and the unique Abydos gold stater (?) shown here.

If I had time I would “review” the brochure website, which uses a strange Flash viewer with lots of scrolling and zooming. Try it.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Welcome Celator Readers

Welcome readers who are discovering this blog because of Kevin Barry and Zach Beasley's “The Internet Connection” column in The Celator.

Other blogs mentioned were Ancient Coins, Ancient Coin Cleaning and Restoration, and Vox Populi.

I haven't been posting much lately but last month I received Martin Huth's gigantic new book Coinage of the Caravan Kingdoms and hope to blog upon it soon.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Why is the dollar coin unpopular?

The editors of The Economist report on a psychological study by Princeton psychology professors Adam Alter and Daniel Oppenheimer on the percieved value of coins and notes. (The article is 3 years old).
People offered the banknote believed, on average, that they could use it to buy 83 paperclips, 72 napkins or 46 sweets. Those offered the [dollar] coin thought 39 paperclips, 51 napkins or 27 sweets. In other words, the note was believed to be almost twice as valuable as the coin.
The problem with the coin is not it coin-ness, but unfamiliarity — a similar study show people undervaluing the $2 bill.

I would expect this effect to also manifest as countries change their currency, both today and in historical times.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Keyboard with new Rupee symbol

We have previously blogged about the new Rupee symbol.

Indian reported today that Lenovo India is the first manufacturer with a Rupee-ready keyboard.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New US platinum coin denomination?

Is the mint preparing a new US coin denomination? A law professor at Yale suggests minting two $1,000,000,000,000 coins to cover our national obligations if the debt ceiling is not raised.

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Flickr user CoinForgeryEbay has posted 1700 photos of fake coins on eBay, including this Chinese coin in fake PCGS holder.

I haven't seen ancient coins in CoinForgeryEbay's stream.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Shastri’s Introduction To Indian Coin Forgeries

Shastri JC Philip’s eBook Shastri’s Introduction To Indian Coin Forgeries (2nd edition) is available for free under a Creative Commons license at IndianCoins.Org. 26 pages. Covers ancient Indian coins through modern coins. Includes bibliography.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Modern cast coinage

What modern country's largest denomination coin is cast rather than struck?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Visit to Ireland

Today I visited the A thousand years of Irish coins and currency exhibit at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

It features a good collection of Irish coins and related material from the 10th century through the Euro. The photograph is of the most surprising feature: one of the ramps features a hollow handrail which has been filled with old coins.

There are a few Roman and medieval coins at the Irish Archaeology Museum but I did not find them exciting. The earliest two Roman coins on display were misidentified. The first one, an impressive aes grave is labeled as depicting Janus. It looked like Zeus to me but I suspect it is the bearded man that numismatists call Saturn. Either way, it cannot be Janus because Janus would have two heads.

The only coin shop in Dublin (actually a stall in the Georges Street Arcade) is Lír Coins & Collectables. No ancients were offered and only a few hammered could be found. The stock is mostly coins of the Irish Republic and of Great Britain.

Irish Mint products can be purchased at the Central Bank of Ireland on Dame street. I went there on the day of Obama's visit. The teller at the collectable coins window was happy to show me the items available for purchase (which are the same items as the web site offers).

I tried to get a roll of circulating euro coins at a regular bank but they did not know the term 'roll'. Irish banks keep Euro coins in plastic bags. The 2 cent bag contains 100 pieces.

Friday, April 29, 2011

F. Michael Fazzari on cast fakes

F. Michael Fazzari writes for Numismaster that Cast Counterfeits Share Some Traits. The article includes two coin surfaces under extreme magnification. The first has pimples of metal because it is a cast fake. The second is genuine and has pimples because it was heated. Fazzari says the pimples on the genuine coin can be “squeezed flat with your finger.”

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Use computers to calculate book prices

This is not a numismatic post; it is about the pricing of uncommon books.

The blog “it is NOT junk&rdquo noticed a book on fruit fly DNA selling for $1,730,045.91. Instead of assuming a typo the blogger followed the book and watched as the price rose to an astonishing $23,698,655.93 then crashed to $106.23.

It's suspected that no human entered these prices. Instead, two competing stores probably used computer algorithms to price the books.

(via Marginal Revolution)

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ted Rall on the Liberty postage stamp and declining coin standards

Cartoonist Ted Rall blogs about The Statue of Liberty Stamp Error and the End of America.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Cyrillic alphabet, when italicized, ... changes

Just a brief note that the the Cyrillic alphabet, when italicized, changes in profound ways. I wanted to translate a short section heading — 30 words — from the Bulgarian section of Stavri Topalov's Apollonia Pontika: Contribution to the Study of the Coin Minting of the City 6th-1st c. B.C.. It took me over an hour to type those words into my computer.

The problem is that, although I almost know the lower-case Cyrillic letters, they all change in italics! Wikipedia has a convenient chart showing the especially tricky letters in blue.

To enter Cyrillic letters I use the Windows 'Character Map' or the similar Insert|Symbol in Microsoft Word. Both of these tools can show Cyrillic, but they show the non-Italicized version, with letterforms very different from what I was seeing on the printed page.

If anyone knows of a better Cyrillic keyboard, perhaps web-based, that includes the Italicized letters, please let me know.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Hill's Greek Coins of Lycia, Pamphylia, and Pisidia

I purchased a new printing of George F. Hill's Catalogue of the Greek Coins of Lycia, Pamphylia, and Pisidia (1897) for $14 plus shipping. You can get a copy from On Demand Books. The reprint is a paperback, printed and bound on demand by the Espresso Book Machine.

The usual Forni hardcover reprints are $145 — ten times as much.

The input to the Espresso is Google's scanned copy. Google scanned two copies of this book, Harvard's and that of the New York Public Library. I chose the NYPL copy. The text is clean and easy to read. There are a few problems early on — stray fingers on a few pages, and NYPL stamps, but the text is very clear. I was surprised that off-white paper was used. I was also surprised the orange gradient cover Google shows was not used. Instead there is a blue-on white cover that mentions the Harvard Book Store. The quality of printing is at least as good as the Google PDF downloads and may be better. I know that Google scanned the books at higher resolution than they offer, and that the original lending institution got the hi resolution copies. I don't know if On Demand Books has access to these higher resolution copies.

The plates are nearly the correct size: 97% actual. For comparison, my Forni copy of BMC Pontos is 99.5% actual and my Elibron copy of BMC Peloponnesus is only 79%.

The big flaw is Google's algorithm to detect photo captions on the plates. Perhaps 20% of the plated coins were changed to black smudges because Google's algorithms thought those smudges were captions. What's worse is that the smudges that appear on Google's own site have recently improved a bit. They now seem to have four levels of black. The printed copy just uses pure black. The caption detection does provide a slight improvement on actual captions, making them pure black instead of dark gray.

A second flaw is that Google doesn't offer BMC volumes for Cilicia, Lydia, Cyprus, Phrygia, Phoenicia, Palestine, Arabia, nor Cyrenaica. The problem is copyright. The volumes by George Hill and E. S. G. Robinson are under copyright. Those authors are unlikely to 'opt in' to any Google reprinting scheme because they did not opt in to the Copyright Clearance Center scheme (which would have gotten them royalties for photocopies.) So I will not be able to complete my set of BMC without eight expensive volumes.

It is unclear if Hill, Robinson, and the British Museum 'opted in' to Forni's reprint series in the 1960s. Italian copyright law was not very strict until the mid 1990s. (I would love to know if the blue Forni hardcovers still being made are 'legit' or 'bootlegs'.)

Two other on-demand publishers have entered the fray. “Nabu Press” and Kessinger both offer Catalogue of the Greek Coins of Lycia, Pamphylia, and Pisidia for about $34 plus shipping. Kessinger even claims to be able to print a hard-copy for $43. (I got burned with a poor quality Kessinger title and have avoided them since then.)

Readers who are interested in other BMC Greek titles can get a list on my web site of the down-loadable and reprint copies I know of.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mugardos remonetizes peseta

The BBC News is reporting that 60 shops in Mugardos (“a small fishing town in Galicia on Spain's northern coast”) are again accepting the peseta for all purchases alongside the Euro.
Shopkeepers were sceptical at first, but they now say the scheme is a great success.

People are travelling into Mugardos from outside just to spend the old currency they never got round to converting.

One man visited the local hardware store this week with a 10,000-peseta note he had found at home, and had no idea what to do with.

He is now the happy owner of a sandwich toaster.
I had not realized that peseta currency ”can still be converted today, but only at the Bank of Spain itself”.

(via Marginal Revolution. The coin image is public domain; from Wikipedia.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Museum exhibit on counterfeits (in Missouri)

The Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Missouri (in Columbia, Missouri) will be exhibiting ancient and modern counterfeits of coins as part of CIA: Counterfeits, Imitations and Alterations of Ancient Coins through July 31.

Tony Puricelli reviewed the show for The (University of Missouri) Maneater.

I won't be able to travel to Missouri this year; if any readers make it to the show please leave a blog comment.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Coins smuggled out of India

The Telegraph of India reports that India continues to have a problem with criminals smuggling coins out of the country.

The coins being smuggled are not ancient coins. The problem is with steel coins introduced in 1988. As we reported in 2007, the coins are being melted down to make razor blades.