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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 14, April 6, 2008, Article 4

BOOK REVIEW: THE ROBERT BASS COLLECTION OF PIONEER PATTERNS

'The Robert Bass Collection: The Finest Collection of Pioneer
Patterns Ever Assembled' is a great little monograph published
by Kagin's.  It describes the collection of pioneer coinage
patterns assembled by Robert Bass.  The 89-page perfect-bound
softcover reference is printed on glossy paper with full color
photographs of the items.

In a foreword to the catalog Bass writes: "My interest in Pioneer
Patterns began many years ago.  At first I just bought books on
the subject to educate myself.  Then I went on to establish an
extensive library. From those books, the stories of the mining
camps and the primitive life that was part of the Gold Rush Era
took hold of my imagination and I was hooked."

"It was fascinating to me the way gold dust was used as a medium
of exchange and then later on the private assayers would establish
their own mark on currency.  How extraordinary!  The more I read
the more I knew I wanted to find these early patterns and start
 my own collection."

"My research taught me that pioneer Gold coins were scarce,
but the patterns were even scarcer."

In the preface which follows Don Kagin writes: "When I purchased
his pioneer gold collection in 1999 it was the finest in the
world but he could not bring himself to relinquish the patterns.
... Robert wanted to acquire every piece listed in my reference
book, Private Gold Coins & Patterns of the United States."

As his health declined in 2006, Bass finally decided to sell,
having "assembled  75% of all pioneer patterns issued including
all denominations and varieties and a substantial amount of
restrikes, counters, counterstamps, and even fantasies -- well
over twice that of anyone else in history."   Kagin's firm
spent over a year "studying, researching, weighing, grading
and analyzing these specimens" to create the present reference.

In a footnote, Kagin indicates that "over fifty items,
including numerous unique fantasies and other items" listed
in his book "have been left out of this reference pending
additional research."  Many of these pieces will be addressed
in Kagin's upcoming revised Pioneer Gold Coin book, which
is underway.

The monograph is promotional in nature, but I don't hold that
against it. It is meant more as a sale catalog than a reference
work.  It has relatively little text and no footnotes or
reference citations.  Nevertheless it is a very interesting
and useful overview of this narrow, yet fascinating and
important area of U.S. numismatics.  The color photos are
nice, and the layout is very attractive.  I enjoyed learning
(and re-learning) about a number of interesting items, and
I'll list a couple here.

At the back of the book (one of my favorite places to find
great information) is a page on counterstamps picturing two
counterstamps of H.H. Pierson, a dentist who worked for coiner
Ormsby & Co.  The text says "O.H. Pierson" in error -- the
stamp looks like "H.H. Pierson" to me.  Brunk's book on
counterstamps lists "H.H. Pierson" and identifies the two
known undertypes which match the photos in the Bass book.

The Bass book describes a number of issues "probably struck
in Birmingham" [England] such as the one piece for the San
Francisco Standard Mint and a set of beautiful issues for
"San Francisco, State of California." The collection also
includes known fantasies and the original dies made for
Steven Nagy to strike Baldwin & Co, fantasies around 1900.

The booklet concludes with a seven-page spreadsheet listing
descriptions and pedigrees for each piece.  All in all, a
nice reference to have on the shelf alongside the pioneer
gold books of Edgar Adams, Don Kagin, Dan Owens and others.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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