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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 10, March 5, 2006, Article 3

HOWARD SPINDEL'S SHIELD NICKEL VARIETY BOOK ON CD

Howard Spindel writes: "I was interested to read the discussion
of computer-based reference material vs. traditional print media.
Both have strengths and weaknesses.  Sitting at a computer will
just never duplicate the same feeling I get from holding a book
in my hands!

I offer the following up at the risk of "tooting my own horn",
but it is my intent to contribute to the discussion rather than
do that.  I'm looking to show people what can be accomplished -
a computerized reference should be much more than a printed book
that you can read on a computer.

As you may recall, I have been a longtime collector of shield
nickels, especially varieties.  There has been one book published
on shield nickel varieties - Ed Fletcher's excellent "The Shield
Five Cent Series", which came out in 1994.  But shield nickel
varieties are legion, and there are many that are not covered by
Ed's book.  Furthermore, Ed's book sometimes lacks sufficient
pictures to make accurate attributions, and new varieties are
discovered all the time.  I even authenticated a new variety
today!

Many years ago I decided that I wanted to produce a new shield
nickel variety reference.  I spent a great deal of time thinking
about how I wanted this to work, and how best to handle the
inevitable updates.  I eventually decided upon a computerized
format that includes a data file for each variety and a custom
program for viewing and manipulating the data.  I spent 30 years
as a computer programmer, so this was a natural direction for me.

I shipped the first copy last June.  Shield nickel varieties are
not a terribly popular thing to collect, and I estimate that the
worldwide potential interest is perhaps 50 people.  But I created
the reference to fill my own need for a better reference, not to
get rich.  The point I want to make is not that a shield nickel
variety reference is available; the point is that technology applied
to a numismatic reference yields a new kind of reference.

In the introduction to the manual for the program, which I call
SNV (for Shield Nickel Viewer), I cite the following limitations
of traditional print references for shield nickels (which also
apply to most printed coin references):

They were static, unable to adapt as new shield nickel varieties
emerged or to correct errors

They were limited by cost and space in the number of detailed
photographs that could be presented.

Without sufficient detailed photographs, they could be
inadequate for distinguishing among similar varieties and
confirming attributions

Contributions of new varieties by collectors required risky
mailing of coins SNV is field updateable when new varieties are
catalogued or when errors are detected in the database.  The
program simply downloads new data files from a web site.  For
each variety, SNV provides 5 to 8 detailed photos to enable
accurate attribution (Ed's book has 1 photo for most coins,
occasionally 2.)  While some collectors have still mailed me
their coins for photographing and inclusion in SNV, there are
some who have taken their own photographs and submitted the
photographs to me electronically for inclusion in SNV.

SNV contains numerous ways to search through its database
to narrow down the field for variety attribution.

Anyone who would like to read more about SNV (and see
sample photos) can go here: SNV

At the above web page there is a free, downloadable trial
version for anyone who would like to see how technology can
be applied to a coin reference book.  The technology is
independent of shield nickels, and could be applied to
any series.

The manual is online here: Manual "

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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