The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 13, March 28, 2010, Article 18


Dick Hanscom writes:

Someone was trying to trace the owner of a publishing house, known to be deceased, but didn't know about his wife. I have used this source in researching Alaska token issuers: .

It is the Social Security death index. Not perfect, but pretty good. It won't tell you where a person is if still alive, but if the person is dead, you can stop looking.

Thanks - that seems like a great resource. On the original topic of the Chenby and Shirjieh Publishing Companies, Bruce Smith offers the following extensive background. Thanks! -Editor

I should have written sooner. I can tell you just about anything you want to know on this subject because I have the papers of Ward D. Smith. These two "companies" had no physical existence. They were just names created by Ward Smith for the publishing of some books.

Shirjieh is certainly Chinese meaning "world" and Chenby is probably intended for "ch'ien pi" meaning coin or money. I don't know why Ward chose different names for the "publisher" of the books he produced -- perhaps it was to legally separate the assets of the books being published.

Ward Smith did file a copyright application for "Chinese Banknotes" -- I know this because there is a notice from the copyright office to him in 1971 saying that his original application was incorrectly filed out, and asking him to submit a new form. I presume he did so. That book would have been copyrighted under the old copyright law, which was only good for 28 years. So unless his widow renewed the copyright, it is now in the public domain.

Ward's widow is still alive, or at least she was in 2008 when I visited her. At that time I obtained some unsold copies of "Chinese Banknotes" (brand new, still in the original box from the printer) so it is not really out of print now (I have some for sale). In the 1980's I saw a pirated version of this book for sale in Hong Kong. I suspect the pirate version was printed in Taiwan because all the listings of communist notes had been removed.

Ward Smith also published the Sten catalog of world paper money --- one of the first attempts at such a listing. As stated in the book, the copyright for this work belonged jointly to Sten and a woman named there (actually his niece who lived in Poland). The first two volumes of this 4 volume set were published, and the other two volumes were either finished or very near finished. At that point Sten died unexpectedly.

He lived alone in an apartment. His housekeeper discovered the body and called the police. While the police were there, she began removing his paper money collection and the manuscript for the other two volumes -- telling the police that she was his wife. She disappeared and the last two volumes disappeared as well.

When he found out what had happened, Ward tried to get the police or the courts involved, but nothing could be done. I have a very thick file documenting the events and Ward's efforts to recover the collection and the manuscript, believing that both legally belonged to Sten's niece in Poland. All he was able to do was to send her some money from time to time as the Sten books sold and to send her the balance in a small account of Sten's for which he was holding the passbook.

Ward Smith also published the original Basso book on Philippine coins. There was one box full of this book at Ward's widow's house, which we bought in 2008. All of these (about 30 copies) went to a coin dealer in southern California whose name I can't recall at the moment.

George Sten wrote another book on world paper money before his two volume catalog. Published in 1965, this work was titled: "Encyclopedia of World Paper Money", and it was full of great information on world paper money. There were no actual listings of notes, just lists of issuing authorities, banks, charts with number systems, names of the months in various languages, translations of Chinese and Japanese bank names and so forth.

This was the outline for a larger work. It was published, spiral bound, by Universal Publishing Company of Port Washington (New York ?). There might have been two editions of this Encyclopedia. My copy has a 1965 copyright by Universal Publishing and a 1972 copyright by Joan Alexander (Box 7, Roslyn, NY 11576). I am unclear on how there can be two copyrights on the same book, but this is what is printed on the title page.

I believe there was an even earlier attempt at a catalog of world paper money. The same Universal Publishing Co. produced a thin paperback catalog about 1961, but I don't recall the author and I can't find my copy. This work and Sten's two volumes were probably the first published general catalogs of world paper money. Arnold Keller may have had a manuscript catalog at that time, but it was not published.

In the 1980's someone reprinted the two Sten volumes in one softcover book. I don't know who produced this reprint -- it isn't marked with any names except those in the original work.

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: MORE ON SHIRJIEH PUBLISHERS AND COPYRIGHTS (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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