Buying the book

An adage of numismatics is “Buy the book before the coin.” It was first used by numismatist and dealer Aaron Feldman in an advertisement that appeared in the March 1966 issue of The Numismatist. Aside from being used to sell books, this sound advice tells collectors to enhance their knowledge of the hobby.

Education is important because helps build the skills and tools they need to navigate the world. Education helps us read, write, calculate and communicate. Without education, we would not be able to perform our jobs competently, accurately and safely. Education also gives us a view of the world which we live and provides a context to how we arrived at society today.

Numismatic education is important because it teaches us how to understand the and navigate the world of money and the economics that made it necessary. Without numismatic education coins, currency, bonds, tokens, and medals are just objects to be ogled without context. We would not know why these items are important or how to collect them. Numismatic education not only teaches us about how to identify these items and collect them but provides the background into history that explains how these items represent today’s society.

The areas I find interesting are the history and policies that have led to how things are today. History gives us the lessons learned as to how it was once done and the evolution of the policies that govern the way any institution is run. This is no different for the money manufacturing apparatus of the United States.

I have been on a book buying binge. If I find a book that will add to my curiosity, then it will become part of my growing library. Over the last few months, I have probably spent more on books than coins. With the exception of the few review copies (that I really should review), most of the books I buy are older and have information that I have not found anywhere else.

There are books from my new stack of older books I would like to highlight.

History of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 100 Years

Compared to the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing does not get the same love by collectors. Created as the National Currency Bureau in 1862, it became the official security printing agency of the United States government. History of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing covers the first 100 years of the agency’s history. Printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and sold for $7.00 in 1962, this book outlines the growth of the agency from cutting fractional currency printed by commercial printers to pioneering currency production including new press operations and how to create plates.

It is a beautifully produced book that stands out for its quality in both production and writing. The history of the BEP is well written with images of the process with images of some of the printing element interspersed throughout the text. Also included are intaglio printed images from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing archives. Between the pages with the intaglio prints is a tissue-like paper to help protect and preserve the images.

Although there are many good online histories of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing none of them are complete and does not include the other security printing history of the agency including bonds and stamps.

Three on Counterfeiting Currency

The most read post on the Coin Collectors Blog is “How easy is it to pass counterfeit currency.” I am fascinated that since I published that post there it has logged over 5,000 unique hits. I am sure that the post is being picked up by search engines and shown to people who are looking for illicit information. They are probably disappointed that the post is not an instruction manual, but I am fascinated that so many people would be interested.

It made me curious about the history of counterfeiting in the United States. Since I am on a book buying binge, it was time to find some interesting titles:

  • Illegal Tender, Counterfeiting and the Secret Service in Nineteenth-Century America by David R. Johnson. To save money, this is a former library book in very good condition. I have skimmed this book and it looks like it will provide a good background as to the evolution of the U.S. Secret Service. The U.S. Secret Service is a unique agency. It was formed to investigate and deter counterfeiting of U.S. currency starting in 1865. They were so well respected that they were asked to protect President Theodore Roosevelt following the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. Although many countries have divisions of their law enforcement services that investigate counterfeiting, the United States is the only country that has an agency whose mission to protect the currency from counterfeiting.
  • Banknote Reporters and Counterfeit Detectors from 1949

    Counterfeit, Mis-Struck and Unofficial, U.S. Coins by Don Taxay. While my copy has condition issues, including water damage, it is still a book written by Taxay that has to be worth reading. Since this is my most recent purchase it has been added to the “up next” queue.
  • Bank Note Reporters and Counterfeit Detectors, 1826-1866, by William H. Dillistin. Published by the American Numismatic Society in 1949, this book is a survey of experts in counterfeit detection that describes what to look for. It is also a catalog of publications in counterfeit detection and the authors. An interesting exercise may be to work on trying to find the papers and pamphlets listed in this book. I also liked the images in the back of the book that shows what to look for to detect counterfeits.

Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada

Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada by P.N. Breton

When I reviewed 2017 Canadian Circulating Coins, Tokens & Paper Money I noted that the third section of the book is dedicated to Breton Tokens. Breton Tokens refer to the coins and tokens that were documented by Pierre Napoleon Breton in 1894. Although I am not a collector of Breton Tokens it would be great to have a copy of the book. Think of it as owning a copy of “Penny Whimsy” by Dr. William Sheldon or the first edition of United States Pattern Coins by J. Hewitt Judd.

I have to admit to “picking” this book during a sale of books from my local coin club. The club is selling off items in its library that there seems to be little interest. Periodically, a few books are brought to a meeting and sold by silent auction. When Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada, I did not pay attention. I was drawn that it was an older book about Canadian coins and that it is written in both French and English. What made this book stand out is that each page had two columns with the French text on the left and the English on the right. The format was fascinating I bid and won the book. Only after I started to go through my pile this past week to prioritize my reading list did I realize what I had purchased.

Although this is not a priority read, to have a contemporary reference about Breton Tokens written by P.N. Breton should make a fascinating read.

So… what’s on your bookshelf?

Picking my own pocket

Pocket change find of three 2017-P and a 1941 Lincoln Cent

Although I have a number of stories to post and have a few articles started, I continue to look for coins for various reasons. Sure, some of the coins I find are not part of a collection I am working on. But there are a few that when they appear in my pocket change get stored in my desktop bank.

After buying lunch, the changed included four cents. When she handed the change, I looked into my hand and noticed three very shiny, red Lincoln cents and one very brown cent. A quick glance of the red cents showed three 2017-P Lincoln cents. These are the new, one-year issue Lincoln cents with the P mintmark honoring the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Mint.

For the brown cent, I had to stop a moment and turn it into the light to see it closer. The first thing I noticed is the wheat ears reverse. Nowadays, to find a wheat back cent almost as rare as finding a pre-1965 coin in change. A quick flip and an adjustment of the bifocals reveals it is from 1942, a coin still rattling around in circulation for 75 years.

1976 Washington Quarter with my favorite, the Drummer Boy reverse

While marveling about finding a wheat back cent, I move some of the other change around and noticed the distinct Drummer Boy reverse of at 1976 Washington quarter. Although there have been quite a few new designs over the last 20 years with all of the different programs, I still reach back to the 1976 Drummer Boy reverse as my favorite modern circulating coin design.

The wheatie and the Drummer Boy quarter have been dropped in my special bank. As for the 2017-P cents, they will go back into circulation for someone else to enjoy.

Whitman wants your imperfect coins

A dateless Buffalo Nickel with acid stain from a pocket change find

As a longtime numismatic blogger, I am on many mailing lists and receive many press releases and announcements. Since there are many other good numismatic news-related outlets that will publish these stories, I will leave it up to them to bring you that news. Sometimes, the announcement is interesting and worthy of a spotlight.

Whitman publishing, the people who give us the Red Book and the famous blue folders and albums, is looking for pictures of your problem coins. Here, let Dennis Tucker, Publisher at Whitman, explain:

Whitman Publishing Wants Your Imperfect Coins

(Atlanta, Georgia) — Whitman Publishing is looking for sharp, high-resolution photographs or scans of “ problem” coins to illustrate in upcoming books. Hobbyists who share their images will be credited in the books’ acknowledgments.

“Most of the time we show Mint State pieces with strong details, to give our readers a good understanding of each coin type or die variety,” said Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker. “But coins with problems can be educational, too.”

The publishing firm is looking for coins with: PVC damage; bag marks; scratches; edge bumps, nicks, or dents; holes; or extreme wear.

Image files should be at least 300 dpi at two times actual size. Scans and cell-phone photographs are acceptable as long as the image is high-resolution and clearly illustrates the coin’s problem.

Collectors with images to share can contact Dennis Tucker at dennis.tucker@whitman.com.

I do not know what you will get for contributing, probably an image credit, but it could be fun to contribute!
 

I’ll take Government Agency for 600, Alex

As seen on the Friday, February 17, 2017 edition of Jeopardy!

(contestant) Government agency for 600.

Alex: It says it’s “connecting America through coins.”

(contestant buzzes in) “What is the Treasury?”

Alex: No, sorry. Anyone else?

(silence) BEEP-BEEP!

Alex: What is the U.S. Mint.

This was the last of the quarter-finals of the Jeopardy! College tournament. One would think that even if you were not in tune with the working of the U.S. Mint like we collectors that the word “coins” would be a big enough clue. At least one person had the right department!

It’s the weekend and the weather is warming here. I won’t get into a “get off my lawn”-like rant!

Jeopardy! hero graphics courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

A junk box find that is not junk

A few weekends ago, I was out picking when someone offered to sell a box of lapel pins and buttons. Most of the buttons were modern political mainly from the 1988 election through the 2008 election. There was a mix of both major parties along with a number of local and state races, primarily from Virginia.

The box was nothing remarkable. It was originally for high-priced basketball shoes from a well-known company in the western United States. Alongside many of the political buttons were lapel pins and some sports pins. I also noticed some buttons with cute sayings. While being stuck in the fingers I was thinking that I could buy the box and use it as junk filler at a show. Just like coin dealers have junk boxes, those of us in other collectible areas have our versions of junk boxes. In this case, I can lay them out in felt-lined trays and let buyers pick over them for a dollar each.

Flag and ribbon pins always sell. So do buttons that say, “I usually don’t wake up grumpy, I sometimes let him sleep.” This gets the ladies to laugh and look at some of my other items.

After setting up the card table I use to work on this type of sorting, I dumped the box in the middle of the table. Expecting to have to sort through a few hundred pins and buttons when I noticed a 2×2 flip on top of the pile. It was a coin sitting that was sitting in the bottom of the box now at the top of the list of things to look at.

At first glance, I noticed it was not a U.S. coin and thought that it just could be an uncirculated copper-nickel coin until I looked closer. Shifting my glasses to get a better view there was no mistaking the reverse design as a Mexican Liberatad. The 1984 Libertad is clearly marked “1 ONZA PLATA PURA” (1-ounce pure silver) with the obverse declaring it from “ESTADOS UNIDOS MEXICANOS” (United States of Mexico).

I found a beautiful, uncirculated 1984 Mexico Libertad worth more than what I paid for the box!

Although I love large silver coins, I have never owned a Libertad. Did you know that the edge of the Libertad has edge lettering? It reads “INDEPENDENCIA Y LIBERTAD” (Independence and Freedom). The distinctive mintmark of the Mexico Mint is on the reverse and has an overall great look.

I almost did not buy the box!

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