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Ni28

“Another” post on the health of numismatics in the country

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Ni28

A number of posts recently appeared on this forum regarding the health of numismatics in South Africa. As an academic, I always felt that the true health of the hobby can only be measured by the number of new publications. Publications are the bedrock of this thing. Note how the few books written by collectors are the only thing that survives long after they have passed away and their collections have been dispersed. The following lengthy post is therefore intended to make a positive suggestion for improving the current situation.

A few years ago I wrote “A review of South African Numismatic Research and Literature for the period 1900-2014”. I stepped on some toes with this thing and never distributed it in the end. Only two copies currently exist. The following paragraph came out of the summary of this write-up:     

“In the early period of 1900 to 1940, only a few numismatic related books were published. Some of these were nevertheless outstanding academic contributions, especially the books written by Prof E.H.D. Arndt. The first Numismatic Society was formed in the country in 1941 and this led to the golden era (1941 to 1993) of numismatic literature. The number of collectors increased substantially in the country and a large number of books, catalogues and journals on the topic were produced during this period. A few of these are considered very good academic contributions, even though it was written by amateur numismatists. Based on the small number of numismatic publications after 1994, it is concluded that numismatic research has declined substantially in recent years. The lack of any South African publications in the survey of Numismatic Research for the period 2002-2007 conducted by the International Numismatic Commission is further evidence of this negative trend. The various Numismatic Societies have virtually stopped publishing material and only a handful of new books were produced. One exception is that a number of outstanding catalogues on different aspects of the hobby was produced during this modern period.”

As a further embarrassing example, I recently compiled a new edition of De Nummis. It contained articles on the 20c steel patterns of 1988, early patterns of the Krugerrand, patterns of the third decimal series, etc. I printed 40 hard copies and with difficulty could distribute probably 25 copies. In the preface of this booklet I invited people to send me papers for publication. Sadly I received nothing to date. This made me think that perhaps the hobby is really on its last legs! I will probably have to use the remaining few copies to light the next braai.

To finish on a positive note, however, I still believe that with some effort that this thing can be turned around. A number of collectors have done wonderful research in particular areas and we need to come together to get this work published and distributed. I still have a paper on platinum coins in South Africa and one on a nickel Krugerrand that needs to be published. I also have historic material of a unique design for a South African sovereign in 1925. I will, however, only be keen to put effort into another publication if it is a combined effort by the larger coin community. I am still hopeful it can be done and this will be the legacy we leave behind one day.

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jwither

I don't actively collect South Africa anymore but would still be interested in your book since I understand it provides a summary of prior research and publications.  Since I first started collecting South Africa in 1998, the only literature I have been able to obtain are Volumes 1 and 2 of Nomisma, a booklet published in 1956 whose name escapes me and a copy of the Spinks Sale #130 from 1999.  Everything I have learned about this coinage either came from this forum or prior to 2009, from my own efforts.

On your claim of the level of research being indicative of level of interest in collecting, maybe.  Definitely correlated I would say but can't say more than that.  What I do know second hand from US collecting is that the publishing of a reference is definitely correlated with the interest in a particular segment.  For example, references on die variety collecting are claimed to have increased the number of collectors focusing on this type of specialization.

Generically though, I don't believe most collectors are interested in numismatic publications with an academic focus.  Why?  Well, because most collectors are exactly that, collectors and not numismatists.  Coin forums don't tend to make the distinction but most collectors are primarily interested in buying the coins they like, not reading or studying the minutia associated with what they collect or a topic with no relation to it.

Personally, I am interested in academic type research associated with the coins I collect, but not otherwise.  For example, for pillars I own Frank Gilboy's "The Milled Columnarios of Central And South America".  It is a real and actual reference work, not a superficial overview.  Recently, I also bought Brad Yonaka's "A Variety Guide To The Fractional Pillar Coinage Of Mexico City 1732-1772".  He is a fellow collector who documented his observations from over 5000 examples for each of the four denominations by die variety.  I await his follow-up book of the same theme for Bolivia, Guatemala and Peru which are the coins I collect.

Why am I interested in the last two books?  Because it provides me practical information I can use for my collection which doesn't exist in most research.  In this instance, a non-random estimate of the relative scarcity of each die variety combination.  Unfortunately, it doesn't provide data on the quality distribution but its invaluable as this hardly exists for any coinage.

If you and others want to generate interest from the collecting community through publishing, you need to consider what is of most interest to them.  I cannot know whether you or anyone else has done so but if the book you described on RSA patterns is any indication, I'd say the answer is no. My recollection from your prior posts is that this area is something you collect but out of my estimated 10,000 hobbyists in your country (as opposed to financial buyer "investors"), the topic isn't relevant to over 99% of them.

In closing, below I list some topics that are of interest to me from South African coinage:

Pre-Union Patterns, Kruger and otherwise;

Founding of the Pretoria Mint and the surrounding period.  I have always wondered why no coins were struck from 1902-1923 even though the Union was formed in 1910.

Union pattern coinage

The 1931 silver circulation strikes

The history of numismatics in South Africa; not the coins but the collectors.

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coinoisseur

Hello Francios

I agree 100% with your comments that the health of the hobby can only be measured by the number of new publications being done. It is sad that people who wrote brilliant articles in the past are no longer with us to continue this trend. There are very few people still trying to promote and protect numismatics by way of literature and documenting stuff through research. You are one of them, and I salute you for the selfless manner and time, dedication and commitment you have put in over the years to give us some wonderfully produced papers and books on numismatics. Unless we get people to rise to the occasion and participate by taking you up on your offer to produce regular journals, I am afraid that we will be left with only the few books and papers done in the past as the only thing representing South African Numismatics. Not many people are aware of what you have done and I will try and name a few of these

  1. Book – History of the Nickel Coins of South Africa

  2. Book – Krugerrand Golden Jubilee

  3. Journal – De Numis 6

  4. Paper – Krugerrands and Capital Gains Tax

  5. Paper- Review of the 20c Steel Pattern Pieces

  6. Paper – The Rights of the South African Reserve Bank with Respect to Historical Coinage

  7. Paper – The 1900 Chamber of Mines One Ounce Gold Medallion

  8. Paper – Trends in South African Coin Prices and the Role of Catalogs

  9. Paper – Patterns of the Third Decimal Series

I think there are more, but these come to mind for now. So, you have certainly done your bit with trying to keep the hobby healthy, but like you say, this is not a one man show, it requires input from the rest of the Numismatic community. Another point I would like to make for everyone to be made aware of is that Organised Numismatics is South Africa have recognised your tremendous efforts and have awarded you the prestigious honour of a Life Time Achievement Award for South African Numismatics in 2017. An award that was well deserved.

Another name that comes to mind that has played an important role in keeping the hobby healthy is Prof Michael Laidlaw. His website documenting well over 1000 South African related medals and medallions is world class. The time and effort taken to do that is immeasurable. He has also made this available free of charge to everyone. www.southafricanmedals.com.

I have also started something of a numismatic repository. Scanning journals and related numismatic literature for upload to my website. It is also a repository for Boer War POW coins. This will also be available free of charge to everyone. It is still work in progress. www.southafricancoins.net

Then we have papers done by Pierre Nortje on the Griqua Town coinage. Another well executed research.

The importance of resurrecting something like the De Numis should be top priority. I have engaged in discussions with yourself previously on this. I have also chatted with Glenn Schoeman and Peter Wilson to see how we can get this back on track again. We must look at technology and use technology to drive this. Producing a journal with high class articles for upload to a website, and then making it available for download to people. This is something we will have to discuss at the next Durban Coin Show in July 2018. I am hoping that you will be coming down this year again.

So, thats my comments on this important topic you raise. I share the same sentiments as you. Once again, your contribution to South African Numismatics is huge and not many people know this.

“The Measure of a Numismatist is Not How Much He Profits From The Hobby”

“But How Much The Hobby Profits From Him”

 

Cheers

Anthony G

 

 

 

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jwither

I have bookmarked Anthony's link.  However, I would recommend that both of you and anyone else who is interested in promoting South African numismatics through publishing take a look at the link below.

https://www.amazon.com/Books-Q-David-Bowers/s?ie=UTF8&page=1&rh=n%3A283155%2Cp_27%3AQ. David Bowers

I include it as a sample of the literature which is available in the United States.  The point of my post is not to point out the obvious - that a lot more exists here than in your country - but to compare the subject matter between the two.

As I pointed out in my last post above, what most collectors are interested in publication wise is not scholarly journals or historical research but practical information which they can use in their collecting experience, such as deciding what to collect and how to go about completing their collections.  That's what the titles in the above link represent, written for the novice to "typical" collector for the more and most widely collected US coinage.

I don't see any title that is likely to be of general interest to most collectors in Anthony's link and of the titles listed in his post, maybe #1 and #8 would be of sufficient interest to most collectors.  It also goes without saying that #8 seems to be more directed toward the financial aspects versus collecting.  Of the titles on Anthony's website, three of them appear to be strictly history books and unrelated to numismatics or coin collecting at all.  I'll read one or more at some point to compare it to the book I already read ("Lord Miner's Work in South Africa" written in 1905) but only out of personal interest.

In the US, the American Numismatic Society (ANS) publishes a journal which is a lot more similar to those in Anthony's post and link versus those read by most collectors.  The proportion of the collector base with interest in this material is a immaterial fraction of the collector base, whether in the United States or elsewhere.  It is of interest to the "hard core" collector especially if within their specialty, such as with my example above for the Gilboy book on pillars, but most collectors don't pursue this type of collecting.

Though I do not live in South Africa and collector experiences may or will differ in your country, when I attempted to collect most of the Union series starting in 2002, there was (and apparently still isn't) a reference book for this type of collector; the collector who I presume represents most collectors.  I couldn't find anything and nothing listed in this topic will be of much help to most collectors either. 

Previously on this forum, I have read posts from multiple contributors who claimed that South African coins are a lot more popular or at least widely collected outside of South Africa than I believe and what is supported by the observable evidence.  Well, given what I am describing, how exactly is the foreign collector supposed to learn about your coinage and why would anyone in your country expect hardly anyone elsewhere to spend their money on it if it requires a "leap in the dark"?  I only did so because I lived in SA in the past and have some affinity for your coinage.

Though I don't know the level of knowledge for your coinage by collectors in your country, I have every reason to suspect that only a low proportion know more about it than I do, at least for the practical aspects of collecting which is the area of interest to most.

This is where I believe the effort should start, with general comprehensive reference books for ZAR, Union and RSA.  One book for each at minimum.  And to anticipate a potential response, the Hern Guide and predecessor Rand and Kaplan guides are not reference books, just as the US Krause manual and "Red Book" aren't either.  It's useful for attribution and basic data to inform collectors on what they can include in their collection but nothing more.

If this comes across as negative (yet again), sorry but somebody needs to say it and since I doubt anyone else will because it might offend, it's up to me to state what I consider to be obvious.

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Pierre_Henri
On 3/7/2018 at 6:16 PM, Ni28 said:

The first Numismatic Society was formed in the country in 1941 and this led to the golden era (1941 to 1993) of numismatic literature.

My take on this is that the internet caused problems on many fronts.

The "golden era" mentioned by Francois ended in 1993 which correlates with the period the World Wide Web was introduced.

Who, for example, wishes to buy a Krause coin catalogue that weighs a "ton" if he/she can get the same information in a heartbeat click on say the NGC website?

Just look at the size and weight (and sales) of your local newspaper, hobby- or  woman's magazine of late - these publications have shrunk to a pitying size and will probably close down in a few years time - Because all that info (and much more) is available at the click of a button 24/7 on the internet.

The reason the numismatic hard-copy publication industry is dying, is because times have changed - ask any botanist, philatelist, car-fundy,  cat-lover and ex Play-Boy reader ...

They don't buy their topic-related magazine / book anymore because all the info is available much quicker and so much cheaper on the internet.

I am old school and love the smell and touch of a book,  but we are a dying breed and must unfortunately except  the days of paper & pages are over.

It is so sad but the times they are a changing...

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jwither

Pierre,

I do not see this topic as being dependent upon either electronic or hard copy publishing.  Either will suffice.

As a starting point, I provided a suggestion for three general reference books on ZAR, Union and RSA because that's what I see as the biggest gap in South African numismatic literature.  Aside from a price guide which I do not consider much of a reference work at all, this about as basic as it gets.  Or if it exists, I have never heard of it and sure wish I could have found it back in 2002.

This is the numismatic material which I believe will be of most use to the largest number of (prospective) collectors.  If the goal is to expand the collector base in your country and especially to foreigners such as myself elsewhere, what I describe is the best answer I can come up with to do it.

I also agree that the internet can be used for this purpose, aside from publishing eBooks.  Collectors and members of the professional numismatic community can produce videos for any number of subjects and post them on YouTube or another site which they think best.  I would start with grading each of the designs in ZAR and Union.

So why hasn't it happened?  Since I don't know definitively, the cynic in me has the sneaking suspicion that those who know more prefer to hoard the information advantage over (prospective) collectors who know a lot less.  If there is another reason, I sure can't think of one because doing what I suggest takes a lot less effort than the research necessary to publish papers on what are actually predominantly obscure specialties which have little if any interest to the overwhelming percentage of the collector base.

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Ni28
16 hours ago, jwither said:

As a starting point, I provided a suggestion for three general reference books on ZAR, Union and RSA because that's what I see as the biggest gap in South African numismatic literature.  Aside from a price guide which I do not consider much of a reference work at all, this about as basic as it gets.  Or if it exists, I have never heard of it and sure wish I could have found it back in 2002.

The two books that are already good reference books on ZAR, Union and RSA are:

a) K. Jacobs and E. Levine, Coins of South Africa, 1983

b) C. Engelbrecht: Money in South Africa,  1987

The Jacobs and Levine book has got the interesting additional distinction of having won, in the USA, the Numismatic Literary Guild's "Best book: World Coins" for the year 1984. It won it at the Detroit American Numismatic Association convention.  

These two books are frequently offered for sale here on Bid or Buy, so not that difficult to source. People interested in any of the coins of the South African series should source these as a first step.   

A further example is Levine's famous Coins and Counterfeits of the ZAR in 1974. This is a comprehensive reference book on the ZAR coins. 

These books are not perfect, but to improve on them at this stage will require a lot of research and this is the important role that these so-called "academic papers" currently play.   

 

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jwither
6 minutes ago, Ni28 said:

These books are not perfect, but to improve on them at this stage will require a lot of research and this is the important role that these so-called "academic papers" currently play.   

 

I saw "Money in South Africa" on one occasion on eBay but don't remember why I didn't buy it.  I also don't know the content or its quality.  I suspect that one or both are (badly) out of date having been published in1983 and 1987. If these are the primary reference books on this subject, that's a long time without an update.  I'll have to buy one or both and compare it to the "typical" US reference.  Then I will be in a better position to further comment.

As for the supplemental academic papers, to be most useful, the content needs to be incorporated into the literature that most collectors can find and buy.  In my prior posts, I wasn't criticizing your efforts, only expressing the opinion that I don't believe the topics on which you have written and in Anthony's link will do much to increase interest in collecting in your country. 

Personally, I don't find the books in the link I included to be of much interest.  I included it as an example since it's evident that this is what most collectors in the US want published and want to buy.  There are also many contributors on the NGC and PCGS forums who will buy numismatic literature on unrelated subjects to what they collect.  I am not going to do that except occassionally because I have a limited collecting budget and would rather buy coins than reference material which isn't relevant to what I collect.

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southernaurora

Could you please let me know how I could buy a copy of your book on patterns (3rd decimal)?

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Ni28
5 hours ago, southernaurora said:

Could you please let me know how I could buy a copy of your book on patterns (3rd decimal)?

This material in this latest edition of De Nummis was written for the benefit of the coin collectors, so if you send me a private message with your email address, you can get an electronic copy for free.

Regarding the hard copies, I printed 40 of which 15 are left. Again this was done for the collectors, so I just need to recover the printing costs. The printing costs were approximately R200 a booklet.

As this topic was discussed on the Bid or Buy forum, however, I suppose the rule is I need to sell it through them. My wife listed 10 copies last year for this R200 for a month and did not sell a single one. A rather humbling experience! Perhaps I can twist her arm to list it again. 

 

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Manfred1
12 hours ago, Ni28 said:

This material in this latest edition of De Nummis was written for the benefit of the coin collectors, so if you send me a private message with your email address, you can get an electronic copy for free.

Kindly pm me ... it seems that i'm not able to send private messages. Thank you

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