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Book Review: Bust Half Fever by Edgar Souders

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A thread from a couple of weeks ago asked if anyone has read the book, "Bust Half Fever" by Ed Souders. I just completed reading it and highly recommend it. thumbsup2.gifthumbsup2.gifthumbsup2.gifthumbsup2.gifthumbsup2.gif


For those collecting Capped Bust Halves, three books are very helpful. I have Overton's/Parsley's Fourth Edition of "United States Early Half Dollar Die Varieties 1794-1836." This is the basic text for attributed CBH coins. Glenn R. Peterson's Second Edition of "The Ultimate Guide to Attributing Bust Half Dollars" provides helpful illustrations for quicker identification of the halves. I find both helpful but if I had to have only one, I would stick with the Overton/Parsley book.


"Bust Half Fever" provides a tremendous amount of information that fills in the gaps of the other two books. The book is easy to read, well organized and brimming with stories gathered from Ed's decades of collecting and research.


A new collector or one who would simply like to know more about the early days of the mint should have this book in their collection. The first chapter is an excellent introduction to the craftsmanship and technology that went into the making of CBH dies. Chapter two stresses the importance of grading and why one must learn to do this for himself and not rely on someone else's opinion. Here is where Ed's experience shines through. In chapter three he warns of altered, cleaned or repaired CBH coins and how to detect them. Souder stresses the importance or using a hand-held 30X microscope when inspecting these coins for die varieties and possible cleaning or whizzing. I followed his advice and purchased one. Amazing how much detail one sees at this magnification. Chapter four discusses toning and artificial toning, a topic of considerable interest on these boards. Chapter five helps one prepare a realistic road map for collecting these beautiful ladies.


The rest of the book covers CBH's by year, then by overdate varieties. For each year we learn the published mintage and Ed's comments on how accurate that may be. He lists the mintage ranking within the series. A yeardate with number of dies used is given for each calendar year. Any changes in design are duly noted. Souder gives his overall rarity classifications by grade. He discusses the typical strike and why it might be that way for that particular year. Collector appreciation covers how the coin might fair in value in the coming years. A delightful feature found in each year is something on either the history at the time, anecdotes about the mint, information on people, suggestions on storing coins and many, many other topics that makes the book both interesting and enjoyable to read from cover to cover.


There are several appendices at the end, an extensive bibliograhy, a glossary of terms and an index. One would be hard pressed to find another resource as helpful and valuable as this covering Capped Bust Halves. My appreciation for the series has grown and I have a more informed collecting plan in place.


Our resident sage, hail.gif Michael, said that it should be federal law that one reads this book before purchasing a CBH. Apart from the legality of being required to purchase it, I can't imagine a collector of these wonderful coins who would not want to have a copy for themselves. If you don't have one, borrow one or purchase it. You won't regret it. cloud9.gif

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