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The E-Sylum:  Volume 9, Number 21, May 21, 2006, Article 16

BOOK REVIEW: DAUGHTREY'S "LOOKING THROUGH LINCOLN CENTS"

Perhaps I should call the E-Sylum book review section "Looking
Through Numismatic Literature."  This week I spent some time
looking through Charles D. Daughtrey's book, "Looking Through
Lincoln Cents: Chronology of a Series (Second Edition).
Published in 2005 by Zyrus Press, the 333-page paperback covers
the wide realm of die varieties of the longest-lived of American
coin designs, the Lincoln Cent.

It's obvious that the author indeed spends a lot of time "looking
through Lincoln Cents"  Chapter 5, "Efficient Sorting" is devoted
to enabling readers to separate large numbers of mixed coins by
date and mintmark with the least amount of effort.  "The most
efficient method I have found ... involves a slight paradigm shift
from the conventional method of sorting by decade first, then year,
then by mint."  Having sorted coins in exactly that "conventional"
way for years, I was curious to learn the author's solution.
Because the cent has been produced for so many decades, it turns
out that some time and effort can be saved by first sorting by the
last digit of the date, then the next-to-the-last digit, etc.  A
short chapter, but one offering a very practical bit of advice.

The author notes in his preface that "this book is not an
exhaustive attribution guide for all Lincoln cent die varieties.
It is, rather, an attempt to provide a general overview of the
series, year by year." For a more complete reference, the author
suggests his web site, www.coppercoins.com.

The book and web site are a great example of online/offline synergy,
with each medium providing what is does best - the book is indeed a
handy, uncluttered guide to the basic die varieties, and the web site
is an ever-expanding archive of greatly detailed information and
images which would be impossibly unwieldy in book form (although as
noted in earlier E-Sylum issues, the author has embarked on a process
of publishing his complete work in loose-leaf format).

The book opens with a brief description of the die-making process.
Chapter 1, at three pages, is far too brief to adequately cover the
topic, but does serve as an appropriate introduction to beginning
variety collectors.  The book does not, however, indicate where to
look for more information on die making, and the bibliography lists
a scant seven books.  However, most of the information in the book
originated with the author, so the dearth of references is not a
major shortcoming.

Other early chapters explain the basics of doubled dies, grading
and the author's Lincoln Cent die variety attribution system. The
major chapters divide the series into three eras: The Early Years,
1909-1933, Modern Wheat Cents 1934-1958, and the Memorial Cents
1959-2004.

At the heart of the book are the countless microphotographs of
coins with closeups of the key features for each listed variety.
One can only imagine how differently the classic works of numismatics
would have been written had such photographs been so inexpensive to
create and publish in decades past.  What would Clapp have published?
Or Newcomb?

I'm not a variety collector myself, so I cannot make an authoritative
evaluation of the book's accuracy, but it is obvious that the author
has a deep familiarity and affection for the topic.  There is no
better reason to write a numismatic book, or to read one.  I'm glad
to have it in my library, and hope to refer to it with my sons someday
if they pick up the urge to "look through Lincoln cents".

One point the author makes I can agree with wholeheartedly.  He states
"It is my opinion that all 1922 "no D" Lincoln Cents are common, grease
filled or worn out dies, and that none of them should have ever gained
the attention or the value they currently demand." (p93)

In the concluding chapter, "Advice To Collectors", the author notes
"I have but scratched the surface into what I believe to be one of
the most fascinating, yet tedious hobbies I have ever encountered....
I have spent 25 years looking for the elusive doubled dies and
repunched mintmarks.  In that time, I have found countless valuable
varieties.  But there are still a number of them I have been searching
for throughout that 25 years and still have not found."

This is an honest and fitting summary of the numismatic niche that
is die variety collecting: tedious indeed, but a fascinating and
never-ending byway of our hobby.  I'll look forward to an updated
edition if and when the Lincoln cent takes its final bow from the
stage.

See the publisher's web site for more information: Full Story

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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

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