Mike Marotta submitted this review of the new edition of A Guide Book of United States Paper Money by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg. Thanks!
A Guide Book of United States Paper Money by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg (3rd Edition; Whitman Publishing, 2011; 405 pages; $24.95) is a full-color catalog of the entire array from the first interest bearing notes to finance the War Between the States, to the most recent issues of the Federal Reserve: National Bank Notes, Treasury Notes, Legal Tender Notes, Silver Certificates, and Gold Certificates.
The complex iconography and lavish art of these banknotes retell the history of our nation from Columbus to De Soto, from Pocahontas to the Pilgrims, from the Battle of Lexington to the Battle of Lake Erie. Here are the farms and farmers, the factories and mechanics, steamships and steam locomotives. Miss Electricity lights up the world, rising up from America in a whirlwind of Olympian allegory. The first aeroplane is but a shadow. These paper promises are a gallery of portraits that are almost synonymous with America: Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln. But, here, too are John Marshall and John Quincy Adams, Stephen Decatur and David Farragut, Thomas Hart Benton and Henry Clay, along with a pantheon of more and less famous generals and politicians of the Gilded Age.
The material is arranged by denomination ($1 to $100,000) and then by series. Each chapter begins with a historical summary of the denomination including collecting tips for each series. And, of course, there is a table of values by grade. In each category, the authors deliver a rich array of examples. You will find national bank notes from New York, Chicago, and San Francisco, of course, but also Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Oakland, and Honolulu, as well as Jerseyville, Rondout, and Caddo.
It is an easy challenge at numismatic quiz bowls to ask when the motto “In God We Trust” first appeared on Federal paper money. I was surprised to discover how much unpaid debt from the War of 1812 is still being carried by collectors. Whether or not you actively pursue these artifacts of commerce, this book is an important and enjoyable guide to the history of America as displayed on the fiduciary instruments of our republic.
THE BOOK BAZARRE
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