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Book Review: The Silver Coins Of Massachusetts - Salmon (2010)

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 Posted 09/09/2021  8:20 pm Show Profile   Check westcoin's eBay Listings Bookmark this topic Add westcoin to your friends list Get a Link to this Message
Silver Coins of Massachusetts: Classification, Minting Technique, Atlas
by Christopher J. Salmon

Hardcover with a nice dust jacket with color image full color images throughout
Published December 31, 2010 by the American Numismatic Society
Original MSRP $95.00 (Pre Order Special $60.00)

I'm attracted to coins with a story. I try to collect books and coins in areas that are special to most US collectors. These coins certainly do, as they are truly the first struck coins in British North America, a mere generation after the first settlers from Britain arrived and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Ever since coins were collected in the US these examples have been studied and pursued by scholars as well as collectors.
Mr. Salmon's book is extremely well illustrated and it's big! How big? Over a foot tall by about 10" wide and has over 300 pages printed on heavy 157gsm (grams per square meter) art paper. I have included a photo to show just how large the book and individual Atlas photograph enlargements are (using a Morgan dollar for a size reference). This book overflows my lap when opened for reading.

The author has done an admirable and fairly complete job of research, covering the minting techniques, how the dies were created and attempts to explain the common weak strikes on so many of these coinage examples, using scientific analysis. The entire minting procedures and techniques are explored in great detail.

Mr. Salmon has also created a new taxonomy system that is better suited than previous classification systems used in the past (Noe and Crosby). It seems to be consistent, easy to use, while remaining quite adaptable to any new varieties that may be discovered in the future. This is ambitious and only time will tell if collectors begin to utilize this new identification system over the commonly used Noe system popular now.

I did have a couple of quibbles with the book, the graphics and photographs are all knockouts with the exception of a couple - primarily the unique New England 3 pence and the excessively rare New England six pence seem to be from an old poor black and white halftone prints, why? There is only one known example of the 3 pence available (in the Massachusetts Historical Society Collection), and many high quality photographs exist of both examples. This seems like a big oversight, possibly due to a rush to get the manuscript to printing? There have been several very high quality counterfeits that recently surfaced and the one possibly genuine discovery which has been chronicled here at CCF

I would also have liked to see more edges photographed as many of these coins come from clipped planchets and when hammer struck they are also often wavy (not at all flat) this is illustrated nicely but no real close up photographs to speak of to show off some of these clipped and cut edges, that addition I feel would enhance the section on minting.

There are a few instances where one almost requires a dictionary to look up some words, the author tends to use some highly technical terms, this I suppose, can be attributed to the book also being a scholarly reference published by a scientific society. Nothing too dry though, and overall this is a very well written and researched "tour de force." I found it overall to be a pleasant and engaging read while it greatly enhanced my limited knowledge of these interesting first coins of Colonial America. Another fine addition to my ever growing numismatic library.

The book is not easy to find as it is now out of print, my regret is not ordering a copy when the ANS bookstore was blowing them out a couple of years ago for $45.00 each. I paid just over $100.00 for my copy shipped, though it is used it is in perfect condition. I was told by noted bookseller David Fanning not to expect to find one for the price I had put down on my want list to him last year ($60.00). He let me know he had sold his previous two copies for double my offer price. I ended up buying a copy through one of his sales, after not finding a single copy for under $200.00 the past year and a half. I was on David's want list for almost 4 years before finding this copy I ended up purchasing.

For those wanting to see/read more on these fascinating early coins, but having a hard time finding either this book or the other out of print references by Sidney Noe (also over a $100.00 when found), I've included the following links for free yet, good solid reference material and photographs:

Stack's Auction Catalog by Michael Hodder of the John J. Ford, Jr. Sale Part XII:

Stack's Auction Catalog of The Hain Family Sale of Massachusetts Silver:

Stack's/Bowers Auction Catalog of the David M. Sundman (Littleton Coins) Collection:

Alan V. Weinberg's Collection of Massachusetts Silver:

ANS & Anthony J. Terranova present a study of Massachusetts Silver Coinage:

Photographic Slides (for above book):

About the Author:

Christopher J. Salmon, M.D. is a radiologist in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona. A former National Institutes of Health Research Fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, he was Director of Thoracic Imaging at Brown University and then Director of Thoracic Imaging at Oregon Health & Science University. He has written articles in the medical scientific literature and has been a contributing author in several medical textbooks. He is an enthusiastic collector, bibliophile and student in a wide variety of areas including American and ancient coins, early Americana, Greek and Roman art, music, and the history of science. This is his first numismatic book.

Following is a copy of the contents from the original American Numismatic Society Listing.


Part One: Classification
A Revised Taxonomy of the Massachusetts Silver Coinage with Concordance to Noe and Crosby
Advantages of the Original Crosby Classification
Intermediate Types with Interpolative Designations: Problems with the Noe Classification
Advantages of the New System: The Crosby Model
Subseries Numbered Separately
Chronology and Method of Attribution
New England and Willow Tree Series
Oak Tree Series
The Spiny Tree Coins and the Evidence of the Overstrikes
The Large Planchet Pine Tree Shillings
The Small Planchet Pine Tree Shillings
The Pine Tree Sixpence Varieties
Counterfeits and Questionable Varieties
Die Links of the Small Planchet Pine Tree Shillings
Concordance Tables

Part Two: Minting Technique
The Problem of the Willow Tree Coins
Comparison of Minting Techniques of the Massachusetts Silver Coinage: Hand Hammering and the Rocker Press
Rocker Press Phenomena
Acquired Damage from Flattening
The Inner Circle Index: A Measure of Distortion and Evidence of Rocker Press Manufacture
Inner Circle Indices for Willow, Oak and Pine Tree Shillings
Characteristics of the Willow Tree Coinage: Weak and Discordant Multiple Strikes
A Graphical Method of Determining Strike Multiplicity and Die Rotation and Translation Between Strikes
New Composite Reconstructions of the Willow Tree Shilling Dies
Apparent Die Axis of the Willow Tree Coinage
Multiple Strikes of Similar Energy: The Effects of Die Angulation
A Physical Explanation for the Weak Strikes of the Willow Tree Coinage
The Acquisition of a Coining Press
Fabric of the Willow Tree Coinage
Quality of Execution of the Willow Tree Coinage Dies: Mannerist Style

Part Three: Atlas (Photographs)


Keep an eye out for a copy of your own at your local used book shop, goodwill, etc, maybe you will get lucky and find a copy for a bargain price.
"Buy the Book Before You Buy the Coin" - Aaron R. Feldman - "And read it" - Me 2013!
ANA Life Member #3288 in good standing since 1982, Early American Coppers Member (EAC) #6202, Colonial Coin Collectors Club (C4), Conder Token Collector Club (CTCC), & Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS) Member, 2 variety collector.

See my want page:
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United States
23689 Posts
 Posted 09/09/2021  8:58 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add Spence to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Good info to have @west even if I'm not in the market for another MA silver. Thx for posting this!
"If you climb a good tree, you get a push."
-----Ghanaian proverb

"The danger we all now face is distinguishing between what is authentic and what is performed."
-----King Adz
Pillar of the Community
United States
8820 Posts
 Posted 11/03/2021  03:41 am  Show Profile   Check westcoin's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add westcoin to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Just wanted to update that it appears these books are now being offered at Heritage Auctions site. then go to the "Bid/Buy" tab select and scroll down to book orders click. New page opens and scroll down, look for the pop up button that says: "Special Books, hard bound editions and more" click to open a list of all books available.

It's in that listing (top) as of November 1st, 2021
"Buy the Book Before You Buy the Coin" - Aaron R. Feldman - "And read it" - Me 2013!
ANA Life Member #3288 in good standing since 1982, Early American Coppers Member (EAC) #6202, Colonial Coin Collectors Club (C4), Conder Token Collector Club (CTCC), & Numismatic Bibliomania Society (NBS) Member, 2 variety collector.

See my want page:
Edited by westcoin
11/03/2021 03:43 am
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