The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 12, Number 13, March 29, 2009, Article 7


Last week David Lange asked about the illustrations in a standard work of American numismatic literature, Willem's The United States Trade Dollar. I asked about the book's dust jacket. -Editor
Willem Trade Dollar 1965

Roger Burdette writes:
I have a copy of Willem's book with the dust jacket. It looks much like yours. I think I bought it from Frank Katen.

Tom DeLorey also reports having a dust-jacketed copy of the 1965 Whitman edition.

Dave Lange writes:
I believe some readers are under the impression that the question about the Willem book's dust jacket came from me. Perhaps you should use quotation marks around the contributor's portion, because this has happened to me a number of times with E-Sylum remarks.

We publish The E-Sylum in HTML and typically my comments are displayed on a shaded background and labeled "Editor". Most quotes from readers as shown indented with a shaded vertical bar at the left. Unfortunately, these formats can get mangled or stripped out entirely depending on the reader's email browser.

When only one person is quoted in an article, often I'll preface their remarks in a shaded block and state their name, but don't add additional quotes since that seems redundant. In any event, sorry for the confusion. -Editor

Tom Wetter writes:
I can offer some info on the Willem books. I have both editions and upon comparison of the two, I must say that I completely agree with David Lange on the quality of the images. The images in the first edition are much clearer and sharper to those of the second edition.

With regards to dust jackets, my copy of the first edition has an intact, seemingly very fragile, I would say 'onion skin' or tissue-paper-like dust jacket, with no type or images on it. My second edition dust jacket uses the standard pictorial as you have pictured.

Bob Van Ryzin writes:
I, too, have both editions of Willem’s book on the U.S. Trade dollar. At least as it relates to the images of Henry R. Linderman, John Knox, and others involved in the coin’s history, the images are superior in the self-published work. The coin images also look slightly stronger in the original.

I picked up my first edition as a withdrawn book from the Oshkosh (Wis.) Public Library for 50 cents or a $1. According to a plate inside, it was donated to the library by the author in 1961. On the page prior to the contents, it notes that: “This library edition of THE UNITED STATES TRADE DOLLAR has been printed at The Marchbanks Press in a limited edition of 1,000 copies.” I wonder if there are two versions or if all copies had this notation.

The dust jacket for my 1965 Whitman copy has long since disappeared, but the book is in decent shape.

There were indeed two versions of the first edition. George Kolbe writes:
The following letter was part of a group of John J, Ford, Jr. correspondence, dated 1959, sold in the June 4, 2005 Ford Library auction. Included in lot 1091, it is described as being "an interesting letter from John Willem, explaining “my method of handling” publication of “my book on the Trade Dollar,” wherein he notes:

“First of all, I wanted to write the book in my own way. This has nothing to do with conceit... I was concerned that some outside publisher might feel very strongly about putting the story together in some other way. In order to pay for the book, I literally have to charge $10 per copy... In view of the fact that the bills are paid, I am in no hurry to sell the full complement of 500 copies... Now you ask about my distribution of the 1,000 copies to public libraries and educational institution... The library copies, almost without exception, are being donated.”

Willem alludes to the existence of two editions. Both were well-printed and nicely bound in sturdy blue cloth. Privately printed at the Marchbanks Press, one was issued in a numbered edition of 500 copies, signed by the author (and sometimes inscribed by him to numismatic worthies); the other was a “library edition” limited to 1000 copies. The library copies seem to have been largely retained by their recipients and appear far less often than their numbered cousins.

Not all that many years ago, our stock included multiple brand new dust-jacketed copies of the Whitman edition, perhaps two dozen or so. They were not easy to sell and the last one probably went out the door in the late nineties. The inexpensive binding does not lend itself well to use, although the dust jacket, to its own detriment, has served its protective role, to one degree or another.

In the "what might have been" category, John M. Willem, Jr.'s rather impressive numismatic library was sold at auction by Henry Christensen on July 11, 1975. Several months earlier, Mr. Willem had written a letter to your correspondent expressing interest in selling his library at auction. A fifty plus hour a week job, three young children, and the time required to wrap my mind around the concept resulted in an affirmative letter not being sent until several weeks had passed, by which time Mr. Willem had forged an agreement with Mr. Christensen. Seldom did I tarry so long thereafter.

Jeff Reichenberger writes:
I have the original version of the John Willem Trade Dollar book as well as the Whitman version with dust jacket. David Lange is absolutely right. The original has better halftone quality than the Whitman version. Magnified examination suggests exactly what Dave explained as second generation photos or reproductions from the original book.

It looks like the photos were ‘rescreened’, which in most cases, fuzzes up the quality. In those days, rescreening may have been thought to be a technology that should be touted as ‘better’. But clearly, in this case, it is not. The originals have clean, crisp dot structure and the reprints dots look shredded. Also adding to the poor quality of the photos in the Whitman version is the paper chosen. The original book used a sized stock, while Whitman went with a heavier stock that was not sized. ‘Sizing’ is a process that does many things to paper, among them it makes paper smooth, prevents ink from excess absorption, and makes paper less bulky and more pliable while retaining opacity.

All of these things aid in quality printing of halftones. The paper in the reprint is like that of what we used to call ‘construction paper’ when I was a kid. It’s stiff and rough and bulky. When I open my copy, several pages stand straight up. Interestingly the two books have the same amount of pages; however, the reprint is a quarter inch thicker, the result of the bulky stock. There are 6 new entries in the bibliography of the reprint. The reprint has a picture of the author on the dust jacket, the original does not. (I don’t know if the original had a dust jacket, my copy does not) The original has an Illustration index page, the reprint does not.

Thanks to everyone for their thorough comments on this issue. The jury is in - the first edition wins hands down (but I'm still fond of my dust jacket, even it is isn't as rare as I thought). And belated thanks to Mr. Willem for writing and publishing it - it's one of my favorite numismatic books. -Editor


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