The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 16, Number 14, April 7, 2013, Article 8


John and Nancy Wilson submitted this review of Dave Bowers' new book on U.S. Silver Dollars. Thanks. -Editor

Bowers Silver Dollars 1794-1804 The Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars 1794 – 1804, 2013, Q. David Bowers, Stack’s Bowers Galleries, A Spectrum Group International Company,
Reviewed by John and Nancy Wilson, NLG

Becoming a numismatist in 1953 Q. David Bowers over the past six decades has excelled in writing books that immediately become best sellers and standard references as soon as they are released. His new book, the Encyclopedia of United States Silver Dollars 1794 – 1804, is hardbound, has 343 pages, and is fully illustrated in color. In 1993, he authored a first edition of, “Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the United States: A Complete Encyclopedia.” That reference helped to set the standard for Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars. Now, 20 years later, Q. David Bowers has once again authored a reference on early Silver Dollars that will be a best seller and wildly popular in the numismatic hobby. Before you even get to Chapter One, you will read starting with his Style Notes which will cover such things as how he uses “Certain original articles;” His “footnotes;” and most importantly “Grading.” The two page “Acknowledgments,” which also covers the First and Second Editions lists some of the leading collectors, dealers and numismatic organization’s and institutions in the numismatic hobby. A “Special Contributor” to the reference is noted author and numismatist, R. W. Julian.

The well done “Foreword” by Martin A. Logies, who is a collector, researcher and Director & Curator for, The Cardinal Collection Educational Foundation. Mr. Logies talks about how at an auction he passed on the opportunity to bid on a truly choice “AU” example of a scarce variety (BB-93) dated 1798. “But, lacking Dave’s book (First Edition), I did not realize just how extraordinarily rare that one coin was in such choice condition, and did not pursue it, choosing to wait for another.” Fifteen years later no specimen of that variety or comparable quality has appeared, and he says “Unknowingly, the opportunity had been squandered.” He talks about what happened after purchasing the first edition and how his collecting improved.

The “An Appreciation” was done by Warren Miller who began collecting in the era right before PCGS and NGC began certifying coins. He talks about the value of this new updated reference regarding these and others: The historical information and up to date auction records. How the photography would be a valuable tool attributing die varieties and die states. He finishes by saying, “It was a pleasure and a privilege to participate in this book by both editing and supplying photographs as needed.”

The author's “Introduction” explains how this reference was consolidated from his first to this second edition. He thanked R. W. Julian, for creating a truly great historical overview and Walter H. Breen (deceased) for providing technical notes on die varieties. In 2012 this present second edition was created and quoting “this being a revision and updating of the information on the early series of Flowing Hair and Draped Bust Dollars from 1794 to 1804.” “Offered in a single volume with much new information, including updated rarity data, color pictures, and state-of-the-art knowledge, this book will be your passport to one of America’s most interesting coinage specialties.” The author goes on in this introduction to explain changes in the marketplace, the certification process and several important collections that have been dispersed over the years. This one page “Introduction” is a perfect set-up to the 18 chapters that follow.

Chapter 1: Early Silver Dollars 1794 – 1804. Historical Background. Numismatic expert R. W. Julian summarizes the need for a larger coin than just the simple penny. Mr. Julian takes you on a journey from the fall of Rome in the 5th century, coinage prior to Charlemagne, Europeans need for a larger coin than just the simple penny right up to Archduke Sigismund of Tyrol who in 1486 struck to first dollar-sized silver coin. Other topics covered include Federal Mint proposals and authorizations; David Rittenhouse; the beginning of regular coinage; how dies were made; creating the 1794 Dollar dies, technical matters – assaying and coining from 1796 to 1803.

Chapter 2: Aspects of Collecting Early Dollars. Early silver dollars of the 1794– 1803 were made in three distinct design types and well over 100 die varieties. Some important tables from famous numismatists will also be found in this chapter. The Bowers-Borckardt (BB) Numbers are also explained.

Chapter 3: Rarity and its Relation to Price. The Universal Rarity Scale (URS) from URS 1 TO URS 14 is shown, along with the Population Estimates from G-4 to MS-65 or better. Estimated Condition Census along with Rarity vs. Price (the factors affecting pricing) are also analyzed.

Chapter 4: Characteristics of Early Dollars and Dies. Die states and characteristics along with the sequence from die state 1 to die state VI are explained. Explanations are giving for the different die states such as, Die finishing marks, Repunching marks, Die cracks & clashing, Resurfacing or relapping and others. Bolender’s term of Bifurcated is also explained. Changing Die States explains how over a period of time a die went from few flaws to later how it began to fail. A “hypothetical variety of early dollar, a sequence of die states might have a history as this.” Die State l: Perfect obverse and reverse dies. No Cracks. To Die State Vl which would be the later state of the dies. More explanations are giving for the various die states. Die Combinations, Coin and Striking Defects and Overdates close out the chapter. Some great close-up photographs of some of the die characteristics are shown.

Chapter 5: Easy-Finding Guide to Early Dollars. All the BB numbers are listed by date and type. Each is described in great detail. This “Guide is intended to make it easy to attribute a given dollar to a BB number.” Photos of the obverse and reverse of dollars from 1794 to 1803 are depicted, along with an easy to use guide for attributing your coin(s) for each one.

Chapters 6 through 17 cover the dollars with each date being covered by one chapter. Each BB number is listed and described in great detail. Die states are also described and notable examples of each are identified along with a pedigree and in some case the selling price at the time of sale. The total estimated population by grade as well as condition census grades is given. Charles Opitz, who is our relative, used the book to identify three pieces in his collection. He mentioned to us he found the book to be easy to use and the detail in the book made the identification accurate.

Chapter 18: Historical Market Prices for Early Dollars. This chapter starts with the A. C. Kline Collection sale in 1855 and lists all the pieces in that sale along with condition and selling price. From the Kline collection sale in 1855, all the important sales of early silver dollars is covered (along with most selling prices) right up to the sale of the Cardinal collection sale in 2005. A wonderful survey of, “the advance of values,” from the 1850s, to modern times through the sales that are listed.

Appendix l: Errors and Curiosities. This section lists the double and triple strike pieces. The author talks about the early mint and their focus “on the efficiency and economy of production,” which consequently caused worn out dies to be used over and over again. Some of these errors are illustrated in this reference.

Appendix ll: Early Silver Dollars in the National Numismatic Collection. All of the early dollars in the Smithsonian Collection are listed by BB number, date and condition. The list was compiled by ANA Governor and Dealer Jeff Garrett with assistance by Smithsonian Numismatic Collection Senior Curator Dr. Richard Doty and Curator Karen Lee.

The Bibliography (and Source Notes) along with the Index close out the reference.

With the recent auction price of over Ten Million for a 1794 Silver Dollar, we can see more interest in these early issues of silver dollars. This is a book for all seasons and highly recommended for dealers, collectors, researchers, investors and libraries. The reference is well done, scholarly, has excellent photos, information that is obtainable no-where-else and authored by one of the finest numismatic writers of our (or any time).

The coordinator of this book project was Christine Karstedt who said, “This is a must-have reference book for anyone just developing an interest in early dollars or those who already possess a serious interest in the subject.” Joel Orosz found only one mistake in the book which is mentioned in a past E-Sylum review. On page 22 the number 150 should have been placed after “than.” The reference is available for $39.95 (plus $10 postage and handling) from Stack’s Bowers Galleries, Silver Dollar Book, P. O. Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894 or phone (866) 811-1804 or Email Melissa Karstedt

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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