Jim Dixon kindly submitted this review of Daryl Haynor's new book on Classic Gold. Thanks!
As Q. David Bowers indicates in his foreword to this book "Classic Gold quarter eagles and half eagles are a betwixt and between series". They are preceded by "early" American gold coins (sometimes referred to as Old Tenor gold) and succeeded by the long-lived Liberty Head series. There is a great deal of literature on both series, but little was written in the public domain about Classic Head gold coins.
Dr. John W McCloskey was the primary researcher in this field but the only published work I was able to find was his essay entitled "A Study of Classic Half Eagles, 1834-1839" which was included in "America's Gold Coinage" edited by William E. Metcalf in 1989. For quarter eagles, the only serious work I was able to locate is a Heritage Auctions blog by Mark Borckardt, "Classic Head Quarter Eagles":
This fundamental lack of information regarding Classic Gold coins has been rectified by Daryl Haynor's new book entitled "United States Classic Gold Coins of 1834-1839". It is a delicious numismatic cocktail of two parts history and economics, one part early eighteen century politics and three parts coin descriptions, images and statistics. This 368 page book is perfect for numismatists who are looking for the ultimate reference on Classic Head gold coinage.
This reference is so exhaustive that Mr. Haynor includes a section on "How to use this book" prior to Chapter 1. In this section he defines die marriages, die states, explains how he estimated populations, defines the rarity scale he uses in the book (a modified Overton scale) and then discusses his processes for determining finest known coins for a given year and mint. I found this section indispensable as I read through the descriptions of individual die marriages. I especially liked the methodology Mr. Haynor utilized for identifying reverses. Dr. McCloskey used letters to describe unique reverse dies for a given year but started his sequence anew each year. As a result, it was difficult to determine if a reverse die was used in subsequent years. Mr. Haynor has also used letters to identify reverse dies but has maintained the uniqueness of reverse dies throughout each series so the use of dies in multiple years is identified. In doing so, Mr. Haynor has replaced the McCloskey nomenclature for defining Classic Gold die marriages with the more precise HM (Haynor-McCloskey) identifications that are now being used by the major auction houses and are attributable as varieties at both PCGS and NGC.
Chapters One through Nine are a fascinating look at the economics, politics, and personalities of the 1830's. Even if you do not collect coins, these sections represent of the best reflection I have read of these turbulent times. Unlike many other books, the references are not to other coin books but to the original 19th century documents. Mr Haynor obviously performed a great deal of original research at the Mint, the Library of Congress, the National Archives, etc. and shared images of many original documents.
Chapter Ten, "Die Identification" provides very detailed definitions of the terms that Mr. Haynor uses in subsequent chapters on quarter eagles and half eagles. This information is important for Classic Gold because the dies were hand punched.
Chapter Eleven contains information on the 28 die marriages of quarter eagles. It begins with mintage statistics and images that are valuable in the discussion of individual die pairings that follow. For each year, there is a short discussion about the history, politics, economics, and/or personalities relevant to that year. This is followed by:
a write-up on die descriptions/characteristics for the year
detailed descriptions and high quality images of each obverse
an obverse die comparison (when needed)
detailed descriptions and high quality images of each reverse
a reverse die identification (when needed)
an estimated population and rarity of each die marriage
an image of each die marriage for that year including the descriptions used in the identification of obverses and reverses. An example of this is shown below
a detailed discussion of the typical coin that includes rarity and "the look" of that marriage. It also identifies die characteristics (e.g. wear, cracks and bulges) frequently seen for that marriage.
Once the individual die marriages are described, the total known, distribution by grade and finest known coins for that year/mint are discussed. Following the analysis of the circulation strikes, a section outlining the proof coins (if any) for the year begins. In these sections, Mr. Haynor again demonstrates his expertise doing independent research regarding these proofs. History and politics are highlighted for these exceedingly rare coins.
Chapter Twelve is like Chapter Eleven but addresses half eagles and includes information on the 34 unique die marriages. John McCloskey wrote about the half eagle series in his 1989 essay. As you would expect with Mr. Haynor's in depth research, a great deal of context/color is added to the pioneering work done by Dr. McCloskey.
For data geeks like me, the Appendices are the cherry on top of the ice cream sundae I just devoured!
Appendix A provides the Annual Report Mintage for the two series. Notations and clarifications are made to the reported figures to give proper context for these figures.
Appendix B is a cross reference of most known references to the various die marriages of the quarter eagles.
Appendix C is a cross reference of most known references to the various die marriages of the half eagles.
Appendix D discusses the annual assay of coins during this period.
Appendix E delves into "Contemporary Counterfeits" of capped bust and classic head gold coins.
Appendix F provides the "Die Emission Sequence of Reverse A" for half eagles. Reverse A is the most prevalent reverse in the series. It was used in 1834, 1835 and 1836. Based on Mr. Haynor's research this reverse die was used to mint some 1835 coins prior to its use with some 1834 dated coins.
Appendix G is a detailed Bibliography.
The book ends with a very touching tribute to John McCloskey written by his wife and Bradley Karoleff.
In summary, this book is, and will remain, the ultimate reference for Classic Gold Coins and the history of economics, politics, and personalities in the 1830s. I highly recommend it for numismatists and history buffs alike.
Jim Dixon is a dated gold collector who recently began collecting Classic Gold Half Eagles. His enthusiasm for the series increased dramatically after receiving reference information from the author.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NEW BOOK: U.S. CLASSIC GOLD COINS OF 1834-1839
For more information, or to purchase the book, see:
United States Classic Gold Coins of 1834-1839
Wayne Homren, Editor
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