The E-Sylum:  Volume 5, Number 25, June 16, 2002, Article 13


  In response to Paul Withers' note about periodical numbering
  scheme, David Gladfelter writes:  "Volume/Number should
  not be a problem if the periodical uses consecutive pagination
  within each volume.  Citations can then be simplified to volume,
  title, page and year, thus for the following: 12 Penny Wise
  23-27 (1978)."

  Stuart Segan writes: "Each time the discussion over numbering
  systems arises I am always motivated to respond.  However,
  after a few minutes of writing, the topic takes on more and
  more issues until a concise response about numbering systems
  becomes impossible.

  Rather than justify my statements I will simply assert some of
  the issues that make the "solution" to numbering systems a

  First and foremost, the driving motivation behind numbering
  schemes in numismatics of late, whether pertaining to coins,
  literature, die varieties or whatever, is driven by the ease
  with which non-experts are able to create a relational database.
  For the average enthusiast the database is usually Microsoft
  Access or variations thereof.

  Not meaning to take Mr. Wither's to task , let me respond
  to his cry "Why, oh why, volume 1, Number 1?" that frankly
  Volume 1, Number 1 is much more intuitively approachable
  for non-linear, non-binary thinking human beings.

  Sure, Volume 1, Number 1 takes up two fields at a minimum
  in a database but so what?  Of what utility is it that the
  hardcopy of the American Numismatic Society Magazine says
  39, or issue 39, or whatever without anything further.  As a
  mathematician type if I encountered 39 my "hunch" would be
  March of the third year of the periodicals run, however, if
  there were omissions this is a problem. Volume III, Number 3
  therefore is much more structured an approach.  The
  conversion to the so called unique identifiers necessary in
  the world of relational databases is easily accomplished.

  Taken to the extreme, presenting a numbering system in
  "straight through" fashion, numbering all the objects under
  consideration by 1,2,3, etc....presents severe limitations to
  the ordinary user of the numbering scheme.

  Interestingly, Breen numbered all entries in his encyclopedia
  straight through from Breen 1 to Breen 8035.  Care to guess
  what say Breen 4017 might be?   It's an 1858-S Large S
  quarter. Breen 8035 by the way is the 1883 Hawaiian half
  dollar and Breen 1 is an undated Sommer Islands piece.
  Though everything is given a unique ordinal number - precisely
  what is prescribed by a relational database - building queries
  and a user friendly electronic version of Breen's encyclopedia
  would necessitate some serious organization OTHER than by
  Breen numbers alone. Otherwise a programmer (or God forbid,
  the user) would have to memorize lovely tidbits like "Buffalo
  nickels are covered by Breen 2584 to 2656 with the caveat
  that Proofs are not separated from business strikes" and so on.

  What it comes down to for me is pretty simple. the interest in
  numbering systems today is motivated by different dynamics
  than were present 10 years ago, let alone 25, 50 and 100
  years ago.

  While I can appreciate Mr. Withers frustration with respect
  to the numbering of the American Numismatic Society
  Magazine, his desire for convenience actually forfeits much
  of the true strength of the essence of a unique identifier and
  the role that a unique identifier plays within a relational
  database. The statement "that numbers are (a) sequential
  and (b) unique, so only ONE number is necessary for
  identification" is based upon the very narrow reading that
  it makes life easier for the cataloger.  It does not make life
  easier for the researcher, the programmer, or the user of an
  application that queries a database in the hopes of finding
  out, for example, in what year issue 39 was produced and
  so forth."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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