If you're into collecting U.S. coins then you should be into the history behind them as well. I say this from experience. I started out in the hobby in the 1970s by thinking I would make a lot of money investing in coins. Well, I didn't. But I did develop an interest in the history of the various coin series I collect. It makes collecting much more rewarding as it's the stuff behind the shiny object in front of you that's the most substantial. It's the story of this county, its people and how we lived.
With the training I received through my course work in obtaining a master's degree relating to history, I also learned the importance of paying close attention to facts as they have been presented in the past and whether they hold up to closer scrutiny. In the coin hobby there are many that do not. They are tall tales that have seeped into the story’s retelling.
One of my first stories was about the Indian models for the Buffalo nickel. In a front-page feature for Numismatic News I found that Chief John Big Tree, long acclaimed as a model for the coin, wasn't one. Today you'll still see his name mentioned as the model for the nose and forehead of James Earle Fraser's celebrated design. He wasn't.
In another story that first appeared in Coins magazine I looked at the reason for the design change on the Standing Liberty quarter from the 1916 and 1917 Type 1 design with the partial nudity to the Type 2 covered-breast version. At the time I first wrote about this popular coin the oft-told story was that public outcry over the nudity on the Type 1 coin led to the quick design change. It didn't.
These stories, plus many others, including who should be credited with the design for the Roosevelt dime (John Sinnock or Dr. Selma Burke), the previously untold story of the true "Crime of 1873" (hint, Dr. Henry R. Linderman was secretly on the take), who really modeled for Augustus Saint-Gaudens' famous gold coins (it wasn't the Irish lass of legend) and many more related to the 1804 silver dollar, 1913 Liberty Head nickel and other great rarities are all presented and fully illustrated in my book, Fascinating Facts, Myths & Mysteries About U.S. Coins, available at ShopNumismaster.com. I think you will enjoy it.
Robert R. Van Ryzin
Coins magazine and Bank Note Reporter