The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 9, March 4, 2007, Article 7


A few weeks ago I reviewed the third edition Q. David Bowers' "A Buyer's
Guide to Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States."  First
published in 1996, that book now covers all of the dollar coins of the
U.S. through the Sacagawea dollars.  Today Bowers is associated with
Whitman Publishing, and the Bowers series of Red Book guides are handy
treatments of individual coins and denominations.  This week I take a
look at Bowers' "A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars: A Complete
History and Guide."

Like the "Buyer's Guide", this 6x9 288-page paperback is quite modest
compared to Bowers' mammoth 1993 2,000+ page two-volume Silver Dollar
encyclopedia.  While not covering the Morgan Dollar in the same
encyclopedic depth, the book does offer a great deal of very readable
numismatic and historical information.  And like all of Bower's works,
the text is suitable for beginners and serious collectors alike.

Those who've read my book reviews know that as a bibliophile the first
things I look for in a new book are a bibliography, chapter notes and
footnotes.  In this regard Bowers does not disappoint, which is
impressive for what some might dismiss merely a "popular" guide to a
popular series.

This is no fluff piece - the three-page bibliography lists about a
hundred sources, and not just the "usual suspects" of Morgan dollar
works by other numismatic authors.  Bowers dives deep into his research,
and this is made plain by the bibliography.  Consulted were new
manuscripts by top researchers such as Roger Burdette, century-old
biographies of lawmakers Richard Parks Bland and John Sherman,
congressional documents, etc.

The main focus of the book is Chapter 10, a 178-page "Analysis by
Date and Mintmark".  Each yearly section opens with a couple pages
of text discussing "Morgan Silver Dollars, Rare Coins, and Life in
".  For example, the 1893 section opens with a quote from
the Director of the Mint's report on coinage law changes of that year,
and another quote from the June 1893 Numismatist on the storage of
Morgan dollars at the U.S. Treasury. Further on that topic is an
excerpt from the July "Harper's Weekly" with many more details on
the government's storage predicament.  Other information, not directly
related to dollars but interesting nonetheless, refers to a scandal at
the New Orleans Mint that year, the publication of Augustus Heaton's
"Mint Marks" books, and events such as the World's Columbian Exposition.

Subsections for each coin of that year are arranged by Mint.  Each
opens with an illustration of the coin followed by short discussions
titled "Key to Collecting", "Circulation Strikes", "Prooflike Coins",
Mintage and Distribution", and "Die Varieties".  The tabular "Whitman
Coin Guide" completes each subsection, listing prices and population
estimates by grade.

I've commented before that so many collectors of U.S. coins fail to
actually READ the original Red Book ("A Guide Book of United States
Coins"), noting that a good deal of interesting information is to be
found within its covers.  If that admonition is true for the original
Red Book, it goes triple for the Bowers Series.  Don't let the
softcover binding and low price fool you - these are no mere price

Consider the first nine chapters, which in over 100 pages cover the
designing of the Morgan dollar, Mint processes, the five Mints which
produced them, Treasury hoards, the General Services Administration
sales, grading and the marketplace, and many other topics.

The second edition has updated pricing and several new features,
including a table of contents, an expanded credits section, and a
new section on pattern Morgan silver dollars (Appendix A).

The first edition pictured one coin image on the cover: the obverse
of an 1895 Morgan dollar; this second edition's cover shows TWO coin
images: an obverse and reverse of the 1895 dollar.  This makes it easy
to spot the different editions even without the presence or absence
of the gold "2nd edition" blaze on the cover.   Will the 3rd edition
cover sport THREE coin images?

In summary, the Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars is a wonderful
book for numismatic bibliophiles and collectors alike.  Reading it
is like taking a Master's level course on the topic.  Pay attention,
and you could learn more about the series in a single sitting than
numismatists of a bygone age could have learned in a lifetime.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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