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David C. Harper's Editorial Book Review

Written by Q. David Bowers, Chairman Emeritus

Author: Stack's Bowers Galleries / Tuesday, March 19, 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:

Bowers book shows great timing

When a book arrives in my mailbox that is written by Q. David Bowers, I stop and take notice. He is not simply well known for his prodigious output, but also for the quality of the information in his work. And most importantly, he tells a good story.

Where would I be if I had not encountered his books at an early age? I don’t know. The fact is that I did find his work as a teenager and it helped convince me (as if I needed further convincing) that numismatics was a great field to be active in.

Naturally I am predisposed to like his work. Others perhaps are not, but he has a great sense of market timing, too.

The new book is a second edition of The Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars 1794-1804.

What better title is there to update than this one just after a 1794 silver dollar was sold at auction for $10 million?

Now I know that not everybody can buy a $10 million coin. I know I sure can’t. I also know that not every collector can buy any of the silver dollar dates covered by the book.

But everybody can appreciate learning about the American silver dollars as taught by Dave Bowers.

The first chapter, which lays out the historical background of the American silver dollar, is written by R.W. Julian, another writer I am partial to and whom I’ve had the privilege to work with for my 35-year career.

But the book is not just a story book. It is a guide book as well. What collector would want it any other way?

Novice collectors quickly become acquainted with the essential questions that must be asked of any coin: how many were minted, how many survived and what the value is. Bowers answers the first two and gives a yardstick in the form of rarity ratings to help us determine what a dollar is worth.

This is a reasonable alternative to prices in a book that might be on a collector’s shelf for two decades as the first edition was. Besides, there are other books that are published annually to update prices.

If you look up the 1794 dollar that was recently sold, you will find the notation that there is just a single specimen known in Die State I where the dies are perfect. This information alone helps the reader understand why such a con might require its potential owners to throw away the price guide when they are bidding on it.

Also, if you ever wanted to understand all of the many considerations that must be taken into account by auction catalogers when they attribute coins in a sale, this book is a terrific how-to guide.

The best part about this kind of information is that it is never out of date. If you want to know how to assign BB catalog numbers, it’s in there.

Every collector should buy a copy or, better yet, buy one for someone who is looking for a career. Once they master the contents of this book, they probably could become a job candidate for Stack’s Bowers Galleries, publisher of the book and well known auction firm.