Small is beautiful, says the old cliché, and that certainly holds
true for numismatic books.
Earlier this year, while doing research at the American Numismatic
Society Library, I was enchanted by Librarian Elizabeth Hahn’s exhibit
of tiny numismatic publications. A miniature book is a
fully-functioning volume, only much smaller than a typical tome.
The Miniature Book Society defines it as no larger than 3 inches
in height, width or thickness. International standards are more
generous, allowing up to 4 inches. Books meeting the U.S. standard are
truly teeny; more reminiscent of a matchbook than of something you
might actually read.
But read them you can, even if it does require some practice
before you can smoothly turn such diminutive pages. Miniature books
have been published for decades on virtually every subject from
astronomy to zoology, and fortunately, coins, tokens, medals, and
paper money have not escaped the attention of miniature book authors
The exhibit at the ANS was truly a global affair, with miniature
numismatic books from Russia, Hungary, Japan and Spain all on
prominent display. One, Asao Hashino’s Old Coins of the World, was
exhibited, for comparative purposes, side by side with a Roosevelt
dime (it was bigger than the dime, but only just).
At least six miniature numismatic books have been published in the
We begin with Money: Some Observations. No compiler is credited
for this oblong collection of quotations on the subject of lucre. Its
frontispiece is a reproduction, in miniature, of a July 22, 1776,
PERSEVERANDO $6 Continental Currency note.
As is typical for miniature books, it hasn’t many pages, only 36,
and was published by a small private printer.
Money also qualifies as rare, for only 50 copies were printed.
The second volume is more specifically numismatic: Colonial Coins:
Illustrated with Numerous Photo Engravings. Once again, no author is
credited. The book was published by a small operation: the Hillside
Press of Tilton, N.H.
Its 32 pages contain several photo engravings of selected Colonial
coins. The covers of the 250 copies feature an illustration inspired
by the unique 1776 Massachusetts Pine Tree copper.
The third miniature book is the most atypical. Mark Hoff’s
American Coins comes not from a small press, but rather from a
commercial publisher, Andrews McMeel of Kansas City, Mo., making it
the commonest tiny numismatic book.
This 1996 imprint is also unusual for its length: 122 pages.
It features a pictorial dust jacket.
The book’s ambitions are much larger than its dimensions, for it
treats the reader to a color photo-illustrated overview of U.S.
coinage, from Colonial through federal.
If you believe that less can indeed be more, you should start a
collection of miniature numismatic books. Most are rare and are priced
at about $90 to $150.
Next month, we will focus on three miniature numismatic books that
merge literature and money.
JOEL J. OROSZ is a charter member of the Numismatic Bibliomania
Society and co-author of The Secret History of the First U.S. Mint. He
can be reached at Joeljorosz@gmail.com.