The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 34, August 22, 2010, Article 8


Dick Johnson submitted this review of John Adams' book on the medals of Admiral Vernon. Thanks! -Editor

Adams, Medallic Portraits of Admiral Vernon Of the several speeches I attended at the Boston ANA Convention the most notable one was delivered by John Adams on his and senior Fernando Chao's new book. Medallic Portraits of Admiral Vernon. I was familiar with this series since 1951, when I had met the greatest collector of this series, Leander McCormick-Goodhart, and later acquired the issue of Stack's brief serial publication, Numismatic Review, which contained M-G's catalog listing of this series. (He had amassed over 10,000 of these pieces with about 1,000 different.)

The present authors have brought this series into sharp focus, in contrast to many of the specimens which are often obscure, difficult to identify, or sheer vagueness of design or devices. The authors should be commended for recognizing portraits that are almost blobs of metal (technically a boss) and identifying devices that are often indistinct. Lesser numismatists would have given up in despair over such frustrating cataloging endeavors. Fortunately, the legends were more easily transcribed, which the authors have performed with amazing accuracy.

The cataloging numbering system is unique and the cataloging format is new and ideal. I must admit I am a cataloging numbering system and format freak. I like to study these for their usefulness and possible adaptation to other series. The catalog numbering system for this series, however, will remain unique to this series alone. Each catalog number contains three elements: location (in capital letters), who is portrayed (in lowercase letters), and a serial number-letter (number-hyphen-letter) identifying the specific variety.

The format on the other hand can serve as a model for future numismatic works. The catalog number is centered in black with a red line (printers call that a rule) over and under the number. Obverse photo to the left, reverse photo to the right, with pertinent data listed between: size, composition, rarity, type, source of photo.

Under each photo is first legend, flagged in red, delineated in bold type, then a description, noted as "devices" also in red. Below are comments and additional data of any kind applicable to that variety. Generally two such medals are displayed and described per page in this uniform arrangement. It makes for very easy reading and reference.

The early chapter on "history of the events" -- written by collaborator Anne E. Bentley -- places all these specimens in historical perspective.

I was also in admiration of the appendices. Here is the collector lore that is so desirable by numismatists. We find: data on metals, engravers, concordances with previous listings, sources of images from public collections, census, collectors and collections, plus a discourse on grading these pieces. Great charts and data in all. And finally, an extensive bibliography.

The authors have covered the subject so thoroughly that little could be added. The book answers any question a collector could ask of this series. While it has taken two centuries of their existence for this book to appear, it might take another century for a second or subsequent book to add anything not in the present work.

The two authors have never met in person. They expect to shortly as Dr. Chao visits America to meet with John Adams. Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall for those conversations!

What is not answered in the book is this one question: What is the meaning of the "(h)" after Dr. Fernando Chao's name every time it is used? I had the opportunity to ask that of speaker Adams during Q&A following his talk. It means "junior" -- for the word in Spanish. Frank Campbell, former ANS librarian who was seated in front of me, turned around and repeated the word to me with amplified meaning.

Well if Dr. Chao can have a letter after his name, I proposed a letter after John Adams' name. That letter should be "A+" -- his grade for the present work!

Dick Doty offers one possible improvement. He writes:

I only wish John Adams had included information on manufacturers of Vernon medals. Are they ever punch-linked to other medallic pieces or counterfeit regal coppers? I have a hunch they are. Are they all from London, or were many struck elsewhere (e.g., Birmingham, Bristol)? The author's rendered Numismatics a considerable service to be sure. But there's still a ways to go before we can really understand this series.

To read an earlier E-Sylum review (with ordering information), see: BOOK REVIEW: MEDALLIC PORTRAITS OF ADMIRAL VERNON (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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