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V12 2009 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 25, June 21, 2009, Article 6

THE ONE HUNDRED GREATEST ITEMS OF U.S. NUMISMATIC LITERATURE

The latest issue of our print journal, The E-Sylum features the final installment of The One Hundred Greatest Items of United States Numismatic Literature: A Survey of the Numismatic Bibliomania Society

At the 2007 American Numismatic Association Convention, NBS President John Adams proposed a NBS survey of the greatest United States numismatic literature. A candidate list of approximately four hundred items was published in the Fall, 2007 Asylum. Readers were invited to suggest additional candidates, these were added and a final ballot was distributed to the membership. Sixty ballots were returned by NBS members, numbering the top one hundred items from one (highest) to one hundred.


The survey was organized and tabulated by Len Augsburger, who also wrote excellent descriptions of each of the 100 works. The result is an incredibly interesting and useful article. Together with Dick Johnson's companion article discussing the survey and offering suggestions and alternatives, the issue (and the one before it with the first part of the survey) are easily among the best of the journal's 25+ year run.

The survey and its outcome will likely be a topic of discussion for some time. One thing the survey disproved however, is the stereotype of NBS members as being interested only in dusty old classic books - a good number of the selected works were published only in the last twenty years or so, including the top vote-getter, which may be a surprise to many.

Here are some excerpts from the article for the top two vote-getters.

1. Breen, Walter (1988) Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins

Breen Encyclopedia Revered and reviled, Breen’s magnum opus remains the first reference of choice for American numismatists. Although justifiably maligned for technical faults and lack of supporting documentation, Breen’s breadth is staggering. Nowhere else is so much information packed into a single volume. Pre-federal, federal, territorial, commemorative, it is all here. Allowed only one book in an American numismatic library, this would be the expected choice. With copies on the secondary market selling for hundreds of dollars and no competitors in sight, this reference will endure as the standard comprehensive guide for the foreseeable future.


2. Crosby, Sylvester S. (1875) The Early Coins of America

Crosby Early Coins of America If Breen is one bookend of American numismatics, Crosby is surely the other. In 1875, Crosby had not even the use of a telephone to aid his research. On the other hand, he had access to the great collectors and collections of yore, among them Bushnell, Stickney, Parmelee, Appleton, Maris and others, all giants on the 19th century American numismatic scene. Crosby’s dive into the primary source documentation surrounding colonial issues is beyond remarkable, particularly in light of the lack of modern bibliographic resources. Coupled with his observant technical eye and capable cataloguing, this work is properly described by Davis as “the masterpiece of nineteenth century numismatic literature.”


Among the recent works named to the Top 100 is one of my favorites, and I'm glad to see it placed highly in the ranking.

28. Burdette, Roger (2006–07) Renaissance of American Coinage (vols. 1–3)

Burdette Renaissance of American Coinage 1905-1908 Burdette’s three volume masterpiece, exploring coinage designs introduced between 1905 and 1921, is instantly the standard reference on the subject. Here is the definitive word on experimental St. Gaudens’ pieces, proof Peace dollars, and the exposed breast on the Standing Liberty 1916 quarter, to name only a few. Meticulously researched from archival records and thoroughly documented, Burdette’s legacy may actually exceed the work itself if even a few new writers aspire to his methodology. Burdette utilizes to great advantage both traditional and electronic resources and is completely transparent in his presentation. The present writer recently uncovered what was surely new and interesting information, only to find the subject already well treated in Burdette – an experience we expect to occur repeatedly in the future.


Congratulations to Len and the Numismatic Bibliomania Society for producing the survey and "stirring the pot" on the topic of the best numismatic literature. New literature is added to the canon every month, and future updates to the survey will provide a window into the evolving nature of U.S. numismatic literature.

THE BOOK BAZARRE

DAVID F. FANNING NUMISMATIC LITERATURE sells rare, antiquarian and out-of-print works from all times and places. For more information, see the firm's Web site at www.fanningbooks.com .





Wayne Homren, Editor

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The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address: whomren@gmail.com

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