Alan V. Weinberg submitted this review of the new book by Christopher J. Salmon, The Silver Coins of Massachusetts. Thanks!
Review of Chris Salmon's The Silver Coins of Massachusetts, American Numismatic Society 2011
I've collected and specialized in Massachusetts Colonial Silver Coinage since high school (I'm now 67) . Ironically, my 20 year LAPD career (retired in 1991) commenced with the imposition of my serial # 16652 - how's that for pure coincidence?
So when I first read in The E-Sylum some months ago that a Christopher Salmon was near completion of an ANS book on Mass silver, I didn't put too much stock in it. After all, I'd never heard of Chris Salmon in numismatic circles and the Sidney Noe ANS monographs, the ANS 1991 Exhibition of Mass silver monograph, and Mike Hodder's Stacks Ford sale catalogue XII were all the references one needs for this series.
So when Tony Terranova called me two weeks ago to ask if I ordered the new book, I said no. I was no longer an ANS member, having dropped my multi-decade membership, as did others, when ANS sued for treble damages against third party innocent buyers of ANS-Sheldon-Naftzger large cents.
Tony's been a longtime good friend, numismatic counselor and source of some great coins in my collection so he said he'd mail me a copy gratis. Okay, thanks. When it arrived Priority Mail a few days later, my reaction was "Wow!". I've since learned from others that they'd also just received their books.
The sheer magnificence of this book takes the breath away. It is a coffee-table size book, approximately 12" x 10" and 293 pages thick. The plates are magnificent. Printed in China (where Whitman Publishing prints their books so they can be sold quite affordably) and really high quality.
Author/researcher Christopher Salmon, an M.D. radiologist, apparently had a great deal of cooperation from the ANS photographic files and the ANS cabinet along with Stack's voluminous photographic files of Mass silver. There was no attempt to picture in the greatly enlarged photographic plates the finest knowns, but almost all varieties are illustrated with decent quality specimens. There is an attempt to re-number the Noe / Crosby varieties into Salmon-numbered varieties and time will tell if this "takes" - but I don't think so.
There are some perceived weaknesses in the book, as there are with any book:
An awkward title: The Silver Coins of Massachusetts - why not simply Massachusetts Silver Coinage? Longtime collectors do not refer to Massachusetts colonial silver as "coins" (like so many slabbed items) but rather the more sophisticated and respectable term: "coinage".
The overuse of tongue-twister, highly technical terms sometimes sends the reader fleeing to a thesaurus or just shaking his head in confusion. But this is all too common with museum and institutional publications that seem to think that the more highly technical the text is, the more acceptable the research.
While the plates in general are superb, two of the most important images - that of the unique New England threepence in the Massachusetts Historical Society and the ex. rare NE sixpence on page 4 are third generation dot- matrix images when 1st class original photographic images are easily obtainable of these exact specimens - particularly important with the NE 3d of which a few highly deceptive modern forgeries have very recently surfaced, including one which was sent over from England for sale.
There are other weaknesses such as a failure to photograph and address the distinctive angle-sheared and filed silver edges which are diagnostic for any higher grade genuine silver shilling (the forgers often forget the distinctive diagnostic character of genuine coins' rims) when the less-important varied thinness and waviness of planchets is photographically addressed.
But overall, the book is extremely pleasant to read or just leaf through for its photographic beauty. It is crucial for any American colonial collector or early copper specialist, any enthusiast of silver hammered coinage, or even ancient coinage since Massachusetts silver is widely regarded as American "ancients" - the same aesthetics apply.
My copy arrived this week, and it's indeed a magnificent production. The first thing I did was Brodart the dust cover. For the unfamiliar, "Brodart" is a commercial term that has been popularized to the point of being a generic noun or verb ("We're Brodarting these new acquisitions"). Brodart is a library supply company and their flagship product is the ubiquitous plastic dust jacket cover.
You don't have to be a library to purchase from their catalog - anyone can do it. Several years ago I bought a package of assorted size jacket covers, and they've come in handy over the years. The above image was shot thru the jacket cover because I wasn't smart enough to scan the book first, and didn't want to take the time to remove and replace it.
THE BOOK BAZARRE
DAVID SKLOW - FINE NUMISMATIC BOOKS
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