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The E-Sylum:  Volume 3, Number 25, June 18, 2000, Article 6

REVIEW: BREEN'S ENCYCLOPEDIA 

   Michael E. Marotta writes: "Walter Breen's "Complete 
   Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins" changed the 
   landscape of American numismatics. Before this book was 
   published, the most authoritative research appeared in 
   auction catalogs.  There, the assertions, however right they 
   might have been, were seldom backed by documentary 
   proof. Walter Breen changed that. 

   The Breen Encyclopedia brought academic scholarship 
   to American numismatics. Breen footnoted his claims with 
   supporting evidence from primary sources. This is how we 
   learned to write term papers -- and the Breen Encyclopedia 
   is nothing if not a 750-page term paper (with 4000 illustrations). 

   Breen completed a four year degree in one year at Johns 
   Hopkins University. He was brilliant.  His genius shines through 
   this work.  He does have his prejudices and quirks. He saw 
   paranoia and conspiracies in other people quite readily. However, 
   his editorial assertions are easy to cull.  The Breen Encyclopedia 
   came out in 1988. In the last 12 years, some new facts have 
   surfaced. For instance, we now believe that among the Shield 
   Nickels, Judd 417 and 419 are back-dated fantasies and Breen 
   2466 may be a mule fantasy. These little amendments cannot 
   detract from the overpowering value in the Breen Encyclopedia, 
   but instead, prove that all numismatists must continually search for 
   truth rather than relying on authority. The publication of the Breen 
   Encyclopedia deserves to be noted among the greatest events in 
   the last 100 years of American numismatics." 

   Breen's Encyclopedia is undoubtedly a landmark work.   But 
   the review raises a couple of questions that may be of interest 
   to E-Sylum subscribers: 

   1.  How "easy to cull" are Breen's "editorial assertions"? 
   2. What would you nominate as the other great 
       "events in the last 100 years of American numismatics"? 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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