Numismatic and related books

Numismatic Book Reviews – Good or bad books on coins

I have found the internet to be a great source of information for numismatics, however, there is a lot of information that can only be found in relevant books and catalogues. Lets face it, it’s nice to have a physical book to read too!

Of course there are lots of reviews of numismatic texts out there and I am by no means an expert. I don’t make any money off these reviews (or at all from this site) but I have included some links for convenience.

My Favourite books

  • Check Your Change: When is a Fiver Worth More Than a Fiver? The GBP500 Two Pence Piece, and How to Check for Rare Money in Your Everyday Change! (Christopher Henry Perkins)

    • This book is pretty cheap – I got my copy brand new from Amazon for less than £5. It is a good handy reference for the novice numismatist who wants to investigate the coins they find everyday in their pocket and change jar. It only really helps with modern circulating UK coins and although the title seems to imply that you could find coppers that are worth hundreds of pounds in your pocket, you will find that there are really very few such coins out there. That said, it’s an easy read and very informative for the novice, however, for those more serious collectors out there who have already armed themselves with a recent edition of Spink’s Coins of England, there is little new information. The main reason I like it is that it allows you to learn more about such easily accessible coins! 8/10

     

  •  The World Encyclopedia of Coins and Coin Collecting (Dr James MacKay)

    • I like this book. It’s not particularly helpful for identifying coins; it doesn’t give you valuations and it doesn’t really go into that much depth about any one subject. The reason I like it is that it gives you a glimpse of many different exciting aspects of numismatics and is a great overview book. Again, I purchased my copy from a third party seller on Amazon for £5 or £6. It’s the kind of book you can read in bed and learn something new each time you read it. 7/10  

  

  • Coins of England & The United Kingdom – (Spink)

    • Now weighing in with two volumes separating the pre and post decimal issues, this book is the most authoritative guide to British coins that I have come across. It covers the entire history of coins from the Celtic coins of c. 150BC right up until the modern day. For valuations of British coins, this book is both comprehensive and reliable. Obviously, this book is of no use for coins of other countries, but it does not pretend to be. The remit of the author is UK coins, and ALL UK coins and it satisfies this remit admirably. Now in its 52nd edition, the 2017 issue provides us not only with a list of coin prices. It adds brief descriptions and a considerable number of colour pictures of the more prominent coins as an aid to identification – I think this also makes it more readable. If you collect British coins, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy of a recent edition. I recently purchased the new 2017 edition and it set me back less than £30. 9/10
  • The Official Blue Book: Handbook of United States Coins (Kenneth Bresset)
    • The purpose of this book is to give current values of American coins. Obviously, the price of a coin depends on who is selling it and where – for example if you sell a coin to a dealer, you will invariably receive less than he intends to sell it on for. The blue book prices reflect what a dealer might pay YOU not what you would have to pay to buy a coin from them – it is important to bear this in mind. It is certainly comprehensive and I have no doubt that in the US, it is quite accurate. However, in Britain, one must remember that the price of a coin such as a Morgan Dollar of any given year is unlikely to be exactly what it would sell for in the states (in my experience, the lower grade coins tend to sell for a couple of pounds more over here). The other thing for British collectors to bear in mind is that the prices over here will vary more than the book, now in its 2013 edition, might suggest. This is because the exchange rate is constantly changing so the value in £ sterling varies more dramatically than in USD. That said, it is the best book of its remit so if you collect US coins, you really should buy it. 6/10
  • History of Money (Jack Weatherford)
    • If I were to recommend one book to explain the eponymous History of Money, it would be this. It’s a great little book full of interesting stories and facts about how the concept of money evolved from cowry shells to electronic currency exchange. The advanced numismatist or historian will possibly find this simple and may be better suited to, for instance the late Glyn Davies’ book on the same subject, but for the amateur who wants to learn the general history with some intregueing facts along the way, it is perfect.  9/10
  • England’s Striking History: A brief history of England and its silver hammered coinage (Christopher Henry Perkins)
    • I bought this book a little while ago when looking for a ‘good coin read’! I must admit that, as fascinating as I find these old coins and the history they represent, hammered coins do not feature much in my collecting habits. Therefore I may not be the best person to review this book but I will do my best! Bottom line is that this book is probably going to be handy for someone who wakes up one morning and says “I fancy collecting hammered silver english coins”. For anyone else, it is probably going to disappoint I’m afraid! The illustrations are helpful in identifying the common silver coins of the age. You may be able to tell by now that I was not excited by the book. For me it was very very average. 4/10