The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 6, February 11, 2007, Article 15


This one his a nerve - we have comments from a number of subscribers
on both sides of the issue raised by Karl Moulton about the need for
printed numismatic auction catalogs in the Internet age.

Bob Christie writes: "I totally agree with you about not eliminating
the printed auction catalog.  There have been times when I've bought
items that are unusual or I don't collect because I've had time to
glance at every lot quickly.  I wouldn't or don't have the time on
the Internet."

Alan V. Weinberg writes: "I agree completely with the concept that
"out of sight is out of mind" when it comes to computer disks of
auction contents replacing printed/mailed auction catalogues. The
sumptuousness of the cataloguing and photography is what first draws
the collector or dealer to be interested in an item and think "that's
for me (or a client)!"

"I know few serious numismatists who will search computer disks to
find items of interest.

"And the hand-annotated auction catalogue for an important sale (such
as the Ford auctions by Stack's) are almost invaluable for pedigree
and re-living the excitement of the sale years later. I still regularly
refer to my extensively annotated Garrett/JHU 4 catalogues 1979-81
including such written comments as "$5,000 jumps yelled out"."

Julian Leidman writes: "I agree with you, Wayne, about auction
catalogues.  DVD's already have been proposed by Heritage and their
thoughts were to go to those eventually.  Jim Halperin, co-chair of
Heritage is an accomplished and published futurist, and I am sure
knows what he is talking about and proposing.

"My difficulties with the DVD's are that it actually takes much longer
to browse a catalogue via that method than it does simply browsing thru
it.  It is also much more convenient to do on an airplane or even sitting
at home in your easy chair.  Eventually, I am almost certain the
auctions will some how be presented that you can clip something on to
your glasses and browse thru that like a catalogue really at your
leisure.  Only the future will tell."

Robert Rhue writes: "I am as avid a recycler, and as respectful of
our natural resources, as anyone.  However, as a buyer in auctions
I have to agree with the position that without a hard copy, viewing
an auction catalog online is so slow and cumbersome as to be
overwhelming.  Perhaps some compromise can be made to where the hard
glossy catalogs with the pretty colored pictures could be substituted
by a catalog which uses thinner, cheaper paper.  Then we potential
bidders could peruse the catalog, narrow down which lots we wanted
to view in full color, and bid from there.  But at this point in time
anyway there's no substitute for having a hard copy in order to at
least be able to preview in a quick and efficient manner the entire
contents of a given auction."

On Karl Moulton's side of this debate is Tim L. Shuck of Ames, IA,
who writes: "I, too would like to see catalogs available in DVD format.
As much as I like to look through the printed versions, I've accumulated
quite a few just in the last two years and space is already becoming
an issue; can't image where I'm going to put everything a few years
down the road.

"I returned to coin collecting a few years ago, and all but a couple
of my purchases have been through the web. I didn't initially realize
that printed catalogs were even available, because my experience in
other interests (such as photography) was not that a printed catalog
was necessary; nearly anything I needed could be researched and
ordered using the Internet.

"In the last five years I don't think I've ordered much of anything
from a printed catalog, even though I get many in the mail, because
offerings duplicate what's shown on the web. There may be more
catalogs today not because potential buyers demand them but because
past history has become the pattern for future efforts. Understanding
that some can't or won't use a desktop computer, perhaps there is
never-the-less room for a different vision and a different approach.

"The web is not a DVD, however, but for the data volumes typical of
a numismatic offering, DVDs might be better. Web searching is often
compromised by bandwidth restraints, poor search capabilities, and
slow client-side server response time. Some sites are good but some
are, well, not; a situation likely to remain until all buyers have
high-end bandwidth and all dealers have high-end server systems.
Until then, DVDs could provide very high resolution imagery, an
interactive index, all the text desired, greater longevity compared
to the web, and more.

"If properly formatted and indexed, a DVD catalog would allow fast
and efficient page-by-page browsing for those who want to do that,
but also enable customized searches to find things of specific
interest.  It is the search capabilities that give DVDs huge advantages
in my opinion, particularly for those who use catalogs for comparative
research (how one company's offerings compare to another's, what the
trends have been for this coin, provenance, etc.).

"I think there would also be huge potential for unique marketing
and promotion efforts as well. Imagine being able to watch a Stack's
expert describing selected Indian Peace Medals from the John J. Ford,
Jr., collection, or viewing an AV clip from a past auction where a
specific rare or unique coin currently offered was previously sold.

"Another advantage would be (hopefully) the ability to make available
catalogs no longer in print, something that is a recent interest of
mine (and yet another sales opportunity for the dealer).

"For marketing reasons alone it wouldn't surprise me to learn that
at least one of the major auction companies is already seriously
evaluating DVD media as a viable alternative or complement to printed
catalogs. Because some online dealers already hold successful auctions
without creating printed versions, I don't think the transition need
be that painful and that both formats can and would coexist without
compromising any one dealer's marketing efforts."

[There are few bigger fans of technology than me - I'm obviously all
for electronic publishing.  But there are limits.  Every new technology
can augment and improve upon the old ways of doing things, and in the
case of computers and the Internet, publishing numismatic information
is now far easier and cheaper than it ever has been.  But be careful
which technologies you choose to adopt and where, or you could be
taking a big step backwards.

For example, if Abraham Lincoln were giving his address at Gettysburg
today, a public address system could allow more of the assembled crowd
to hear his words, and video projectors could allow far more attendees
to see him.  Television and satellite coverage could allow him to be
heard and seen around the globe.  So far, so good.  But here's what
the address might have looked like if Abe had augmented his speech
with another modern technology:  -Editor]

The Gettysburg Address Powerpoint presentation

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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