Fred Reed provided this review of a new book with connections to U.S. numismatics. It's on U.S. Civil War soldier identification discs. The forerunner of "dog tags", these metal discs are closely related in design and manufacture to Civil War tokens. -EditorCollectors of Civil War-era numismatics have an exciting new reference catalog to consult in building their collections. McFarland & Co. has released Identification Discs of Union Soldiers in the Civil War by Larry B. Maier and Joseph W. Stahl.
This 222-page, hard-bound volume is both a guide to this somewhat neglected series, and also provides an illustrated history of the genre. Nearly 50 different types of Civil War ID tags are cataloged. The book is heavily illustrated, offering nearly 400 large, clear photographs to differentiate varieties.
As many readers know, these identification discs were sold to troops by sutlers (private merchants who followed the troops' movements). The discs were manufactured by the principal die sinkers of the period, including Joseph Merriam, S.D. Childs, Frederick B. Smith, Robert Lovett Jr., and George H. Lovett. Most obverses feature patriotic eagles and shields, or military figures such as generals McClellan, Banks, Grant, Sigel, Hooker, Sherman, Scott, or George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. The soldiers identification data was engraved on the reverse.
These private ID medals were the forerunner of military-issued ID tags. As an iconic symbol of the American GI, the dog tag has gained considerable cultural recognition, Maier and Stahl write. This book returns to the origins of the dog tag with an in-depth look at all 49 styles.
In addition to a catalog and general history, the authors provide military career details for dozens of issued ID discs, and a census of 615 known specimens by type. Rarities are given based on the census results. The issue of price can be controversial, they caution. Breakouts of known pieces by unit and style of disc are listed. The work also provides a chapter on ID disc authentication.
Authors Maier and Stahl are Civil War interpreters. They pack their volume with a great deal of historical research, provide extensive and interesting end notes, a lengthy bibliography, and a detailed index. The foreword is by Civil War historian Edward Bearss.
List price is $55. Orders can be placed toll free at 1-800-253-2187, or via the publishers web site www.mcfarlandpub.com .
Fred adds that the authors reference one of Dick Johnson's E-Slum submissions: To read the complete article, see: HOW MUSEUMS HANDLE DIES: THE SCOVILL DIE EXPERIENCE (http://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v09n09a15.html)
Wayne Homren, Editor
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