The following is re-posted from the “Bowers on Collecting” column on Coin Update
In 1979, my Adventures with Rare Coins book was published. I recounted some of my favorite coins and stories. I don’t recall the print run, but it caused a sensation at the time and landed compliments and rewards. This went through a number of reprintings. Today, I still get stray letters from readers—now by e-mail, hardly ever typed and sent in an envelope with a stamp.
Around the turn of the present century—remember Y2K?—I gathered together 50 more stories for a sequel, More Adventures with Rare Coins. Taking a cue from the long subtitles of the 19th century, the title page included this under the name of the book:
Fifty Favorite Numismatic Stories
The Art, History, and Romance of Coinage
An American Repository and Museum
In book form
for your pleasure and edification
In contrast, if it had just been called Coins!, it would be easier to remember.
Ken Bressett, the long-time editor of A Guide Book of United States Coins, wrote the foreword.
I provide the list of 50 favorites as given in the Table of Contents. See how many subjects are familiar to you. Perhaps one or two will inspire a search on the Internet to learn more.
Adventure No. 1: The Pine Tree Shilling Dated 1652: The Massachusetts Bay Colony seeks to deter various sharpers by creating coins with lettering around the edges and various trees at the center, in this instance, a pine.
Adventure No. 2: The Prairie Flower: The story of an Indian maiden, The Prairie Flower (the song of Rosalie), and, finally, memorialization in the shop of John Stanton, Cincinnati.
Adventure No. 3: The 1776 Continental Currency Dollar: Made under the authority of the Continental Congress, most numismatists agree, but under what legislation and circumstances remain to be discovered.
Adventure No. 4: The Controversial 1909 V.D.B. Lincoln Cent: Just because George T. Morgan, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, and Charles Barber signed their coins didn’t mean that Victor D. Brenner should have.
Adventure No. 5: A Memorable 1894-S Barber Dime: In which the author buys a little dime, and a lot of hoopla results, impressing many people, including Dave Garroway.
Adventure No. 6: The Mansion on the Hill: Who lived there? Exactly where was it located? What was its significance? Why is it mentioned in this book?
Adventure No. 7: The 1861 C.S.A. Half Dollar Restrike: E.B. Mason, Jr., buys a die and coin, travels around to sell them, and finally sells to J.W. Scott, after which David Proskey (he of India rubber conscience) tells what happened.
Adventure No. 8: The Rise and Fall of the 1903-O Silver Dollar: Or, the secret of a long-sealed vault at the Philadelphia Mint.
Adventure No. 9: The 1776 Libertas Americana Medal: Benjamin Franklin makes arrangements in Paris, and the rest is numismatic history.
Adventure No. 10: The American Eagle Holds a Cigar: A numismatic wandering involving William Bridgens in New York City, Darius Skidmore in Seneca Falls, and what may be the most curious depiction ever of the national bird.
Adventure No. 11: Rocky Mountain Gold: The 1860 Clark, Gruber & Co. $10: What exactly does Pikes Peak look like? The engraver surely didn’t know. And, for good measure, the story includes certain privately issued $5 notes that were worth more than the U.S. Treasury’s $5 bills.
Adventure No. 12: The Connoisseur-Pleasing Dollar of 1794: You read it in the New Hampshire Gazette: “The tout ensemble has a pleasing effect to a connoisseur, but the touches of the graver are too delicate.”
Adventure No. 13: Snowden’s “Pet” 1860 Half Dime: If Mint Director James Ross Snowden said that only 100 were made, then it must be so. Or is it?
Adventure No. 14: The “King of Territorial Gold”: There are various “kingly” coins, and this particular piece has been given that title. Ferdinand Gruner’s creation is, indeed, quite impressive.
Adventure No. 15: A Half Dollar of, by, and for Hoffecker: In which a Texan decides to have a half dollar made for himself and persuades Congress to allow him the privilege.
Adventure No. 16: The Elusive 1916 Standing Liberty Quarter: In the twentieth century, coins from the first year of issue of a coin type were usually saved in quantity. Right? In this instance, wrong.
Adventure No. 17: Dr. Feuchtwanger and His 1837 “Silver Penny”: His legacy includes A Treatise on Gems, Kreosote, and, yes, lots of interesting coins.
Adventure No. 18: A 1796 Token “unsurpassed in beauty”: That is how Sylvester S. Crosby described this piece in his 1875 book, Early American Coins.
Adventure No. 19: The Fascinating 1883 Liberty Head Nickel: In which Secret Service undercover operative Henry Finnegas tracks down a nickel-passing scoundrel and, not long thereafter in unrelated circumstances, John Hubbard, Farran Zerbe, and others have their lives affected by this “design mistake.”
Adventure No. 20: The Fantastic 1804 Dollar: Eric P. Newman and Kenneth Bressett called it fantastic, and others bestowed different accolades and adjectives—in the process generating more columns of print than ever accorded any other single American rarity.
Adventure No. 21: The 1868 (yes, 1868!) Large Copper Cent: How can that be? I thought they stopped minting large cents in 1857. But, on the other hand, I thought they stopped minting Liberty Head nickels in 1912 and trade dollars in 1883.
Adventure No. 22: Eccleston’s Medal of Washington, Tribute or Travesty?: All you probably want to know about Daniel Belteshazzar Fitz William Caractacus Cadwallador Llewellyn Ap-Tudor Plantagenet Eccleston.
Adventure No. 23: The Illogical Twenty-Cent Piece of 1875: Oops! We made a mistake! Let’s melt those 10,000 1876-CC pieces sitting in storage.
Adventure No. 24: What De Fleury Did at Stony Point: A silver medal found by a boy while digging in a garden at Princeton, New Jersey, toward the close of April 1850, bespeaks a memorable incident of years earlier.
Adventure No. 25: Daring to be Different: The 1943 Steel Cent: Beautiful when struck, these pieces soon became ugly ducklings. Today, they are numismatic curiosities that anyone can afford.
Adventure No. 26: Direct from the Gold Rush: The 1848 CAL. $2.50: The Gold Rush started in earnest in December 1848, and the specific shipment containing gold used to strike this particular $2.50 coin helped precipitate the excitement in the East, spawning travels of the Forty-Niners into the sunset.
Adventure No. 27: The Numismatic Legacy of “Yankee Robinson”: Someone named “Yankee” might have a hard time trouping around the South in 1859, and this is what happened to Fayette Lodawick (“Yankee”) Robinson.
Adventure No. 28: The Story of the 1892 Columbian Half Dollar: This is the coin that everyone wanted, and in a burst of enthusiasm, $10,000 was paid for the first one.
Adventure No. 29: The 1787 Columbia and Washington Medal: Boston adventurers sail to the remote Pacific Northwest, taking medals with them for use as gifts and in trade.
Adventure No. 30: The 1820 North West Company Token: Worth one beaver pelt, these brass tokens were highly prized by Native American hunters and trappers. Today, the typical specimen is well worn, even corroded, and holed—but is rare and highly sought by numismatists.
Adventure No. 31: The 1925 Fort Vancouver Half Dollar: A missing mintmark, an airplane flight over the mountains, and other incidents.
Adventure No. 32: Teddy Roosevelt’s “Pet Crime”: The MCMVII $20: This unique collaboration between President Roosevelt and America’s most famous sculptor, working against the entrenched interests at the Mint, produced one of the most beautiful coins ever.
Adventure No. 33: The 1879 “Schoolgirl” Silver Dollar: This “Morgan dollar” might have been, but wasn’t, and today is so rare that few numismatists have ever seen one.
Adventure No. 34: The “Wealth of the South” Tokens: Made in the North, these tokens had the inscription “No Submission to the North” and were sold in the South, this being the start of a curiously complicated series of tokens in which candidates Lincoln, Breckinridge, Douglas, and Bell are also involved, not to overlook Steamer Lancaster No. 4.
Adventure No. 35: The 1856 Flying Eagle Cent: If fewer than 1,000 were officially struck, why are there more than 1,500 in existence today?
Adventure No. 36: The Incredible 1851 California $50 “Slug”: Over a dozen steps were required to create this incredibly historic item—the signature coin of the California Gold Rush.
Adventure No. 37: The 1913 Liberty Head Nickel: B. Max Mehl suggested that men and women, boys and girls, check their pocket change to find one of these, but first, spend $1 for a copy of his Star Rare Coin Encyclopedia, which told of this and other treasures.
Adventure No. 38: President Washington and the 1792 Half Disme: It’s a pattern! No, it isn’t! Yes, it is! What do you think?
Adventure No. 39: Little Billboards of a Bygone Era: If you do not know about Goodwin’s Grand Glittering Globules or Meschutt’s Coffee Room on Broadway, this “adventure” is for you. And, what is the significance of VOTE THE LAND FREE?
Adventure No. 40: P.T. Barnum and Numismatics: America’s greatest showman influenced numismatics in many ways, culminating with his portrait on a half dollar. Along the way, B. Max Mehl took notice.
Adventure No. 41: Drake’s Plantation Bitters: What does “S.T.1860.X” mean? It was an era of cabalistic inscriptions, and such mysteries helped to sell the product.
Adventure No. 42: The “Too Classic” 1915-S Panama-Pacific $50: What are all those dolphins and that Athenian owl doing on this modern coin?
Adventure No. 43: “Our Little Monitor”: When the Monitor engaged the Merrimack in the memorable Civil War clash of the ironclads, who won? The North commemorated its ship on a series of tokens.
Adventure No. 44: The 1785 Vermont “Landscape” Copper: How a chain stretched across the Hudson River, a wooden structure in Pawlet, Vermont, and other events come together as part of a numismatic narrative.
Adventure No. 45: The 1857-S $20 From the Briny Deep: Millions have dreamed of finding golden treasure on a sunken ship. Thousands have tried, but Tommy Thompson and Bob Evans succeeded.
Adventure No. 46: The 1916 Liberty Striding Half Dollar: This design was highly acclaimed in its time, and today it is a favorite with collectors.
Adventure No. 47: The 1861-D Gold $1 and the Dahlonega Mint: Not everyone realizes that this particular coin is the only coinage produced exclusively for circulation under the auspices of the Confederate States of America
Adventure No. 48: Indian Peace Medals for all Seasons: Lewis and Clark, on their 1804-1806 exploring expedition through the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase, took a supply of these and presented them to Native Americans along the route.
Adventure No. 49: “Been there, done that”: The trade dollar travels all the way to China and is appreciated when it arrives.
Adventure No. 50: The 2000 New Hampshire Quarter: How did the Old Man of the Mountain come to be pictured on it?