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The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 25, June 20, 2010, Article 6

BOOK REVIEW: INDIAN GOLD COINS OF THE 20TH CENTURY BY MIKE FULJENZ

Donn Pearlman forwarded the following press release about a new book on U.S. Indian Gold Coins by Mike Fuljenz. He also kindly forwarded a review copy (thanks!), and my thoughts follow the press release. -Editor

Indian Gold Coins of the 20th Century A new book by award-winning numismatic author Mike Fuljenz, Indian Gold Coins of the 20th Century, looks at the history of the popular Indian Head design $2.50 ("Quarter Eagle"), $5 ("Half Eagle") and $10 ("Eagle") denomination gold coins, and provides useful information and expert advice for collecting some of America's most beautiful and popular rare coins.

A detailed, date-by-date analysis with color illustrations gives readers pertinent descriptions about the history of each date and mintmark as well as important comments about strike, luster, color and eye appeal. Fuljenz includes Overall Rarity and Uncirculated Rarity rankings tabulated from Numismatic Guaranty Corporation and Professional Coin Grading Service population reports for grades MS62 to MS65. There also are consumer education tips about protecting coins from theft, and the best ways to sell gold coins.

Fuljenz examines the intriguing historical background and the controversies involved in the introduction of revolutionary new U.S. gold coin designs spurred by President Theodore Roosevelt in the early 20th century. The first production of Indian Head $10 coins in 1907 and early 1908 did not contain the motto, IN GOD WE TRUST, until Congress legislated its return.

"Teddy Roosevelt launched an artistic renaissance in American coin design that swept across all denominations," Fuljenz explains early in the 258-page book. "Roosevelt made no secret of his contempt for the colorless drudges at the U.S. Mint headed by chief engraver Charles E. Barber. Barber's designs exhibited all the excitement of a cold, soggy bowl of oatmeal."

The President turned to acclaimed artists Bela Lyon Pratt and Augustus Saint-Gaudens to create new coin designs. Pratt designed the Quarter Eagles and Half Eagles minted from 1908 to 1929, and Saint-Gaudens created the design for Eagles produced from 1907 to 1933 (as well as the iconic $20 Double Eagle design of 1907 to 1933 that collectors today simply refer to as "Saints" in his honor).

Fuljenz writes: "Winning a mandate to the presidency on his own merit in the 1904 election, Roosevelt was emboldened to commit what he called his 'pet crime' of transforming United States coinage to a state of pride and respect even if it meant trampling roughshod over the established inbred Washington political cliques."

A frequent interview guest on radio and television news and personal finance programs, Fuljenz is President of Universal Coin & Bullion, Ltd. in Beaumont, Texas and serves on the Board of Directors of the Industry Council for Tangible Assets. He is the recipient of 30 national awards from the Numismatic Literary Guild.

Published by Subterfuge Publishing, Indian Gold Coins of the 20th Century by Mike Fuljenz (ISBN:10-0981948898) has a suggetsted retail price of $14.95. Copies are available by calling toll-free at (800) 877-3273.

Fuljenz' latest book is a 258-page softcover covering the three U.S. Gold coins with Indian Head obverse designs:
  • Quarter eagles ($2.50) 1908-1929
  • Half Eagles ($5.00) 1908-1929
  • Eagles ($10.00) 1907-1933

It's nicely designed and illustrated with large color photos throughout. The Foreword by Ed Reiter notes that the author had previously written separate books on the Indian Eagle and Quarter Eagle. "Now he has updated the contents of those two books and combined them in a single volume, along with totally new text on the third 20th-century coin..."

That note explains my main puzzlement in first reading the book - the sense of déjà vu as the story of how the assassination of McKinley thrust the young Teddy Roosevelt into the Presidency, already nicely explained in pages 1-3, was rehashed in different words on pages 37-38.

The book was published by "Subterfuge Publishing, Where Everything is Not Always As It May Seem", according to their web site at http://www.subterfugepublishing.com/.

I think the book is fine for its intended purpose - an introduction and guide for purchasers of these coins. The date-by-date analysis discusses the mintage and availability of each coin in various uncirculated grades, typical wear spots, luster and coloration. As a dealer Fuljenz has experience handling large quantities of these coins, and solicited input from other dealers as well, including Doug Winter, Scott Travers and Paul Montgomery.

The main drawbacks I see with the book could have been addressed with better editing. The repetition of the McKinley story is just one example - there are several things that I think another editor would have addressed immediately, beginning with the title itself. "Indian Gold Coins of the 20th Century" is an ambiguous title that could be referring to coins of the Indian subcontinent as easily as those of the U.S. Although plenty of numismatic books have this problem, it would have been easy to clarify by prefixing the title with "United States."

A less obvious problem, but a glaring one for bibliophiles is the misspelling of Reiter's Foreword as "Forward". It's an understandable error and easy to make, but it looks bad when appearing in a printed work.

Some sections of the book just don't seem to belong. I suppose there are reasons to include two pages on "7 Different Places to Quickly Sell Your Gold Coins and Jewelry", but the last chapter (titled "Identity Matters") discusses such far-afield topics as the Buffalo Nickel, the 1918 Illinois Centennial Half Dollar and "The French Origins of the Dixies and the Dimes."

Ordinarily I tend to peruse a new book from back to front, first checking for the presence of a detailed bibliography and notes indicating the level of research done by the author. I didn't do that this time, but I was taken aback by what I found when I got there. The book does have a bibliography, but of the approximately 90 entries, over 80 are web pages (including The E-Sylum archives). The few actual books cited include the Breen Encyclopedia, the Garrett/Guth gold coin encyclopedia, Coin World Almanac, and the "Red Book."

Wait a minute. I rechecked the bibliography. No mention of Roger Burdette's Renaissance of American Coinage. No book on the topic of early 20th Century U.S. coinage should be written without consulting Burdette's RAC.

E-Sylum readers will have varying opinions (and I'd love to hear them) about the use of Internet resources. I use them myself all the time, and as time goes on more and more primary sources will become available on the web. But even in 2010, primary sources are limited online, and books that rely primarily on Internet research are necessarily derivative.

In summary, this is a book for readers who want an introduction to the series, but it's not the place to expect groundbreaking archival research (or even references to groundbreaking archival research). And I guess that's OK - there is room for all types of books in the numismatic sphere. I just won't discard my set of Burdette to make room on the shelf for this one. -Editor


Wayne Homren, Editor

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