Saturday, March 12, 2011

Q. David Bowers's Whitman Insider Guide: Collecting Presidential Dollars, Volume 5

One of the few hobbies I have is numismatics. I got the bug from my maternal grandfather, even though he died when I was very young. My mother told stories of grandfather collecting coins by going to a local bank, sitting in the vault, and sorting through bags of coins. (Obviously, the bank owners trusted him enough to sit in the vault for hours on end.) Grandfather once gave me a greeting card packed with foreign coins he found over the years. When both of mother’s parents passed away, she brought home her share of grandfather’s coin albums and organized the cache of coins for safe keeping in a safety deposit box. Mother showed me grandfather’s treasure and taught me how to look for the mint marks on the coins. Fascinated, I started my own coin albums and collected quite a few pennies, but I stopped because I wanted to use my money to buy candy bars on the weekends. About a year ago, I needed to occupy myself with something when I took breaks from reading philosophy books and writing my thesis. One day, I was thinking about my grandfather and how I did not get to know him very well when he was alive. I only had one memory of him, and that was when he and grandmother came down to see my new baby sister. Then I thought about coin collecting. Could I get to know my grandfather by collecting coins? I decided to start again with small change. Surprisingly, I amassed a nice collection of circulated coins and gained some excitement in the search for missing ones. I think I have felt the same way grandfather did when I come upon a coin that I have been searching for a long time. Even when I do not find one after shuffling through a pile for a couple of hours, my mind feels at ease and I can go back to working on a project. Grandfather must have liked the spread of his collection at his table, the details of the sculptured surfaces, the luster of the precious metals, the patina of old pennies, the mystery of a coin’s journey to his hands, the strangeness of the sandwich quarters, and the satisfaction of finding that elusive one to complete a series. Yes, I have gotten to know my grandfather better through this hobby we share.

I received a book from Whitman Publishing, LLC, after I ordered some coin supplies. The company titled the book Whitman Insider Guide: Collecting Presidential Dollars. Q. David Bowers wrote this Official Whitman Guidebook, the fifth volume in a small series, but knowing he was the author took some research on the Internet to find that out.

This small book takes only a few hours to read. Ironically, it does not tell how a collector can get presidential dollars; it mainly outlines the background of each American president and their contributions. It does show other coins, tokens, and commemorative coins that have been made in the past, but they take only a passing interest to the presidents’ biographies. The information gives quick summaries of political events, dates, and trivia. Although not a comprehensive reference book, it can help students in the grade school system to memorize names and dates. I would have wanted this book if it had been available to me in my AP American History class in high school. Particularly interesting are the names and dates of the first wives and children of these presidents. The biographies seem trustworthy and accurate until you come to the most recent presidents, and then they seem biased. I crack up when I read “unwise dalliance” in the 42nd President’s biography (120). The decorous wording may cause children to ask their parents for the meaning of the phrase, which may in turn create an awkward conversation.

Who are your favorite presidents? Mine are few. I include Washington only because he is an icon and the first. I admire Lincoln the most because of his perseverance during a bloody and horrible war. I remember Reagan as an approachable president throughout my childhood. If someone asks me which president I would like to invite to dinner, I will answer that I would invite John Quincy Adams, because of his “support of literature, art, and science” (20). I would like to know what his favorite books were and why. I doubt though that he would be interested in coins.


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