The electronic world has changed the way things are happening, but I still feel it is not the only tool needed to be a collector. Perspective can be gained by reviewing the past and comparing it to the present. While more and more information is available on the Internet (if one knows how and where to look), there is much that is not. Actual printed documents offer readers the ease of reviewing and making notes. I find that information found on the Internet is often printed out, thus becoming the “printed word.”
And, there is something special about a book or magazine that you can hold in your hand. Reading books, auction catalogs and pricelists in a quiet relaxed setting can be a pleasurable experience as well as a way to get information. Even the pdf catalogs available at StacksBowers.com speak to the desire of our customers to view auction lots in the context of the other coins in a sale.
When Stack's had a reference library in the shop, we opened it up to those who were doing research. Some of the great collectors of the past and present took advantage of this option as well as availing themselves of the knowledge of the professional numismatists who worked at Stack’s over the years. This experience added to the camaraderie that is so important among collectors.
The content of books is surely not all reproduced electronically, even though more and more is available as each day passes. I congratulate the ESYLUM, published by the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, for its efforts to electronically provide listings of reference books and contents for collectors in the future who are unable to find the information desired. But, it will take a long time, if ever, before everything is available on line.
Maybe in the future there will be no need for the printed word. But until that time, enjoy the printed auction catalogs produced by the major auction companies, read the books published by the Whitman Publishing Company, read articles in The Numismatist and other weekly and monthly publications, as well as those put out by various specialized numismatic societies. When you can, attend a lecture or presentation by an accomplished author and researcher. I believe that all of these are worthwhile tools for numismatists, just as electronic information is a useful tool. Numismatic toolboxes can include many things, all of which combine to increase your enjoyment of our great hobby.
The electronic world is here to stay, but I hope that David Harper’s predictions do not come true. It is my wish that printed publications will continue to be produced and enjoyed well beyond the next quarter of a century.