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“To build an inventory and search system for ancient coins to identify illegal sales”

The problem

Europe's cultural heritage is being eroded through theft and illegal trading in historical objects. The illicit sale of ancient coins is particularly widespread, as they are often well-preserved, valuable, and easy to conceal and transport. Furthermore, the absence of inventories makes it difficult to distinguish between illegal and legal possession. The problem has become more acute with the large trade in coins on the internet. There is an urgent need for standardised terminology in ancient coin documentation and methodologies to ensure more effective traceability.

COINS  Recognising coins to stamp out illegal antique trading


COINS will establish a scientific framework for numismatic inventory systems.

The project will:

  • Utilise state-of-the-art information technology to develop data management and web search tools which will be made freely available to collectors
  • Develop documentation and inventory methodologies based on ISO international standards
  • Develop automated search and identification tools – based on innovative pattern recognition algorithms and image processing techniques – which detect an individual coin's unique ‘digital signature’
  • Establish a multilingual thesaurus for numismatics and a digital reference collection of coin types

Contribution to policy development:

  • COINS will contribute to cultural heritage policies relating to numismatics.
  • It will promote cross-border collaboration in fields of cultural heritage policy and crime prevention.
  • It will provide a user-friendly tool for law enforcement agencies, which also creates an awareness that modern technology and e-commerce cannot easily be used to sell stolen coins.
  • The project will create a tool to help coin collection curators define institutional policy.

Project deliverables

  • Domain ontology, multilingual thesaurus, and mapping template – April 2008
  • Tools for coin data management, numismatic web search, and image recognition – August 2008
  • Report on coin reference collections – August 2008
  • Integrated packages and guides to good practice – November 2008
  • Internet-based demonstrator – December 2008


  • Project website – June 2007
  • Brochure, leaflets and other information materials – June 2007
  • On-line demonstrator and guidelines – December 2008
  • Presentations at conferences and publications in scientific journals – ongoing
  • Final event for disseminating knowledge and raising public awareness – February 2009

Technical information

Project acronym: COINS
Project’s official full title: Combat On-line Illegal Numismatic Sales
Research priority: The protection of cultural heritage and associated conservation strategies
Specific webpage:
Proposal/contract no: 044450
Start date: 1 February 2007
Kick off meeting: February 2007
Completion date: 31 January 2009
European Commission scientific officer: Michel Chapuis, and Adele Lydon,

Name: PIN s.c.r.l.
Abbreviated name: PIN
Address: University of Florence
Piazza G. Ciardi
25-59100 Prato
Country: Italy
Tel: +39 0574 6024
Fax: +39 0574 602515


Name: Technische Universität Wien
Abbreviated name: TU-WIEN
Country: Austria

Name: Austrian Research Centers GmbH
Abbreviated name: ARC
Country: Austria

Name: Soprintendenza Archeologica di Roma
Abbreviated name: SAR
Country: Italy 

Name: Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale
Abbreviated name: TPC
Country: Italy

Name: VARTEC nv
Abbreviated name: VARTEC
Country: Belgium

Name: Muzeul National de Istorie a României
Abbreviated name: MNIR
Country: Romania

Name: The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge
Abbreviated name: UCAM-FITZ
Country: United Kingdom