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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 3, January 15, 2006, Article 17

TALES OF THE INTREPID BOOK-HUNTER

Or "Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh..........I'm Hunting Books (ala
Elmer Fudd)"  Paul Landsberg writes: "Readers of The
E-Sylum are well versed in the quirks of good reference
books for various fields of numismatics.  My specialty,
ancient coins, tends to have very low printing runs and
quite often times the value of a particular reference
book doesn't become clear until years later.   OK, maybe
that is an excuse, maybe this poor writer just doesn't
realize the value of a book in time.

Case in point would be a relatively recent book (1990)
by Raffaele Paolucci, "The coinage of the Doges of Venice."
Around 1991 or so I discovered Venetian grossos (thin
medieval silver coins of Venice) and when I called the ANA
library they lent me Paolucci's book.  It is a coffee table
style book with one page in Italian, the opposing page in
English.   While of limited value to a numismatist, it
was the absolute best work encapsulating Venetian grossos.
Unfortunately I was in the death throes of a Ph.D. and I
never bought the book.   Seven years later I dredged up
memories and starting hunting this book.   Over hill and
over dale goeth the passionate book hound sniffing under
rocks and trees, with nary a whiff to be found.

This story had a happy ending around 2001.  By chance I
located two European firms that had the book;  Jean Elsen
and Paolucci (an Italian firm, no relation).   I actually
ordered five copies to pass along to fellow collectors
who had similarly been stymied.   As any of you who have
played the intrepid huntsman and located "THE BOOK" you
can empathize with my glee.

More recently I had picked up a large grouping of Persian
sigloi and to my dismay the best reference article on
these coin types were in a British Musuem publication
that had also contained the seminal work on some stunning
and near unique silver decadrachms found in Turkey.
Colleagues shook their heads and quietly whispered "good
luck."  To arms, to arms, let the hunt begin!!

This time I decided to be somewhat more systematic in my
hunt and also to use the fullest power of the Internet
to my advantage.   My phone calls and inquiries went out
to CNG, Jean Elsen, John Burns, John Lavender, and Svetolik
Kovacevic, all highly respected numismatists or book
dealers (if I forgot any, please forgive me).   All
indicated the extreme scarcity of this reference but
promised to keep a look out.  At the same time I employed
Google and many of the book search sites.  As a final
tactic I put in a standing "want" onto Amazon.com at a
certain price and condition.  This means that if the book
is located, it is shipped.  Drumroll please................
while I had to renew my standing want with Amazon 3-4 times,
I received a note from their automated system about 18
months after starting the hunt, "your book has shipped."
Once again another hunt successfully concluded.  Amazon
truthfully wasn't how I expected to acquire this book.

My latest hunt that I just embarked on is a search to
purchase a copy of:  Cunetio Treasure: Roman Coinage of
the Third Century, EM Besley, Roger Bland, British Museum
Publication, 1983.  My first volley of contacts have all
been unsuccessful but this hunter has patience ..........
when I am forced to.  Do contact me if you know of a
copy for sale.

As readers of The E-Sylum, I'm sure you each have a
method for hunting "that book you just gotta have."
How about you share some of your steps in locating those
types of books?"

[I'm sure all of us have our favorite fishing holes,
and equally sure that no one source is ever the be-all
and end-all of book hunting. Congratulations to Paul on
his perseverance via Amazon to locate a scarce title.

My own "shotgun" approach, as I've mentioned before,
is expensive but effective - I basically buy a copy of
any new book remotely related to my interests as soon
as it comes out.  Then I don't have to worry about
playing catch up later.  Plenty of titles become
available more cheaply later, but a number do end up
being hard to find.   Financing this binge-buying is
difficult, and with all the great new U.S. titles
released recently I'm having to be much more
selective.  -Editor]

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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