Walter Breen's Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by ZoidMeister, Sep 9, 2020.

  1. Mike Thorne

    Mike Thorne Well-Known Member

    Do you mean unkempt?
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  3. Mike Thorne

    Mike Thorne Well-Known Member

    I use the Breen book for colorful comments about coin design when I'm writing a coin article. For example, you should see what he has to say about Charles E. Barber's Barber quarter design. He didn't like either it or its designer.
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  4. physics-fan3.14

    physics-fan3.14 You got any more of them.... prooflikes? Supporter

    Breen's book may have been useful when it was written.

    In the decades since, much new information has been researched, many of his fantasies have been debunked, and decades worth of updated rarity figures have been counted.

    If you want it for historical use, great. If you want it for actual numismatic use, a copy of the Mega Red Book is going to be far more reliable. If you're interested in a particular series, I'd recommend a specialist book on that series.
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  5. tibor

    tibor Well-Known Member

    Most reference books over time become outdated to a point. While he may have embellished many facts, his research in the 1950s and 60s laid the ground work for many future books. I did meet Breen at the New Orleans ANA show in the early 80s. The body odor was horrible and outside of Fidel Castro I never knew anyone more in love with their own voice.
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  6. ZoidMeister

    ZoidMeister Hamlet Squire of Tomfoolery . . . . . Supporter

    Just found my Cherrypicker's Guide.

    It's a First Edition too . . . .

    Pretty dated I would imagine.




  7. medoraman

    medoraman Supporter! Supporter

    Even the newest edition would be out of date. I think this would work for what you want to pick up on.
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  8. Mike Thorne

    Mike Thorne Well-Known Member

    Just a note from an old statistics professor: Reliable means you get the same or similar results each time, whereas valid means it measures what you think it measures. People almost always use reliable when what they really mean is valid.
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  9. halfcent1793

    halfcent1793 Well-Known Member

    He didn't like Robert Scot's work, either. Does anyone here think the Draped Bust design is "unsatisfactory" as Breen thought? (p. 169 of his Complete Encyclopedia)

    On the other hand, he was a huge fan of John Reich, suggesting, without evidence, that Reich redesigned all the coins when he worked at the Mint.

    These are the kinds of "Breenisms" that you can't trust.
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  10. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    And I know that you don't want to give John Reich credit from designing anything. I am sorry, but that really makes me angry, and I needed to get that off my chest.

    If you look at the 1801 Thomas Jefferson inaugural medal, for which he gets undisputed credit, one can see that Reich had talent. To think that he never designed anything while he worked at the U.S. mint is absurd.

    Jefferson Ing All.jpg

    Look at these two half dollars. Do you think that they were designed by the same person?

    Draped Bust by Robert Scot

    1806 Half Dollar all.jpg

    Capped Bust Half Dollar Attributed to John Reich

    1807 Bust Half Dollar.jpg
    Scot was a very talented designer in his early years, and I have long admired his Draped Bust designs. Toward the end he lost it, however, as evidenced by the Capped Bust Quarter Eagles from 1821 to 1827.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2020
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  11. halfcent1793

    halfcent1793 Well-Known Member

    I never said Reich had no talent or that he deserved no credit for his designs. The Jefferson Inaugural medal, the Jefferson Peace medal, the Sansom medals, the Treble medal, etc., were very worthy endeavors. To the best of my knowledge, all were commercial ventures.

    They were struck at the Mint, but they were all created before Reich was employed there. He was not a Mint employee until April 1, 1807, and he resigned effective March 31, 1817 after his Stephen Decatur medal proposal was rejected. The reason he gave for his resignation was “the extreme weekness [sic] of my eyes, which have already made me refuse all work of this kind and could not execute any more to my satisfaction.” He is not known to have done any medal/coin engraving after his resignation, so we can believe his rationale.

    What I said was that there is no contemporary evidence that he designed any US coins.
  12. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    And there is no contemporary evidence that he didn't design any U.S. coins. You have taken that fig leaf and used it as an excuse to write off John Reich's contributions to U.S. coinage, and that is wrong.

    You talk about "Breenisms." Here you are doing the same thing. You think that it makes your book look like some sort of "break though" in research. It's a good book, but that aspect of it does not make it any better. In fact it's one of the book's weaknesses. It is your opinion and nothing else.
  13. Mainebill

    Mainebill Wild Bill

    Well there was obviously something wrong with him (which of course we all know). Who doesn’t love a good bust. The draped bust is actually my FAVORITE coin design
  14. Paddy54

    Paddy54 Variety Collector

    Breen also was a contributor on Valentine's book on half dimes. This is another reference that many have a hard time understanding its text. There are only images of plate coins and their images are far from usable .
    Breem as others have described used the word rare like on every specimen.
    However sometimes you'll find usefull information.
    I do have a copy in my library, and find like other out of print numanistaics books still holds value.
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  15. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Breen’s half dime supplement, which was published in 1958, inspired me to collect the early dates. It was part of the Quarterman reprint, which was a wonderful book from the 1970s.
  16. halfcent1793

    halfcent1793 Well-Known Member

    You can't prove a negative. The null hypothesis has to be that the Chief Engraver, Scot, designed the coins. If there is evidence that he did not, then you can go to the next guy on the hierarchy. I'm a scientist, so that's the way I think.

    I consider Breen's half cent, cent and US encyclopedias masterpieces of their time. He was a brilliant numismatist, but there is information in all of his works in which he makes pronouncements that are not supported by any evidence and others that are contradicted by the evidence. Fortunately, the newer generation of numismatic researchers rely a lot more heavily on evidence.

    I address Breen's loathing of Scot in an upcoming article in Penny-Wise.
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  17. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    And I suppose that since you are "a scientist" everyone else is wrong.

    You logic is chasing its own tail. After generations of numismatists have attributed the Capped Bust to design to John Reich, you, in one fell swoop have proved them all wrong "by proving your negative hypothesis."

    We know that Robert Scot designed all of the early coins from mid 1794 to 1807. Henry Voigt gets credit for the Chain and Wreath Cents and Joseph Wright gets credit for the Liberty Cap Cent design, although I think you have brought that into doubt as well. I think that you would like to throw Joseph Wright under the bus too. Correct me if I am wrong.

    John Reich was hired as an assistant mint engraver in 1807. Beginning in that year, the mint began to introduce a new series of the designs. According to you, Robert Scot designed all of them. John Reich does not get any credit for anything. Why? Because YOU have been unable to find a scrap of paper or any evidence that would have given him credit for designing any of the coins.

    Yet there is evidence that John Reich did have a hand in producing the Capped Bust deign.
    • When Reich was hired, notches began to appear on the 13th star of gold and silver coins. No such notches have been noted on coins issued before Reich was hired, and they disappeared after Reich left the mint’s employ.

    • There are some examples of the Capped Bust design were a tiny “J R” in script can be seen on the clasp the pulls the fabric together on Ms. Liberty’s drapery.

    • The style of the designs indicate that they were made by a different hand.
    You have stated that Robert Scot produced some very beautiful designs. I agree with you. But if Scot was the great artist that you claim he was, how do you explain this very unattractive design that has always been attributed John Reich?

    1813 Half Eagle O.jpg

    Did Scot create that this hard looking, middle aged woman, with hair sharply defined, in higher relief, that is totally out of character with his previous work? Since you have pushed Reich totally out of the picture, you have to admit that the same hand produced both of these designs.

    1806 and 1813 5 gold O.jpg

    Check out this 1825 quarter eagle which numismatists have attributed as Scot's interpretation of the John Reich design. Do you see how Scot treated the hair? It is in lower relief and more subtle. The first view emphasizes the hair detial while the second is a view of the coin from the "straignt on" angle.

    1825 Qua Eag An O.jpg 1825 Quarter Eagle A O.jpg

    I'll leave with this comparison of an 1804 and an 1808 quarter eagle. The 1804 is Scot's work and, according to you, the 1808 is also Scot's work.

    1804 and 1808 250 O.jpg

    I don't see these pieces as works by the same artist. But I know that you will see it differently.

    Artists, coposers and writers all have fingerprints. Those subtle differences provide clues as to who may have created a given work.
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  18. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    Did you ever know him in person?

    I've had two copies and they both quickly became loose leaf references.

    They weren't used.

    That surprises me. I have used my copy heavily ever since it came out back in 1983 and it is holding up nicely. Much better than my copy of his cent book, which I have also used very heavily, but only since 2000. (I have two copies of that as well, the glossy blue picture cover, and the deluxe clothbound edition. I don't use the deluxe. My deluxe is signed by Mark Borchardt. He was rather surprised when he saw it. He said that the first printing copies got damaged and had glue smeared on the covers. They had to be sent back for rebinding and came back with a different color cloth binding. I apparently have one of the originals. He said there less than 200 copies that weren't damaged.
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  19. Mike Thorne

    Mike Thorne Well-Known Member

    Mine has several pages that have separated from the binding, but I've used it a good bit over the years. I got a copy from David Bowers, I think, many years ago.
  20. -jeffB

    -jeffB Greshams LEO Supporter

    No, and that's probably for the best, although I was probably too young even for him during his -- most active years.

    I'm not sure what you were reading into my comment. I saw in that photo a guy with remarkably bushy hair and beard; I wasn't looking any farther than that.
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  21. tibor

    tibor Well-Known Member

    That picture of him is a "glamore photo". When I met him he was wearing a
    tie died shirt and a pair of tattered shorts. His body odor was awful to say the
    least. Could really have used a pedicure!! His hair was unkempt and greasy.
    His beard was dirty and in need of a bottle of shampoo. Still yet, dealers and
    collectors would flock to him for "bourse floor" authentication and certificates.
    Until we had TPGs and the internet he was the go to guy. Outside of David Bowers,
    there was no one in the hobby that knew so much numismatic history. Most
    of his numismatic knowledge came from spending years in the mint archives.
    Yes I know there was some embellishment, the over use of the word "rare",
    but there is new information and hoards being discovered all the time. Take the
    recent dispersal of the "Fairmont" collection. A lot of pre 1860 mint marked
    gold coming to market. Who knew about that 5 years ago.
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