July 2003 Book Review
Special *July 2003* Early Addition Of Our Book Review:
Indepth Book Review On 2000 North American Coins & Prices:
A Guide To U.S., Canadian and Mexican Coins....
Collectible Treasures Antique and Collectibles
Book Review July 2003
Interesting Information On Coin Collecting as noted in the 2000
North American Coins & Prices: A Guide To U.S., Canadian and
Providing coin collectors with accurate, independently produced
pricing information on collectible coins has become a trademark
of Krause Publications in its nearly 50 years of publishing. Visit
our Web site at www.krause.com, or www.coincollecting.net for
more information about us. We employ a full-time staff of market
analysts who monitor auction results, trading on electronic
networks connecting dealers across the United States and
trading at major shows.
This information is compiled by our analysts and they determine
what price most accurately reflects the trading that has occurred
for each date and mintmark in each grade listed in North
American Coins & Prices. By studying this information and
referring back to it repeatedly, a collector can arm himself with the necessary knowledge to go out in the market and make wise
U.S. coins are the most popularly collected issues in the world.
This is attributable in part to the popularity of coin collecting in
the United States, but collectors in many other countries also
covet collectible U.S. coins. After collecting U.S. coins for a
while, many collectors in the United States branch out into
issues of Canada and Mexico. These coins also enjoy a
popular following in their countries of origin.
Thus, North American Coins & Prices brings together pricing
information on all three of these countries. But this book also
takes the price guide concept a step further by providing
information on the nuts and bolts of collecting coins: acquiring
coins, grading them, organizing them into a collection, storing
them properly and much more. Novice collectors can gain the
necessary knowledge to collect coins enjoyably; veterans can
pick up some pointers to add to their knowledge.
"A small beginning" The U.S. Mint grew from a modest start:
by Robert R. Van Ryzin
It was a "small beginning" but a significant one. In July 1792,
a site for the new U.S. Mint not yet having been secured, 1,500
silver half dimes were struck on a small screw press nestled in
the cellar of a Philadelphia building owned by sawmaker John
Harper. Though some have since categorized these early
emissions of the fledgling U.S. Mint as patterns, it is clear that
first President George Washington--who is said to have deposited
the silver from which the coins were struck--considered this small
batch of half dimes the first Official U.S. coins.
It is true that this limited coinage, the first since passage of the
act establishing the Mint on April 2, 1792, pales by comparison
to modern U.S. Mint presses. Today's machines can churn out
up to 750 coins a minute, striking as many as four coins at a
time and boasting yearly mintages in the billions. But it is also
true that these first small pieces--struck from silver and stamped
with a plump Liberty on the obverse and a scrawny eagle in flight
on the reverse--have tremendous historical importance.
For within what Washington would declare in his 1792 address to
Congress as a "small beginning" were the seeds of a monetary
system that has lasted more than 200 years and has become the
study and admiration of many.
"Before the U.S. Mint"
Collectors today can trace much of the nation's development and
learn of its struggles and growth through its coinage: from a
cumbersome system first proposed by Robert Morris, a
Revolutionary War financier and first superintendent of finance,
to the refinements tendered by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander
Hamilton, which firmly placed the nation on an easily understood
decimal system of coinage.
At first there was little coinage in circulation, except for foreign
coins that arrived through trade or in the purses of the first
settlerspite a dire need for coinage in the Colonies, Great Britain considered it a royal right and granted franchises sparingly. Much
of the Colonial economy, therefore, revolved around barter, with
food staples, crops, and goods serving as currency. Indian
waupum or bead money also was used, first in the fur trade and
later as a form of money for Colonial use.
Copper pieces were produced around 1616 for Sommer Islands
(now Bermuda), but coinage within the American Colonies
apparently didn't begin until 1652, when John Hull struck silver
threepence, sixpence and shillings under authority of the General
Court of Massachusetts. This coinage continued, with design
changes (willow, oak and pine trees), through 1682. Most of the
coins were dated 1652, apparently to avoid problems with
In 1658 Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore, commissioned coins
to be struck in England for use in Maryland. Other authorized and unauthorized coinages--including those of Mark Newby, John Holt,
William Wood, and Dr. Samuel Higley--all became part of the
landscape of circulating coins. In the 1780's this hodgepodge of
coinage was augmented by influxes of counterfeit British halfpence
and various state coinages.
In terms of the latter, the Articles of Confederation had granted
individual states the right to produce copper coins. Many states
found this to be appealing, and merchants in the mid-1780's traded
copper coins of Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts. New
Jersey and New York. Not all were legal issues; various
entrepreneurs used this as an invitation to strike imitation state
coppers and British halfpence. Mutilated and worn foreign coins
also circulated in abundance. Included among these were coins
of Portugal, Great Britain and France, with the large majority of
the silver arriving from Spain.
The accounting system used by the states was derived from the
British system of pounds, shillings and pence. Each state was
allowed to set its own rates at which foreign gold and silver coins
would trade in relation to the British pound.
In 1782 Robert Morris, newly named superintendent of finance,
was appointed to head a committee to determine the values and
weights of the gold and silver coins in circulation. Asked simply
to draw up a table of values, Morris took the opportunity to
propose the establishment of a federal mint. In his Jan. 15,
1782, report (largely prepared by his assistant, Gouverneur
Morris), Morris noted that the exchange rates between the
states were complicated.
He observed that a farmer in New Hampshire would be hard-
pressed if asked to determine the value of a bushel of wheat
in South Carolina. Morris recorded that an amount of wheat
worth four shillings in his home state of New Hampshire would
be worth 21 shillings and eightpence under the accounting
system used in South Carolina.
Morris claimed these difficulties plaqued not only farmers, but
that "they are perplexing to most Men and troublesome to all."
Morris further pressed for the adoption of an American coin to
solve the problems of the need for small change and debased
foreign coinages in circulation.
In essence, what he was advocating was a monometallic
system based on silver. He said that gold and silver had
luctuated throughout history. Because these fluctuations
resulted in the more valuable metal leaving the country, any
nation that adopted a bimetallic coinage was doomed
to have its gold and silver coins disappear from circulation.
Gouverneur Morris calculated the rate at which the Spanish
dollar traded to the British pound in the various states.
Leaving out South Carolina, because it threw off his
calculations, Gouveneur Morris arrived at a common
denominator of 1,440. Robert Morris, therefore,
recommended a unit of value of 1/1,440, equivalent to a
quarter grain of silver. He suggested the striking of a silver
100-unit coin, or cent; a silver 500-unit coin, or quint; a silver
1,000-unit coin, or mark; and two copper coins, one of eight
units and the other of five units.
On Feb. 21, 1782, the Grand Committee of Congress approved
the proposal and directed Morris to press forward and report with
a plan to establish a mint. Morris had already done so.
Apparently feeling confident that Congress would like his coinage
ideas, Morris (as shown in his diary) began efforts at the physical establishment prior to his January 1782 report. He had already
engaged Benjamin Dudley to acquire necessary equipment for
the mint and hoped to have sample coins available to submit
with his original report to Congress.
Things went awry, however.
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