The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 26, Number 30, July 23, 2023, Article 14


Julia Casey submitted this nice piece on how author Elizabeth Campbell got the idea for her book Nails to Nickels. Thanks! I wasn't aware of this background. -Editor

Nails to Nickels book cover My mother passed away last year. My siblings and I are still going through all the stuff stashed away at her house. I came across a box called "Julia's Books" and in it, I found a copy of "Nails to Nickels." I don't remember this book as a child but I love it that my mother packed it away for me. I have five older siblings and this book predates me (it's a first edition) so it could have belonged to any one of them first, but my mother made sure it got to me.

It's a wonderful children's book! I'm impressed that the author was so comprehensive in the story.

I found a newspaper article from the June 30, 1960 Norfolk Ledger-Dispatch that relates how Elizabeth Campbell got the idea for the book.

  Nails to Nickels sample pages 1
  Nails to Nickels sample pages 2

Here's the article - nice find! -Editor

Librarian Solves Dilemma No Such Book -- So She Wrote One

Nails to Nickels author Elizabeth Campbell Norfolk_Ledger_Dispatch_and_the_Portsmouth_Star_Thu__Jun_30__1960 When a librarian hasn't got a book that a reader wants, a handy solution is to order it.

Librarian Elizabeth Campbell didn't have a book that many of her readers wanted but neither could she find one to order. Her solution? She wrote a book and got it published. Mrs. Campbell is the attractive wife of Dr. W. E. Campbell, assistant superintendent of schools for business and finance. She works as a librarian at Ingleside Elementary School.

"Almost three years ago," she says "a lot of my children at the school were interested in coin collecting. They talked about it and swapped information. But when they wanted to read about coins, I found that there weren't any books written in language they could understand."

The situation got her started on the writing project. She did some research and put material together for what she planned as a small pamphlet.

"I tried to answer the questions that children had asked," she says, "in a certain sense, the book had hundreds of coauthors." When it was finished, she took a chance and sent it to a publishing house. They turned it down, saying they weren't interested in a book of that type at the moment. However, the tone of their letter to Mrs. Campbell was encouraging so she tried again.

This time the publisher was Little, Brown and the answer was acceptance. Then followed a stretch of work on the manuscript to make revisions suggested by the publisher. There were surprisingly few, Mrs. Campbell says, but she noted that the first enthusiasm of authorship wilted somewhat under the grind of rewriting and revision. Finally it was ready for the artist, and that was long enough ago so that when the finished book arrived in Norfolk this week it rekindled all of the forgotten enthusiasm.

The book is entitled "From Nails to Nickels." It's a history of American money with many eye-catching illustrations in brown and gold tones. "I tried to relate money to history, to show how events and development of money are related," Mrs. Campbell says. "I wanted to teach history as well as a hobby." The book was the first writing Mrs. Campbell had ever done other than the usual material turned out by a college student and teacher, which she has been.

But the result has put her eye on the target of books covering other "grown-up" subjects in language children can understand. The level of interest in elementary school children is high in topics such as space, she feels, and there aren't enough books children can read themselves to answer their questions. So the writing team, of Elizabeth Campbell and Ingleside school youngsters, with one success to their credit, may soon try again.

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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