While there was a trickle of activity in U.S. numismatics during the 1830s and 1840s, the
hobby did not begin to take off until the late 1850s. It was during that period that several
auctions exclusively devoted to coins were held, and the American Numismatic Society was formed.
The center of activity was, not unexpectedly in the great eastern cites of Philadelphia and New York.
While a handful of books detailing the history of early American numismatics had been published
prior to the Civil War, (The Manual of Gold and Silver Coins of All Nations, Eckfeldt and Dubois,
1842; and Dickeson's American Numismatical Manual, 1859 among them) there was really no simple,
succinct guidebook for collectors that discussed values of coins.
In 1860, that need was met by George Jones of Philadelphia in his publication of The Coin Collectors
Manual. Sold at the shop of Edward Cogan, it was by no means a lavish affair. A mere 42 pages long,
it simply listed all U.S., Colonial and Pattern coins in order, with prices realized from the major sales
of the past five years. In keeping with the practice of the period, mintmarks were ignored.
In the preface, Jones noted that: "The want of a concise Coin Manual, or guide book, has long been felt
by collectors, and those beginning to arrange collections of coins. It seems hardly necessary to mention
a fact so well known, but it has not been generally appreciated until the present time. The various works
on coins that have been published, are too elaborate, and consequently too costly, to come within general
reach, and many do not contain the information most important to the student in Numismatics, or the young
collector; such, for instance, as the market value of coins. This is of daily use, to those who are
endeavoring to improve their collections; and although it is at once conceded that the value is somewhat
variable, and dependent on the condition of the coin, and perhaps other causes, still it is desirable to
have this information at hand, and in a concise, intelligible form."
In a fascinating precursor to one of the hottest topics in numismatics, Jones also noted that "It is a matter
of regret, that there is such a diversity of opinion with regard to the condition of a coin. There must be an
absence of prejudice and interest in the coin in question, in order to give a fair report of it; and at time,
even experienced collectors and dealers will disagree." Sound familiar?
In any event, we hope you enjoy this look back at the birth of commercial numismatics and a chance to peruse the
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