Bowers Guide Book for the Three Silver Series that Turned 100 in 2016
In this column I like to periodically highlight significant numismatic reference books. With the recent announcement by the U.S. Mint of the April 21 release of the first of its trio of gold coins (the dime) honoring the centennial of the three liberty-themed silver series that began in 1916, now is a good time to pick up a copy of Q. David Bowers’ excellent guide book to these coins.
The book is part of Whitman Publishing’s long-standing Official Red Book series of in-depth guides to specific U.S. and world coins series, which are indispensable sources for the collector or numismatic researcher.
Like his popular guide to the Morgan dollar, this book, which was released in late 2015, provides all the key information someone interested in collecting one or more of these terrific classic silver coin series needs.
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One of the many strengths of Bowers’ approach is the way he grounds each series in its historical context, explaining to the reader the genesis of the Mercury dime, Standing Liberty quarter, and Liberty Walking half dollar. These coins, struck from 1916 to 1947, were issued during a tumultuous era in U.S. history that spanned two world wars, the Roaring Twenties, and the Great Depression.
This is also the period when the U.S. became a global power on the world stage, largely as an outgrowth of its involvement in the two wars. As historian Roger Burdette aptly says in his introduction, the new designs of 1916 “embody the aspirations and fears of an America that stepped hesitantly from behind her protective barrier and into the unknown of the larger world.”
Collectors, whether they built type sets or specialized in one or more of the series, or simply admired their fetching designs, have always loved these three depictions of Lady Liberty, whose symbolism is very important to a nation of people who love liberty and the pursuit of freedom.
Each was created to replace the unloved designs of U.S. Mint Engraver Benjamin Barber, and interestingly they were a product not only of a design competition, but also grew out of a grassroots approach that began with an influential coin club of the time, whose members encouraged the Mint to develop better coin designs.
In addition to an overview of the origins of each series and a year by year review of important events in the country at this time, the book also provides a coin by coin and mintmark analysis, focusing on striking characteristics and other critical factors to look for in each coin.
In addition, there is help to grade these coins, certified population and retail price information, buying tips, information on errors and die varieties, the artists, past Mint directors, pattern coins, and even a brief overview of the plan for the 2016 centennial gold issues based on what was known at the time of writing, which is really no more than we know today apart from the release date for the dime.