US Coins

Guest Commentary: 'Quickfinder' approach makes die attribution more accessible

I will never forget the day when one of my college professors walked into the classroom on the first day of school. He did not even introduce himself, and said, “The biggest impediment to teaching someone who is willing to learn is often your own genius.” He felt strongly that many of his colleagues failed to understand that when you are in a position of educating others, it is not just a platform to tell others what you know. It is a platform to teach others what you know.

I joined the Early American Coppers club in 1991, where I had my first real exposure to many of the die variety attribution guides. I was having a very difficult time using the attribution guides that were available on the market. Although many of them contained important research and highlighted new discoveries, they did not mesh with my way of thought and I found the process very intimidating. When my interest in half cents was piqued in 1994, I decided that I needed to come up with my own process. What I did not envision was that a process that I created out of my own need would be a benefit to many others in the future.

The most important feature of my Quickfinder method, used in the new second edition of my book A Quickfinder for Attributing Varieties of Business Strike United States Half Cents: 1793-1857, is the understanding of human nature, stressing the constant and consistent breakdown of the attribution process, where the order and type of questions that are answered is of extreme importance. This levels the playing field, enabling even those with limited experience to attribute coins by die marriage or major variety.

More importantly, the reader can practice with the same model over and over again, which increases proficiency. One of the basic tenets that I stress in the book is that even if you have been doing something for a very long time, it does not necessarily mean that you are doing it correctly.

What makes my Quickfinder different?

(1) Portability. It totals only 44 pages in a 5½-inch by 8½-inch format, with a spiral binding so the book can lay flat. An improvement from the first edition published in 1997 is the use of color images, of higher quality than the black and white ones in the 1997 volume. These provide close-ups of important diagnostic points. Also, these diagnostic points are listed in the actual text of the Quickfinder itself for even easier reference.

(2) Concise. Once a coin is attributed, it lists the Roger Cohen, Walter Breen, Ebenezer Gilbert, Empire Coin Co. and “Red Book” variety all on the same line. This is not only time-saving for the specialist who is looking at an old-time collection, but it provides anyone a vital reference to match his die pairing to a more mainstream reference.

(3) Contemporary. Since no new references have been issued on United States half cents since 1999, my booklet offers up-to-date rarity ratings (special thanks to Michael Spurlock for his hard work in this area).

(4) Affordability. Although my booklet is not a replacement for a more in-depth reference, it provides a good starting point for those not wishing to spend $75 or more on a larger reference.

In case you were wondering, other “Quickfinder” projects are in the works.

A second printing of the book is now available for $15 plus $2.50 shipping and handling per copy. Payment can be made and sent to Gregory S. Heim LLC, P.O. Box 277, South Plainfield, NJ 07080-0277. If you are interesting in paying by PayPal, or are ordering multiple copies, please direct email to me at

Gregory S. Heim is the author of A Quickfinder for Attributing Varieties of Business Strike United States Half Cents: 1793-1857.

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