This week I got my hands on a copy of Roger Burdette's new book from Whitman Publishing, A Guide Book of Peace Dollars. I'd been waiting for some time. Since I see Roger regularly I was aware of the project, and had the privilege of reviewing a set of page proofs a few months ago. It's great to see the project come to fruition.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this is the first book devoted solely to the U.S. Peace Dollar. For years the coin has been a space filler in books covering both Morgan and Peace Dollars. As Roger's research reveals, there is a marvelous story behind the creation of the coin, with plenty of details of interest to both casual collectors and advanced numismatists. The entire first half of the book is devoted to the background and history of the coin and the men who made it a reality.
Roger's book delves into many facets of the coin's creation, from ideas put forth in the American Numismatic Association's journal The Numismatist to the Commission of Fine Arts, the design competition, De Francisci's designs and models, the striking of the coins, proofs and specimens, hoards, etc.
I found the story of the "broken sword" very interesting. The New York Herald published an editorial criticizing the inclusion of a "broken sword" symbol in the design. The editorial unleashed an avalanche of letters in opposition to the design, which had already been approved by all parties involved. The political fallout led to late stage changes in the design.
Only the steady hand of George Morgan could turn the situation from failure to success. Morgan had to do more than remove the broken sword, he had to strengthen the rays, then cover as much of the re-engraving as possible so that the change was not noticeable. Part of the work was done on the hub and part on the master die.
Another highlight of the book that many have been looking forward to is the section on the fabled 1964-D Peace Dollar. Roger recounts the details of the creation of the coins attempts to solve the mystery of whether any genuine specimens survive. 45 million of the coins had been authorized by Congress; about 322,000 were struck before the orders were given to halt production and destroy all of the struck coins.
While looking up other things I happened to come across the following image of a 1964-D Peace Dollar. No, it's not an original. But could one or more originals be lurking out there somewhere? Read all about it in Roger's book!
I have few criticisms of the book, all minor. First, I think the book's title should be A Guide Book of United States Peace Dollars. Although I would prefer to see more footnotes and endnotes, I can see the point of not using them extensively since so many fact sources were already documented in the corresponding sections of Roger's Renaissance of American Coinage 1916-1921. The 1964-D chapter, which contains a great deal of new information not documented elsewhere is fortunately well annotated.
My last criticism has nothing to do with the book, but instead its cover. It's soft. I guess I'm getting picky in my old age, but I greatly prefer a hardbound book. Like my brother-in-law who tells us our small dog is "a waste of a dog", I feel that a softcovered book is (almost) a waste of a book. The copy I've had for less than a week is already dinged at the cover. Hard covers serve a real purpose - to protect the book from such indignities.
Anyway, congratulations to Roger and Whitman for a great book on a deserving coin.
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