Jeffrey P. LaPlante submitted this double review of two new books on the Eisenhower dollar. Thanks!
DOUBLE BOOK REVIEW: The Little Book of Collectible Eisenhower Dollars and Collectible Ike Varieties Facts-Photos-Theories by The IKE Group
On January 25th 1971, the monthly issue of Numismatic Scrapbook arrived in collectors mail boxes across America. A short article in this issue described to
readers how the passage of a banking bill by Congress, with an amendment attached at
the last second, had created the new Eisenhower or "Ike" dollar. The new dollar was
originally intended to commemorate America's top General during WWII, and the 34th
President of the United States.
When the coin was introduced to the American people there was a resounding
thud as the weight of the coin fell right to the bottom of bank vaults and stayed there.
Nobody wanted the heavy, cumbersome looking coins. However in the forty years
since its introduction the coin has made somewhat of a comeback as a collectible. It is desired for two main reasons, the forty percent silver in some of the design types and the many and varying design types and varieties created by a somewhat flawed minting process.
The Eisenhower dollar has also been discovered by an esoteric group of collectors
called the Ike Group. The Ike Group is Rob Ezerman, David Golan,
Herb Hicks, Gary Hoop, Andy Oskam, William Sanders, and Brian Vaile. In their own
words the Ike group is "from various professions, all with a compelling interest in the
Eisenhower dollar coin. In a nut shell, our eight members include two retired physicians,
two metallurgical engineers, a teacher, an ultrasound scientist, a certified genius, three
strong entrepreneurs and a snake and 'gaiter hunter," (Ike Group, 2011).
It seems to me after studying their website and reading the IKE group's two books
the Ike Group's mission is to gently sway the opinion of the third party graders from one
of a passive nature to one of an active nature in regards to Ike die varieties. The group
affectionately calls this work its DIVA program. DIVA stands for Designated Ike
Variety. It has been the mission of the Ike group since 2008 when they formed, and
continues to be so to this day and on the fortieth anniversary of the Eisenhower Dollar the
group has published two books as a compilation of their work from 2005 to present.
In 2005 Brian Vaile and Rob Ezerman got together to discuss peg leg Ikes, and
out of this conversation a discussion brewed about "the friendly eagle variety" as the
group called it. A short note to those members of CONECA and other die variety
specialists: this is known as a Reverse Design Variety and is labeled RDV-006
Rob Ezerman combined that conversation and a ton of data into an article in
the Numismatist July 2007 issue. The members of the IKE group have contributed
numerous articles to Errorscope and the Numismatist periodicals and
these are at the core of their newest project and coin book called
Collectible Ike Varieties Facts-Photos-Theories, which is authored by the group as a whole.
They have also published a smaller book called The Little Book of Collectible
Eisenhower Dollars which will be useful at coin shows and auctions. This smaller version is written by the group as a whole and edited by Bill Sanders. The Ike group takes a risk by lumping varieties in with errors but by doing so saves the reader from having to view other source material in their collecting challenge.
The little book has twenty three
chapters with each chapter about 3-5 pages in length with very good photographs in black
and white. The images and markers for the pick-up points are clear and to the point with
values listed for the popular grades. There is one glaring issue with this volume and it
is the organization. The chapters are more like short stories and the Little book is not
numbered in a conventional way but the table of contents is straightforward and for a
smaller volume this is acceptable.
If you are really into error collecting and die varieties then you will want
to get your hands on Collectible Ike Varieties Facts-Photos-Theories as the group calls their magnum opus. If you want to find out more information on metallurgy, tool
and die making, and the whole minting process you will find a wealth of information in
the Big book. Chapter 25 is especially helpful for theories concerning annealing, planchet
metallurgy, die hardening, and steel alloy composition. This is by far the most in depth
discussion I have ever read on the subject without attending formal training.
It is clear the group members are intelligent and this might actually be one of the
failings of this volume, if there are any. The amount of work that has gone into this
volume over the years is simply amazing. In Chapter 32 there is a review of the
incomparable Del Romines theory on determining die states. There are many other
chapters which required the painstaking research of United States Mint records, with
discussions of behind the scenes decisions, and work processes.
The group has a unique method of describing Eisenhower die varieties as
mentioned earlier in that common nomenclature used by the die variety collecting
community and nomenclature used by the IKE group may be a bit challenging at first, as
one must get used to the Ike groups use of terms. Names like friendly eagle, tiger claw,
and shadow Ike will seem strange to some, but after reading the descriptions it soon
becomes evident enough.
The only other issue I have with the big book is the organization. There is no
index and cross referencing so much material is difficult for the novice. This volume like
the Little book also has chapters like short stories and each chapter is numbered starting
at one. This leaves no way for a body to look into the table of contents and go to a
particular page - one needs to skim through the whole book in order to find a chapter and
then look at the page numbers which at this point are meaningless.
Frankly, with so much
effort put into this volume I find this to be particularly annoying and I wondered if it was
the conscious decision of the writers because it caused me to look all the harder for
information. According to the introduction of the Big Book there is another volume
coming out early next year which is supposed to correct these deficiencies and the totality
of the project will be complete and I must add monumental in its scope for one coin type,
with this volume being as Ezerman says, "the deep end of the pool."
In conclusion I must say I had reservations about some of the terms and some
of the IKE groups findings but I am old enough to know that things change and also that new
challenges are exciting to collectors. The Big book is challenging and is written for
the very serious collector, if you are into cherry picking great IKES at shows and auctions
then buy the Little Book of Collectible Eisenhower Dollars to take with you.
If you really
want to go more in depth and are challenged by the process of how the coins listed in the
Little Book were minted, became rare and why these coins are collectible, then by all
means go for the Big book of Collectible Ike Varieties Facts-Photos-Theories. Both
volumes can be found by going to The IKE GROUP at:
KOLBE & FANNING NUMISMATIC BOOKSELLERS WEBSITE
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From the standard to the obscure, from all periods and in all languages, Kolbe & Fanning cover the entire range of numismatic literature. New titles added regularly. Come check us out at
Wayne Homren, Editor
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