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.