The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 51, December 14, 2014, Article 9


By way of background, here's the basic story of my Coin Library project and how it came to be part of the new Newman Numismatic Portal that was announced this week. -Editor

Back in the early days of the Internet, I built the first NBS web site to teach myself HTML. Then I wanted to try building a site of my own and purchased the domain. I set up a small site with my numismatic biography, a numismatic literature want list, some books for sale and a few articles, including one on the In God We Trust motto. My plan was to keep building out numismatic content, but life soon got in the way (namely a wife and kids).

While I continued editing The E-Sylum, my web site gathered dust for years on end. It was embarrassing, but I renewed the domain name over and over, figuring that someday I'd do something with it.

Fast forward to May 18, 2008. On that Sunday, the new HTML version of The E-Sylum debuted. John Nebel had done a lot of development work for me behind the scenes, and we had a pretty slick system in place. Every Sunday night, after our webmaster Bruce Perdue uploads a new E-Sylum issue, John's programs run automatically and split the issues into individual web pages and update the table of contents on our archive.

The programs also create our RSS feed and an email message that lists the headline, volume, number, article number, and URL for every new E-Sylum article. That email message was the genesis of the new, but not directly. You see, that email message went nowhere but my inbox (and trash folder). There was nowhere else to send it.

The idea of that message was to feed the latest E-Sylum articles into NIP, the Numismatic Indexes Project started by Harry Bass. Harry had hired a developer and built a database containing indexes to major U.S. numismatic periodicals, including The Numismatist, the American Journal of Numismatics, and many others. The database could be searched online at the Harry Bass Foundation web site. It was a MARVELOUS resource. I worked with Harry and his developer to include both our print journal (The Asylum) and our electronic newsletter (The E-Sylum).

The problem with any periodical index is that it gets out of date very quickly. Some volunteer spends months compiling one, publishes it, then quits. New content continues to be published, but the index languishes until another volunteer brings it up to date years later.

The email was to be the solution to that problem, at least for The E-Sylum. It would go to the NIP database administrator, who could easily pull it into the database, keeping the index fully up to date with the latest articles. My Master Plan was to work with the editors of all the major U.S. numismatic periodicals to send a similar email for each of their issues. Voila! NIP would never get out of date.

Just one problem. Harry died. The Foundation continued to host the NIP index, but there was no one to update it. Eventually they gave it to the American Numismatic Association, and they hosted it for several years on their site. But still, no updates were ever made that I'm aware of. The index was was quite useful, but hadn't been updated in years. And with the latest ANA web site revamp, NIP disappeared.

Basically, I wanted to pick up with Harry left off and build a new numismatic literature index, only now I could do it with 21st century tools. In the age of Google and Open Source software, far more was possible. I wanted to build the Mother of All Numismatic Search Engines; one that could stay completely current, enable full text content search, and have redundant backups so no information would ever get lost.

Some sites like CoinArchives already exist, but they focus on ancient coins and most do not have books or periodicals, just auction records. I wanted to start with U.S. material, especially specialty club periodicals, which have a wealth of great information rarely seen by people outside those clubs.

The Coin Library logo I found a developer to help and he built a marvelous demo site. It included full-text search on all 17,000+ E-Sylum articles, the NIP index, and all the auction lots on the Heritage and Goldbergs web sites. I went to a Baltimore coin show and gave a PowerPoint overview with screen shots to several NBS friends, including David Sundman, Dave Perkins and Len Augsberger. Later I gave them logins on the demo site so they could play around.

That first developer did the work for free, but I had begun raising funds to pay for the other services I would need, like a user interface designer, a tester, not to mention an accountant to help with taxes. I had set up a company and the idea was to sell advertising on the site to pay the bills.

When Harvey Stack wrote to me praising The E-Sylum and asking how he could help, I told him about my new web site project. He immediately sent a check. Others soon joined in, including John Adams, Dan Hamelberg, John Kraljevich, David Sundman, Dave Bowers, Tony Terranova, Ken Bressett, Bill Burd and Greg Roberts. I treated these contributions as prepayment for ads once the site went live.

These funds came in handy when my first developer took a new job and didn't have time to continue. I found someone new and could begin paying him and a web designer. Together we began putting a cleaner interface on the site and adding new features, including indexing complete books and indexing Heritage auctions from the files they'd begun sending me. Roger Burdette allowed me to test with a digital copy of his From Mine to Mint book, and Dennis Tucker at Whitman Publications provided digital copies of two Whitman publications. The system worked - we could do a fast full-text search across books, periodicals and auction sites.

One evening I got a call from Eric Newman's son Andy, asking the same question Harvey did. "First, let me tell you about this other project...", I said. And to make a long story short, that's how the Coin Library project came to be a part of what is now called the Newman Numismatic Portal. After the press release came out the other day, I sent the following note to all of my supporters to date:

Dear Friends of Coin Library:

Attached is a copy of a release that went out today to the numismatic, academic and general press. In summary, The Coin Library is becoming part of an even more ambitious project, the Newman Numismatic Portal, funded by the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society (EPNNES). This is an exciting opportunity to take numismatic digitization and search to the next level, combining the organization features of Coin Library with the substantial digitization capacity that a university library can provide.

The lion’s share of the grant to Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL) will provide equipment and staffing to enable the digitization of millions of pages of numismatic literature, far more than we could ever hope to digitize on our own. The university library will also enable the integration of numismatic content in JSTOR, the HathiTrust, EBSCO Host and other valuable databases.

Your generous contributions, helpful comments, and unflagging support for Coin Library have made this project possible – a project that will serve not only the numismatists of today, but the numismatic scholars and collectors of generations to come.

As promised, your contributions will be acknowledged publicly on the web site when it goes live. As early backers of this project you will continue to have a front-row seat as it evolves. When appropriate I will furnish project updates and chances to "test drive" new features and content.

Unspent funds already contributed to The Coin Library will be used as originally intended, to continue building out the planned software features for the first version. Meanwhile, Len Augsburger, Roger Burdette, John Feigenbaum, Joel Orosz and I will work with the university to direct digitization efforts and plan the full set of features for the portal, to include a free "Coin Facts"-style encyclopedia of U.S. numismatic data.

Many thanks to our longtime friend Eric P. Newman for his generous support. Through this project America’s greatest numismatic scholar is creating the ultimate resource for future numismatic researchers. I’m proud to be a part of it, and you should be, too. Thank you for believing and investing in the vision. I’ll look forward to working with all of you in the months and years ahead as the pieces fall into place.

Wayne Homren

Many thanks to Eric Newman and the Newman family for making the new project possible. Together with the university we'll take this to the next level, beginning with the digitization of material from Eric's marvelous library. Thanks also to Andy Newman, Bill Eckberg, Heather Schena, Joel Orosz, John Nebel, John Sallay, Len Augsburger, Mary Burleson, Mike Paradis, Roger Burdette and Dennis Tucker, whose comments and suggestions along the way were invaluable.

Stay tuned, everyone! We'll provide more information as the project evolves. It should prove to be a marvelous source for numismatic researchers, regular collectors, and everyone in between.


Looking for a great gift for a fellow coin collector? Consider a $50 coin supplies gift card. Click here to learn more.

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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