US Coins

Numismatic references

Every couple of years or so, I feel it is important to review the literature available for the collector of early United States silver coins. The standard references for identifying the die marriages of the denominations are as follows:

? Half dimes — Federal Half Dimes 1792-1837 by Russell Logan and John McCloskey. This book replaced the excellent work of Daniel Valentine first published in 1931 with a Durst reprint that appeared in 1975. The authors of the newer book replaced the Valentine numbers with Logan/McCloskey numbers and tackled the problem of die remarriages. Available on secondary market.

? Dimes — Early United States Dimes 1796-1837 by David J. Davis, Russell J. Logan, Allen F. Lovejoy, John W. McCloskey and William L. Subjack. No real reference book on the dimes was available prior to the publication of this work in 1984. In secondary market.

? Quarter dollars — Early Quarter Dollars of the United States Mint 1796-1838 by Rory Rea, Glenn Peterson, Bradley Karoleff, and John Kovach; and Early United States Quarters 1796-1838 by Steve M. Tompkins. They replaced the 1925 work of Ard Browning without changing the numbering system. Both references are available.

? Half dollars — Early Half Dollar Varieties: 1794-1836 by Al C. Overton and Donald Parsley. I prefer the third edition. The fourth edition is still available and the third is bringing a hefty premium from dealers. You can also supplement the Overton work with The Ultimate Guide to Attributing Bust Half Dollars by Glenn Peterson.

? Dollars — The dollar situation is even more confusing than the quarter dollars. Three books vie for collectors attention.

The original United States Early Silver Dollars from 1794 to 1803 by M.H. Bolender is still widely used. Although out of print the work is still readily available in numerous editions.

Next is The United States Early Silver Dollars 1794-1803 by Jules Reiver published in 1999. Seek the second printing for the correction of numerous errors. Bibliomaniacs will look for the rare first printing, as most were destroyed.

Lastly, the two-volume Silver Dollars & Trade Dollars of the United States, A Complete Encyclopedia by Q. David Bowers, with Mark Borckardt, published in 1993, replaced the Bolender numbers with Bowers/Borckardt numbers. This book is scarce and expensive when found.

Those collectors interested in learning more about the early U.S. Mint and how the coins they collect are made should obtain the following books for their libraries:

The Art and Craft of Coinmaking by Denis Cooper. This out-of-print book is very difficult to find, and pay for!

Dies and Coinage by Don Taxay, available in either the original printing or reprint reasonably.

History of the United States Mint and its Coinage by David W. Lange. Currently available from any good numismatic bookseller or coin shop.

The Secret History of the First U.S. Mint by Joel Orosz and Len Augsberger. This wonderful award-winning book replaces the original works by Frank H. Stewart and George G. Evans. Currently available.

Also consider America’s Money Americas Story, by Dr. Richard Doty; the second edition of Bust Half Fever, by Edgar Souders; Fractional Money, by Neil Carothers; the second edition of Contemporary Counterfeit Capped Bust Half Dollars, by Keith Davignon; and the American Numismatic Society publications of the Coinage of the Americas Conferences from 1986, 1989, 1993, and 1998.

And, of course, everyone should be a member of the John Reich Collectors Society, to receive the John Reich Journal. Membership information can be obtained online at

Brad Karoleff is a vice president of the John Reich Collectors Society and editor of the club’s journal. He can be reached via email at

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