As noted earlier, David L. Ganz was the winner of Dennis Tucker's review copy of Whitman's new book, “American Silver Eagles”. Here's his review. Thanks!
Book Review “American Silver Eagles”. Full title:
John M. Mercanti, Chief Engraver U.S. Mint (Ret.) Presents ‘A Guide to the U.S. Bullion Coin Program’ with Michael (“Miles”) Standish, Senior Grader, PCGS, Foreward By Michael Reagan”. Whitman, $29,95, 154 pages, illustrated (color).
This is a book that I wanted to write. Actually, its three different books in one, and while some would think that a detriment I think that it affords not only a great story, but a neat series that is under-collected because the data is simply too hard to find in a single convenient source. Until now.
Michael Reagan, eldest son of the 40th president of the United States (Ronald Reagan), has a foreword to this volume, which is an appreciation of the role that his father played in organized numismatics during his term of office. There have been only two American presidents who issued “National Coin Week” proclamations during their term in office (Nixon was the other one), that celebration conceived by Farran Zerbe and still stage managed by the American Numismatic Association, the largest educational non profit organization of coin collectors in the world. (In my capacity as legislative counsel to the ANA, I worked with the Nixon and Reagan White Houses, as well as the Mint, to get the “National Coin Week” endorsement, and to obtain several personalized Presidential letters honoring national coin week subsequently (they are almost as hard to generate).
One thing that Michael Reagan does not mention in his Foreword, as he comments on gold and silver American bullion coinage, is the role that the ANA had in its development. Then-president Grover C. Criswell, Jr., and I (as legislative counsel) went to Washington in the midst of the 1978 ANA convention to testify before the Senate Banking Committee in favor of the “American Arts Gold Medallions”, the predecessor to the gold American eagles. Later, President Ronald Reagan banned importation of the South African Krugerrand and eventually got behind the American gold eagle in its place.
The role that Ronald Reagan played in reinstituting and revitalizing American commemorative coins remains underappreciated, and Michael Reagan justifiably says with pride that the U.S. commemorative program was revised by it, “and dramatically so.” Oh how right!
The creation in 1985 of the silver eagle (one ounce) and the gold eagle with its ounce and fractionals was a dramatic moment, and this book tells the salient facts and provides the important statistics to pull it all together. Between Miles Standish and John Mercanti, it all pulls together nicely. As I read about the legislative component, I was reminded that I met many of the principals during my four years as Washington Correspondent for Numismatic News and Coins Magazine, but this offers analysis from a different perspective – from the Engraver inside the Mint (John Mercanti) who designed the silver eagle’s reverse. The obverse utilizes a look-alike version to the Adolph A. Weinman’s Walking Liberty half dollar.
It also tells the story of how my dear friend, Frank Gasparro, while chief engraver, became Mercanti’s mentor.
Miles Standish provides the statistical backdrop, the number of PCGS certified coins by condition for each date (there are actually some that are graded less than proof-65 or MS-65 – but also a lot of MS69, MS70 and proof coin counterweights. He also shows their value. And if you ever wondered why grading is so important, take a look at the gap in prices for some of these coins as proof-69 and the ethereal 70. The 1999-P proof silver eagle (9 less than proof-65 were certified, 4,589 were made as proof-69 and 444 weigh in as proof-70. (That’s about 8% of the total certified grade). The proof $69 is an $80 coin; proof $70 is $400, or five times more.
Okay. Then consider the bullion strike of 2000, mintage 9.2 million. 26 are graded by PCGS as below MS65. At MS-68 (1,950 pieces) it’s a $35 coin, with 5,433 pieces the MS-69 makes it $53, and the single MS-70 is $3,850.
There’s an appendix to the book which has all of the statistics, mintages and number of certified (by grade) coins in tabular form, and it is invaluable; if you collect this series, or want to, the book is a must for that alone. But the second appendix (“B”) which lists and becomes an “Illustrated Catalog of John Mercanti’s Numismatic Work” ought to be made into its own volume. Its impressive, and so is his style of medallic art and also coins.
He took Jim Peed’s graphic concept of Olympic torchbearers and made it come to life on a $10 eagle planchet. The conjugate of Eisenhower (citizen-soldier) is memorable and classy. One of my favorites is the 1994 Vietnam Veterans Memorial silver dollar, which is almost as awe inspiring in metal as it is to see in person.
Sweeping vistas found on the 1991 Mount Rushmore golden anniversary $5 gold piece, with the eagle’s swoop, remain exquisite, vibrant, vital – and remind me the depth that Mercanti added to the Mint’s engraving department.
All this, a small glossary and an index, too. This is a book that belongs in your library. Grade it MS-66 plus.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NEW BOOK: AMERICAN SILVER EAGLES: A GUIDE TO THE U.S. BULLION COIN PROGRAM
Wayne Homren, Editor
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