Joel Orosz's Numismatic Bookie column from Coin World's September 22, 2014 issue is about some wonderful-sounding
numismatic book ideas that never came to be. -Editor
Three timeless American numismatic books — Charles Ira Bushnell’s
History of American Coinage; Daniel Groux’s Numismatical History of the United States; and Ebenezer Locke Mason’s
History of the Rise and Progress of Coin Dealers and Collectors in the United States — are up for discussion today.
You say you’ve never heard of these titles? You are not alone. They are “timeless” numismatic books in that they were planned, perhaps
even written, but never published.
Len Augsburger, co-author of The Secret History of the First U.S. Mint, suggested that I write about coin books that never were,
and those that were published although never finished.
Bushnell had a numismatic cabinet to die for, especially rich in tokens and medals. He was a prickly pear of a man, always eager to
quarrel with fellow collectors. One of these adversaries-turned-friends was Augustus B. Sage.
Writing in the February 1867 issue of the American Journal of Numismatics, Sage revealed that since 1858, Bushnell had been
occupied with “… a work which, if ever completed, will rank as the only authentic History of American Coinage ever published in this
country.” That turned out to be a big “if,” for Bushnell wrote some small monographs on tokens, but never published his comprehensive
One of Bushnell’s contemporaries was Daniel Groux, a Swiss émigré who owned a huge collection of coins and medals. He tried for years to
unload it, at inflated prices, to American universities or museums, but none bit.
In 1856, Groux issued a handsome prospectus for a projected three-volume set, including one volume consisting entirely of illustrations.
Groux cagily demanded that $8 accompany “pre-publication” orders for his Numismatical History, which he refused to refund after the
book failed to appear.
Groux the grifter was bad enough, but everyone’s numismatic whipping boy was Mason, whom The American Stamp Mercury and
Numismatist described as “an ignoramus who sets himself up as a man of learning.”
In the June 1879 issue of Mason’s Coin Collector’s Herald, Mason was in “man of learning” mode: “We propose, at no distant day,
to publish a History of the Rise and Progress of Coin Dealers and Collectors in the United States. …” That day proved much more distant
than planned, for Mason’s book never saw the inside of a printer’s shop.
Bushnell, Groux, and Mason — a grumpy antiquarian, a scheming salesman, and a pompous windbag — shared one unfortunate trait: they were
better at starting books than at finishing them.
While the Bushnell and Groux books could have been quite useful in their day, the information within them would likely be long surpassed
by now. But Mason's proposed volume is the most intriguing to me, and the perhaps the greatest loss to future generations. What a
shame that the stories of these early collectors and dealers weren't recorded for posterity. Today we have only scattered tiny
snippets of facts from scattered articles and Attinelli's Numisgraphics to go on for many early numismatic personalities.
I completely agree that the biggest loss mentioned in the column was Mason's history of the rise of the coin trade in the U.S.
Mason was, as one of his many critics put it, a sort of high-pressure kind of human gas bag, but he was a coin dealer on and off from
1860 nearly to the end of the 19th century, in both Philadelphia and Boston, and it was a history he knew first-hand (and wrote
tantalizing snippets about the assorted house organs he published over the years). It would have been wonderful if he had actually
written a more substantial work.
To read the complete article, see:
Timeless numismatic books that might have
been; planned but never published (/www.coinworld.com/insights/Timeless-numismatic-books-that-might-have-been.html#)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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