Last week, I posted an article about online resources that I use when I want to begin research on a numismatic topic. The list provided a number of resources but a reader wrote to me and noted that I forgot to include paper money resources beyond the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Paper Money Sources
When it comes to searching for information on paper money, I always start at one of the following three sites:
The opening line at USPaperMoney.Info says that it is the “home of everything you ever wanted to know about U.S. currency. (Well, almost….)” This is truth in advertising. Even with the page of unanswered questions, the site has everything you could ever want to know about U.S. currency. I just wish the author would organize the site better.
Don and Vic’s World Banknote Gallery is one of those sites that looks like it was created by a seventh grader in 1998 but has a tremendous amount of very useful information. It is one of the best sites I have found to identify world banknotes.
They have a companion site named World Coin Gallery that is similar. I have used this site and have added it to the original bookmarks file. If you downloaded the original bookmarks then right-click (Control-click for Mac users) and select the option to add worldcoingallery.com to your bookmarks.
Last, but definitely not least, is Banknote News by Owen Linzmayer. If you want to know anything about the production of world paper money, this is the site you need to read. In addition to the information, which a lot of it is in blog form and consistently tagged for easy navigation, Linzmayer has also compiled one of the best references on world paper money called The Banknote Book. He said he did this because he and other collectors were frustrated with the “many errors, omissions, and poor-quality images” in the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money.
The Banknote Book can be purchased as a physical book as a three-volume set complete through 2014 or you can buy individual chapters corresponding to the country of your interest.
If you want to check it out for yourself, download 17 Free Sample Chapters and judge for yourself.
Do you want to add these links to your browser’s bookmarks? Right-click (or Mac users can CTRL-Click) on the following button and select whatever option your browser requires to save the file to hard drive. Import the file as an “HTML Bookmark” file to add these links to your bookmarks.
I am often asked what resources I used for online research when writing articles for the Coin Collectors Blog. For more than 12 years of writing this blog, I have found hundreds of websites that I have used to various degrees. However, there are a few that have provided the best information.
No single website can provide all of the information available. This is why I keep many sources at hand. The problem is that I do not keep them in one neat location. Some of them I remember and then there are snippets of text, bookmarks, and even computer code that I refer to when I have to start looking up information. Not only will this provide you with research starting points but it also gives me a chance to organize my bookmarks!
Before I list my sources, there is one tool that must be included in any online reference: Google. Google is a great search tool because it is the only search engine that really tries to add context of the search. For example, if you are searching for something to do with coin dies you will get related items and not information about games with dice or something about death.
When searching for information using Google is to try to be as exact as possible with the search term including using characters with diacritic (accent) marks. Using the proper diacritic marks will help find foreign language sources that could provide additional information not found in English. Also, Google can search using terms that are entered using non-Latin characters including Arabic, Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, and Asian languages.
If you find a non-English site or a site in a language you are not familiar with, Google Translate (translate.google.com) is a great tool for translating this information. You can either enter phrases into Google Translate or enter a URL for it to download and translate pages.
When it is time to find information about modern coins, currency, production totals, and images, the primary source are the government bureaus that manufacture the money.
United States Mint: www.usmint.gov
Bureau of Engraving and Printing: www.moneyfactory.gov
There is a lot that goes into the money manufacturing process in the U.S. An overview of the bureaus and other agencies can be found the U.S. Coin and Currency Production page.
Although there is quite a bit of numismatic information available online, one of the biggest benefit of being a member of the American Numismatic Association is to have access to The Numismatist in electronic form. The $28 per year basic membership gives you access to this resource electronically.
For other historical publication and a lot of information, consider using the Newman Numismatic Portal at Washington University in St. Louis. Aside from being a rich source of information, many of the publications they index are located in the Internet Archive. Clicking through to the site will allow you to download many of the publications as a PDF or ePub for your tablet reader.
Another archive you may also want to search is Google Books. The advantage of Google Books is that they offer more formats for the books that have been imaged including a version that has been processed using an optical character recognition (OCR) program. While the OCR versions are far from perfect, it is wonderful if you are looking to copy-and-past quotes into your own writing. Google Books may not have the full text of every reference found because of copyright restrictions but once you find the book you can either buy the book or borrow it from a library making it a great for doing index searches.
ANA members can borrow books from the Dwight N. Manley Numismatic Library. There is no cost to borrow books but you will have to pay for shipping. The Library can also provide research and copy services for a fee. Although research services are fee-based and open to anyone, the fees are lower for ANA members.
Archived Publication Sources
Online guides are resources for individual coins. Each of the resources listed have their strengths and weaknesses making it important that you consult more than one when looking for information. The following list are the guides I consult in alphabetical order:
Whether you are a casual collector, more expert, or someone looking at coins, the one question that is always ask is “What is that coin worth?”
Coin values are subjective and based on a lot of factors. It can be so confusing that I wrote a two part series How Are Coins Priced (Part I and Part II). Even if you understand the principles, there is a need for price guides.
Price guides are not perfect. They have their own formula and their own biases for what makes up prices. For example, the price guides sponsored by the grading services are the prices for coins in their holders. This is why I consult a few price guides when doing research. The following are the price guides I have used:
One of the key aspect of pricing is the level of conservation or the grade of the coin. When it comes to be able to judge the grade of the coin there is only one website I use:
Another aspect of pricing is the value of the coin’s metals. There are many sites that can provide spot prices, I have found the following very helpful:
There are quite a few online communities that discuss numismatics. Some of them are very good while others can be a bit harsh for the average collector. For general knowledge and access to a wide range of knowledge I recommend the following:
The E-Sylum has been called the best free numismatic resource on the Internet. After being a subscriber for the last five years, it is difficult to argue with that statement. Many of the contributors are a Who’s Who of the numismatic industry. While you can read the E-Sylum online, you should subscribe. Better yet, if you are an ANA member you will receive a copy in email. Do not delete it! Read it! It gets a PR-70DCAM rating from this reviewer!
If we are talking about online access to sources there has to be a mention of mobile apps. Since I am an Apple iPhone user, I use the iOS version of these apps. However, all of them have Android equivalents. Some also have versions the run on Windows Mobile. Here are the apps I have installed on my iOS devices (in alphabetical order):
▸ Universal Apps (iPhone and iPad)
- PCGS Coin Cert Verification
- PCGS CoinFacts
- PCGS Photograde
- PCGS Price Guide
- XE Currency
▸ iPad Only
- The Numismatist HD (2009 – present)†
- The Numismatist Magazine (All editions)†
- Kcast Gold Live! (Kitco)‡
▸ iPhone only
- CDN Coin & Currency Pricing
- EyeNote (BEP)
- Gold Live!+ (Kitco)‡
- NantMobile MoneyReader
† Both apps are available for the iPhone
‡ Note that there are different versions for the iPhone and iPad. The “+” is not a typo.
▸ Website Links
Website Links are bookmarks on the phone’s Home Screen. On the iPhone open Safari and go to the page you want to bookmark the press the sharing icon (the box with the arrow pointed up). In the popup select “Add to Home Screen” from the set of icons on the second line.
Do you want to add these links to your browser’s bookmarks? Right-click (or Mac users can CTRL-Click) on the following button and select whatever option your browser requires to save the file to hard drive. Import the file as an “HTML Bookmark” file to add these links to your book marks.
At some point, after running some early errands, I will drive to Baltimore for the Whitman Baltimore Expo. If you want to follow along, I will be on Twitter using the hashtag #WBSE16 from my @CoinsBlog account. If you are just interested in the images and not my commentary, you can follow the board I set up under my Pinterest account I named “Whitman Baltimore Expo 2016-04-02” (for its originality, of course).
If you are not into trying to watch the live updates or social media, here are widgets to both accounts and you can follow along here:
There should be two images on the Pinterest board from testing my workflow.
GEEKY BACKGROUND for those who wants to know what I did, otherwise, you can skip this: I created an ifttt recipe that searches for my tweets with hashtag #WBSE16 then posts the image to my specified board on Pinterest.
I will post a more comprehensive report after the show.
When I discussed the American Numismatic Association election, I noted that my posting has been more sporadic because of a business I started. This will continue at least for the next few months.
However, if you are looking for different types of coin news and information, I invite you to follow me on Twitter. You can find me @coinsblog. For those of you not familiar with Twitter, it is a social media site where users post information using 140 characters or less. This makes it difficult to post long diatribes of extensive notes. What it is good for is to post short messages with a link to longer stories.
Those who either follow my Twitter feed on the web, using their favorite app, or the the box on the sidebar of this page will note that I will post links to coin, currency, and bullion-related stories from around the web. These stories are not from the usual set of numismatic-related websites like CoinNews.net, CoinWeek, Coin World, Numismatic News, etc. I figure that many of you would read these sites without my prompting. If you are not reading the articles on those sites, here is my endorsement for all of them. I read them all regularly.
Items I do post are from other news sources from around the web. Most of the articles are from media outlets but there are some financial blogs that make it into the mix.
The stories I post are about coins that have been about issued or planned to be issued coins and currency; news about bullion; some economic news that will affect circulating coins and currency; stories about shows where ever they appear; stories about collectors and collecting; or anything else that catches my eye.
The stories that end up in my Twitter stream are “hand selected.” This means I have a few saved searches and I periodically read through them looking for something interesting. Sometimes there are a lot of stories on one topic, such as the recent stories about France being upset with Belgium for striking a Waterloo commemorative. Other times it could be serious but amusing items like Zimbabwe phasing out its inflation currency at the rate of on U.S. dollar for ever Z$35 Quadrillion (that’s Z$35,000,000,000,000,000 or Z$35 thousand million) of inflation currency.
Similarly, I will post interesting pictures I find onto Pinterest. Pinterest is social media for pictures. Pictures are pinned to Pinterest like a bulletin board. You can follow those who pin on Pinterest (pinners) or their individual pin boards. I keep a few boards on Pinterest that I pin to as I look at the various articles. I try to pin something different than the usual coins. Most comes from the articles I find as I search for news stories.
Unless I find something different, most of the items from the news I post to my “In The News” board. One of my popular boards is “Coin & Currency Art” where I post items made from coins or currency or items made to look like coins and currency (that are not or intended to be counterfeit). If you like looking at interesting items, you might want to join Pinterest and start to follow many of the numismatic-related pinners already on the site.
I will try to finish some posts I started shortly. Until then, stay tuned and watch social media for my take on the on-going news.
After a few years of playing with the look-and-feel of their website, the U.S. Mint is in the process of redesigning and reprogramming their online catalog.
Face it, the U.S. Mint has not been the paragon of customer service. Their website and fulfillment process has been severely lacking. There were times when the site would crash after releasing high demand products including the limited edition American Eagle anniversary coins. Other than the re-skinning of the site, the U.S. Mint web presence has been a disaster.
Beginning in fiscal year 2014 (October 2013), the U.S. Mint awarded a contract to PFSweb to streamline fulfillment and re-design the web-based catalog and ordering service. The new website is due to be released at the beginning of fiscal year 2015 (October 2014). However, the impact of PFSweb has been felt with the better processing of online and telephone orders.
On September 9, the U.S. Mint released a video giving a preview of the new website. It maintains the color scheme the U.S. Mint has been using while adding flatter elements that have become the in-style of today’s website. According to the video, there will be a virtual tour coming soon. I will keep an eye out for that announcement.
In the mean time, here is the U.S. Mint video:
Did you ever want to be part of creating and issuing a coin?
Proposed design of the Yorkshire (UK) Challenge Coin.
Think about how you would feel to help a community create a challenge coin for itself. In the process of helping the community, you can collect one of these challenge coins for yourself. If you provide enough assistance, then you can own one of the lowest numbered challenge coin.
Buried in my inbox was a note about a KickStarter project to create a challenge coin for Yorkshire, U.K. For as little as £6, (currently $9.94) you can own a coin numbered between 100 and 999. If you can afford £20 ($33.14), you can own a coin numbered between 10 and 20. Sorry, but the lower numbers have been purchased. All you have to do is go to KickStarter and fund the project.
For those not familiar with KickStarter, it is a website used to allow interested people to fund projects of their choosing. Kickstarter projects are mostly creative endeavors or involve some creativity in art, music, and technology where you receive awards for your level of funding. The financing model is called “crowd sourcing” and has been used effectively to launch films for the Sundance Film Festival, a skate park in Philadelphia, a photo exhibit on the site of the Berlin Wall, and the Fitbit smart watch.
KickStarter uses and all or nothing model meaning that if the project only receives the money if it is fully funded. If it does not, your credit card will not be charged and you will not receive your premium, of course. For the Yorkshire challenge coin, they are asking for £3,000 ($4,970.52). Currently, there is £220 pledged ($364.50) with 3 days to go. The funding drive ends on Saturday, August 30 at 1:36 AM EDT.
What the heck… it seems like a very cool idea. Let’s see if we can help put the project over the top and get it funded. Even if you do not want the coin, you can spare £3 (about $5) to help!
Note that there are extra postage requirements for shipping outside of the United Kingdom.
The future of the American Numismatic Association began on Friday, August 1 with the launch of the new ANA website!
What are you talking about, the ANA has a website.
This is the NEW website with a new look and new technology.
But it’s the ANA, the website must be like putting lipstick on a pig.
No, it isn’t. The website is a complete re-engineering of the ANA online and digital assets to move the ANA into the present and position the organization for the future. First, the computers that the site is running on are no long in the headquarters in Colorado Springs. The new computers are located in a world-class data center run by Level 3 Communications, one of the leading service providers in the industry. Level 3 has an impeccable reputation for being able to manage computers and networks that anyone with a technical background working with the ANA on this project did not question this as the choice for the hosting of the new website.
Supporting the website is a new membership management system that the staff in Colorado Springs has reported as being easier to use and makes it easier to support the members. Rather than having to work around the problems and mistakes of the older software, the new software allows the ANA to update its procedures to better serve the members.
Finally, the website is supported by a new content management system (CMS) that makes it easier to add and change information as necessary. A CMS is the software stores the information you see in your browser and is served up to you on demand. CMS helps keep data in a way to allow it to be more easily managed so that it can be displayed in the browser in a way that will help you stay engaged.
While it looks like the ANA just changed the look of their website, everything about the ANA web presence has changed. It is a new service that will allow the ANA to introduce and engage more members as the world shifts to being online.
Yes, it looks nice, but are they introducing anything new?
Looking nice is important but it is only the beginning. The first application that has been rolled out is the social engagement features. There’s a place to post articles to share with the community, a forum to chat with other numismatists, and a place to show off your collection. There are also ways to interact with the ANA, pay your dues, and read the online version of The Numismatist.
Social media already exists and several forums where people can interact. What makes this so special?
First and foremost, rather than trying to interact with Internet trolls you will be interacting with fellow members of the ANA. While they may decide to participate using an alias, you can be assured that only ANA members will be allowed to register and us the ANA’s system.
So what’s the big deal? There are other sites with numismatic content.
Remember those commercials that touted “membership has its privileges,” this is only the beginning of what will be available exclusively to ANA members. One of the first socialization features is for contributors to earn “coins” or electronic awards for contributing to the numismatic community. Right now, the coins only provide ANA members bragging rights, but in the future, the coins will include potential prizes, discounts with ANA member establishments, and other incentives.
So the ANA has turned the website into a game?
The ANA has turned their website into a one that is more engaging for the membership and to attract new members. The world is moving online and in order for the ANA to serve all members, the ANA has to embrace and expand its online presence. The ANA Board of Governors’ goal is to make money.org be the numismatic hub of the community. The place to go where is anyone has a numismatic question, they can start with the country’s premier numismatic organization.
Well… it looks interesting. I’ll give it a look and see what happens.
I hope everyone gives it a look and provides feedback to the ANA. A lot of people really did a lot of work getting this first release completed on time and on budget. And not only that, the areas where the ANA holds and processes personal information was secure from the beginning because one of the site’s advisors (me) is an information security professional in real life. There was no way I was going to jeopardize my professional reputation by being involved with something known to have security problems. Besides, as an ANA member, they are storing my information and processing my credit card, too!
Everyone please go to money.org and interact with the website. Engage in the forums. Let us know what you think!
“I can’t wait to see what a disaster the ANA new web site will be.”
This statement is not from someone who is just a member of the American Numismatic Association. This is the statement of Laura Sperber who is a member of the ANA Board of Governors.
I am not taking the statement out of context. It is the first sentence of the paragraph that appears in her Hot Topics blog post at the Legend Numismatics website.
Prior to this statement, I tried to give Sperber the benefit of the doubt. I greatly respect what she has accomplished in a male-dominated industry. I also appreciate her fight against coin doctoring and shining a light on the problems with coin doctoring and the grading services because I think it has made a positive impact. Unfortunately, her statement appears to be like throwing a tantrum for the sake of being right and not getting it right.
There is a difference between having an opinion and arguing to be right rather than investigating the opinion to getting it right. If Sperber was interested in getting it right, she would speak with those working on the project from the ANA headquarters to see what they are doing. If Sperber was interested in getting it right, as a member of the Board of the Governors she could ask to see the contract, project plan, and records of the costs. If Sperber was interested in getting it right, she could have asked the chairman of the Technology Committee for a meeting with the committee members, who are ANA members and professionals in the computing industry, for a frank discussion on the project.
In fact, Sperber could have asked to talk with me at the Whitman Baltimore Expo where Legend Numismatics always has a prominent table. I attended the show on both Friday and Saturday providing ample opportunity to meet and discuss her concerns.
“There is no way anyone can justify the price paid.”
Other than throwing verbal stones at Board meetings or in her blog, Sperber has not reached out to anyone to make sure she gets it right. Not only is the price in line with industry standards but the team working on the project at the ANA’s headquarters have really worked to keep the costs down and prevent overruns. As a long-time critic of the ANA’s technical acumen, Executive Director Kim Kiick and her team has done a phenomenal job.
Sperber may be a good numismatics business person but she is not knowledgeable in the business of technology to understand how foolish she sounds.
“I know I have a far more reaching and complicated new web site that cost me MUCH LESS to build at LM Auctions.”
With all due respect, no you do not. Buying auction and shopping services off the shelf is not difficult or complicated. What is difficult and complicated is choosing amongst the dozens of vendors to provide the service. If you do an Internet search for “create an auction site” you will find the list of vendors and instruction as to how to go about doing this. If you have the technical background, you can build the site yourself using any of these services. Otherwise, there are plenty of people who can be hired to do the work for you.
In creating Legend-Morphy, Sperber and her business partners purchased technology for the auction services from Sebae Data Solutions of Ocala, Florida. Sebae may not be the company that did their integration, but it appears the Legend-Morphy site was built on top of Sebae’s Bidopia auction platform.
How complicated could creating an auction website for this company be when her partner, Dan Morphy Auctions, uses Sebae’s services to manage their auctions? Morphy Auctions is well known and respected in the antique collectibles business, thus it would make sense that if they were to branch out into other areas, they would use proven technologies they are familiar with.
The use of Sebae’s software and services is not a problem. What is a problem is Sperber’s misrepresentation of what it takes to build storefront and auction site. The difficult part is to create an experience to entice customers to bid and buy. From what I can see, the company they hired to integrate these services did a good job for what they did, but it is not complicated.
In comparison, the new ANA web presence is not about selling goods and services. The new ANA web presence is about education. It is about providing an experience to welcome people to enjoy numismatics on all levels. The new web presence has to be able to integrate the business of the ANA including processing membership requests, bring the library closer to the members, allow those from the web experience the exhibits of the Money Museum, deliver education, provide a forum for numismatists to meet virtually, facilitate virtual attendance of shows, and possibly be able to allow people to participate in live events such as the Money Talks sessions at the ANA shows.
If you want to compare what the ANA is trying to do with its website versus having a site that is a numismatic catalog such as the one Sperber thinks is so complicated, go to the website of any college or university and look at the content offered. Those sites offer online classes, registration, recruitment, information about seminars, and information about activities including athletics.
Unlike an auction or retail website, there is no commercial off the shelf (COTS) software to support the functions the ANA or any educational-based organization could buy. Rather, the ANA and the colleges have to buy services and pay to have them integrated. In this case, the ANA is buying the membership services and backend processing but it has to be integrated to support the ANA mission. The ANA will be buying other services that can be used to support the ANA mission, but you need something to bring those services to the membership and public.
Think about your car. The automobile manufacturer may buy parts to build an engine but it does not manufacture those parts. They will buy the door assembly because it is cheaper for them to hire a dedicated company to run the electronics or buy the seats that are built to their specification. But when it is all delivered, the automobile manufacturer integrates the parts into the one unit that appears on the showroom floor.
It is the same analogy in the website building business. Legend-Morphy’s business model allows them to choose one vendor with a few selected products that can be integrated without a lot of work as compared to the ANA’s model that has to provide very diverse services that cannot be purchased in one place but still has to be built to look like one product.
Based on my previous conversations with Sperber, I believe she has been in the business of numismatics as long as I have been in the computer and technology business. I respect her passion, knowledge, and accomplishments for what she has done in her career. But when she makes her pronouncements that the Legend-Morphy website is “a far more reaching and complicated new web site” when those of us who know better, then not only does she come off as foolish, but she proves that she is out of her league when it comes to assessing technology.
This initiative was started by then ANA President Tom Hallenbeck. Hallenbeck understood that the Board and the ANA headquarters were not technically savvy enough to do this without help, so he formed the Technology Committee consisting of members who are professionals in all aspects of technology. Current ANA President Walt Ostromecki, who will jokingly be the first to tell you he might be less technically aware than Hallenbeck, was insistent on keeping this committee together to ensure the success of the site.
When this started, the committee Chairman James Reinders reached out to me knowing that I was a staunch critic of the lack of technology used by the ANA. It was also clear that my background in building systems and computer security would be a benefit to this effort. Sure, they were hesitant in contacting me because I had not been exactly complementary to the ANA (examples are here and here).
This was essentially a put-up-or-shut-up opportunity. I could sit in front of my computer and kvetch or I could be part of the solution. I hope my input to the committee, headquarters staff, and Board has been helpful because as a member I am trying to do what is best for the organization.
Laura Sperber is no longer an outsider. Sperber is directly inside as an elected member of the ANA Board of Governors. She has access to the same information about this project as I do. However, she has chosen to throw verbal and written rocks at the issue in an attempt to be right rather than get it right.
Therefore, I challenge Governor Sperber to put down her verbal rocks and get it right. I challenge her to reach out to the ANA headquarters, the Technology Committee, and even participate in our weekly status teleconference to learn about the project. If she is serious about representing the best interest of the ANA as an elected member of the Board of Governors then this is the opportunity to learn about the project.
The Royal Canadian Numismatic Association sent email to its members notifying them that on April 24 someone attempted a phishing scam trying to impersonate the RCNA Executive Secretary trolling for information. The RCNA did not send out an email note asking for information and recommended deleting them email.
Phishing is the term used to describe the attempt to convince someone to reveal personal information by sending them an email that looks like it came from a legitimate source. In this case, the attacker made their email look like it came from the RCNA hoping that members would give up their personal information.
When I am not blogging, meeting with other numismatists, or being with my family, I work in information security for the United States federal government. In my professional life, I have seen a lot of attempted and successful attacks against both government and commercial systems. However, the one attack that is the most difficult to defend are those where humans are convinced to act against their own best interest, such as a phishing attack.
Social engineering attacks are my favorite attacks. One reason is that it helps demonstrate to the organizations that I try to help that security is more than controls, encrypted communications, or anything else you might have read in the news. Security is a process that requires diligence, the same as it does in the real world.
The following are four rules that you can follow to help keep safe online:
Rule #1: Unless you are 100-percent certain that the email is legitimate, do not click on the link!
You will be never 100-percent certain that any email you receive is legitimate so make sure that you are as close as 100-percent certain as possible. One thing you can do is to move your pointer over the link, stop, and wait for the tooltip to show you the address.
Tooltips are those balloon-like popups that will tell you something about the link or element before you press the mouse button. One way to tell that a link is bad is that if the address is not what you think. For example, if the link is supposed to send you to the RCNA website, the tooltip better say that it will send you to rcna.ca. If it does not, then do not click on the link.
When you check the link, the address of the server is the first part of the address. If what should be the server name is not in that area at the beginning of the address, do not click on the link.
One trick the phishers use is to show you what looks like a complicated address in the message, but the link behind it will send you to another website. This is where tooltips can help. If you hover over the address and they do not match, it is an attempt to trick you and you should not click on the link.
If you are using a web-based email client, you can check the address on the status line at the bottom of your browser window. Check to see if the address makes sense is also a good tool. For example, if the link is supposed to be from the RCNA and “rcna.ca” is not the address of the server in the link, then it is a phishing attempt and you should not click on the link.
If you are unsure about the link, then go to your browser and type in the address yourself. Rather than clicking on a suspicious link, you can visit the RCNA website by typing “http://rcna.ca” directly into your browser’s address bar.
Anatomy of a Phishing email
(courtesy of the University of California-Davis)
Rule #2: No legitimate company or organization will send you a form to fill out and email back
One of the tactics that the phishers use to try to trick you into giving them your personal information is to create a form that looks like it is legitimate. Just as it is easy for someone with moderate skills to fake a web page, they can create a counterfeit form. Not only will the form be counterfeit, but they could also embed programs in that form to steal your information.
Embedded code in documents is called macros. Macros are used to command programs to do something for the user. When used in productive environment, macros can be a wonderful tool to create dynamic documents. But the same instructions that can make macros a productive tool can also be used to do bad things.
Unless you are certain about where the document came from, then do not open a document. If you open the document and the program asks if you should enable or run macros, do not enable macros.
This is not just a problem with word processing document. PDF documents can also deliver very nasty malware (malicious software). Not only can an attacker add macros to a PDF document, but someone can embed the technology called Flash in those PDF. Flash is the technology that helps you see videos and add enhancements to the visual interface of some websites. But Flash can be used to attack your computer system. Opening a PDF file sent by someone you do not know can be as dangerous as a word processing document.
Rule #3: Do not open suspicious attachments
Another trick the attackers try to use is adding an attachment named in a way to try to trick you into opening the file. File names consist of the name of a file followed by a period followed by a file extension. The file extension is used to tell the computer the type of program to open to allow you to work with the file. There are three file extension that very dangerous and should never be opened unless you are absolutely sure who sent them to you: .zip, .exe, and .dmg for Mac users.
The .zip file extension tells the computer that the file is something called a Zip archive. A Zip archive is a file that is formatted to allow it to store many files that are compressed. Zip files are used for many legitimate purposes including being the default format of Microsoft Word’s .docx file. Unfortunately, it can contain files that can be used to attack your system.
One of the types of file that can be included in a Zip archive is an .exe or executable file. Simply, these are programs in the same way that Microsoft Word is a program. Once an executable file is opened, it will do whatever it is programmed to do. Among the things that the program can do is key logging. A key logger reads what you type on your keyboard, what you click on the screen, and in some cases what is displayed on your screen. The key logger will be able to capture the user name and password you entered when you visit any website including your bank’s website. The problem is that when a key logging program is run, you do not know it is watching what you type. Nor do you know that it connects to a server somewhere on the Internet to send the information to the attacker.
While Macs are more difficult to attack, they are not immune. Mac users should never open a file with a .dmg file extension unless you know who sent the file. The Macintosh .dmg file is a disk image file. A disk image file is formatted to look and acts like a disk so that when you double click the file, it will mount on your computer as if you plugged in an external disk drive. Because .dmg files are commonly used to install legitimate software, sometimes the installation can be automatically started. If you allow the installation to continue, it you can install software as dangerous as what I described for the Windows .exe file.
Rule #4: When in doubt, throw it out!
While all this seems simple to me, I have been in this industry for over 30 years and am used to the complication. The problem with email is that it was developed as a way for researched to communicate by plain text across the Arpanet, the forerunner of the Internet. Essentially, email is a text-based service that has been extended in so many ways that it has created a complicated series of standards that requires a degree in computer science to analyze.
Even if you cannot fully analyze whether the message is spam or legitimate, if you have any doubt, then just press the delete button. If the message came from a source you know, contact them off line and ask if the mail is legitimate. If you think the email is from your bank, call the bank and ask. If you think the email is from your credit card company but not sure, call the credit card provider and ask. If you think the email sent from the RCNA is suspicious, call them and make and ask.
A little intuition can be of great help in these circumstances.
Stay safe online and have a good weekend!
In letter to the editor that will appear in the February 10, 2014 edition of Coin World (now available online), Dennis Tucker writes that the target of the American Numismatic Association website rebuild and acknowledging “’Young Numismatists are the future of the hobby’ are slogans to murmur approvingly, without logical reasoning.” He goes on to give his view of the market to target without recognizing facts of market forces.
For the record, Dennis Tucker is the publisher of Whitman Publishing, LLC whose books are widely read in the hobby. Whitman Expo, a division of Whitman Publishing, runs probably the three largest commercial numismatics shows in the country out of Baltimore.
Tucker, whose business is selling physical books, or what I would call “dead tree editions,” opines that it would be wiser and more productive to target those in the 50 and 60 year old demographic than 10 and 20 year olds. It is obvious that Tucker is looking at the issue from the spectrum of the business he is responsible for rather than the real future.
One problem with Tucker’s argument is similar to those in many other hobbies that rely on the collecting of physical objects: if the hobby cannot be translated to the younger demographic then the future of the hobby will be lost. As the final wave of the baby boomer generation celebrates their 50th birthday this year, empty chairs are becoming more prominent at meetings with fewer standing there to fill those chairs. There seems to be a smaller pool of people ready to join even though the population in the demographic that Tucker wants to target has grown.
Another problem with his argument is that it does not address how to reach this or any other demographic. Based on his company’s business model and his letter, Tucker is implying that even his target demographic is not using technology and cannot be reached using technology. Unfortunately, that flies in the face of researched facts.
One way to judge the acceptance and usage of technology is to look at the most cutting edge device and see who are its users. In 2013, the device still on the cutting edge is the tablet. Whether it is the iPad, Kindle, Nook, or any number of other manufacturer’s device, the tablet can be considered one of the most disruptive advances because it disrupts markets in so many areas. Tablets have created new markets for services as well as forced others, like traditional newspapers and magazines, to change the way they do business.
Pew Internet and Lifestyle Study: For the first time, a third of American adults own tablet computers
Using tablets as a barometer, we can look at the “Tablet Ownership 2013” report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. In their study, Pew reports that through May 2013, tablet ownership has grown from May 2010, one month after the iPad’s introduction, the number of tablet users have increased from 3-percent to 34-percent. That is more than an 1100-percent increase in three years!
Further, Pew’s research found that the demographic with the most significant ownership are the age group of 45-54 with 38-percent ownership and 35-44 with 49-percent. The first is part of the market that Tucker wants to target while the latter is the market that should be next.
US Tablet Owner Demographics as of September 2013 (courtesy of marketcharts.com)
Pew’s research also looked at tablet ownership by income and found that 56-percent of adults that own tablets earn $75,000 or more per year. If Tucker’s goal is to target those with disposable income, just look at one of the fastest growing area of technology to understand where the markets are going.
Another study recently release by Pew notes that e-book readership has grown as the sales of e-readers have risen. While the study does not say people have not completely replaced their dead tree versions with electronic editions, there is anecdotal evidence that if more titles were available electronically, those with e-readers would take advantage of that.
In a broader look at the emerging online world, Pew Research provides trend data that shows that more people are using the technology in their daily lives. Not only are more than 60-percent of the 50-64 year old demographic using the Internet and associated technologies a large numbers, but e-reader ownership is increasing. It is also increasing in the younger demographics, including those in the 30-49 year old range who would be Tucker’s next generation of customers.
The ANA, like any business, has to adapt to new markets or they lose their relevancy. It is not enough to say to target one group over the other but you have to target the markets where they are moving. Even if the business is concentrated in one market, it has to adapt and diversify within its market or it becomes irrelevant. As a stark example, you can look at the downfall of Blackberry. Once the king of the smartphone, Blackberry, once called the Crackberry because its users were addicted to it like a crack addict was addicted to crack-cocaine, went from the most popular phone to the least popular phone because they ignored the trend set first by Apple then by Google’s Android.
History shows how significant technologies disrupt markets and those that do not adapt go the way of the buggy whip, blacksmith, telegraph, Kodachrome film, and the Motorola DynaTAC phone. If the ANA cannot reinvent itself by adapting technology to what its potential members are doing, the ANA will go the way of Blockbuster, Polaroid, and Borders Books.
Borders, a one-time success story, did not adapt to the changing market and paid for that failure.
Whitman and Tucker could help the ANA by looking at this future and target their books to this growing demographic. While the quality of Whitman’s books have improved, the companies selling tablets and e-readers are reporting increased sales of their products and an increased sales of content for those products.
Amazon is betting a lot on the tablet and e-reader market. They sell the Kindle nearly at their cost in order to lure customers into their dedicated markets. Amazon hopes to sell you a Kindle so that you buy their e-content which they make money by transferring bits. Not only has Amazon built in the infrastructure to transfer bits of information, but they are selling it as a service to others in order to reach the same markets. Amazon is betting that once you are in their market, they can sell you these bits, which are cheaper to store, package, and ship than dead tree edition books.
While the e-book market is growing, Whitman and other hobby publications are dipping their proverbial toes in this market. Although Whitman does offer a number of its books in e-reader format, they do not market that fact nor do they do any outreach in order to build that market. It is as if they publish this content so that when the topic comes up they could say that they do have e-books. They are checking the box, so to speak.
With its premier content, Whitman should be out front of the numismatic market for e-publishing. Tucker and his marketing department should be standing on the proverbial street corner marketing their e-book offerings. This will not only help the hobby but his own company by reaching out to the demographic that the ANA is targeting: the connected numismatist.
Kodachrome; You give us those nice bright colors; You give us the greens of summers; Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah!
Growing the ANA is like growing a business; you have to look at what your target market’s demographics are and figure out how to reach them. For hobbies like numismatics, the new target is online where the current generation is moving and where the next few generations will be. Not adapting to those new markets can make both the ANA and Whitman as relevant as the Betamax and go the way of Woolworth’s or Pets.com.
I am glad the ANA is doing something to expand its market.
Trend chart courtesy of the Pew Internet and American Life Project
Data chart of the Pew Research courtesy of marketcharts.com
Image of Borders closing is courtesy of PennLive.com
Kodachrome box image courtesy of Wikipedia
lyrics (image caption) by Paul Simon