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World Coins & Currency
Book Review by Jan M. Dyroff

Allen G. Berman Iola: Krause Publications, 2006. $17.99

This book is another, and the latest, numismatic volume in the Warman’s Companion Series, which is designed to offer the reader a brief but enthusiastically extensive view of a topic. For someone who already collects world coins and currency, the book will be a pleasant diversion, and for those who do not it would be a good overview and introduction. It is handsomely put together and lavishly illustrated – with color prints on semi-gloss paper as opposed to the flat black and white of the “phone book” catalogs.

It should be stressed that this is not a soup-to-nuts guide. It does not present every issue from every country, but it does provide an informative general sampling. Perhaps the best take on the scope of the book is what the author has to say.

“This book is not intended to be a comprehensive resource about world coins and paper money. In fact, a full library is needed to answer every question regarding this subject. Rather, it is intended to fill a much-needed niche – a very basic introduction, in which a reader can get a quick overview of the hobby and get a general feel for the background, characteristics and values of each of the common categories presented.

Clearly the most thoroughly covered nation is Canada, and for the coins of our neighbor to the north, this book could serve as a functioning catalog. All circulating legal tender coins from 1859 to date are presented, together with a presentation on their evolution and on grading (which is very important as Canadian grading standards are different from those applied to most “world coins”).

For Victoria and Edward VII values are given for Very Good and Very Fine, for George V they are given for Very Good and Extremely Fine, for George VI. They are given for Extremely Fine and Uncirculated, and for Elizabeth II we find Extremely Fine and Brilliant Uncirculated (or MS-60). You can see that this does not cover the entire spectrum.

Since this is a world-scope book, it is helpful to know the countries represented. European coins encompass Austria, the Balkans, the Baltic States, the British Isles, British Colonies and Commonwealth, the Caucasus, Czechoslovakia, France and Germany. Other areas are more general and include African Coins; Asian, North African and Pacific Coins; Coins of the Americas; and, lastly, World Paper Money. Clearly, deciding how to categorize and what to include was a monumental task. All of the examples are modern, in the sense that they do not go back much before the eighteenth century.

Two of the most important questions about world coins are answered. The first, where to get them, presents a few good suggestions – like trying eBay (but with all the caveat emptor flags flying), or going to a local coin show, or visiting a dealer (with luck, one with “junk boxes”). The point is that it need not be costly to get your feet wet when coming to collecting world coins.

The other question deals with disposing of world coins. This is not as easy or as straightforward as the process is with United States coins. With a world coin, more so than other types of numismatic material; there has to be a demand or market in place at the time you’re trying to sell. Mr. Berman suggests that, depending, you might receive anywhere from ten to ninety percent of catalog value. This is absolutely worth remembering. On “Antiques Roadshow” what they call insurance value approximates what we call catalog value.

As a point of credit, Mr. Berman steers the potential collector to a number of appropriate organizations: The American Numismatic Association, The American Numismatic Society, the Canadian Numismatic Society and the Sociedad Nunismatica de Mexico, and on a regional level to a number of groups, including our own NENA.

So, now that gift-giving season is on us again, I suggest that this book would make a perfect present for someone just starting coin collecting – it could be an adult, but it would also be great for a young person who might be interested in learning about coins. After all, young numismatists are the lifeblood of the hobby.