Numismatic literature excitement reigns with a sale and a sellout

An 1850 numismatic book related to the California Gold Rush sold for $10,625 on Sept. 21 as part of Bonhams’ Fine Books and Manuscripts auction in New York City.

Original images courtesy of Bonhams.

?The Sept. 21 auction by Bonhams’ Fine Books and Manuscripts in New York City of a copy of the 1850 book New Varieties of Gold and Silver Coins, Counterfeit Coins, and Bullion; with Mint Values by Jacob Reese Eckfeldt and William E. Du Bois for an astounding $10,625 is an illustration of the power in the marketplace of numismatic literature.

This book, written in 1850, includes reports of the new gold finds in California. The historical value of the book is enhanced by the presence of gold fragments and a tiny gold bar from the California fields behind a sheet of mica. The Gold Rush connection gives owners of the book a historical connection that few works provide.
Numismatic books have been leading the news recently. In the past month, the newly released fifth edition of Q. David Bowers’ A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars sold out almost immediately. Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker explained: “Part of the strong demand for this edition comes from the recently revealed discovery of hubs, dies, and models for a 1964 Morgan dollar. This exciting announcement was made in late August, and demand for the book skyrocketed in September.” The book features on its cover the photograph of a hub for the 1964 Morgan dollar, with more photographs and details of the discovery inside. Since the existence of models, hubs and dies for an 1964 Morgan dollar were unknown until the book was announced, collectors were eager to share in this exciting news by purchasing a copy. (And Dennis promises that thousands more copies of the book will be available soon.)

Not all books, however, qualify as classic works, as columnist Joel Orosz ex­plains in his “Numismatic Bookie” column in this issue. He cites The Profit March of Your Coin Investment, 1935–1971, written by a man Joel describes as “the Barnumesque” George Haylings. Haylings was wildly optimistic in his 1960 book, in which he predicted that a roll of 1950-D Jefferson 5-cent coins would be worth $10,000 in 1971. They were actually worth $50.

Numismatic literature can inspire, inform, educate and, on some occasions, give bad advice. For collectors, a good library is a vital tool in their hobby.

Read any good books lately?