The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 12, March 21, 2010, Article 13


Ben Keele writes:

Tracking down old or defunct copyright holders can be very challenging and has created what is now called the orphan works problem--a work is no longer easily available and is still under copyright, but the copyright holder cannot be found for obtaining permission. Congress has considered some changes to the law to help with this problem, but for now the best that can be done is checking records of copyright registrations.

Any registration since 1978 is online at Since the books Peter asked about were published before 1978, I doubted there would be any useful information, and I was correct, neither Shirjieh nor Chenby were found in my search of 1978 and later copyright registrations.

Pre-1978 copyright registrations are not yet online. The Copyright Office has some information on looking them up ( ), but it is expensive to ask for the Copyright Office to look for you. Some federal depository libraries (check to find the nearest depository library) have old copyright records. Google has digitized the indices of the pre-1978 records ( ). I searched for the two books and found that both had been registered shortly after publication.

Chinese Banknotes:

Coins of the Philippines:

All this means is that a registration record exists for these books, so the Copyright Office or depository library might have those records. The records might have an address for the publisher or author, which might be a lead. The records are kept as they were originally filed, so it does not necessarily mean you can get a current address or know if the publisher or authors are still around.

Fred Schwan writes:

Regarding the copyright of Chinese Banknotes (a great book), Shirjieh publishers certainly no longer exists. It may have been owned by Ward Smith and Brian Matravers. Smith is long dead, but Matravers likely is still alive.

I only met Matravers a few times. The last time was in an elevator at some major numismatic event, likely in California and quite a few years ago. I was surprised at how young he was. He was much younger than Smith (who had died by that time). As far as I know he (Matravers) is no longer involved in numismatics. Possibly some collectors in California know where to find him.

On the larger issue of copyrights, I have similar problems. I want to do a new edition of a 1985 book which was self published. The author is dead. I did quite a bit of work to find the widow. Got a phone number, but alas it had been disconnected when I called. I do not now know what to do. Any ideas?

Joe Boling writes:

Shirjieh Publishers was Ward D. Smith. I'm sure that if the copyright to Chinese Banknotes resided with him, that it was passed to his widow, Marian. Brian Matravers may still be alive in Hong Kong - Bruce Smith might know that - and he might have a piece of the copyright. As for Marian Smith's address, I don't know if she is still in the house in Menlo Park or not.

Ian A. Marshall writes:

Regarding Patrick Ian Perez's question on Shirjieh Publishers, I believe it was solely owned and operated by Ward Smith. He lived in Menlo Park and was involved in publishing other works as well. One was the two volume Catalogue of World Paper Money by George Sten that was never completed beyond the 2 volumes published due to Sten's untimely death. This along with the German, Arnold Kellers works were the first attempts to catalogue World Paper Money.

I don't have the Sten catalogues at hand to see who the listed publisher was but Ward Smith definitely was the publisher of this and his own book. I remember sharing a motel room with Ward after driving with him from COIN to the ANA in San Diego in 1983. We talked at length about Sten and his publishing ventures. He died, I believe in the late 80's.

Regarding the book by Aldo Basso & Chenby Publishers, Ken Berger writes:

The book's title is "Coins, Medals and Tokens of the Philippines." It was published in 1968. The publisher is listed as Chenby Publishers, P.O. Box 259, Menlo Park, CA 94025. Basso's address is listed as 2309 S. El Camino Real, San Mateo, CA 94403.

In 1975, a second edition was published, entitled "Coins, Medals and Tokens of the Philippines 1728 1974." This time the copyright was held by Basso rather than Chenby Publishers. Basso's address was given as P.O. Box 935, San Mateo, CA 94403, USA. This edition was printed by Bookman Printing House, Quezon City.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: QUERY: SHIRJIEH PUBLISHERS (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address:

To subscribe go to:



Copyright © 1998 - 2020 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS)
All Rights Reserved.

NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster