Author Topic: Your System  (Read 4571 times)

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Offline Pellinore

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Your System
« on: January 06, 2016, 10:15:28 AM »
Where on World of Coins can I find what you are using as a system for your coins? Many of you must have descriptions of coins in files, collected in some way, numbered, working on it all the time. Photographing your coins and attaching these to your files. How do you call it, and which computer programs are you using?

Today I decided to number my coins/ descriptions. That is not as simple as it seems, but it asks a lot of planning. Where do I find discussions about this?

Thanks,

-- Paul

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Your System
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2016, 10:59:28 AM »
A lot of adjacent discussions in "Coin Collecting". However, you are doing something more generic: setting up a data base of objects. Having done that before, here is some experience:

You have only two problems: "will the numbers be descriptive or sequential" and "how do I connect the numbers to the objects". Excel or a data base programme will do everything else.

Sequential numbers have little or no information. An example is UK license plate numbers. Dutch license plate numbers have some information, as their format and numerical or alphabetical order betrays the age of the car. EU bank account numbers carry a lot of information: bank, bank branch, account number (the only sequential part) and checksum. The more information a number carries, the more numbers cannot be used. For instance, a number that uses time cannot have a higher value than 24 for the first two digits and 60 for the second pair, a huge waste of possible numbers. Logically, sequential numbers (6 for Dutch license plates) are shorter than descriptive numbers (23 for EU bank account numbers, counting only the IBAN part).

The most obvious descriptive numbers for a coin data base are catalogue numbers. For modern coins, taking the example of KM, they would take 5 fields: catalogue name, country name, catalogue number prefix, catalogue number, catalogue number suffix. This would give you sortable fields, so your data base can be sorted back to the correct order, and unique numbers for a type collection. For a date collection, you need a dating system (AD, AH, Saka etc.) and date field. Only at this point can you enter descriptions.

The most obvious sequential set starts with 1 and can be prolonged to infinity (don't use leading zeroes or you must put them in by hand in Excel and many data base systems.) Excel et al. can generate such a number set automatically. The numbers contain no information other than the order in which you entered them into your data base. Your descriptions survive by the grace of your ability to link coin with data base (inventory) number.

Doing that it is a big bad problem if your coins are stored loose. Putting a piece of paper in a coin cabinet is not a good idea: the paper will attack metal. One system I can think of is numbering the drawers and having a "map" of each of the drawers in your computers. Another would be to add the location of the coin in your data base, e.g 3.2.1.1 would be cabinet 3, drawer 2, first "row" first "column". Both systems are awkward to painful when you acquire a new coin that you want somewhere in between which means that something like 30 to 60 coins need to move one place to the right. Also, unless you want to move masses of coins to insert one, you will get drawers with one or two coins; a massive waste of space.

If your coins are in cartons, the pain decreases very considerably: you can put your inventory number on the carton and be done with it. However, there are people who do not wish to use cartons.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Your System
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2016, 12:34:20 PM »
I hit this problem 20-odd years ago when my collecting interests and the degree of accuracy I wanted in my records expanded, meaning that there was no single catalogue reference system that would work across the board.

If you collect one country's coins by date, it's probably pretty bombproof to get a catalogue for that country and use that catalogue's numbering system plus the date. This works e.g. for coins of the UK using Spink. If you collect world coins by type, the KM number will probably do, though if you want to collect mintmark variants (e.g. German and Indian) you will have to add something to the KM number in a way that does not get confused with KM's own suffixes. This issue, including the fact that mintmarks are given their own KM subnumber for e.g. France and Italy but not for Germany or India, was the start of the problem for me.

I also collect tokens, which are largely not catalogued anywhere, and have a few error coins and pseudo-coinoids that also don't really fit in with the above cataloguing systems.

I therefore wanted a system that would link a given coin in its holder to a given row in a spreadsheet and to a given picture (a rubbing in the early days, now a scan). I rejected fairly early on trying to devise a system that had descriptive content as I had no way of determining how many descriptive categories I wanted to include in a system that would operate indefinitely, or how many blanks for coins currently missing but hopefully acquired in the future. I therefore went for the purely sequential method.

Every type I possess has a number. In 1993 I started in the first box that came out of my coin drawer, allocated type 1 to the first coin that came out of that box, got a picture of it and described it in columns in Excel, and then continued until I'd done all my collection. New types I've acquired since just get the next available number. There is no connection whatsoever to the coin's country, denomination, age or anything else.

This means I can define "type" as I wish across the board, as different catalogues have different criteria in how they allocate type numbers and some (e.g. KM as discussed) are internally inconsistent. I also avoid having subtypes denoted by a, b or whatever.

[Pedantic point about car registrations: in the UK systems they are only partially sequential. In the current system (e.g. AB12CDE) the first two letters define the place of registration, the numbers define the half-year and the three final letters are purely sequential. In the earlier systems (A123BCD and ABC123A) the single letters defined the year of registration and the second two of the group of three letters defined the location. The numbers and the extra letter were purely sequential.

The Swedish system is a better example of a purely sequential system as no extra meaning (e.g. place, date or kind of vehicle) is imparted by a standard ABC123 plate. However, registrations in the current system were started in 1973 broadly at the start of the alphabet (AAA111) and have progressed onwards since then. Registrations are reused when vehicles are scrapped, but there is nevertheless a very weak correlation between location in the alphabet and age of vehicle.]

Online Pabitra

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Re: Your System
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2016, 01:09:35 PM »
There are changes in the system if one tries to follow even an established system.
Foe example, SCWC followed a system of number Republic of India coins in continuation to British India coins. Somewhere around 1998 -99, it renumbered Republic of India coins ab initio.
There is absolutely no reason to be sure that it will not do that again.

One can devise one's own system. Allotting a small ( 6 -7 digit) number to each item was a must when databases were on cardex system or early computer days. Now, the memory in hard disk is no longer a constraining factor hence one could go for alphanumeric system of any size.

For my book on Nepal coins, I developed a denomination oriented numbering system, which is a non standard system but has served my purpose well till date.

Offline Manzikert

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Re: Your System
« Reply #4 on: January 06, 2016, 01:12:28 PM »
I use a database programme called Cardbox which takes images as well as data. I don't like Excel, and I find Access very unfriendly.

My storage system is fairly simple: a small number of coins, mostly ancient, are housed (for historical reasons) in 2 coin cabinets, my Roman up to c.270 AD are in 5 coin albums, whilst the rest of my coins are in 2x2 flips in standard card storage boxes, with the coins in one pocket and descriptions on cards in the other pocket.

Each coin used to be registered in a series of notebooks, but all the Greek, Roman and Byzantine were added to a database some years ago, and for the last few years all coins acquired have been added to one of two databases. One covers the Greek, Roman and Byzantine (now 2,709 records) and the other covers everything else (now 3,541 records). The non-European and non-ancient material is (more slowly than I'd like) being added to the second database as I get round to it, and as I am less than half way through it will take some time. The ancient database is up to date.

The numbering system I use is simply a 1-3 letter code for the state/country in one field and a sequential number assigned as the coin is acquired in a second field. The resultant number (eg. R 217 for the 217th Roman coin or SR 32 for the 32nd Seljuk of Rum coin is marked on the card in the flip. I use 16 data fields and a single image field which can hold as many images of the coin as I want, and can be toggled quickly between thumbnail and full size. Catalogue references are in one of the fields, with any comments about varieties as required.

All coins have at least 2 pictures on the record, scanned at 600-1200 dpi depending on the size of the coin. This does mean that the files can grow quite large (the general database is just under 800 Mb) but Cardbox has no limit on the number of records in a file and the size of the file is only limited by the available space on your hard disk.

This may all sound a bit clunky, but it works for me (and as Cardbox is very easy to index and extremely fast in searching I can find most things in seconds with a very simple query).

Alan

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Your System
« Reply #5 on: January 06, 2016, 04:50:26 PM »
People have mentioned Cardbox on here before and from the descriptions I am impressed. The dealbreaker is that it is Windows only (at least it was last time I looked - it's always worth checking again) and I haven't found anything similar for Mac OS.

I actually have two parallel systems. One catalogues the actual coins in my collection, and for this I have an Excel file per country and include data specific to my coins (condition, value, date/cost of acquisition etc.) as well as a brief description of the type. The other describes the types and, apart from the pictures, is independent of the actual coins in my collection. It is the latter for which I would find Cardbox useful, as I currently have an Excel sheet running to thousands of rows which is rather unwieldy. The biggest problem though is that I can't display the picture alongside the description - I have to satisfy myself with a hyperlink from the type number to the image file and as we all know, hyperlinks can screw up every time the wind changes.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Your System
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2016, 05:46:14 PM »
If you want software that'll blow MS Access out of the water, go for Filemaker Pro (not exactly free). It's quite visual, making it easy to learn and maintain

If you don't want to pay, go for Open Office. It has a database and you can build forms and views of your data as well as table views, queries, reports, etc. It is an MS Access alternative and there is a version for OS X. You will need to have a Java Runtime package installed to use the database functions, but that is easy to install and widely available for Mac.

You should be able to import your Excel files in both applications in CSV format.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Pellinore

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Re: Your System
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2016, 06:45:24 PM »
So far, I took down all descriptions in Word in nine groups:

1000 Greek
2000 Roman (Latin)
3000 Roman (Greek) and Byzantine
4000 Western Europe until 1000 AD
5000 Iran until Islam
6000 Central Asia and India until Islam
7000 Islam
8000 Europe after 1000 AD
9000 Odds and ends

Didn't start numbering, though.
I have only about 500 coins and prefer to keep it small, so in that range of numbering I have a lot of space. When all coins have been numbered, I can number the pictures, too.

I have an Excel coin system after someone else's example, but it is very unstable and the copying and pasting consumes a lot of time.
I'm sure coin sellers have good computer systems for their online offerings. Isn't there one for sale? That's what I would expect.  If you sell coin boxes and albums, why not easy database systems for old men like me.
-- Paul

Offline FosseWay

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Re: Your System
« Reply #8 on: January 06, 2016, 06:53:50 PM »
I have no objection to paying, but if I'm going to, I'd rather buy something outright and not have the requirement to pay a monthly fee in order to retain use of my records. Also on a sum as small as $9/month the costs associated with exchange rate fluctuations and bank charges for foreign currency transactions become quite a high proportion of the total outlay.

I said I use Excel - this isn't quite true as I actually use Open Office and save the files as xlsx so that they are compatible with people who have MS Office. I already have the OO equivalents of Word and PowerPoint installed and it may well be that the Access equivalent came as well by default, I don't remember. But my very vague memories of using Access in a former life were that it looks very like Excel in terms of how the information is presented. What intrigues and attracts me about Cardbox is the ability to lay out information in a way that is much more useful to the human eye than Excel, where you're constantly fighting the limitations of screen width and text that won't fit in its box, as well as the possibility of attaching images and other documents.

I could have a tinker with Wine and then install Cardbox. I don't want Cardbox enough to be bothered to fork out for Parallels and a whole copy of Windows.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Your System
« Reply #9 on: January 06, 2016, 08:23:32 PM »
A database programme has at its core (you guessed it) a database of all records, which is indeed no different from Excel. Where a database goes further is in queries, reports and views.

- Queries is about filling your database with other people's data. A good example is Calibre, Mac software that will complete your ebook with metadata grabbed from big bookseller sites. As far as I know, there is no coin data base that is open to queries.
- Reports is about making cards that look like the one shown by Manzikert. You basically show one record in an attractive way. You can add pictures too. Any database software should have the tools to build reports.
- Views are much like filters in Excel. Provided you have the necessary fields, you may ask your data bases for all coins dated 2015, all Swedish tokens or all pieces with a KM number from Australia. The resulting list may be sorted e.g. by weight or denomination. Database software differs from Excel in that the underlying table is not filtered or sorted. It extracts the data specified in a separate table, leaving the underlying table unaffected. Such lists of many records can be formatted as you wish, but pictures may be too small, cropped or invisible. The software may allow you to jump from a list to a report with a double click, solving the picture problem.

In other words, even if a database looks like Excel, the software can be used to give results like Cardbox.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: Your System
« Reply #10 on: January 06, 2016, 08:49:39 PM »
So far, I took down all descriptions in Word in nine groups:

1000 Greek
2000 Roman (Latin)
3000 Roman (Greek) and Byzantine
4000 Western Europe until 1000 AD
5000 Iran until Islam
6000 Central Asia and India until Islam
7000 Islam
8000 Europe after 1000 AD
9000 Odds and ends

Fine, as long as you realise that the first digit is descriptive, so you deprive yourself of the flexibility to add another category without major re-numbering or you need to add a second digit for future splits. Already, you are reserving 10 000 numbers for 500 coins. Add some complications and it may quickly get even worse.

I have only about 500 coins and prefer to keep it small, so in that range of numbering I have a lot of space. When all coins have been numbered, I can number the pictures, too.

For such numbers, Excel is largely sufficient. Read on.

I have an Excel coin system after someone else's example, but it is very unstable and the copying and pasting consumes a lot of time.

Excel is not very unstable. Your database or computer may be, but not for 500 records. What you may mean is that it's easy to futz up the database. That is quite true. The solution is simple. Make the database Read-Only with a password. When you add or delete records you use the password. When you search, sort or filter, you don't. If you make a bad manoever and can't undo, simply close the window and your database will be unaffected.

Excel is actually pretty good with copying and pasting (better than database software), but it requires that you know the tricks. I'd be happy to do a little demo next time we meet. The software has many hidden nooks that can be quite powerful once you know them.

I'm sure coin sellers have good computer systems for their online offerings. Isn't there one for sale? That's what I would expect.  If you sell coin boxes and albums, why not easy database systems for old men like me.

Sure, there's loads of coin collection "software". Much is a bunch of templates for a free database programme with pre-programmed fields you may or may not want, plus you often can't add missing fields you do want. You'd be spending a relatively large amount of money for a small table you can make and maintain yourself. If you decide to bite the apple and learn to use Excel you acquire a skill you can use for many other purposes. For instance, I use Excel for my coins, but also for my wine cellar, Christmas mailings, tax specifications and to make sure the medical insurance pays me what they owe me.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Pellinore

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Re: Your System
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2016, 03:11:09 AM »
I looked at my programme once again, but it is Access, not Excel. Sorry... And I couldn't get in this time.

With my 9000 numbers you can easily make undercategories, I planned them already:

2000 Early Roman coins 2100 Empire 2500 Gallic Empire 2600 Imitations before 300 AD 2800 Imitations after 300 AD.

That programme Cardbox seems acceptable for me, although my brains turn to porridge when I try to understand other programs than my daily work ones. 

-- Paul

Offline Manzikert

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Re: Your System
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2016, 10:18:13 AM »
Cardbox can be downloaded for free from www.cardbox.com.

The installation package is only about 4.5 Mb, expanding to 7.5 Mb when installed, but 1.5 Mb of this is the help file. There is a good introductory PDF manual (under the Help tab, called Getting Started), and you can also download the full (300 page) manual as a PDF from the site or buy a hard copy through Amazon. If you need any help or suggestions you are welcome to PM me anytime. It is actually a very friendly programme so there is no reason to be wary of it.

Alan

Offline terryzman

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Re: Your System
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2016, 05:09:19 PM »
I totally echo Figleaf's vote for Filemaker Pro.  I work in the computer industry so using a flexible tool like Filemaker is quite natural for me.  Another useful aspect for Filemaker is that they also make mobile versions.  I do the cataloging of my collection on my Mac, but I sync a copy of the databases over to an iPad as well. Whenever I am going to be at a coin shop or a show, I have my full visual inventory available to me.  Some of the things I keep in my database for each coin:
  • basic identifying info, of course. Like Country, Denomination, Series,Descriptions,Inscriptions, etc
  • Catalog Reference: Generally a KM number for World, a Sear number for most ancients. Certain countries, I catalog by more specialist catalogs.  I catalog England/Scotland/Ireland by Spink # and Spain by Cayon.    I also keep a cross reference to other catalog numbers. So for Romans I may also list  RIC, BMC, RSC numbers.
  • images: Filemaker can store images, so I try to maintain images of my coins in the DB, sometimes I will also use a reference image as well if I my example is unclear.  I also image the tag or label that came with the coin as well.
  • web links: With so much great info available on the web, I connect my catalog record to web references.  For modern coins, that may be a link to the NGC World Coin Price Guide.  For ancients, it usually is a page on wildwinds.  I might also include links to auction results via acsearch.info.  I also try to link to hobby cataloging sites like numista or gcoins.
  • certification info:  If the coin is certified. I take down that info and create a web link to the certification verification URL
  • provenance,cost,value: I also record how I obtained the coin, the price, estimated value, source of the valuation (NGC World Coin Guide, Auction Results,etc), and Date of Valuation.     

I have attached an screen capture of an example coin from my database.  It was a challenge to get a useful screen grab that would fit into the 128KB limit.   Please note the photo of my coin and to the right is part of the NGC World Coin page for the type - all displayed within the DB.

I am always interested in how different folks organize their collections and which aspects they stress when cataloging. 
- Terry

Offline Bimat

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Your System
« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2016, 10:10:49 AM »
Any particular reason for keeping this interesting (and important too) topic in Living Room? ;)

Aditya
It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. -J. K. Rowling.