Could you build a story around the appearance of a fabled coin and make it an interesting read? We know there are true stories about the 1913 Liberty Head nickels and the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles. But what would happen if the little known 1873-S Seated Liberty Dollar was discovered and put up for auction?
Numismatist know that the Coinage Act of 1873 put the United States on the gold standard and demonetized silver. This law hurt western mining interests who wanted both gold and silver to remain in circulation. It became known as the “Crime of ’73.”
At the U.S. Mint, the branch mint in San Francisco reported that it struck 700 Seated Liberty Coins but none have ever surfaced. What happened if one was found that was a heirloom of a rich family from the west coast? Then what would happen if the patriarch dies, wills the coin to a maid/personal assistant who then consigns it to an auction that attracts worldwide attention. This is the premise of the novel One of a Kind by Barbara Erlichman.
According to her bio, Barbara Erlichman was raised in England and came to the United States intending to work her way across America. Arriving in New York, she met her future husband and they started a rare coin business. Based in New York, they traveled throughout the United States and Europe buying coins and collectibles. When she contacted me about her book, she and her husband retired to Florida and this this is her first book.
One of a Kind weaves together four plot lines surrounding the auction of this one of a kind coin. Adam Sloan is the son of the business man who died and left the coin, a family heirloom, to his maid. Sloan, who is successful running the family business in his own right, wants the coin back because of its family heritage. Claire Waring, the efficient assistant of the head of the company handling the auction, has a personal stake in wanting this auction to go well. Ex-union boss Salvatore Corelli and his daughter Lucia returns to New York from their self-imposed Florida exile where Salvatore was convalescing after having two heart attack, to add this one last coin to his collection. Howie Roth is a vest pocket dealer, working the shows just to make it through his life, comes up with a scheme to try to get the coin before the auction. Finally, Lord Welton, whose passion are unique items, brings his American wife “back home” in his quest for the elusive coin.
Claire, who was tasked with organizing the auction, becomes a central focus as the lot viewing begins four days before the auction. As the organizer, she meets with each of the potential bidders as they view the lot and with Adam Sloan, who was trying to convince the auction house not to auction his family’s prized possessions.
With everyone in New York and vying for this prize, Lucia, whose physical appearance is first described in a less than flattering light, meets Howie and Lord Welton’s personal aide. Lucia falls for both but did not like ones approach over the other. She ends up falling into the arms of one of these men whose life changes from then on.
After arguing with the auction house and being stood up to by Claire, Adam Sloan becomes intrigued with her but finds out that her situation is more complicated than expected. Still, Adam pursues Claire almost losing interest in the coin. Then Lady Welton comes in to make the interaction interesting.
In the mean time, Howie looking for easy money convinces Salvatore Corelli to go along with his scheme until Lord Welton somehow finds out and makes Corelli an offer he cannot refuse.
Intrigued? You will have to read One of a Kind to find out more. Most of the interactions between these story lines in pursuit of the coin are nicely woven. The romance that is struck between some of the parties seem a little shallow. While certain passages make this book adult reading, some of these encounters seem like they move too quickly.
As for the description of the auction, the circumstances around the auction, the life of a dealer, coin shows, and the attitudes of all involved, Erlichman relies on her many years of experience traveling with her husband to coin shows to make the scenes more realistic. Her English heritage and life in New York City also adds to the richness of how the characters interact, especially when dealing with collecting coins. Erlichman’s handing of the setting allows the reader to absorb the story without the background becoming a distraction.
By the way… you have to read the book through the “Epilog” in order to find out what really happened to this one of a kind coin. It is a worthwhile twist!
I do not read fiction that often. Aside from my numismatic interests, my interest in history and politics have been filling the ebook apps on my iPad. After receiving a copy of the book from the author, I decided I would finished reading other books I started to concentrate on this one. Since this is not a numismatic book but a work of fiction surrounding a numismatic setting, I am giving One of a Kind a specimen grade of SP67 (remember, the Sheldon scale is based on 70 points) downgrading it just a little because the relationship development seems a little shallow. Over all, the book is a comfortable read for those interested in numismatics. New Yorkers, or transplanted New Yorkers, should also feel a home with the mental image of the scenery. If you are uncomfortable with the description of sexual encounters, then you could scan past those passages—these sections are not overly graphic but not suitable for younger people. Otherwise, you should enjoy reading One of a Kind.