The year is ending with the news that Coin World and PCGS are trying to leverage technology to allegedly combat counterfeiting and provide a value add to the hobby.
PCGS plans to place an NFC chip under their labels. (PCGS Image)
Coin World wants to join the sticker craze and add one to your NGC or PCGS slabbed coin. PCGS is offering a similar technology under the label.
Both services will use something called Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC is a technology based on low-frequency communications where a transmitter emits a signal when activated by a reader.
Although NFC is not a new technology, it had gained interest when Apple announced that the latest iPhones had programmable NFC hardware. The NFC capabilities built into prior versions of the iPhone were not accessible outside of Apple’s applications running on the phone.
You may have used NFC without your knowledge. All contactless payments like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and the tap-to-pay credit cards require NFC. Many department stores are using they call smart tags, which are tags with an NFC chip embedded in them. Aside from electronic payment, contactless keycards, sometimes called proximity cards, are used to access restricted areas are NFC-based technologies.
Now Coin World and PCGS want to bring it to numismatics.
One Example of an NFC Tag
Like every technology, NFC is not perfect. Its most significant risks come from the use of NFC tags. These low-power devices have limitations that have allowed hackers to defeat whatever features they are supposed to protect.
The security concerns do not consider privacy issues. Do you trust PCGS or Coin World with the data they claim to be keeping? Do you trust that this data will not be for sale under any circumstances? Do you trust that there are sufficient protections in place to prevent others from hacking the NFC antenna that will allow you to be tracked?
In my past life in information security, I had the opportunity to test the security of these wireless communications. As part of the test, I was able to walk out into the parking lot and open car doors without access to the keys. Unfortunately, the principles I used in that demonstration are the same that others have used to hack NFC.
As we head into 2020, I plan to discuss the impact of NFC from the perspective of someone who used to look at this stuff for a living and had to explain it to non-technical people.
And now the news…
December 23, 2019
Most years, at least, a nickel produced that same year would show up in pocket change somewhere between late winter and mid-summer.Not in 2019. I even purchased two rolls of nickels from a bank in …
→ Read more at ottawacitizen.com
December 25, 2019
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Tainan City police have arrested a woman suspected of smuggling in fake Taiwanese currency from China with the intention of disturbing the economic system on the island. According to Liberty Times, the police received a report from an owner of a claw machine who claimed that someone had been inserting fake NT$50 coins into the drop-and-grab machine.
→ Read more at taiwannews.com.tw
December 26, 2019
Local News Posted: Dec 26, 2019 / 11:10 AM MST / Updated:
→ Read more at krqe.com
December 26, 2019
The recent introduction of GHC 100 and GHC 200 new currency denominations has left many thinking about the nation’s one pesewa coin, which has gone into oblivion. Background It is common knowledge that, when currencies are introduced, they are well received by the people who are keen to hold them sometimes in admiration of the mere design amidst criticism of the colours and the features used.
→ Read more at myjoyonline.com
December 28, 2019
The United States Mint has announced that new reverse designs will be coming to the popular American Silver Eagle (ASE) and American Gold Eagle (AGE) coins in 2021, marking the end of the popular “family of eagles” reverse design by renowned sculptor Miley Tucker-Frost from the original 1986 gold coin series.
→ Read more at newsmax.com
December 28, 2019
Following heated debates in Crown Heights over a recently minted coin, we bring you a halachic exploration of the topic from the Ami Magazine. The beis din column appears weekly in the Ami Magazine.
→ Read more at anash.org
December 28, 2019
When a handy, capable soldier truly loves a woman, he can fashion something beautiful out of practically anything.
→ Read more at djournal.com
Although it has been a while since I have posted something outside of the Weekly World Numismatic News, it does not mean that I have been idle. Here are some random thoughts:
First, I want to thank the American Numismatic Association Board of Governors for awarding me the 2019 Glenn Smedley Memorial Award. It is an honor! I wish I could have been there for the award ceremony.
2019 Glenn B Smedley Medal
ANA President Steve Ellsworth asked me to continue as Chair of the Technology Committee. I accepted his appointment. Steve has a different vision for how to move forward. Change is a good thing and will work with him and the Board to do what is best for the ANA.
There continues to be work to do for the ANA to add technology to the numismatic experience. One of the areas I would like to include more technology are the exhibits. After speaking with one person familiar with the exhibiting process, I think there are ways to add technology without technology overshadowing the numismatic content. I will have a proposal shortly. Stay tuned.
Not long ago, U.S. Mint Director David Ryder said that there might be a chance to add color to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coins. I have had a mixed feeling about adding color to coins. There are some cases where the color acted as an enhancer. Other times, some mints produced coins that were discs with prints. I will wait until the design is released to decide how I feel about the Mint’s attempt with color.
2007 Somalia Motorcycle Coins
I love these coins but is this the direction the U.S. Mint should go?
There are many collectibles whose values have declined over the last year, including some collector coins. One area that remains low are those collector sets produced by the television hucksters or the private mints. These firms overhype the value of their wares to convince buyers that they should purchase them as an investment. Recently, I handled an estate with several items purchased from QVC and the Franklin Mint. All of the coins were overpriced. The family was upset when I provided my valuation. I will talk about this more in a future post.
Another article idea that is inspired by my business is the difference between collecting and investing. Although some people like to try to mix the two, most of the time, the result is that the investor does not create a compelling collection while most of the collectors create value without trying.
Recently, I decided to liquidate part of my collection. As part of the process, I realized how much I have learned over the years. It is a real case of “the more you know, the more you realize what you don’t know.” I learned several lessons during this process, including not to trust my judgment. In one case, coins I graded years ago were over graded. If I would have used the tools and knowledge, I have today, and the grades would be different.
I sold my silver Pandas. I lost interest after the composition was changed but the hype has kept the prices up. Hype is not a long-term strategy.
Finally, I am still waiting to find a “W” quarter in change. I have yet to see one. Most of the people I know that are looking for these quarters are roll hunting. If I were into conspiracies, I would suggest that the Mint did this on purpose to increase the demand for quarters. People would demand rolls of quarters, forcing the Federal Reserve to order more.
Considering the U.S. Mint is a government agency, I bet they are storing most of the quarters in Area 51! After all, if we are going into conspiracy theories, we might as well go all of the way!
This past week the World’s Fair of Money was held in Rosemont, just outside of Chicago. I wish I knew more of what happened, but the coverage of the show was its usual light to non-existent.
For years, I have been calling for the ANA to broadcast from the convention. For many years, I have been saying that when the collector cannot go to the show, the show must go to the collector. Nearly every other industry that holds a significant show finds ways of broadcasting part of the show to people who cannot attend.
One of the reasons I could not be at the World’s Fair of Money was because I was attending two seminars from another show. These were classes that are required so that I can become a licensed appraiser. Rather then travel to the show, I was able to view these seminars as they occurred. The conferencing software also allowed me to ask questions.
For next year’s show, I would like to see the ANA start to broadcast the Money Talks programs. All business-related items like the meeting of the Board of Governors session could appear on a live stream. Let’s start with that before I go into the rest of my wishlist.
And now the news…
August 10, 2019
The Royal Mint has revealed no new 1p or 2p coins were struck over the last year. Is the future of copper coins under threat again? → Read more at which.co.uk
August 12, 2019
The government’s latest wheeze to convince us that Brexit means Brexit was announced this weekend. Sajid Javid is drawing up plans for millions of 50p coins to be issued when the UK leaves the EU later this year. → Read more at independent.co.uk
August 14, 2019
August 15, 2019
Sen. Roy Blunt wants a commemorative coin to honor Negro League Baseball when it celebrates its 100 year anniversary in 2020. The Missouri Republican talked about his coin push during a tour of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri, this week. → Read more at rollcall.com
August 15, 2019
A woman from Asten found a very peculiar coin when she emptied out her purse after her vacation on Wednesday. A 2-euro coin, with the image of Princess Beatrix on it, that had also been minted with an image of an eagle with a swastika under it, De Gelderlander reports. → Read more at nltimes.nl
Did you hear? Coin World started a podcast.
I found out in one of their multiple daily email blasts that Coin World is producing a podcast starring Chris Bulfinch and Jeff Starck.
A professionally produced podcast that is regularly published for the hobby is a good idea. I would become a listener but it is not possible. The podcast is not in the Apple Podcast directory and only available on directories other than Apple including Spotify, Stitcher, or TuneIn.
Aside from not having enough room on my iPhone for another app, I have a lot of time invested in my chosen podcast app that is configured to work with my weird listening schedule.
Why did Coin World make this decision? Shouldn’t they want to reach as many people as possible? After all, there are approximately 97.2 million iPhone users in the United States. That is approximately 47-percent of the smartphone market. And some research suggests that approximately two-thirds of podcast listeners use an Apple device. That is a lot of people to exclude!
Time and again it seems that when numismatics does something to try to reach beyond its borders using technology, the attempt reminds me of the 1971 kitschy movie The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight. In this case, Coin World shot itself in the foot.
ADDENDUM: After I wrote this and queued it for posting, I went back to the announcement page on Coin World’s website and looked at the HTML source behind the page. I found the URL of the RSS feed that my podcast app could use to subscribe.
Even though I found the URL, I deconstructed the page to find where the link was hiding. Yes, it is hidden.
To find the link, you have to hover your mouse over the embedded podcast player on their webpage so that the controls appear. Click on the share button to the far right to bring up a share panel. There is a button that says “Get the RSS Feed.” Clicking on that will bring you to the feed.
Or you can just use https://feeds.buzzsprout.com/273189.rss.
Click on the share button? Really? Now that’s really intuitive!
Coin World is using Buzzsprout as their hosting service. There is nothing wrong with Buzzsprout although its embedded podcast player’s UX (user experience) leaves much to be desired. However, Buzzsprout is a well-rated service for podcast hosting.
Then again, Coin World should have read Buzzsprout’s “How to Make a Podcast” guide. Step 6 on their list is “Get listed in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.” After all, it says “Listing your podcast in these directories will ensure that people can find your podcast when they search for it. Getting into these directories is the most important step in marketing your podcast.”
Coin World should have considered their overall UX when doing this. It’s an amateur’s mistake!
There once was a time that Coin World’s parent company, Amos, had a good technical group that was there to help the Amos properties but was also doing consulting. These were the people who were brought in to help get the improved money.org off the ground. The people we worked with were very intelligent.
Unfortunately, Amos did not retain this group following the issuing of the money.org request for proposal (RFP). These smart people went their separate ways. I hope they all have had a lot of success after leaving Amos. But for Coin World, it is too bad because this is a time when it seems that this they could have used expert assistance.
With the discovery of every new technology, there are the inevitable predictions that it will make the old ways obsolete. Although the automobile reduced the reliance on horses, the basics of the internal combustion engine have not changed in over 100 years. Take away the electronics around the engine, the technology increasing the air intake, and cleaning up the exhaust, and you still have an engine block with pistons that go up and down in the classic suck-bang-blow rhythm that was used in the Model T.
The latest technology that is being touted as being the doom for physical money, which can also be the end of numismatics, is cryptocurrency.
There are two aspects of cryptocurrency that its fans say are its biggest strength. First, it is not bound by the traditional means of generating wealth. You can think of cryptocurrency as digital gold. It is mined using computers and a lot of complex arithmetic to generate one unit of the currency, sometimes referred to as a bitcoin. Like physical gold, there is some work required to mine for these bitcoins. It lies in the ability to create a computing environment capable of performing these intensive mathematical operations. You may not be panning for gold but you might spend as much on equipment and travel.
The other aspect about cryptocurrency is that the blockchain technology allows for both anonymous and secure transactions. Think of the blockchain as a giant ledger that is copied wherever bitcoin is accepted with regular updates. There is no single source that could control the ledger nor is there a single point of failure.
However, both its strengths are its greatest weaknesses.
While the value of money is regulated by their respective government there are no blockchain regulations. There is no regulation on the number of generated bitcoins but is arbitrarily set by the creator of the cryptocurrency. There is no guarantee of value as a state-sponsored currency. Bitcoin investors are betting on the value of electronics and math, something many of these investors does not fully understand.
The blockchain also provides its own problems. In order to use the cryptocurrency, you have to have your own copy of the ledger and be able to pass the information to the party you want to pay. Think about having a checkbook with everyone’s information. You cannot read the information because it is encrypted but you have to have a copy. Then you need to pay someone. You hand over the checkbook in order to complete the transaction.
Think about the amount of data that would be if the blockchain supported 1,000 people. What would it take to support 1 million people? What if the government decided that everyone would do their business in bitcoin and everyone would have to have a way to deal with the blockchain in order to facilitate payments. How cumbersome will that ledger be if all 325.7 million people in the United States had to carry that around?
Each blockchain is its own entity. While you can trade in bitcoins on the same blockchain, you may have to participate in more than one blockchain if you want to accept bitcoins from several different people. It is like different currencies today. I can go anywhere in the United States and use dollars. But if I wanted to go to Canada, I can either arrange an exchange or find someone who will trade.
Cryptocurrency that has to operate across different blockchains is just like going to Europe and having to change your dollars for euros.
As with anything that is computer-based and managed, there is always the security issues. Blockchains have been hacked. Although most of the hacks are based on compromised passwords, each hack yields millions of dollars in stolen cryptocurrency to the hackers and everyone who then does business with them on the same blockchain.
Eventually, this will lead to a cryptocurrency version of a Bank Note Reporter and Counterfeit Detector as was popular during the broken banknote period. Then it will be followed by a Cryptocurrency Act similar to the Currency Act that ended the broken banknote period proving George Santayana right as we repeat history.
Cryptocurrency is the darling of the technology industry and those in the financial industry that trade in high-risk investments. Even traditional financial services companies are spending a limited amount of risk capital on cryptocurrency investments. However, by all statistics, the number of consumers using cryptocurrency for transactions is less than 1-percent.
If Not Cryptocurrency The What About Credit Cards
Credit and debit cards remain the primary target that proponents of a cashless society use to promote their agenda. However, when faced with the realities of life in the United States, there are three statistics that work against their arguments:
- The Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the printer of United States currency, reports a year-over-year increase in production of just over 4-percent.
- The U.S. Mint, the manufacturer of United States coinage, is reporting a year-over-year increase of 6-percent striking circulating coinage.
- According to CreditCards.com, “In 2013, 20 percent of whites did not have access to a credit card compared with 47 percent of African-Americans and 30 percent of Latinos.”
The primary customer for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and U.S. Mint is the Federal Reserve. If the Federal Reserve needs the money for its operations, they buy it from these government bureaus. The Federal Reserve only orders what it needs. If it does not need the money, then it is not produced.
Aside from the over 50-percent of the population without access to credit cards, there continues to be a demand for physical currency. Whether the currency is used in a vending machine or to buy other items, cash is still king and shows no sign of slowing.
While there continues to be a demand for the products from the U.S. Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing, these bureaus will continue to produce coins and currency giving us more opportunity to collect their products.
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.
As I peruse the Interwebs for numismatic-related stories from non-numismatic sources, my searches are inundated with stories about Bitcoin, crypto-currencies, and blockchains. Most of the time, the stories are just noise given my objective to find information relevant to collectors including the issuance of circulating currencies and the impact of precious metals on the market.
While there is some use of the technologies as an indicator of a store of something resembling wealth or as a new method of providing electronic transactions, the concept of inventing a currency out of thin air—or electronic bits—is something that may be more dangerous than the stock market.
Bitcoin, which is a type of crypto-currency, is traded using a blockchain, a technology that provides a mechanism for secured transactions between parties. Like the Federal Reserve Note, it is an invented currency whose value is in the eye of the beholder. The only difference between the Federal Reserve Note and crypto-currency is that the worth of the paper currency is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. Bitcoin has no backing, very little regulation, and could become as worthless as Enron stock as fast as it became worthless.
Although you may have issues with the way the federal government and the politicians have been conducting themselves, the government provides the backing to make sure that the currency you use has some representative value by law. It is called fiat money.
Crypto-currency not only has no intrinsic value, but it is not backed or supported by the government. It has no regulation and is worth what someone will provide in trade. The assignment of value to crypto-currency may be market driven but those who have seen the silver market of 1980, unregulated markets can cause significant problems.
The blockchains that protect the transactions are software creations. Software is what is used to provide the logic to the computer to do its job—or not do its job in the cases of Equifax, Target, Home Depot, the Office of Personnel Management, and any of the other servers you have heard attacked in the last few years.
Of course the most important thing to numismatists, crypto-currency has no presence in the physical world. You cannot create a collection of bitcoin since it really does not exist. And maybe that should be the question: if it does not have a physical form or a physical representation, is it really money?
And now the news…
November 6, 2017
The Stellarton Legion is now the proud recipient of a Nova Scotia Highlanders ceremonial unit coin. And Stellarton Legion president Jack Chaisson was on hand to take personal delivery of the coin from Lieutenant-Colonel Colin Todd at Pictou Legion, after attending the county Remembrance Day ceremony in town Sunday. → Read more at ngnews.ca
November 6, 2017
The Royal Mint has released its official Remembrance Day coin ahead of commemorations on Saturday. Stephen Taylor, a graphic designer at the Royal Mint, said his artwork was inspired by the world-famous war poem 'In Flanders Fields' by John McCrae. → Read more at standard.co.uk
November 6, 2017
The Perth Mint has released a world-first silver coin in the shape of a figure eight. Likely to be a hit with Chinese coin collectors and buyers, only 8888 of the 2oz, 99.99 per cent silver coins will be released at a recommended retail price of $218. → Read more at thewest.com.au
November 7, 2017
Bruderer UK, which has nearly 50 years’ experience creating world renown precision high speed presses, has installed a state-of-the-art machine into the Royal Mint’s Llantrisant facility, giving the world famous institution additional speed, capacity and flexibility. → Read more at expressandstar.com
November 8, 2017
Gold isn’t so shiny anymore. Globally, demand for the precious metal has fallen to its lowest level since late 2009, according to the World Gold Council. In the third quarter of 2017, demand for the haven asset was 915 metric tons, 9% lower than a year earlier. → Read more at qz.com
November 9, 2017
In January, 1999 Cassinelli Construction Co. was employed by Nevada State Public Works Department to remove a portion of Carolyn Street at the Nevada State Museum to construct a parking lot and build a small park facing Carson Street. → Read more at elkodaily.com
November 9, 2017
Gold was once a common form of payment around the developed world, but after World War II the precious metal's influence began to wane. In 1971, when the United States finally put an end to the gold standard, the role of the yellow metal changed for good. → Read more at fool.com
November 10, 2017
The Thank-A-Vet cenotaph memorial coin set, created for local veterans and their families as a keepsake, has been completed with the minting of the final two coins and creation of a pine display box. – Sean Allen/Metroland → Read more at brantnews.com
November 11, 2017
The thing about money — we all need it. “Money bewitches people. They fret for it, and they sweat for it. → Read more at royalgazette.com
I have a tremendous amount of respect for the people who have been in the numismatic industry and has been responsible for keeping alive and solid over the last number of years. Their knowledge of the art and business of numismatics are invaluable. I wish some would write more about what they know.
SinoTech Stereo Microscope with USB interface
However, the area where they are lacking is the science of numismatics. The part where technology has been able to automate to perform mundane work and do the finest details that many factories have increased output while reducing the workforce. It is their inability to grasp new technologies that have been holding back the growth of numismatics.
Recently, someone with great numismatic credentials said that you cannot teach grading using computers.
When I was working in non-civilian agencies, we would call that BRAVO SIERRA (from the phonetic alphabet meaning “B.S.”).
It used to be that video technology prevented images from being shown in detail. This goes back to the day from the old television standards were the picture was 525 scan lines (the number of passes the across the screen it took to form the picture) drawn about 30 times per second (the frame rate). This was different from early computers that drew fine dots on the screen. At the point color monitors entered the market, most were 640 dots wide by 480 dots tall which was a little smaller than your standard television screen.
Technology has advanced beyond what we had with the old cathode ray tube (CRT) television and monitor. Now, you can buy a monitor that attaches to your computer that has the same resolution as your television. What we call “4K High Definition” is 4096 pixels wide by 2160 pixels tall or over six time the size of the old monitors.
The iMac I am using has a display that is 5120 pixels tall by 2880 pixels wide and the iPhone 6 Plus in my pocket has a display that has 401 pixels per inch resolution. Think about that for a moment… every square inch of an image will use 160,801 individual dots to display on a device that fits into my back pocket!
These monitors are not only larger but the pixels are denser, meaning they are smaller and closer together. When in the old days you can look into the television and see jagged edges, you closeup look now shows smooth lines.
Go look at the specification of the smartphones and tablets that are on the market. They make television that was being sold as little as 10 years ago look like something out of ancient history.
Cameras are also better. Most smartphones can shoot images of over 8 megapixels up to 20 megapixels with image sensors that surpass what was on the market as late as 5 years ago. The amount of image data these cameras can capture are remarkable!
Can you guess the grade?
There are a lot of industries that use this technology for critical image analysis. The growing telemedicine field uses the imaging to allow a doctor to examine patients from anywhere including some of the most rural parts of the world. A nurse in the middle of a jungle can draw blood, put the slide in a machine that will take images and perform other data analysis and send it back to a doctor thousands of miles away to help diagnose illnesses.
Manufacturers of parts for your automobile and the airplanes you fly us this image analysis to check for imperfections in metal parts including difficult to spot stress fractures to prevent breakdowns. That should be comforting driving down the road at 60 MPH or 30,000 feet in the air.
Even the food industry uses this imaging technology to prevent foreign substances from being packaged and landing on the grocery store shelf. Remember the opening theme from Laverne & Shirley where they are on the bottling line watching for bottles without caps? That job does not exist anymore. Computers with imaging technology not only watch for those bottles but can spot one that is not filled correctly and if something other than beer was placed in the bottle.
If we can trust the imaging technology for medicine, vehicle safety, and food integrity, why can’t we trust imaging technology to grade coins?
1965 Canadian Half Dollar
1965 Canadian Half Dollar reverse
Images taken with an iPhone 6 Plus
This is not to suggest that we can start grading coins by computer tomorrow but we can start soon. Programs have to be written to support the type of image analysis that would be required to determine an MS-69 coin from an MS-70. In fact, we may see fewer MS-70 coins using computer image analysis because the closer we look the more flaws we will find.
Professional Coin Grading Service provides the tip of this iceberg with the PCGS Photograde app. Whether you use the online service or one of the mobile apps, detailed imaging, and high definition displays can show you the details necessary. In fact, in a video PCGS produced about Photograde, they note how you can see the scratches on the imaged coin.
Images from PCGS Photograde App on the iPhone
If you can use the high definition images to see the details of coins, then the first step would be to use those images and the knowledge of grading to grade coins. Digital images can be transmitted anywhere there is a connection using the proper teaching platform.
With all due respect to the numismatic expert that said to me that you cannot teach grading using the computers, it is time to evolve from the early 2010s and see how technology has evolved to make it possible.
I received a note in my email from the American Numismatic Association asking for members to propose a Money Talks session at the World’s Fair of Money in August. Although I have several ideas for a Money Talks session, I will not propose a talk because I may not be able to attend the show.
Later in the list of incoming email was a note telling me that I can register online for Summer Seminar. I have wanted to attend the classes in Summer Seminar for some time. In this case, the problem is timing since it always is held at the end of June or the beginning of July, the change of a fiscal quarter.
I know that the ANA has to create a schedule that suits the greater organization and includes the availability of facilities for these events but there are some of us who will be left out because of scheduling conflicts.
There are also the travel issues. Aside the expense of travelling to Anaheim or Colorado Springs, there are people who cannot travel because of time, economics, or physical limitations.
Now is the time for the ANA and any other organizations that provides educational sessions to consider adding online access to their shows.
Anyone who has visited the new money.org has seen that the ANA has revamped the site and the services to be modern, flexible, and has new resources that were not available years ago. It supports a vibrant community and provides new resources.
Now it is time to take the next step: Live coverage of shows, the broadcast of courses and lectures, and virtualize the conventions.
There are technologies that can help support the bringing the lectures, courses, and other activities to an online community. There are a number of web-based conferencing system that requires a minimal amount of technology to broadcast these activities to collectors everywhere.
This can also be employed for other shows. Convention centers, hotel conference rooms, and other venues are almost all connected.
I recognize that there are some courses that cannot be taught in this manner. Classes that require physical access to materials, such as coin grading, will have a difficult time in this environment. However, a grading “light” class using high quality images to show the differences on the screen can be taught.
In other words, instructors would have to rethink their approach to some of these classes.
Virtual shows cannot replace the advantages of being there. I like the ability to see and talk with the people and dealers; looking through some of the more esoteric numismatic items like medals and tokens; or just walking by a table to find something interesting and unexpected you would not find online.
Virtual shows can be recorded, stored, and enjoyed for some time to come. Classes and talks becomes long term references for the community and can be used to help promote future shows.
Although the ANA does have some recording of the Money Talks lectures its available after the fact at the will of the commercial organization that is providing the recording services. Not only should these videos be made available to members but should be broadcast live. If they are broadcast using web-based conferencing software, the online audience can participate.
Numismatics has the problem of being too young to have influence or too old to adapt to the new ways of the world. Moving more to online access will help bring in the that Lost Generation between those being a Young Numismatist and us older collectors
Looking at the demographics of the hobby’s future the first wave of the GenXers are now becoming AARP eligible with their children, the Millennials, 20 years away from being regular participants. Why not meet them where they hangout: online! Not only will virtual shows help those of us with travel and time restrictions but will attract new members.
Growing the hobby 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 will hurt the numismatic market in a way that it may not recover.
Panorama of the 2013 National Money Show bourse floor at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans
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.