Bill Eckberg submitted this review of Mike Shutty's new book, Lost Cents, Dead Owners: Appreciating Coins in Decay. Thanks!
Lost Cents, Dead Owners: Appreciating Coins in Decay,
by Michael S. Shutty, Jr.
It’s not often that a piece of numismatic literature actually deserves to be called “literature,” but this slender volume does. Coins are
“things,” and all coin books describe these things; Shutty’s book does this, too, but it is more a book about passion for these things.
There are beautifully turned phrases on every page. The first paragraph of his Preface reads:
“A large cent caked with verdigris is not typically found on a collector’s want list, but it should be. It is a relic, and like a
rusty hand-wrought nail dug from a flowerbed, it has a story. Relic coins prompt questions. Who lost it? When did it happen? How did this
lowly cent survive the onslaught of Mother Nature? It is a mystery – one worth holding in your hand.”
If history held in your hands is good, history and mystery in your hands together have to be that much better!
The book contains a preface, eight chapters and an epilog. The seventy-odd pages are divided roughly in three parts: a description of
corroded coins with emphasis on the intense colors of their encrustations, a description of the chemical processes that corrode copper and
nickel, and advice on collecting corroded coins. Each is interesting and worthwhile.
Make no mistake: this is a love story. If you doubt it, the preface is titled “Loving the Unloved,” and the first chapter is titled
“Sweet Corrosion.” He makes the very important point that dug coins, a.k.a, grounders, can be souvenirs of important events or even
previous civilizations. They are very important in establishing archaeological context. Unlike uncirculated coins, they were used in real
commerce by real people. We collectors prize Mint State coins, but they are not really relics of history in your hands. Sure, that lovely
choice Mint State 1794 large cent was made when Washington was President, but since it was always stored, it has no real history. You can
be assured that neither he nor anyone else ever spent it.
But it isn’t just about the history. Profusely illustrated throughout with large color photographs, this book will make you admit, if
grudgingly, the beauty of corroded coins.
The chapters on the corrosion process are scientifically accurate, but they are written with coin collectors, not geochemists, in mind.
Read them and you will understand what the red and green colors on your coins are, how they got there, and what will happen to them in the
future. You will find out what verdigris is and what patina means to the surface of a coin. You will understand that even the most
carefully preserved coin cannot last forever any more than the most careful collector can. Nature doesn’t like shiny, reactive metals like
copper and will eventually win. There is even passion in this section when he writes about coins where “open sores have erupted” and
surfaces that have “blisters…bursting open” or are “painted blood red.”
How often have you seen the words “a great read” in a review of a numismatic book? If you haven’t figured it out by now, let me say that
this book is a great read, rivaling Bowers and Sheldon at their most entertaining. If Shutty has not actually made me “love” corroded coins
as he does, he has certainly made me appreciate them much more and gave me great pleasure along the way. I heartily recommend this
well-written and entertaining book, which somehow finds the intersection between numismatics, history, geochemistry and love, to anyone
with even a passing interest in any of those things.
What are you waiting for? Here's the ordering information from the earlier E-Sylum article. Get a copy! -Editor
The format is large at 8.5 x 11. All the photographs are in vivid color. The book is available for $24.95 from Books123.org. Also, please check out the book information on my Google blog: oldcoinnecromancer.blogspot.com.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NEW BOOK: LOST CENTS, DEAD OWNERS
Wayne Homren, Editor
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