The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 48, November 29, 2009, Article 4


The December issue of the online Whitman Review announces a new book on the Morgan dollars of the Carson City mint. The full-color hardcover book has 128 pages and retails for $24.95. -Editor

Crum Carson City Morgan Dollars "A Mexican named Francisco Lopez was the first to discover gold in California, in the San Francisquito Canyon near the pueblo of Los Angeles."

Thus begins the tale of the California Gold Rush, recounted by Adam Crum, Selby Ungar, and Jeff Oxman in Carson City Morgan Dollars, a new Whitman Publishing book that goes on sale this month (December 2009).

The authors continue: "Yet it was another man's accidental discovery of gold, on January 24, 1848, northeast of Sacramento along the American River, that brought monumental change to what was then one of the farthest outposts of a young United States of America. Ironically, neither the discoverer, James Marshall, nor his employer, Captain John Sutter, were particularly enthusiastic about the find, since Sutter was at work establishing an agricultural empire and Marshall had a sawmill to build. As incredible as it may seem, the two men agreed to keep the gold a secret."

"Predictably, however, word of the discovery eventually got out. The news was met with general disbelief at first, until one Sam Brannan, a storekeeper in Sutter's Creek, paraded a bottle filled with gold dust around San Francisco, shouting ‘Gold! Gold! Gold from the American River!' His stunt ignited the gold rush, and in just nine weeks, Brannan's stroke of genius had rewarded him with a profit of $36,000. His fortune wasn't made in gold, however; Brannan had cleverly reasoned that the first person to sell picks, pans, and shovels would get a lot more gold than the average person who had to dig for it."

The struggles of adventurers in the California Gold Rush . . . the Nevada silver boom of the late 1800s . . . the creation of the Carson City Mint. These are some of the rich historical veins that Crum, Oxman, and Ungar mine in Carson City Morgan Dollars. However, it's not only the Old West history buff who will strike it rich in this book. Collectors and investors will benefit from a detailed coin-by-coin study of every Morgan dollar ever struck at the famous CC Mint, including selected VAM (Van Allen – Mallis) varieties. The General Services Administration hoard—millions of Treasury-bagged silver dollars brought out of storage in the 1970s and sold to collectors—is a fascinating "main character" in this story. The authors describe the government's sales of these coins, and their effect on the hobby. Then they share detailed advice on ways to collect Carson City Morgan dollars.

Each entry has a chart of estimated values in Mint State grades, listing prooflike (PL) and deep-mirror prooflike (DMPL) values separately.

Each "generic" (non-VAM variety) coin has a "By the Numbers" chart, which gives its original mintage, Leroy Van Allen's published estimate of the quantity in the GSA hoard, rarity rankings for GSA and non-GSA examples, and other useful facts. "Overall Rarity" is the total number of coins estimated to exist for the issue, based on the number found in the GSA hoard, the number graded by PCGS and NGC, the authors' personal observations, insider information, auction records, and what the authors call "gut instinct."

James Marshall in front of Sutter's sawmill in Coloma, California. A "Condition Census" provides the most reasonable acquisition grade for most collectors. The highest-known grade fro a given date might include 10 or more coins—then again, it might include only one or two, with perhaps dozens of examples in the next lower grade. To give the huge number of collectors of this popular series a reasonable goal, the authors used as their target grade the top 50 or so coins and called this the Condition Census. ("Though it isn't always possible to acquire the highest-graded coins in GSA holders," they note, "it's still desirable, and fun, to attempt to do so.")

"Collector Insights" give summaries of useful background information on each coin, while "Variety Notes" supply valuable information on the many die varieties known to exist for Carson City Morgan dollars in GSA holders.

With its wealth of data and expert insight, Carson City Morgan Dollars is an important new book for every Morgan dollar collector.

To read the complete article, see: The Whitman Review, December 2009 (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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