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BOOK REVIEWS: NATIONAL COMMEMORATIVE MEDALS OF THE UNITED STATES
Dick Johnson submitted the following review of not one, but TWO new books on National Commemorative medals. -EditorThe year 2008 will go down in numismatic book history for the publication of two books with the same title by different authors. The title "National Commemorative Medals of the United States (NCMof US)" differs only by a last word or two -- "of America" versus "Mint."
The two books will forever be confused, forever be compared and always be judged against one another. Note to numismatic authors: If you learn someone else is writing a book on the same subject as your own, try to join forces; the end product will be better than two separate books. In this instance, however, both authors tell me they were unaware of the other's effort prior to publication.
But more important, both were self published. And therein, perhaps, are lessons to be learned. Self publishing has many pitfalls. Most important: Hire an editor. You need someone else to view your work, someone who can say "Don't do that!" Perhaps you need a technical editor as well to insure numismatic accuracy.
You will also need a graphic artist who will shape your text and illustrations into an attractive package. And unless you are a marketing expert you will also need some help in getting the book sold, not just to the coin field, but also into libraries and book stores. Are you certain you want to self publish? Publishers earn every cent of profits for their combined professional efforts performing all these functions.
Let's compare the two books. Swoger covers 71 medals in 300 pages. Dean covers 69 medals in 90 pages. Obviously Swoger contains more text. Dean devotes a full page to each medal. Don't do that! I have suggested to authors often, don't put everything -- illustrations, description and background text -- into a box, full page or not. Also ditch spreadsheets. Both of these formats limit your thinking and the amount of information you can use. Create as few or as many pages as necessary to illustrate, describe and tell about each item.
Dean crammed everything into a one page for each medal with the result that the text size had to be decreased. The smallest type size my computer will allow is 8 point, Dean's must have been less than that - too small on the printed page for these old eyes. I hate to have to pick up a loupe just to read the text.
Both authors included "Turner numbers" from an earlier listing of these medals by Howard L. Turner, who ran his list in The Numismatist (July 1968) with three additional supplements (Sept 1977, Nov 1985, Nov 1989). It is convenient now to get all these consolidated between bound covers with expanded information.
Dean also put the varieties in an appendix at the end of the book instead of with the medal itself. Don't do that! Everything about an individual item should be together.
Dean overlooked one medal -- the 1970 United States Weather Service Centennial Medal -- but so did Turner. Swoger includes it (his number 205). Dean also omitted one of the 1976 National Bicentennial Medals (Swoger includes, his number 521).
However Dean includes one that Swoger omitted -- the 1962 Douglas MacArthur Medal, first issued as his Congressional Medal (Turner 11, Dean D1962-2).
Swoger, to his credit, lists a variety of the 1976 Colorado Statehood Centennial Medal, where the reverse of this medal was muled with the obverse of the Denver Mint Building Medal (Swoger 53II-X).This medal is notable in that the D mintmark is on both sides. Dean omits this medal.
Swoger also lists an extensive amount of associated items (mentioned here in E-Sylum October 8, 2008, vol 11, no 32, art 14). He does this for just about every item, as this adds interest to the series.
Swoger's shortcomings are numerous. Frequent use of lines of text in colors, frequent underlining of text and headlines, numerous lines of differing sizes, odd type faces at times trying to match type style on medals. Don't do that! Just because your computer allows you to do these things doesn't mean you should in a formal book. Further, his index is in spreadsheet format. Don't do that!
The serious collector of this interesting series of U.S. Mint medals will need to obtain both books. Dean's is modestly priced at $24.95. Swoger's is overpriced at a whopping $225. Don't do that!
Get Swoger for the extensive background material, the associated item illustrations, and the information not elsewhere available. Get Dean for its convenient size; you might even want to use a copy of Dean as a checklist, it is easily carried to a coin show for a handy want list.
Dean has a web site where ordering information is available: www.jtdean.com/USMedals/medals.html
I bought my copy of Swoger from the author. It may be available from numismatic book dealers, but Rich Hartzog is the only listing I found: www.exonumia.com/books.html
Many thanks to Dick for his double-barreled review. I don't have either book in my library yet, so Dick also kindly forwarded images of the covers. -Editor
Wayne Homren, Editor
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