Joel Orosz submitted this review of Q. David Bowers' book,
The Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars, 1794-1804. Thanks!
It usually isn’t sensible to review second editions of books, no matter how worthy was the first edition, for the second edition is usually just a tarted-up version of the first. This is not the case with the present volume, which is simultaneously a contracted and an expanded version of Bowers’ and Mark Borkardt’s two-volume 1993 Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia. It is contracted, because the first edition chronicled silver dollars from 1794 to the early 1990s, while this book focuses only on the first decade of silver dollar production. It is also greatly expanded, because the coverage of that single decade is, in this volume, more comprehensive than anything that has ever been produced on the subject.
No surprise there, for the duo who produced the book is truly the first team of numismatic research. Q. David Bowers, who has written more solid numismatic scholarship than anyone else, and R.W. Julian (billed as “Special Contributor”), who has spent more hours in the archives than any other researcher, have combined to provide everything any specialist could ever want to know about the first decade of U.S. silver dollars.
The fun begins with three chapters that provide historical context, share aspects of collecting early dollars, and explain rarity in relation to price. The fourth chapter is catnip for specialists, delving into die characteristics, while the fifth, an easy finding guide, caters to the dedicated collector. Every year from 1794 to 1804 gets a chapter, with 1795 getting two, one for the Flowing Hair, and the other for the Draped Bust, varieties. And that is not to mention the historical market prices chapter, and the appendices on errors and curiosities and early silver dollars in the National Numismatic Collection.
The most remarkable thing about this volume is that it manages to be—at one and the same time—both a practical guide for the collector, and the last word on the subject for scholars. The collector can learn how to distinguish, for example, a Bowers-Borkardt 11 from a Bowers-Borkardt 12, and the scholar will be fascinated to learn that provenance of the King of Siam presentation specimen of the 1804 dollar is clouded by the unreliable memoirs of Anna Leonowens, the Anna of “the King and I.” And everybody, whether collector of specialist, will be amazed to learn that one extraordinary Ohioan amassed a hoard of fifteen circulated 1794 dollars during the 1980s, and depressed to learn that at least two dozen of the surviving 135-150 1794s have been holed or otherwise damaged.
It gives me special satisfaction, however, to report that after years of reviewing Dave Bowers’ books, I have finally found an error, or at least an omission. Turn to page 22, second column, first full paragraph, and you will read the following sentence: “Of the 1,758 coins delivered on that long-ago day, it has been estimated that fewer than still exist, mostly in lower grades.” Clearly “150” was omitted after the word “than.”
One lapse in a book of 343 fact-crammed pages can be forgiven. The only omission that would be unforgivable is if you failed to add this book to your library. Whether you are on the prowl to add early dollars to your collection, or eager to add to your store of numismatic knowledge, The Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars, 1794-1804 will be indispensable to your quest.
The book is published by Stack's Bowers Galleries. I couldn't locate a listing on their web site, though. Does anyone know the list price or how to order a copy?
Wayne Homren, Editor
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