100 Greatest Women on Coins Coming Soon
In September Whitman Publishing will release a delightful and extraordinary new book in its “100 greatest” series by award-winning numismatic writer Ron Guth called 100 Greatest Women on Coins.
Mr. Guth was inspired to write the book after becoming interested in suffragist Alice Paul and taking an online course in 2013 on the history of American women. Those experiences made him curious about women that have appeared on coins, and more specifically, how many women have appeared on coins since a list of them could help collectors put together women-focused collections.
After compiling his own list of over 600 women that have appeared on coins throughout history, he contacted Charmy Harker, a dealer who is president of Women in Numismatics (WIN), and asked the members of that organization to select 100 women from his larger list and rank them by importance or interest.
That effort produced the list that formed the basis for his book. The women covered in it fall into four categories: “real (or actual) women; goddesses; allegorical women, who represent an idea, concept, or nationality; and women in art.”
Each of the 100 women he discusses is represented with beautiful color images of at least one coin that depicts them, a photograph of the individual, and a brief discussion of the woman and what made her unique or outstanding. He also includes a short description of how difficult it is to acquire coins that bear her image.
The first ten women, who include figures such as Mary, the mother of Jesus, Hellen Keller, Mother Theresa, Susan B. Anthony, and Cleopatra, each receive a longer essay than the other 90 women.
He notes that the women covered in the book, including the top ten, reflect the personal preferences of the 18 members of WIN who responded to his request and that they tended to prefer real women, American women, and religious women. Future editions, as he explains, are likely to cover different women as the voting base expands and changes, and that would be a welcome improvement in my view.
This is a terrific book for several reasons.
First, his pithy essays on each woman are informative and a joy to read. And they underscore the important and often not well-known role women have played in history and their accomplishments in every field of human endeavor.
Second, the photographs of the coins and the women are a stunning collection you will not find anywhere else.
Third, the book will stimulate you interest and leave you wanting to know more about the women and eager to acquire some of the coins or start a new collection. Guth helpfully includes suggestions for doing all of those things with his bibliography and information for collecting.
The hobby still tends to be dominated by men, though among the younger generations there is a greater prevalence of women. As Charmy Harker notes in her foreword, the book may help “inspire more women to become interested in numismatics.” That goal may also get a boost from the Secretary of the Treasury’s plan to put a real American woman on the $10 bill by 2020.
In the next edition Mr. Guth may wish to consider including some of the recent Greek goddess coins from the Perth and New Zealand Mints, which offer an alternative to ancient coins with their images.
In addition, I would recommend covering Britannia and Marianne individually since they have appeared on so many British and French coins, and showing both classic and modern coins with their image, and doing the same with Lady Liberty now that we also have a modern version. In fact, whenever possible it would be great to see one old and one modern coin on each subject.