SCOTT SEMANS WORLD COINS
The New KM Format - Why?    (041)


Nature of the Change
   Specs and information such as denomination, commemorative theme, metal composition and other descriptive items are no longer columm headers or centered below the type photo. Instead, each photo is followed by denomination, KM#, weight, composition, theme, etc, in one or more runon lines, though bolding and capitalization help with readability. The grade headers are now run above each type, saving a scan up to the top of the page, and dropping the KM# column has allowed pricing in five grades for most series. The downside is that finding coins by the numbers, which was never easy to begin with, is now a real chore, and locating commemoratives by theme is much more difficult. Most of the "hidden countries" have been put in the alphabetical run, at last! The photos in my copies are superb, almost as good as the smooth-paper hardcover editions of yore, but whether this will prove out for the whole press run, I can't say. Overall I'd say the 30th edtion took two steps forward and one step back.

Stephen Album (album@sonic.net), 12/02 in a post to southasia-coins@yahoogroups.com.

   From what I understand, and I've had lengthy conversations with the editors of the KM catalogues, the system was set up by non-numismatic computer specialists for two basic purposes: (1) To preserve each description, and any subsequent adjustments and corrections, together with the coin image, so that subsequent editions could be quickly and securely produced. (2) To create a single type entry system so that anyone could enter new types, corrections and changes, whether or not that person had any knowledge whatsoever of numismatics. Let me explain briefly what this means.

    (1) Until now, each catalog had to be reinvented from scratch, the text taken printed out and then physically cut and mounted on blank pages, with each photo (tens of thousands in each volume) pasted by hand. Only the text itself was preserved on computer. This system was set up by a computer geek from the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point in 1974/75. At the time it was a top-of-the-line methodology and seemed amazingly effective, but it is nowadays totally obsolete, despite some minor adjustments made from time to time over the past 28 years. The new system is a necessity, for there is no doubt that it would save thousands of hours of tedious work and allow corrections, price-changes, and new informations to be entered and forever preserved. Thus the 4th edition could be instantly moved to a CD and sent to the printer whenever KM runs out of the 3rd edition. Thus far a brilliant idea that should have been effective.

   (2) Where the system fails is that it is based on a single entry form for all countries except the US and Canada. Each entry form is for a single coin type, consisting of the following parts: Denomination*, KM number*, Weight, Composition, Subject, Obverse, Reverse, Note, Date/Mintage/4 or 5 grades*, then each date & price*. There are additonal parts that are not used very often, such as Ring Weight, Ring Composition, Center Composition for modern bimetallical coins, plus a few others used even less often. The parts marked with * must be filled out for every entry, the rest can be used or left blank. The single form is used for virtually every coin, though there are a couple of specialized entry forms, for the US and Canada, for Patterns, Probas, Pieforts, Mint Sets, Proof Sets, etc. The entry forms are automatically ordered by denominations, first date, and KM number, in that order; this ordering cannot be altered or adjusted in any way. All of the typed parts can be altered as needed.

   (3) At the present, one or more typist copies the information from the last edition into this new entry form, attached the photo (not always the right one, and not always facing upwards!), and include any further information that has been passed along (e.g., new years for current coins, new varieties, etc., etc.). In theory, numismatists sent in information, the typist, invariably a non-numsmatist, fills out the appropriate entry form, adds it to the appropriate volume (currently divided by century, though this may be changed in the future). Someone at slightly above minimum wage can be hired to do this work, thus substantially reducing the cost of production. Once all volumes are converted to the new form, there will far less labor necessary for the finalization of subsequent editions, and that labor can also be provided by non-numismatists. Only the editors, normally two or three persons, must be numismatically savvy.

   (4) In the early years of the KM catalog, when there was just a single volume for world coinage, a staff of approximate six people maintained the catalog full time. Today, there are numerous volumes, but only about three people, all of whom devote a significant portion of their time to publications other than the Standard Catalogs, together with typists and photographers as needed. This explains the reason that staff can no longer reply to the hundreds or thousands of comments, corrections, alterations, additions, etc., that are sent to them by post, phone, fax and email. I am one of the major supplies of new information and new photos, but have been long resigned to the gruesome truth had about 50% of my submissions are lost or ignored. Will this improve in the future? Unless KM is willing to hire additional numismatic staff, an action that will require a significant increase in the retail and wholesale prices of all the catalogs (probably about 25-35% per volume), there is little likelihood that we will see major improvements. The company is no longer owned and run by Chet Krause, having been purchased by a large corporation based in Cincinnati that does not appear to be numismatist-friendly. After all, whereas numismatic publications still represented something like 60% of sales in the mid-1970s, I understand that it is now somewhere between 5% and 10%, thus no longer the major activity of the company. Moreover, both the old company the the new corporate owner follow the midwestern tradition that good quality is far less important than keeping the prices as cheap as possible.


George Cuhaj, of the Krause cataloguing staff, provided in reply:

   First, I will point out we are planning several revisions to the new format to address some of these and other concerns. Initially, this will include placement of the KM# at the far left, enhancement of the denomination type face and some further cosmetic changes.

A Little History: The original Standard Catalog of World Coins was developed on an innovative line-editing computer system, which has served our product line well for almost 30 years. Over the past several years we have experienced a great increase in requests for CD and/or electronic access to this data, which could not be achieved with the old data storage system. Though the original plan was to electronically transfer all the data from the old system to a modern database, vintage and compatibility of systems would not allow this to happen, and our staff began the painstaking process of entering listings one-listing-at-a-time. Initial entry of all four-century catalogs should be completed by June 2003. Of course, a massive undertaking of this nature cannot avoid a level of human error, which explains the majority of errors and omissions discovered throughout 2300+ pages of data embodied in the 30th Edition.

With Your Help: The Standard Catalog of World Coins series would not be possible without the interest and input of several hundred collectors and dealers like you. We are working to enter data for the remaining centuries and your continued input is appreciated. You will note we are including much more detail information with each listing. We realize more experienced collectors and dealers may find some of the detail redundant, but the majority of consumers have indicated a desire for more information included with each type listing. The inclusion of this detail will also become an important factor in an electronic presentation. Feel free to fill in the blanks, identify rulers associated with each coinage, specify design characteristics we may have overlooked, add coin designer's names, define missing or unlisted dates, enumerate market value fluctuations, exact mintage figures, etc. We have also made an attempt to identify all changes in political structure. Please advise us of any adjustments or if more appropriate titles for these are needed. When making any submissions, please state the page, catalog number and denomination.

Another improvement in process is the development of a scanned image library. Technology and storage capacity have evolved to the point where we have begun an aggressive photo scanning process. The catalogs currently contain about 250,000 images. Now is the ideal time for us to concentrate on upgrading photo quality. We are using a digital photography for new images and will be able to process your submissions quickly, so please offer whatever coins you can for consideration.

Several dealers have pointed out the extra price columns with dashes. This was a design consideration to reduce the incredible number of grade head varieties with slight variations in format, while offering future readers the option of additional pricing information. We encourage you to view this as an opportunity to expand the price guide.

We are making every effort to proofread the data as it moves from one platform to another while we strive to produce the new editions in a timely manner. Your help in this endeavor is greatly appreciated. Please submit corrections periodically throughout the year. The catalog staff has access to the new database and corrections can be entered at any time.

You are most welcome to offer specific questions to us at thernr@krause.com

George Cuhaj, Thomas Michael, Randy Thern: Cataloguing staff


Sending Scanned Images by Email - from the 2003 SCWC

Scan all images within a resolution range of 200-300 dpi, size set at 100%, in true color.
Save as jpeg (,jpg) or tiff. Name of file should include Country name of coin.
Send images as an attachment, to thern@krause.com


Additional note from SS:

   Contributors, both the "experts" who send in vast reams of data, and the little guys who send in an occasional new date or error note, complain that their contributions are not acknowledged, or not used in the next edition. I think part of this is just scheduling - not every country can be worked on every edition, so new information may actually take years to show up. However, some may actually get lost, or be shelved while they wait for their main consultant in an area to verify it. That's frustrating, but with email and a flatbed scanner, your time investment is minimal, so perhaps it is worth the effort even so. My own gripes are more systemic: A decision made long ago has locked this catalog series into a denominational (vs. historical) format, with consequent lack of a meaningful numbering system. Collector-oriented private issues of the 1960s-80s have been legitimized by their inclusion. And the breakdown of the pre-1900 coinage by century rather than geography will forever be a sore point among specialized collectors. But when all is said and done, these are still tremendous guidebooks that serve as a standard the world over, and across widely varied specialties, and they improve constantly. Keeping their costs down and returning a profit to the publisher are important concerns. For some countries and areas there are specialized works that treat both coinage and exonumia in greater depth, or provide numismatic and economic history, variety analysis, counterfeit information, or art-quality photographs. Such works are often labors of love, not profit, or are subsidized by a university, club, or institution. Despite the flaws of the KM series, at $50-60 or so for 1000-2000 pages of data and photographs, we in the coin hobby are not badly served at all.


Visual comparison of formats

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