The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 20, Number 33, August 13, 2017, Article 13


In recent weeks we've had discussions about Wikipedia as an information source; here are some earlier comments in response to concerns raised by Bob Leonard and others. -Editor

Bob Leonard wrote:

... researchers must never fall into the habit of using secondary information. I suppose that this is elementary and unworthy of notice, but in a day when I see Wikipedia, of all things, being cited as an authority, and some people believing that anything you find on the internet is the equal of an exhaustively-researched and vetted book, maybe it is worth mentioning.

Arthur Shippee of Hamden, CT wrote:

Wikipedia is pretty decent. Its articles are supposed to be well-sourced. My chief concern is more that it is boring rather than wrong. Used properly, it is a solid source.

Paul Schultz of Pennsylvania wrote:

I think some judgement is needed in determining the validity of Wikipedia articles. I would not trust popular and trendy topics without checking other sources. I would have an eye out for statements that don't make sense in the context of what I already know. But if the topic is not a likely subject for those of questionable interests, and the contents indicate the author must have a good academic knowledge of the topic, I have found a substantial number of articles that are valuable and reliable.

While acknowledging that Wikipedia can be a questionable resource at times, the consensus seems to be that if caution is used it's a fine place for starting an investigation of a topic. But as Bob pointed out (and I agree), caution is especially warranted for secondary sources of information such as books. While Wikipedia requires that sources be meticulously cited, secondary sources are permitted.

Among our newer readers is a Wikipedia author and administrator, who offers some insight into the process of creating these articles. -Editor

Gary Greenbaum of Fairfax, VA writes:

I’ve been reading the discussion of online sources and in particular Wikipedia. I’m possibly the only ANA member to be a Wikipedia administrator, and since I’ve written some of the coin articles on Wikipedia, I thought I’d write in and say a few words.

Since I felt Wikipedia needed better coverage of numismatics, I’ve slowly been improving some of the coin articles, and adding new ones, especially on U.S. commemorative coins. This isn’t happening in any organized fashion, there’s no real central authority for such things. People write about what they’re interested in. I’ve accumulated a decent numismatic library over the years, and now that The Numismatist is online, that’s a help, since the article should be based on sources which the reader can check. In addition to commemoratives, I’ve managed to get enough books on British coins to start improving those articles as well.

I try for something that has information for coin collectors, as well as for people who just discovered a coin and are trying to find more about it. There’s a fairly standardized format that’s evolved: how the coin came to be, a discussion of its design, and what happened to the coin once it was issued. The articles I write tend to get looked at by others, as I bring them to what is called Featured Article Candidates. But since we have few coin collectors, that doesn’t mean that they get seen by people knowledgeable about coins. Sometimes they do, though, I had experts in Shield nickels and also Eisenhower dollars look over those articles at some point.

How can the numismatic community help? One way is if they see errors or the like, to say something. The tab “Talk” on most Wikipedia pages will take you to the talk page, where you can leave a comment. We’re also in fairly desperate need of images, especially of U.S. commemoratives. We’ve been fortunate to get donations of images, even a few from the Smithsonian, but those seem to have run dry. It’s hard to write an article without being able to show decent-quality images. So uploading better quality images would help. But I’m pleased just to have them read.

I can be reached at, or on Wikipedia by typing in the search box: User talk: Wehwalt

Ron Haller-Williams writes:

All I can say to Paul (and others) is, "If you see something that's wrong in Wikipedia, CORRECT IT !!!" If you have the knowledge, then Wikipedia depends upon YOU. Until I made a change, it even had my wife's grandfather living over 20 years longer than he actually did. And I've probably made over 80 other changes, many relating to numismatic aspects.

Thanks, Gary. "See something, say something" is good advice. And if more numismatists would get involved, many improvements could be made. The Newman Numismatic Portal and other actively managed sites are great sources for images and both primary and secondary reference material.

Gary adds:

We can’t use images from other sites unless they’ve been released under a Creative Commons or similar license.

Here are links to some of Gary's numismatic Wikipedia articles. These are nicely done and well documented, great starting points for the general public and numismatic researchers alike. -Editor

To read the complete articles, see:
Waterloo Medal (Pistrucci) (
Three-cent nickel (
Roosevelt dime (
Norse-American medal (
Oregon Trail Memorial half dollar (

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: JULY 23, 2017 : Critical Thinking About Internet Sources (
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: JULY 30, 2017 : Wikipedia As an Information Source (
NOTES FROM E-SYLUM READERS: AUGUST 6, 2017 : More on Wikipedia As an Information Source (

Charles Davis ad01

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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