Dave Ginsburg submitted these thoughts (and a question) on a recent acquisition for his numismatic library. Thanks - can anyone help?
Over the past year or two, I've been filling in some holes in my research library by buying books written by or about John L. Riddell, who was, among many other things, Melter & Refiner at the New Orleans Mint from 1839 to 1848, and who has been mentioned in the E-Sylum several times recently (by Mike Marotta on September 29, 2013 and May 20, 2012; and by Steve Feller on January 20, 2013 and May 27, 2012).
Of Dr. Riddell's own writing, two publications are of interest to numismatists: the first is an 1845 pamphlet, "The Mint at New Orleans with an Account of the Process of Coinage" whose contents are rather widely available. The pamphlet itself was reprinted in the April 1868 issue of The Numismatist, while the information contained in the pamphlet had already been reprinted several times in the 19th century. In addition to updated editions of the pamphlet, versions of its contents were published in the January 1846 issue of Hunt's Merchant Magazine and the June 1847 issue of DeBow's Review.
Original copies, however, are a different matter; as was mentioned in the April 6, 2008 issue of the E-Sylum, when an 1847 copy of the pamphlet (in a very uncommon appearance) brought $1,200 at auction. (I feel fortunate to have all the above-mentioned "reprints"!)
The second publication, however, is a "horse of a different color": entitled A Monograph of the Silver Dollar, Good and Bad and also published in 1845, it is a study of all of the different types of silver coins presented as deposits at the New Orleans Mint, with obverse and reverse images of each coin type. As you might expect, a lot of counterfeit coins were deposited at the Mint, and the book has images of each one. If you are interested in seeing which counterfeit Mexican dollars or Bust half dollars were actually in circulation in the mid-19th century, this is the book for you. The book's pages aren't numbered, but it has images of 512 coins plus introductory text, so it must have about 200 pages.
While I've only been watching the numismatic book auctions for about a decade, I don't recall seeing an original copy, nor had I heard of a reprint. Fortunately, there is a digital copy available.
Imagine, then, my surprise, when I saw a listing for a 1969 reprint in David Sklow's October auction! The book was identified as one of a limited edition of 550 paperback copies from Mexico. I wasted no time in submitting my bid and I was fortunate enough to obtain the book.
When I received it, I was intrigued to see that it was copy #411 of a 550-copy facsimile edition published by the Numismatic Society of Mexico in 1969. I feel as if I've unearthed a bit of buried treasure: I certainly never expected to acquire an original, but I now have a copy of a reprint that I never expected to own! Of course, as soon as I saw the auction listing, I checked the ANA and ANS library catalogs and learned that each library has, in addition to copies of the original in their rare book collections, copies of the reprint. In fact, the ANA library has three copies, each available to be lent. So, it's not as if the reprint were completely unknown, but it's certainly not exactly available in the marketplace, either.
I'm hoping that one or more of my fellow E-Sylum subscribers can shed some light on how this edition came to be published and why it doesn't seem to be more available.
My copy of the Riddell Monograph reprint is #304. I've forgotten where I purchased it. I've been searching for an original myself for many years, but like Dave, I've had to settle for a reprint. I'm not aware of how the reprint came to be. Can anyone help?
To read the January 1846 Hunt's Merchant Magazine article, see:
To read the June 1847 DeBow's Review article, see:
To read the Google books copy of Riddell's Monograph, see:
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
RIDDELL AND PATTERSON: A CURIOUS CONNECTION
THE SCRIP OF JOHN LEONARD RIDDELL
Wayne Homren, Editor
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