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Revisiting A Timeless Standard Book

Written by Q. David Bowers, Chairman Emeritus

Author: Stack's Bowers Galleries / Monday, March 25, 2013 / Categories: From the Desk of Q. David Bowers
Upon my return from the dynamic Whitman Coins & Collectibles Expo in Baltimore, I found a copy of the latest issue of Numismatic News,dated March 19. Reading through it I enjoyed the article about the New Hampshire quarter launch by Bob Fritsch, who with a number of other numismatists was on hand at the event two weeks ago. Then I came to page 6, David C. Harper’s editorial, which I reprint herewith. A nod to Dave Harper for his nice words. The following comments are his:

Hardly a week goes by without a new book being published on some aspect of numismatics -- coins, tokens, medals, paper money and the like, American and foreign, not to overlook ancient coins. Today in 2013 a basic American numismatic library is essential to being a smart buyer and, equally important, to enjoying the coins in your collection or those you anticipate purchasing. The history of many pieces can come alive simply by reading about them.

There is one book that is certainly among the ten finest American references ever written. It is Early American Coins, by Sylvester S. Crosby, published in 1875. Crosby, a watchmaker, jeweler, and dedicated numismatist, was commissioned to write a book describing all aspects of early American coinage, including legislation, contemporary economic situations and, of course, the coins themselves. After years of unstinting work the book was published.

Today it is the main source in print (actually reprint) form for general information on the cover topic. Although many new varieties have been discovered since and certain information has been revised, Crosby remains standard.

When I first began my interest in numismatics I set about building a library. A copy of Early American Coins was among my first purchases. I sat down, read it from cover to cover, and was absolutely enchanted with coinage from Massachusetts silver onward. Particularly fascinating was the description of Machin’s Mills, a private mint located on the shore of Orange Pond near Newburgh, New York, that turned out counterfeits of various British and other coins.

Today there are quite a few reprints of Crosby available, including some cheap productions that can be found on the Internet. If you are seeking an example I recommend that you contact a standard numismatic bookseller, such as a member of the Numismatic Bibiomania Society, and acquire a nice hardbound copy with quality illustrations. I guarantee you will find it to be worthwhile.