Whenever Q. David Bowers releases a new book, numismatists everywhere smile. His literary contributions are legendary. More than 30 years ago Bowers’s importance was recognized by the Numismatic Literary Guild when he was awarded the Clemy, the group’s top award for long-term literary excellence.
What is less known, perhaps, is David’s wonderful leadership qualities, which were on display when he served as president of the American Numismatic Association in the early 1980s.
When I first met Dave, I was a young (27) grader/authenticator for the American Numismatic Association Certification Service (ANACS), joining a ANA board meeting in Colorado Springs. At the time, the board of ANA luminaries was debating whether to change the way our grading service described coins, from numbers to adjectival grading. We graders pointed out that the hobby and our customers preferred numerical grading. Many of the board’s elder statesmen (and stateswomen) preferred adjectives like “Choice Uncirculated” to a numerical grade like “MS-63.” With 20/20 hindsight, I think we graders not only had a better crystal ball for the future, but we also understood what the majority of our members wanted.
President Bowers agreed with us younger graders and adroitly led the board to a decision to forego changing our grading methodology to an adjectival system. I will never forget his respectful command and leadership in that important board meeting. As the newest grader—just six weeks on the job—he may have saved my job (as last-in, first-out). Thanks, Dave!
ANACS was founded in part by Virgil Hancock, also a past president of the ANA. Counterfeits and altered coins were becoming a growing problem in the 1970s, so the ANA formed ANACS to assist collectors wanting to know if their coins were genuine. In 1979 Virgil Hancock and Larry Spanbauer wrote Standard Catalog of United States Altered and Counterfeit Coins to help collectors and dealers identify the most prevalent counterfeits in the market. This became our favorite authentication guide at ANACS when I worked there in 1982 and 1983. When you turn to the book’s acknowledgement page, only a few industry leaders were recognized for their help and advice, and the first person acknowledged is, of course, Q. David Bowers.
Forty years later, Dave continues to provide valuable insights throughout his new book on quarter eagles, including warnings about counterfeit and altered coin dangers. For example, he wisely notes that the 1911-D quarter eagle is often produced by adding a “D” to a 1911 Philadelphia Mint coin. Dave also reminds us that while the lettering and motifs on the Indian Head quarter eagle are recessed, a departure from the normal relief style, curiously the mintmark is raised above the field on the branch-mint coins struck in Denver in 1911, 1914, and 1925. Dave also points out that collectors should look for strong D mintmarks on the rare 1911-D coins. That tip alone to the beginner is worth the price of admission to the Guide Book of Quarter Eagle Gold Coins.
Like Dave, I had to work odd jobs to buy coins in my teen years. Neither of us could afford the rarities we dreamed about owning. Many yards were mowed to be able to buy silver coins, but my first gold coins were the incused quarter and half eagle I bought after winning $50 playing bingo with my grandmother. Thus, I truly appreciate Dave writing a book about one of the first gold coins I was so proud to call my own.
Like many collectors back in the day, I had to get a special plastic holder to display and protect my first precious rarity, and I had to carefully put all the plastic screws in place with my favorite small screwdriver. I am sure Dave had similar holder experiences. Dealers back then sometimes provided a four- or eight-piece type-set plastic holder with the purchase of one coin, in order to encourage set building. This was an old-time form of a “continuity marketing” program.
The Guide Book of Quarter Eagle Gold Coins is described on the title page as a “Complete History and Price Guide,” and it lives up to that description. Every design and coin in the denomination is covered in depth, from 1796 to 1929, including circulation strikes, Proofs, patterns, and all varieties.
America’s quarter eagles were minted in years when the country’s “hard dollar” was backed by the gold standard. Dave Bowers not only addresses the beginning of this denomination but also includes information about what brought an end to this popular collector coin. He includes excerpts from the March 1930 Numismatist that speculates about a strain on our gold reserves caused by European withdrawals or, more likely, the Treasury trying to maintain its gold supply at preferred levels.
Dave includes many interesting tidbits throughout the book. For example, he points out that quarter eagles were popular with the more affluent for gift giving, so banks carried extra of those coins at Christmas. Similarly, today banks often order extra $2 bills at Christmastime. These $2 Thomas Jefferson bills are their most requested note for holiday gift giving. The director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing told me the bills are also the most popular seller on their website.
While the Guide Book of Quarter Eagle Gold Coins is enjoyable to read as history, it also serves as a useful collector reference. If you want to review selected auction results, they are right at your fingertips. If you are a student of die varieties, this book is for you, too. If you like date-by-date analyses, welcome to them! If you like Proof coins, you need this book. If you are interested in the opinion of our country’s foremost numismatist on how many quarter eagles were melted, you need this book. If you want to know what Bowers thinks about grading and survival rates in various coin grades, you need this book. If you find striking characteristics interesting, here’s your source. If patterns are your cup of tea, this book is a must. If you like the latest information on die and planchet preparation by mint, this book is for you. If you want information on important quarter eagle collections, hoards, and treasure finds, you need this book. If you want helpful distribution information by mint, get this book. If you want helpful numismatic morsels—like Proof mintages from the 1840s to the 1870s being frequently overstated or just speculations, as those coins would be struck and sold, but if buyers failed to materialize, the leftovers were melted—this book is for you. If you want to know more about why there were quarter eagle shortages over the years, you need this book.
For these reasons and more, every gold coin enthusiast needs the Guide Book of Quarter Eagle Gold Coins. This book truly lives up to its description as “A Complete History and Price Guide.”
Q. David Bowers takes you on a fascinating journey through history using the quarter eagle as his “time machine.” His life experiences, knowledge, and immeasurable skills provides money-saving and money-making insights into this denomination. There’s no other book like it on quarter eagles. Most importantly, Dave’s contribution will be the foundation for many new enthusiasts to begin their lifelong journey enjoying and collecting this important denomination. Having the Guide Book of Quarter Eagle Gold Coins on your shelf is a must. and I will be referring to it periodically forever—and always with a smile.
By Q. David Bowers; foreword by Mike Fuljenz.
ISBN 0794847331. Softcover, 6 x 9 inches, 448 pages, full color.
Retail $29.95 U.S.