Colonial coin collectors tend to be a bookish bunch, not just by
personality, but as collectors as well.
It will come as no great shock that the Numismatic Literary Guild
“Book of the Year” award for 2014 has gone to a book about early
American coins, the magnificent New Jersey State Coppers: History,
Description, Collecting by Roger Siboni, John “Jack” Howes, and
Buell Ish, co-published by the American Numismatic Society and the
Colonial Coin Collectors Club.
The book is large, bound impressively and wrapped in a great-looking
dust jacket. Its size (12.5 inches tall, 10 inches deep, more than 1.5
inches thick) is bigger than the standard for reference works
nowadays, which may leave it as a shelf orphan, very much in the
spirit of Dr. Edward Maris’ The Coins of New Jersey, whose
“elephant folio” volume was more the size of a coffee table than a
coffee table book.
The downside of such a production is its inevitable price. When a
book retails for $235, it is almost guaranteed to be the numismatic
equivalent of preaching to the choir. It’s tough to imagine someone
with a casual interest in New Jerseys ever purchasing a book whose
price could buy them a pretty nice New Jersey copper.
Further, the size makes the book not one to carry on a long plane
ride or curl up with at the beach. Alas, with so much information,
what else could have been done? Heavy editing would not have produced
a better book, and multiple volume sets can be as unwieldy as a single
Beyond an extraordinary amount of information on the historical
background of New Jersey coppers, their mints and the personalities
involved in each, famous collectors in the series, and information on
technology, each variety is studied in brilliant depth.
Discussions of die states, planchet stocks, rarity, and condition
census are state of the art and will remain so for decades to come.
No book is perfect, because authors who don’t publish until they
regard their manuscript as such never, ever publish. However, Siboni,
Howes, and Ish have produced a work for the ages, a true standard
reference, one that absorbs the common wisdom of generations while
covering new ground.
So many references either try to be revolutionary or confirmatory.
This book strides that line, introducing well-defended new research
while throwing no babies out with their bath water. It is hard to
conceive of anything the authors omitted, or a single way the authors
could have produced a better book on their subject. This is a book
that is required reading for every Colonial coin enthusiast.