Books Tell Stories of Special Coins|
February 12, 2013
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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Every collector owns a basic price guide like the Red Book, North American Coins & Prices or U.S. Coin Digest and probably many other reference volumes. Specialists in certain series own books on the Morgan dollar, the Lincoln cent, the Buffalo nickel, whatever their collecting favorite.
But special coins have had entire books written about them. Famous rarities may never be owned by the average collector, but reading these books can be the next best thing to owning one of these treasures.
The 1804 silver dollar, known as the “King of American coins,” has a special history not known to casual collectors. The story of this remarkable coin was told in the 1962 book, The Fantastic 1804 Dollar by Eric Newman and Kenneth Bressett. Meticulous research on the 1804 dollar covered the striking characteristics, including the placement of edge lettering, the discovery of the King of Siam specimen, and a list of the fifteen specimens.
A tribute edition of The Fantastic 1804 Dollar was released in 2009 on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the research for the original book. The tribute edition includes an updated list of known specimens, new information on the coin, color photos of each specimen, a biography of Edmund Roberts (who brought gift 1804 dollars to Muscat and Siam), and a remembrance written by the authors.
The Rare Silver Dollars Dated 1804 and the Exciting Adventures of Edmund Roberts by Q. David Bowers gives a detailed history of the famous coin, including biographies of just about anyone who has ever owned an 1804 dollar. The story of Roberts and his valuable gifts brought to Asia is presented in a most readable fashion.
One of the most famous rarities is the 1913 Liberty nickel. Known to collectors since 1920, this coin has a history like no other coin. Only five were struck, and all five were kept together till 1941. The five coins were reunited in 2003, after a campaign to find one missing specimen proved successful. The background of this coin, and the discovery of the long missing coin, which culminated in the display of all five nickels at the World’s Fair of Money, is told in Million Dollar Nickels by Paul Montgomery, Mark Borckardt, and Ray Knight.
A special coin steeped in controversy, history, and numismatic lore is the remarkable 1933 double eagle. Deemed illegal to hold since the 1940s, this coin makes headlines to this day. No one is sure how many 1933 double eagles still exist from a mintage of 445,500.
Two non-fiction books have been written about this historical coin. Illegal Tender: Gold, Greed, and the Mystery of the Lost 1933 Double Eagle by David Tripp, and Double Eagle: The Epic Story of the World’s Most Valuable Coin by Allison Frankel. Both books give a thorough background of this coin and the events leading up to the end of the gold standard, the coin itself becoming illegal to hold, the collectors and dealers who owned and sold these coins, and the record breaking sale of the coin.
Collectors of auction catalogs may note that the 1933 double eagle had its own catalog when it was auctioned in July 2002.
Certain rare and desirable coins have been the subject of books available to the specialist, the researcher, or for any collector who dreams of owning a true rarity. The 1794 silver dollar was explored in detail in a book by Martin Logies. A new book on the 1815 half eagle, by David Stone and Mark Van Winkle, tells the history of this unheralded rare coin. Only 101815 half eagles are known.
Every collector fantasizes about finding, owning or even stealing a rare coin. Novels exploring this theme have been written. The High Window by Raymond Chandler features a missing 1787 Brasher Doubloon. Double Eagle by James Twining tells the story of five missing 1933 double eagles.
The 1873-S Liberty Seated dollar, unknown in any collection, was the subject of two novels released in 2011. One of a Kind by Barbara Erlichman features the auction of an 1873-S dollar and the effects on family members, bidders, and the auctioneer. Wild World, which I wrote, tells the story of a young woman who inherits an 1873-S dollar, discovers its value, and finds romance in the process.
Rare coins have captivated collectors for as many years as people have collected. Books on special rarities have been popular with any numismatist who can dream of owning these wonderful pieces.
More Coin Collecting Resources:
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• The Essential Guide to Investing in Precious Metals
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