Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, Specialized Issues, Volume One. Ninth Edition.
Book Review by Jan M. Dyroff
Neil Shafer and George S. Cuhaj. Iola: Krause Publications, 2002. $65.00.
This is another of those great volumes in the Standard Catalog series, great because of the depth and range of research, which has gone into its production, and great because of the sheer heft of the book. With time, each of the coin and paper money catalogs has grown, and split when needed, so that now we in the coin collecting community have an unprecedented amount of numismatic data at our fingertips.
The editors of this volume stated their goals as follows. “This totally revised and updated ninth edition is part of the most comprehensive world paper money references ever assembled, presenting details about various early provincial and state notes as well as many kinds of issues sponsored by commercial banks, regional authorities and in some cases military authorities.”
This is a daunting task, but it is one which has been carried off gallantly. The editors have provided illustrations wherever they could (bearing in mind that some of the notes under consideration are so rare as not to be found easily or that they are known of but never actually viewed). It is clear that the editors have relied on many of the significant auctions and major sales for illustrations. Indeed, they report that their “values have been taken from many sources, including recent auction sales.”
For specialists in American paper money, this book is a watershed of information. It covers all the issues of Continental Currency, the issues of the states (including emissions by the southern states under the Confederacy), special warrants (as from Arizona) as well as demand and promissory notes. Some of these items, I think, will never been seen by even the most avid of enthusiasts.
Of special merit is the coverage of the issues of our neighbor to the north. The section on the chartered banks of Canada (and their overseas branches in the West Indies, and special offices elsewhere) is as comprehensive as you might wish for. And the attention to provincial and municipal issues is incredibly attentive and accurate. The one thought I have about the Canadian section is that there is no mention of merchant notes (which were particularly central to the economy of the Maritimes in the nineteenth century), and this leaves me wondering where they belong in the greater scheme of things.
If we cast our gaze to the south, we encounter Mexico – truly a nation with a great tradition of issuing currency. And here we find all of the non-federal notes, those issued by the states, by municipalities, by bank and by various elements in any of the various revolutions (some of the more easily obtained notes with special historical character are those signed by Pancho Villa).
And to go beyond, all of the nations of South America have had vital and prodigious outputs of currency. Indeed, when it comes to vignettes and overall pleasantness of design, it is hard to surpass some of the South American notes (with many of these I think the philosophy behind the design was that “if it looks good then it is good”). Indeed, some of the issues from Argentina look like they could have come from the Bank of England.
The various states of Europe and given their due, but the largest section may well be on the issues of the largest country in Asia – China. This nation, so heavily populated, has a tradition of paper money going back many centuries, well before this type of money was introduced to and accepted in the west. The number of Chinese issuing banks and authorities is dazzling. We are truly blessed that this section of the catalog is well illustrated.
As a final observation, the cover to the book is an absolute treat for the eyes. It is the large blue one pound note from the siege of Mafeking, issued in March 1900. The central vignette is of a soldier, a woman, a cannon and a tall, handsome Victorian army officer – a portrait of the issuer himself, for the notes were produced “by Authority of Colonel R.S.S. Baden Powell (Commanding Rhodesian Forces).” We all know that Baden-Powell went on to found the Scouting movement. And, what is less well known, is a story that when a shipment of hard cash came into the paymaster’s possession, the patriotic citizens of Mafeking chose to keep and not redeem their one pound notes, as a memory of the great siege and as a tribute to the Colonel and the men who saw them through.
Well, this may be just a tale, but it is a part of the lore of world paper money and one of the many factors that make a book such as this a genuine treasure.
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