The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 15, Number 33, August 5, 2012, Article 5


John and Nancy Wilson submitted this review of the new edition of Dave Bowers' book on Morgan silver dollars. Thanks! -Editor

Morgan SIlver Dollars 4th ed A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars, A Complete History and Price Guide, 4th Edition/Updated and Revised, 2012, The Official Red Book, By: Q. David Bowers, Foreword by Leroy Van Allen,
Reviewed by, John and Nancy Wilson, NLG

The book is soft cover with 304 pages. Mr. Bowers is no stranger to silver dollars having authored previous editions of this reference, hundreds of articles and in 1992 the two-volume study “Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia,” which is still the standard in the field. We Americans love to collect Morgan silver dollars! No other coin conjures up so much of the romance and adventure of the United States.

Chapter 1 “The Appeal and Challenge of Morgan Dollars.” The chapter gives a historical perspective about the discovery of vast quantities of silver in the West which led to the Bland-Allison Act of 1878. The Treasury Release following the rise in the value of silver in the 1960s and the redemption of silver certificates for silver and later silver dollars from the treasury hoard accumulated in the 1800s.

Chapter 2 “The Tradition of Silver Dollars.” This chapter covers from the Spanish milled dollar through the Gobrecht Silver Dollars, Liberty Seated Silver Dollars, Trade Dollars and the realities of the silver bullion market.

Chapter 3 “Designing the Morgan Dollar.” The Mint Director, Henry R. Linderman, was more interested in getting the coins into production and he didn’t wait for the designs and dies to be properly completed and reviewed which resulted in the many varieties of the 1878 Morgan Dollar. It is interesting to note the mint director was a numismatist and owned an 1804 dollar.

Chapter 4 “Minting Process.” All the steps from the making of the die to its hardening are explained. The actual making of the coin from processing the planchets as well as the packing and storing of the coins is also explained.

Chapter 5 “The Five Morgan Silver Dollar Mints.” A brief history of each of the five mints is given.

Chapter 6 “Treasury Hoards and Other Quantities.” The cash window in Washington D.C. is covered along with some of the many stories about some of the silver dollars it released including Liberty Seated dollars, Carson City dollars and Lafayette dollars. In 1962 the cash window started releasing some formerly rare dollars and the rush was on.

Chapter 7 “Ways to Collect Morgan Silver Dollars.” Along with collecting the dollars by date and mintmark, which makes for a large collection, it explains collecting by reverse types, mints only, or patterns.

Chapter 8 “Grading and the Marketplace.” Dave Bowers explains the history of grading systems and has photos of coins in all the grades. Evaluating sharpness along with differences between semi-prooflike to DMPL (Deep Mirror Proof Like) is covered. The chapter ends with information on buying coins – ordering coins by mail, buying in stores, coin shows and bidding and buying in auctions.

Chapter 9 “Beyond the Basics: Specialized Varieties.” The first significant die research as well as Howard R. Newcomb’s The Numismatist 1922 editorial which is reprinted along with other thoughts by him on the subject. Francis Klaes 1963 publication of a pamphlet and Neil Shafer’s 1964 review in the Whitman Numismatic Journal are also reviewed regarding Silver Dollars. Known Die Varieties in the Comprehensive Catalogue and Encyclopedia of Morgan and Peace Dollars by Leroy C. Van Allen and A. George Mallis; and the Michael S. Fey, PhD and Jeff Oxman reference The Top 100 Morgan Dollar Varieties: The Vam Keys (Third Edition).

Chapter 10 “Year by Year: An Analysis by Date and Mintmark.” The 163 pages closing out this chapter is the bread and butter of the reference. Most of them will have optimal collecting grade; circulation-strike and proof mintages; key to collecting circulation strikes; surface quality; proof like coins; mintage and distribution; die varieties; mintage, and key to collecting proofs. The Whitman Coin Guide at the bottom of each page has grades from VG-8 to PF-67. Availability in Certified and DMPL will also have grades along with photos of the issues and close-up detail on some.

Appendix A “Morgan Silver Dollar Patterns.” This short section shows photos and information on the Judd patterns along with auction records.

Appendix B “Misstruck and Error Morgan Dollars.” Photos of error coins are shown and how they occurred is explained.

The Glossary, Notes and Bibliography close out this well written and researched reference.

It is another in the long line of references by the Dean of Numismatics, Q. David Bowers, and we highly recommend it for your library. For information on purchasing this book which retails for $19.95, you can contact: Whitman Publishing, LLC, 3101 Clairmont Road, Suite G, Atlanta, GA 30329, Phone No. (800) 546-2995 or visit their web page at,

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Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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