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The E-Sylum:  Volume 3, Number 26, June 25, 2000, Article 6

BREEN REVIEW RESPONSE 

   Karl Moulton writes: "In response to Michael Marotta's review 
   of the Breen Encyclopedia in the June 18th E-Sylum, I'd like to 
   suggest that Walter Breen did not necessarily change the face 
   of American numismatic scholarship for the better, as Mr. 
   Marotta outlines in his glowing review. 

   While it is true that Breen was commissioned by Wayte 
   Raymond to do research in the Archives in the early 1950's, 
   which led to the first publication of Mint documents that had 
   long been ignored, the fact remains that after the initial 
   articles were written for the Numismatic Scrapbook and 
   other publications, Breen did not have access to official 
   documentation, and for the most part, relied on his memory 
   and "exalted" status for future writings, much of which was 
   pure conjecture, speculation, guesswork, and embellished 
   hypothesis. 

   When any numismatist seriously researches the early American 
   issues, it becomes clear in many instances where Breen is 
   incorrect and/or incomplete in his writings.  Contrary to the 
   earlier review, the fact remains, a majority of his writings were 
   not backed with documentary proof.  A prime example of this 
   can be seen in his original 1977 book "Encyclopedia of United 
   States and Colonial Proof Coins", which he later "revised and 
   corrected" in 1989. 

   It is absolutely amazing that an entire book length discourse 
   about early American "Proof" coinage can be construed from 
   nothing but shiny, new mint polish on the surface of a coin, 
   whether it is well struck or not.  To date, there has not been a 
   single shred of documentation to support any claim of any early 
   so-called "Proof" issues prior to the use of the close collar.  The 
  1795 Lord St. Oswald "presentation piece" story, p.33, is 
   perhaps the "highlight" of creative rhetoric from Breen.  None 
   of which is true.  For an accurate review, see the Fall 1994 
   Asylum pgs.3-7. 

   Breen was a pioneer researcher, and as such, did a credible job 
   - up to a point.  Just because a book has a fancy cover and a lot 
   of pages with illustrations doesn't necessarily make it a valuable 
   source for accurate information.  Yes, there are numerous 
   errors contained in his "Complete" Encyclopedia.  Let us not 
   continue to glorify the mistakes and oversights of Breen's various 
   works.  Numismatically speaking, anything that is not verifiable 
   from an official source, is strictly theory and nothing else.  Mr. 
   Marotta needs to heed his own words, "search for the truth rather 
   than relying on authority". 

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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