We at Chard launched our first website 24carat.co.uk on 25th November 1998. We thought at the time we were rather late entering the internet age, but it turns out we were relatively early.
The British Numismatic Trade Association was founded in 1973, and we were founder members if not Founder Members.
Some time after we launched our first site, we suggested to a couple of the BNTA Council members that, in our opinion, the BNTA should have its own website. At first, the reaction was rather as though we had suggested relocating to the moon, but we persisted a little, and got told that it was under consideration, so we left them to it.
In January 1999, we received a communication from a very posh sounding company called Corsellis Montford, who informed us that they were the official contractors or sponsors of the BNTA website, and that we as members had been included in the site listing free, but could take an additional feature advert for a special BNTA members price, which from distant memory, we think was "only" £120.
We thought this was very expensive, and declined.
Next we spoke to a BNTA Council member to give our opinion that farming the job out to an outside company was a poor method of hosting its website, and that the cost per page was exorbitant. We were informed that Corsellis-Montford was not officially appointed, but do not know whether the BNTA ever took issue with them for falsely representing this as fact. This was not the first time we have but told outright lies by a salesman, particularly a media salesman, and we are sure it will not be the last.
At this stage we were told that the BNTA were still debating the topic of its own website. I seem to remember offering some advice or assistance, but this was declined.
We prefer action in preference by getting bogged down by endless discussion in committees, so...
Unimpressed by the BNTA's ostrich/tortoise approach to the burgeoning World Wide Web, and by the Corsellis-Montford offering, wed decided that instead of talking about it, we would do it, so we went ahead and created this current site numis.co.uk which was registered on the:5th of January 1999.
One of the earliest decisions we need to make was whether to list only BNTA members, or whether to include all UK numismatic dealers, we decided to do both.
Within a couple of days, we had populated the site with a regional directory of all or most of the coin dealers in the British Isles, and also a duplicate set of pages including BNTA members only. The effect of this was that BNTA members effectively got two free adverts each, whereas non-BNTA members were restricted to one free entry. We also gave a discount to BNTA members on our very low advertising rates.
BNTA.co.uk & BNTA.net
We cannot remember when, but guess it must have been during 2002, the we received an approach from the BNTA saying they noticed we were the registrant of the domain name bnta.co.uk, and would it be possible for them to acquire it. We said yes. At that stage, we cannot remember money being mentioned, but we would have been quite happy to donate it the the BNTA.
Some time later, possibly about six months, the enquiry progressed, but by this time our registrar, of which I, Lawrence Chard, own a half share, had omitted to renew the domain name, and it had been registered by somebody else, which was slightly embarrassing for us. Following this, the BNTA found an alternative domain name, and we note that the name bnta.org was registered on 16th January 2003 to Mike Veissid of Shrewsbury, a fellow dealer, and a BNTA member, so all ended well enough, even if it took three years. From rather dim and distant memory, we believe the BNTA might have had an earlier site hosted elsewhere.
Advertisers?, What Advertisers?
When the site was very new, I recall sending out e-mails to dealers, but in those days, most dealers did not have e-mail addresses, so only a very small number of e-mails ever got sent. These were drawing attention to the new site, inviting dealers to check and approve their free entry, and for BNTA members to note that they had got two free entries. We also pointed out that we would accept adverts in the form of enhanced entries, website links, or full page adverts.
Again from memory, we think the initial response was zero, but eventually a few dealers found our advertising page, and signed up for our bargain priced advertising links.
We never did get round to sending out a snail-mail invitation to advertise, but we did, and still do, take the slightly sanguine view that if a dealer is web-aware, he may find our site and ask to advertise, and we probably will not refuse the money offered.
We remember getting an e-mail or telephone call from one dealer who said he had done very well out of his free listing, as one collector had found him via our site, and spent about £2,000 on his first purchase.
Over a few years, we have also received a few complaints, from or through the BNTA. At least one was from a dealer who did not want their address or other details publishing on the internet, so we removed them, even though we don't understand why any business would be reluctant to get free advertising. Another was from a dealer who had closed down or retired, so we removed this also. We still consider it odd that this came through as a complaint, rather than a request to change.
Whenever a dealer advises us of any change of address, we try to update the changes as quickly as possibly. This has been done during the telephone conversation on at least a few occasions.
Once we got a telephone call from an irate member of the public who had travelled to visit one of the dealers listed, only to find the business had closed down, probably because the owner had died, despite our advice on the site to always phone to make an appointment for any one of a number of reasons. It's one of these strange facts of life that dead people never telephone to cancel free adverts, or anything else for that matter.
We keep saying that when we get time, we will contact all listed dealers, and ask them to check their listing, and invite them to take up an enhanced listing (advert). The problem is, we have never had the spare time to do it, and from the few responses we have received, it is quite demoralising trying to sell advertising at almost give-away prices, which largely explains why we do not bother to try so hard.
Yorkshire or London?
A few years back, we did make an effort to update the site. We tasked one of our admin staff to contact dealers and to edit and update wherever required. For some reason she placed Paul Davies of Ilkley in London. We know he is a very metropolitan dealer, but we thought this was rather extreme and moved him back to the North East. The staff member in question was Scottish, so perhaps she thought we sassenachs were all the same to her. She is no longer in our employment as this was not the only mistake she made.
Since the BNTA got around to launching its own website, we have gleaned the impression on a number of occasions, that it regards this website as unwelcome competition, and rather than being grateful to us for having filled a gap for some years, is now resentful that our site "competes" with theirs. At least once, we have been "ordered" or forcefully requested by the BNTA to update our site. Naturally we have co-operated. We believe our site complements theirs, and it does, or did, compliment most of its members.
There was a time we were asked, by a previous secretary of the BNTA to explain several aspects of our site. We did this by telephone, but did promise to provide a more detailed written explanation, and owe the Association an apology for not having got round to it earlier. Most to the regrets this author has are acts of omission rather than acts of commission.
David Fletcher (an ex-secretary) also asked us what we got out of it, and we did give him a brief answer, but his question also poses several other questions in our mind as to why he would be so interested in what's in it for us.
In October 2009, we received a letter from Devonshires Solicitors demanding, inter alia, that we remove the BNTA logo from our website (sic) (It did not specify which site, and we do have more than one). We have complied with this request by replacing the BNTA logo with a nice photo of a Britannia coin, together with a caption "Not the BNTA Logo".
We have also obsolesced our old BNTA Members pages by adding a "Refresh" tag which instantly transfers the viewer to our general list for the region, or the index page in the case of the previous "all BNTA members" page. This does reduce the usefulness of our site, as the viewer can no longer tell whether a particular dealer is a BNTA member or not. It also removes the second free listing for all BNTA members. We believe this is rather short-sighted of the BNTA, but it is not ours to reason why. Unfortunately it also removes the rather glowing write up and testimonial we gave to the Association.
It also demanded that we remove the links from our site to the BNTA website. We have pointed out to Devonshires that we believe that this is not in the best interests of the Association, and also that, to the best of our knowledge, there is not legal reason why we should remove any such links. Perhaps the BNTA Council members do not realise that its Google rating, and possibly that of other search engines, are enhanced by links from other sites.
The letter states that our site looks official (which we dispute), for that very reason (which we dispute even more strongly).
It also states that they have evidence of confusion "as people search BNTA on Google and end up on your website"...
A quick check shows that the official BNTA website now appears before our numis.co.uk website, appearing in 1st and 2nd places, followed by the www.numis.co.uk/bnta.html page of our site, then by the Wikipedia entry for the BNTA, which was created by Lawrence Chard. Having just checked this entry, I have edited it to update our membership status.
In fifth place is the Birmingham National Trust Association, which used to be placed above the The British Numismatic Trade Association's own site, and ours
In sixth place is the www.taxfreegold.co.uk/bntamember.html page of our Tax Free Gold website which has now been updated to state perfectly correctly that we were members of the BNTA from 1973 to 2008 inclusive.
Seventh place goes to the eBay "BNTA - The British Numismatic Trade Association" guide which we also created, and which also gives them a glowing report. (We are now uncertain whether it is a benefit or a detriment to be mentioned on eBay).
We can probably ignore the Brisbane Night Tennis Association's welcome page in eight position.
In ninth place is www.business-support-wales.gov.uk/.../british_numismatic_trade_assoc.aspx page published by the Welsh Assembly Government. We hope the BNTA and Devonshires will show consistency by demanding that they remove all links to the BNTA's website as they are not members, and we are surprised that such an august and respectable body would have acted in such a despicable manner in the first place. (We assume they have not applied for, or been granted the Association's written consent for the inclusion of the link).