Fred Michaelson writes:
I just received the January 2014 issue of "The Numismatist" and read a great article by George Kolbe, "The Tale of the Tape". He writes of a publisher's problem with a dust jacket.
Fred enjoyed the article, as did I. See below for the rest of his comments.
George kindly sent me the text of his draft so I could publish an excerpt here in The E-Sylum. Thanks! I added an image of the book in question.
In Spring of 1963, Don Taxay’s Counterfeit, Mis-Struck, and Unofficial U.S. Coins, featuring the imprimatur of a respected New York publishing firm, created something of a numismatic sensation. Counterfeit coins were proliferating at the time and Taxay’s book was the first in-depth American work providing—to quote its sub-title—“a guide for the detection of cast and struck counterfeits, electrotypes, and altered coins.” The April 1963 first printing was followed three months later by a second printing; a third printing followed in 1975 and a fourth printing came off the press in 1976.
John J. Ford, Jr. wrote the introduction and the four printings of the book feature endorsements attributed to Eric P. Newman, Walter Breen, and Dr. George Fuld, located on the back of the dust jackets of the first two hard cover issues and on the rear covers of the last two soft cover printings. The text appears to be identical throughout but, on the first printing, a label has been affixed at the base ascribing the quotation above it to:
—DR. GEORGE FULD, Past-President, The Token and Medal Society, recognized authority on U.S. numismatic ephemera and oddments.
This label, though rather unusual, has been little commented upon over the years. If the dust jacket is held up to a strong source of light, the printing under the label dimly reveals itself, though the adhesive utilized makes the printed slip itself quite difficult to remove.
The label is impervious to water—denatured alcohol and toluene barely affect it—and it is removable only slowly with the good stuff: acetone. Allowing time for head-clearing after inhaling this witches brew of noxious chemicals, the covered-up text reveals itself:
—JOHN JAY PITTMAN, Member, Board of Governors, American Numismatic Society, one of foremost numismatic authorities in the United States.
One might surmise that the incorrect affiliation (American Numismatic Society, instead of Association) and grammatical omission (“the” missing between “of” and “foremost”) account for the label, but neither explains the name change. Further, the text of both blurbs is identical. How could this be? Thus begins the tale of the tape.
Fred Michaelson adds:
In short, John Jay Pittman refused to have his quote on the same dust jacket with that of Walter Breen (because of his dislike of Breen). It was an intense little drama, and fun to read. I don't know whose idea it was to place Pittman's photograph next to Breen's on the first page of the article---maybe it was just happenstance---but I'm still chuckling at the delicious irony of it.
Many thanks to George for his detective work! I read the book cover to cover many years ago and used it frequently, but had never noticed the dust jacket sticker. Great story. Be sure to read the complete article to learn more about the letters and other correspondence George used in his research.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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