The Numismatic Bibliomania Society

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Welcome to The E-Sylum: Volume 3, Number 26, June 25, 2000: 
an electronic publication of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society. 
Copyright (c) 2000, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society. 


   We have one new subscriber this week: Tony Deserto of 
   Camden, Delaware.  Welcome aboard!  This brings our 
   subscriber count to 297. 

   Tony writes:  "I read and collect numismatic literature, mostly 
   books. I enjoy reading about the colonial period and early U.S. 
   mint history.  I have been collecting for about three years and 
   have a  library of about 75 books." 

   Pete Smith reports: "NBS board member Bob Metzger and his 
   wife Chris participated in the FANS 24-hour endurance run in 
   Minneapolis on June 24-25.  In his third running of the event, 
   Bob had his best finish completing more than 96 miles.  In her 
   second running, Chris completed more than 99 miles and 
   finished fourth among the women. This was also her best mileage 
   and matched her fourth-place finish last year. (Results reported 
   are unofficial)"   Wow!  Congratulations, folks!  So Bob, take a 
   break and read a book! 


   Dan Gosling writes: "In the January 9th, 1965 edition of the 
   Canada Coin News on page 31 there is a picture of actress 
   Carroll Baker and a policeman. Her Furs, Jewelry, and Coin 
   Collection had been recovered after a burglary. 

   Further to Mr Kolbe's comments on AUCTION ETIQUETTE 
   in that same paper there is an article on "knock-out" rings. Here 
   is the story, headlined "British Dealers Face Scandal": 
   [I've edited the article a bit to cut its length.  Many thanks to 
   Dan for scanning it in. - Editor] 

   Disclosures of how some antique dealers get rich without 
   dealing has provoked a major reshuffle in their official British 
   organization.  Membership in the British Association of Antique 
   Dealers is supposed to provide a sort of testimonial of reliability 
   to the public who buy and sell.  The president and 13 members 
   of the Association's council have resigned after a public scandal 
   that exposed what one member called "club practices," and 
   others called plain cheating, and illegal at that. 

   It all began with an expose in London's Sunday Times early in 
   November. After five months of detective work, which included 
   sneaking a reporter with tape recorder and radio transmitter into 
   a secret meeting, the paper published details of a profitable game 
   called "knockout" by its players. Names were named,' figures 

   In one case, a small group of dealers shared a 500 per cent profit 
   made through the technique within a few hours. Despite Britain's 
   stringent libel laws, the Sunday Times had so many hard and 
   undisputed facts that nobody seriously tried to make it swallow 
   its words, or defend them in court. 

   The "knock-out" is run by rings of dealers. They get together 
   before an auction and agree among themselves to keep the 
   bidding extremely low on items of special interest.  As soon as 
   the public sale is over, they gather in private for another auction 
   among themselves. The difference between the first purchase 
   price and the highest bid behind closed doors is then shared out 
   among the group participating. 

   In that way, some dealers can make several thousand dollars 
   on a transaction by neither buying nor selling, and everybody 
   involved shares in the bargain except the public.  One 
   documented case of how the "knock-out" works involved a 
   Chippendale commode.  It was knocked down at public 
   auction for $2,100, with the dealers in the ring deliberately not 
   competing with each other. An hour later, secretly, the 
   commode changed hands for $12,180, with the difference 
   divided up among the ring. Within 24 hours the ring winner 
   resold the commode at a further considerable profit to still 
   another dealer, not in on the game but with a wealthy, 
   well-known clientele. Eventually it showed up at the annual 
   Antique Dealers Fair and was valued at about $30,000. The 
   family who sold it got the $ 2,100, minus fees and commissions. 

   The "knock-outs" are organized in such a way as to make rich 
   dealers much richer, but they also make little dealers a little 
   better off.  In fact, there are some people who make their 
   modest living as travelling non-salesmen in the antique business. 
   They turn up at country auctions where they expect the ring to 
   operate, help it by buying up the cheaper lots, or bidding on 
   them just a little, to give the appearance of diversity at the sale. 
   They they hurry to the "knock-out," turn over the acquisitions 
   they never wanted anyway, and go off  with their share of a few 
   dollars for having cooperated. 

   What really brought the scandal to a head in the end was the 
   diffidence of a number of the former leaders of the Association 
   at demands to clean up the trade.  Major Michael Brett, one 
   dealer,  told the Sunday Times, that "I blame the stupid public." 
   The ring system, he said, "is inevitable" so long as sellers fail to 
   have their treasures properly valued." 


   David Surber recently added a banner for NBS on his 
   web site (see this week's Featured Web Site, below). 
   If you have a web site and would like to do the same to 
   help promote the Society, here's the address of a 
   ready-made NBS banner: 


   David Fanning writes: "Unless it's been discussed lately (and 
   I don't see that it has on the E-Sylum archives), I think it'd be 
   interesting to have a discussion within the E-Sylum on book 
   and catalogue preservation.  I think I read at some point in the 
   archives about Wayne Anderson cleaning and oiling books. 
   I'd like to have more info on that and also ask others to write in 
   about how they take care of their material. 

   The only items of value in my collection are mostly 19th-century 
   catalogues, which I keep in plastic bags made for comics with a 
   posterboard insert in it to guard against bumps.  This really helps 
   guard against humidity, which is a real problem in the summer here. 
   What do others do?" 

   Ben Keele posed a similar question in the February 27, 2000 
   issue:  " should I store my books and  magazines to ensure 
   that they are preserved in their present condition?"   George 
   Kolbe's advice for book storage was simple:  "cool, dark, dry 
   (but not too dry)." 

   One article I've since read makes George's recommendation 
   more specific:  temperatures 60-70 degrees F (15.5-21 C), 
   and relative humidity of 55%-65%.   Humidity can be 
   measured by a hygrometer, available in most hardware stores. 

   We didn't get much follow-up in The E-Sylum on the 
   preservation question, so it's high time to ask again.  Meanwhile, 
   here's one web page with a few tips, from the State Library of 
   Victoria, Australia: 


   NBS Board Member Larry Mitchell has added the 
   following sections on Modern Coinages to the 
   NBS Bibliography, available on our web site at: 

      88. SOUTH AMERICA 
      90. MEXICO 
      91. CANADA 

   He has also written an introductory section listing books of 
   general interest to bibliophiles, and some of these discuss 
   care and preservation. 

   He writes:  "I hope to begin work on the USA section of 
   the bibliography within the next few weeks.  As this seems 
   to be the area in which most NBS members collect, I'm 
   very much open to suggestions as to what materials should 
   be included in the following Modern Coinages sections 
   (which are subject to change): 


   Books and auction sales will be the focus of these sections, as 
   they have been for the previous sections. Due to time constraints, 
   I have to draw the line somewhere, and that somewhere is 
   ARTICLES (though articles reprinted in book form WILL be 
   considered). Also, nothing about tokens or other exonumia, paper 
   money, etc.--these subjects will be covered in future sections. 

   If you have suggestions, please send me at least the title and 
   author, and--if published in more than one edition -- the edition 
   you consider most authoritative. Email to: 

   I doubt all suggestions can be incorporated, but all suggestions 
   WILL be seriously considered, & acknowledged in a future issue 
   of the E-Sylum.   Thanks!" 


   Karl Moulton writes: "In response to Michael Marotta's review 
   of the Breen Encyclopedia in the June 18th E-Sylum, I'd like to 
   suggest that Walter Breen did not necessarily change the face 
   of American numismatic scholarship for the better, as Mr. 
   Marotta outlines in his glowing review. 

   While it is true that Breen was commissioned by Wayte 
   Raymond to do research in the Archives in the early 1950's, 
   which led to the first publication of Mint documents that had 
   long been ignored, the fact remains that after the initial 
   articles were written for the Numismatic Scrapbook and 
   other publications, Breen did not have access to official 
   documentation, and for the most part, relied on his memory 
   and "exalted" status for future writings, much of which was 
   pure conjecture, speculation, guesswork, and embellished 

   When any numismatist seriously researches the early American 
   issues, it becomes clear in many instances where Breen is 
   incorrect and/or incomplete in his writings.  Contrary to the 
   earlier review, the fact remains, a majority of his writings were 
   not backed with documentary proof.  A prime example of this 
   can be seen in his original 1977 book "Encyclopedia of United 
   States and Colonial Proof Coins", which he later "revised and 
   corrected" in 1989. 

   It is absolutely amazing that an entire book length discourse 
   about early American "Proof" coinage can be construed from 
   nothing but shiny, new mint polish on the surface of a coin, 
   whether it is well struck or not.  To date, there has not been a 
   single shred of documentation to support any claim of any early 
   so-called "Proof" issues prior to the use of the close collar.  The 
  1795 Lord St. Oswald "presentation piece" story, p.33, is 
   perhaps the "highlight" of creative rhetoric from Breen.  None 
   of which is true.  For an accurate review, see the Fall 1994 
   Asylum pgs.3-7. 

   Breen was a pioneer researcher, and as such, did a credible job 
   - up to a point.  Just because a book has a fancy cover and a lot 
   of pages with illustrations doesn't necessarily make it a valuable 
   source for accurate information.  Yes, there are numerous 
   errors contained in his "Complete" Encyclopedia.  Let us not 
   continue to glorify the mistakes and oversights of Breen's various 
   works.  Numismatically speaking, anything that is not verifiable 
   from an official source, is strictly theory and nothing else.  Mr. 
   Marotta needs to heed his own words, "search for the truth rather 
   than relying on authority". 


   In response to last week's question, Brad Karoleff writes: 
   "My nominations for events that dramatically changed the face 
   of numismatics over the last 100 ( or so ) years would include 
   the following:  ( in no particular order ) 

   1.  The publishing of The American Numismatist in 1888, 
        later to become The Numismatist.  The house organ of the 
       American Numismatic Association, the bond that kept 
       collectors in touch with what was going on in numismatics 
       over the last century. 

   2.  The formation of The American Numismatic Association in 

   3.  The beginning of commemorative coinage in 1893 for the 
        Columbian Expo. 

   4.  The redesigning of our coinage with the influence of 
        St. Gaudens. 

   5.  The issuance of Pennyboards to get the average citizen 
        interested in collecting coins. 

   6.  Publication of the first Redbook, eventually replacing 
        Raymond's Standard Price Guide as the leading pricing 
        reference for coins. 

   7.  Silver being removed from our coinage after 1964. 

   8.  The BU  Roll investment craze coupled with the 1955 
        double die cents and the 1960 small date cents being 
        released.  The average citizen could make serious 
        money looking through change. 

   9.  The Silver Certificate run. 

  10.  The writing of the ANA grading guide and the formation 
         of ANACS.  Collectors now had somewhere to turn to 
         see if their coins were authentic.  The precursor to slabbing 
         as photocertified coins were easily traded based on their 
         assigned grade. 

  11.  1980 gold and silver rush.  Many a fortune was made 
         and lost in the bullion and rare coin markets. 

  12.  Slabbing by PCGS and later NGC became all the rage. 
         Coins were now the "same as a share of stock" and 
         tradable sight unseen. 

  13.  COIN WORLD was started.  The largest  circulating 
         weekly in the hobby. 

  14.  B. Max Mehl publishes the Star Rare Coin Encyclopedia 
         and sells it to the general public who hopes to find the rare 
         1913 Liberty Nickel and get rich. 

  15.  Publication of Early American Cents by Sheldon.  The 
         first modern variety identification guide written for the most 
         popular coin to collect by variety- the large cent. 

  16.  The formation of EAC and the publication of Pennywise. 
         The first specialty club for collecting a specific type of coin 

         with a journal to exchange information with other club 
         members.  The club and journal that formed the basis for 
         all the others who have come after. 

  17.  The Carson City Dollar sale by the government in 1972. 


   There you have it.  My nominations for significant events in our 
   hobby over the last century.  Many of you may duplicate some of 
   these listings, while others will have different ones.  I'm sure I 
   missed a few of your favorites.  What are they?" 


   Here's our latest installment from A.Word.A.Day, available 
   at this address: 

      bibliophile (BIB-lee-uh-fyl) also bibliophil (-fil) or 
      bibliophilist (bib-lee-OF-uh-list) noun 

      1. A lover of books. 
      2. A collector of books. 

[Biblio-, book + -phile, lover of.] 

   "The 17th-century bibliophile George Thomason, whose 
   specialty was seditious tracts, once buried his collection of over 
   22,000 publications, fearing their discovery, by the Army. What 
   if he'd died, before he was able to retrieve them? " 
   Albert Goldbarth, Canyon, Gorge, Arroyo, Poetry, Oct 1999. 

   [Editor's note:  burying one's library is not generally considered 
    a good preservation practice.  And in the "Who Says You Can't 
    Take It With You" department, 27-year-old bibliophile and 
    "traction heir"  Harry Elkins Widener clutched a 1598 edition of 
    Bacon's Essays as he went down with the S.S. Titanic on April 
    15, 1912. (Trager, James; The People's Chronology, New York, 


   This week's featured web site is the WildWinds DataBank of 
   Ancient Coins run by an E-Sylum subscriber David Surber. 
   He writes: "I have been collecting online auctions' images and 
   results for about a year and a half.  I have over 12,000 individual 
   specimens so far, of Greek, Roman and Byzantine ancients, 
   which are cross-indexed and browsable by Sear number, by 
   ruler or location, and are fully searchable." 

  Wayne Homren 
  Numismatic Bibliomania Society 

  The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a 
  non-profit organization promoting numismatic 
  literature.   For more information please see 
  our web site at 
  There is a membership application available on 
  the web site.  To join, print the application and 
  return it with your check to the address printed 
  on the application.   For those without web access, 
  contact Dave Hirt, NBS Secretary-Treasurer, 
  5911 Quinn Orchard Road, Frederick, MD 21704 

  (To be removed from this mailing list 
   write to me at   

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