As you read these words, I am immersed in the manuscript of A
Guide Book of Liberty Seated Silver Coins, to be delivered to Whitman in
Time was when the majority of numismatists interested in Seated
Liberty coins sought as many different basic dates and Mint marks as
possible as well as overdates and other varieties listed in A Guide
Book of United States Coins (the “Red Book”). There was a
limited interest in varieties beyond this point — such as minute
variations in dies. Such pursuits were aided by Daniel W. Valentine’s
The United States Half Dimes published by the American
Numismatic Society in 1931, and M.L. Beistle’s A Register of
Half Dollar Die Varieties and Sub-Varieties; being a description
of each die variety used in the coinage of United States half dollars,
published in 1929.
The hobby of coin collecting expanded dramatically beginning in 1960
with the launching of
World, the first weekly publication in the hobby, and
nationwide publicity surrounding the “rare” 1960 Lincoln, Small Date
cent. Prices rose across the board, especially for federal coins
minted from 1792 onward. It became very expensive to collect multiple
series. By that time only two American specialized clubs or groups
were devoted to a specific discipline: the American Vecturist
Association, founded in 1948, devoted to transportation tokens,
and the Rittenhouse Society, a group of researchers and writers,
established in 1957.
The decades of the 1960s and 1970s saw a dramatic expansion. New
groups included the Token and Medal Society, Society of Paper Money
Collectors, Civil War Token Society, John Reich Collectors
Society, Numismatic Bibliomania Society, and more.
The Liberty Seated
Collectors Club was formed in 1974 through the efforts of Kam
Ahwash, a specialist in Seated Liberty dimes who in 1977 published the
Encyclopedia of U.S. Liberty Seated Dimes 1837–91, the first
modern study of die varieties among coins of that design. Today the
club and its Gobrecht Journal are the focal point for the
Seated Liberty series. For most of the period up to 2014, John W.
McCloskey was editor and main contributor to the Journal.
Interest expanded, and more books were published to describe and
assign numbers to die varieties including: Al Blythe, The Complete
Guide to Liberty Seated Half Dimes, 1992, and Brian Greer’s
The Complete Guide to Liberty Seated Dimes, 1992. The earlier
works were succeeded in a large part by Gerry Fortin’s “Liberty Seated
Dimes — Die Varieties, 1837-1891” on the Internet. Also important are
Lane J. Brunner and John M. Frost, Double Dimes: The United States
Twenty-Cent Piece, 2014; Larry Briggs, The Comprehensive
Encyclopedia of United States Liberty Seated Quarters, 1991; and
Randy Wiley and Bill Bugert, The Complete Guide to Liberty Seated
Half Dollars, 1993.
Many other books have added to knowledge, including these: Walter
Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, 1988,
listed all series and gave much information about die varieties,
including in the Seated Liberty series. Bill Fivaz and J.T. Stanton’s
The Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties became popular
and describes interesting and often valuable varieties that in many
instances can be purchased unattributed at no more than a common coin
of the same date and Mint would cost. Kevin Flynn offers The
Authoritative Reference series giving enlarged images and
descriptions of varieties of many coin series.
As a general observation, newcomers who enter numismatics to
concentrate on investment and whose main interests are rarity and
value burn out quickly. Most are gone within three years or so. In
contrast, specialists often make numismatics a lifetime pursuit. Plus,
most make a lot of profitable “finds”!