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V14 2011 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 14, Number 47, November 13, 2011, Article 5

BOOK REVIEW: UNUSUAL WORLD COINS

Dick Johnson submitted this review of Unusual World Coins from Krause Publications. Thanks! (Hint, hint: copies of the book are for sale cheep at the F+W warehouse sale). -Editor

UnusualWorldCoins 6th The sixth edition of KP Publications Unusual World Coins arrived two weeks ago. (This review was delayed because of the October storm in the North East where the Johnson house was without power for 2 1/2 days.)

I wrote a 5-page report on this book for the management at Medallic Art Company and sister company NorthWest Territorial Mint. (Medal manufacturer MACO was not, technically a mint until 1966 when it purchased its first coining press, NWT Mint has been a full fledged mint all the time.) The KP book is virtually a catalog of the productions of Private Mints of the World.

As such it is a massive telephone-book size compendium that lists, itemizes, illustrates, briefly describes – and prices! – what private mints have struck over the 222 years since Mathew Boulton established the first private mint, the Soho Mint in Birmingham England, in 1789.

Thus this book is a tribute to Mathew Boulton and what he created – a nongovernment mint with coining capability – the true definition of a private mint. He not only established a mint he improved coining tools and equipment, plus every step of coin and medal manufacture. He build screw presses into coining presses, powered by steam utilizing the steam power engines, which he also manufactured, invented by his partner James Watt. It earned for Boulton a leading position in the Industrial Revolution and the gratitude of every mint official, numismatist, and coin collector for these improvements.

The world of coins, struck by both national and private mints, is chronicled by KP Publications of Iola, Wisconsin. Founded by Chester Krause in 1952, it is now under the banner of F+W Media Inc. The firm publishes the worldly acclaimed Standard Catalogs of World Coins and similar publications on paper money.

It now requires five of those telephone-book size volumes – six if you count a separate catalog of gold coins alone – to list all the coins struck by all the national mints for all the countries in the world. The five World Coins books, grouped by century starting in 1601, list the coins by country within each volume – then by type, then by denomination, then by date – and are constantly revised and updated.

The 17th, 18th, and 19th century World Coins are now in their fifth or sixth edition, and are on a three year rotation. The 20th century edition is now in its 39th since it is published each year. The 21st century volume is also published each year.

All of these printed catalogs are generated from one massive databank, called NumisMaster. By the magic of the computer it can break out all coins listed for the desired century and viola! there’s the text and photographs for the next edition with the latest entries entered just days before.

Coins struck by national mints are obviously intended for circulation in the country where located, or by custom minting for nations without their own mints. A few private mints have also struck circulating coins for those counties without mints (as Franklin Mint did here in America for dozens of countries when it was active, 1969 into the 1980s).

But private mints also strike coins for private entities. It is these “coins” that were included in the Krause NumisMaster databank but they didn’t get published in any of the legal tender Standard Catalogs. So in 1987 they were gathered up and published under the title Unusual World Coins: A Standard Catalog of World Coins Companion Listing of Novel Non-Circulating Coins.

That Novel Non-Circulating Coins part of the title was important because there was a class of coins, “Non-Circulating Legal Tender” that did get listed in the standard catalogs. These were mostly bullion coins that were given a denomination to make them more attractive to precious metal buyers.

Bullion coins were a 20th century invention, first struck by Mexico (since 1943) and South Africa (Krugerrands since 1967) Their national mints provided a minted product that individuals could own in coined form that had the backing of a nation for weight and purity. These coins were ideal for small investors, or anyone, because they aided every transaction in that the precious metal did not need to be weighed and assessed for purity.

So bullion coins, plus all the other diestruck items struck by private mints in coin form, were published in Krause’s separate publication, Unusual World Coins. The Novel Non-Circulating Coins part of the title was dropped in the 2005 fourth edition.

Other than bullion items of interest for investors Unusual World Coins is a tribute to collectors for all those other diestruck items. The only reason these "coins" are created – their only market – is not to circulate, but to be sold to collectors. Perhaps without these buyers all the private mints in the world would be factories manufacturing buttons or some other small mechanical parts.

Finally, Unusual World Coins is also a tribute to the staff at KP Publications. I can imagine the gigantic task of gathering, fact checking, photographing, pricing and entering all this data into one databank, and ultimately massaging all that text into printed form.

This activity has been ongoing since 1987 when the first edition of Unusual World Coins was published. It gave birth to NumisMaster.

o Colin R. Bruce II was the first to enter foreign coin data years before to start NumisMaster. He became editor of that first edition and gathered a staff to assist in this unique numismatic undertaking.

o Thomas Michael joined KP Publications in 1988 as market analyst. His responsibility was pricing, to insure that the price of hundreds of thousands of coins were accurate and kept up to date for every edition, a chore he has dominated for 23 years.

o George Cuhaj joined in 1994, took on the chore of entering data and photographs as these came in to the editorial offices. George ultimately was given full responsibility of NumisMaster and bestowed the title of editor. His editorial authority now extends to all six world coin Standard Catalogs at KP Publications plus the world paper money standard catalogs as well.

“I enter on average one hundred and fifty to two hundred new coins and one hundred and fifty new photographs each week,” he told me in a phone interview this week. With side-by-side desks George and Tom are in constant contact with each other to maintain the high standard of the Standard Catalogs.

George assigns a catalog number for each item – these all begin with an “x” prefix for those destined to be published in Unusual World Coins. He enters on NumisMaster that catalog number, data for issuer, date, obverse, reverse and edge descriptions, composition, weight and fineness if precious metal, mintage figures when known, other info. Some data – like designer or engraver – will not appear in the printed catalogs, but this is captured in NumisMaster as well. It would add 30 pages alone for Great Britain and Commonwealth countries if we printed Arnold Machin’s name as engraver, George said. Tom adds pricing in one or more of the three to five condition columns.

The selection of the category which the pair must determine for each item is the brilliance of NumisMaster. “We do this to bring similar items together under the same category,” George relates. While this is an easy task for coins of the same denomination issued year by year, it is not such an easy task for items in Unusual World Coins. There are 40 categories at present. There are no hard rules for determining a category. These can be what a private mint calls them, what a submitter states, or a descriptive term created by the editor.

NumisMaster, is composed of “lines of type” as George explained to me. Thus a category heading is a line for all the listings below it, until the next heading line, or the next country name. I commented this was “a brilliant way of arrangement” as it works for all the world’s coins, from all the world’s countries, for all kinds of coins, for all time. “You were the first to make that statement,” said George.

For more information, see: www.sellcoinbooks.com/world-coin-books/unusual-world-coins-6th-edition

“THE DEFINITIVE NEW GUIDE TO
CANADIAN COINS AND TOKENS”

A Guide Book of Canadian Coins and Tokensis James A. Haxby’s brand-new reference on the subject. Contents include grading, mints, history, technical details, provincial and colonial coinage and tokens, Dominion issues, bullion, die varieties, commemoratives, error coins, sets, patterns, test tokens, Top 250 Auction Prices, and more—all in the Whitman style. 464 pages, hardcover, full color, $19.95. Add the 1st edition to your numismatic library: Order at www.Whitman.com , or call 1-800-546-2995.


Wayne Homren, Editor

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