The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 41, October 11, 2015, Article 6


Dick Johnson submitted these thoughts on numismatic glossaries. Thanks! -Editor

Two weeks ago I received a manuscript from Gary Beals whose name has appeared in The E-Sylum several times in the last six months. He wanted me to critique his glossary of numismatic terms. Gary is an American living in Spain, he wants to publish a Spanish-English, English-Spanish glossary of numismatic words, an admirable project.

I have two notebooks filled with numismatic glossaries. I used these when compiling my encyclopedia of coin and medal technology. A glossary is a term defined by one or more sentences. An encyclopedia is a fuller treatment. I had analyzed numismatic glossaries not to overlook a necessary technical term for my encyclopedia.

What I found was interesting. The better glossaries were by more experienced numismatists. I ranked one by Walter Breen a grade A+. He had 230 entries in his 1977 book, Encyclopedia of U.S. Proof Coins. He expanded that list to 583 in his 1988 Encyclopedia of United States Coins. This is the best in the field.

Of almost equal rank is a glossary prepared by the staff at the American Numismatic Society. Of only 41 terms – the most basic terms – it is graded an A for what it contains. Oh, I wish these experts had done more.

The American Numismatic Association prepared its Dictionary of Numismatic Terms with 178 terms compiled by a committee over a period of years. I was on that committee for one year when it was conducted by Russ Rulau. I grade it a C as I experienced first-hand the shortcomings of a committee, defining by consensus. I resolved to prepare my encyclopedia as a result of that experience.

Coin World has a glossary in its Almanac; the most recent edition lists 245 terms, grade B. I found specialized glossaries by Pete Smith on large cents, 112 terms, grade B; David Cassel on patterns 71 terms, grade D for some misinformation; Chris Eimer on 50 British terms, grade B; and Denis Cooper on 165 technical terms, grade B+. Other published glossaries I found ranged from 12 in a book on enameling, to a complete book length on metal casting.

Most compilers of glossaries rely heavily on Frey (Albert Romer). His 1917 Dictionary of Numismatic Names contains 4,111 entries with heavy emphasis on coin names and denominations, When Spink reprinted this in 1973 they added a section of 560 coin terms in five languages by Mark Salton. It also reprinted that ANA Dictionary.

I found nine numismatic glossaries currently on the internet. What you would expect as most accurate at Wikipedia graded only a D for such incorrect descriptions as “upset” and useless terms as “over charged” – the same meaning as everyday English. Others, often compiled by coin dealers, ranked little higher for their misinformation.

With that analysis of numismatic glossaries as my qualifications I examined Gary Beals’ manuscript. I had time only for working the A and B terms.

Gary is a native of San Diego where he attended San Diego State College earning a journalism degree in 1966. That year he wrote a glossary of numismatic terms of Spain and Spanish America. At 16 he had traveled to Peru, Panama and Costa Rica in search of Spanish America coins. Later he joined the Air Force ultimately serving as Captain in Madrid Spain as Information Officer.

He returned to San Diego and conducted an advertising and public relations agency for 28 years. He returned to Spain and Segovia with his wife in 2004 and resumed coin collecting in 2010. In March this year he decided to compile this English and Spanish numismatic glossary greatly expanding his 1966 work.

Since March he gathered the 1,219 terms in the manuscript he sent me, making great use of Frey and a glossary by John Michael Murbach of Temple City, California, adding others from his own vast numismatic experience of Spanish and American numismatics.

His desire is to publish the total bi-lingual glossary this November. Since he asked, here is my advice:

First, check the alphabetization throughout the book. I found three instances were terms were misplaced, this led to adding the same two terms in two locations.

Second, have the manuscript read by at least two other numismatists who can check for technical accuracy, particularly if you can find specialists, at least one of which who is an authority on paper money.

Somewhat like Frey, but without 3,000 obsolete names, Gary includes coin names, denominations, slang terms, names of organizations and companies, and most important, technical terms -- how numismatic items are made, used and collected.

I can’t wait to see the book in print. It will find a wide use among collectors of both nationalities.

Wayne Homren, Editor

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