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

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

  1. calcol

    calcol Supporter! Supporter

    I have a copy of the big Breen book. He autographed it for me at a club meeting. He was disgusted with the print and binding quality of the book and felt his masterpiece should have been better handled. I chatted with him briefly at club meetings and shows. Was always friendly.

    I’ve used my copy very little, and it’s in great shape. I use specialty books and the internet for most of my research.

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  3. halfcent1793

    halfcent1793 Well-Known Member

    I had my copy of Breen's Complete Encyclopedia rebound when it started coming apart. Since then, it's been fine, and it does get regular use. The binding of his half cent encyclopedia was even worse. I have two copies of that, one of which fell apart, and the other I handle only VERY carefully.
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  4. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    I have seen a few examples of the Breen Encyclopedia which have held together quite well. Northeast Numismatics had one of them. Maybe it was just the luck of the draw.

    My Breen half cent book is still mostly together. Mostly because I don’t use it very much. I sold my collection for “seed money” in the mid 1990s when I started out as a dealer. The trouble the collection had “hit a wall.” All the coins I needed were in “strong hands,” and it would be many years before I would have had a chance to fill the holes.
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  5. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    As Tibor said, that was a glamor shot. Walter was usually more like how Tibor described him. The bushy hair and beard were a constant but by the time I knew him his personal hygiene had improved, but his choice of clothing hadn't changed. The comment about the pedicure was because Walter always wore sandals. and carried he working copies of his manuscripts around with him in and army duffel bag.
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  6. Insider

    Insider Talent on loan from...

    physics-fan3.14, posted: "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."

    I agree.

    "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."

    I write this with all due respect to the Redbook Series and its publishers. To compare that book with the Breen book has to be a joke! The Redbook is a nice reference for beginners to look up mintages and coin specifications. It also includes many popular varieties and some history about the coins themselves. It is a great STARTER reference. The Mega Redbook is no Breen Encyclopedia and does not try to be.

    If you're interested in a particular series, I'd recommend a specialist book on that series."

    I agree if one exists.
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  7. calcol

    calcol Supporter! Supporter

    Are there any US series (other than very recent, modern series) for which a specialist book doesn't exist? I know for some series, the most recent specialist books are pretty old. But they still exist if you can get your hands on one. I've been looking for a copy of Swoger's medal book for a while with no success.

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  8. Insider

    Insider Talent on loan from...

    First of all, you can find publications on just about every series. Unfortunately, some are out of print, rare and expensive like the one on 3c nickel coins. Others are a bunch of "fluff'' marketed as "complete." Others are virtually obsolete. For example, Trade dollars have no reference that is not obsolete.

    What I consider a complete worthwhile reference is a book like Liberty Seated Dollars a Register of Die Varieties by Osburn and Cushing. This is really a complete guide and I'll bet there will not be much new info to add decades from now. Ditto the 20c reference Double Dimes by Brunner and Frost.

    There are several other excellent references in other series. There are two for the early quarter dollars.

    Eventually, there will be high quality and complete references on every series. I'll be long dead. :(
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  9. tibor

    tibor Well-Known Member

    Is there a website or a thread on CT where collectors can find out about books in their collecting field?
    Kevin Flynn has written several books on many series. There is the Bowers Red Book series. We need to update the list as new books are published.
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  10. Conder101

    Conder101 Numismatist

    Unfortunately most of these I would put in Insiders "fluff" category. Yes they contain some good information but they don't come close to being anything like a comprehensive reference. They are also about the only references on several series.
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  11. tibor

    tibor Well-Known Member

    While Flynn's books might be considered "fluff" by some, many collectors don't need in depth research. If they do they can graduate to other books. I have many of his books and they have the basic information. All of the variety information ie. MPD's, Doubled dates and other such things are not necessary for me at least. He's done the research and presented it in an enjoyable way. Either way we still need a thread or website where books for each series can be found so that the interested collector can make a choice.
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  12. WFN

    WFN Member

    I concur with many of the comments about Breen's Encyclopedia - early rarity ratings from any author are always revised when additional examples are found. Breen was accurate when he used factual information, when he speculated or opined (as in Scot's engraving), he could be incorrect. I use specialist reference books that utilize more complete research than Breen could accomplish in trying to write an authoritative reference for all coins.

    Regarding the debate earlier in this thread, I also agree that both Robert Scot and John Reich were both excellent engravers in their prime. The engraver of the original (master) die may not be the same person who created or directed the design concept for a coin type.

    There is ample evidence that Reich engraved the 1807 Capped Bust designs. Not only his "signatures" on the coins but Mint documents - Director Patterson wrote to President Jefferson the day after Reich's employment that he was "preparing a new set of dies..."

    This sentence is not included in reference books on early designs, or in Reich's biography, from the Mint document on Reich's terms of employment "And the said John Reich covenants and engages to execute any work, in the line of his profession, which may be required of him, either by the Director, or by the Chief engraver..."

    Reich did not work independent of Scot, as is often inferred by authors - Reich took direction from Scot.

    For the 1807 Capped Bust designs, did Reich immediately create the capped bust design upon employment, or was a concept drawing created by Scot, with Director Patterson's approval, and then engraved by Reich?

    This Vermont die engraved by Scot in 1798 gives some evidence (image reversed and cropped, next to 1807 reverse). Does anyone believe that Reich actually created and engraved an eagle design in 1807 without any direction from Scot, that coincidentally was about the same shape as Scot's 1798 eagle design?

    190213au-13 - Copy.jpg 1807 reverse fifty c ent.jpg
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