Third ‘Guide Book of Barber Silver Coins’ Review

When I started collecting in the 1950s, Barber silver coins were still around. Naturally, it was worn down to AG-G grade. Barber coins were my exotics, thus I loved them even though many critics called the design uninteresting. A nice trolley driver who stopped every day for a break at my junior high school gave me two quarters that were my favorite Barber coins. Since I grew up in Louisiana, the coins were from the New Orleans Mint.

Grades were at least AU-50 for 1897-O and 1904-O. I paid face value for the two and found a similar 1895-O for $1 years later. I lost all three, but you can understand why I like Barber coins, especially quarters. This column is about Whitman ('s A Guide Book of Barber Silver Coins. The third edition by Q. David Bowers includes a foreword by Barber Coin Collectors' Society president John Frost.

Bowers, a former president of the American Numismatic Association and Professional Numismatists Guild, has produced over 50 books and thousands of articles. Bowers is updating Whitman's Guide Book series after writing many books. This updated Guide Book of Barber Silver Coins is a crucial element of that work.

Like previous editions, Bowers opens his look at the three Charles E. Barber silver series by setting the coins in context. He describes how three judges chose the finest submission from a group. The three agreed that none of the responses improved the Liberty Seated design.

Naturally, Mint Chief Engraver Charles E. Barber was a judge, and Mint Director Edward O. Leech chose Barber for the design. Unfortunately, his works were not universally acclaimed. One critic wrote, “The mountain has labored and brought forth a mouse.”

On Jan. 2, 1892, these “mice” were coined, prompting protests. Bank tellers said the quarters and half dollars' relief was too high to stack. Another issue was the coins' lack of art.

Any objections aside, Barber silver coins were produced until 1917, with new designs released in 1916 (Mercury dime, Standing Liberty quarter, Walking Liberty half dollar). Barber's silver and Liberty Head nickel coins dominated circulation for at least the first three decades of the 20th century. Most coins were worn down to AG-VG by the time collectors were interested in the distinct series

In one of the book's many fascinating chapters, Bowers discusses current events and the numismatic landscape in each Barber silver coin year. I read Bowers' account of 1905, my father-in-law's birth year, because I was interested in it.

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