First Read, a CoinWeek continuing series of essays about classic and contemporary works of numismatic literature….
In 2014, Whitman published the Whitman Encyclopedia of Mexican Money, Volume 1: An Illustrated History of Mexican Coins and Currency by Don and Lois Bailey.
For the Baileys, lifelong ambassadors for the rich numismatic legacy of Mexico, it was an ambitious undertaking.
Possibly too ambitious.
It’s not that the authors lacked the vision or the knowledge to bring a comprehensive reference on Mexican coinage to fruition… Don Bailey’s legacy as an expert in the field has been in public view for more than 50 years. His published work has helped popularize Mexican numismatics in the United States.
A former contributor to World Coin News, Coin World, and a number of standard references, and a founding member of the United States Mexican Numismatic Association (and editor of its journal), Don Bailey has been the go-to-guy for collectors looking to expand their horizons into the turbulent and fascinating coins of our neighbor to the south. Former Coin World editor Beth Deisher credits Bailey for helping her publication make inroads with the Mexican Mint.
But Whitman’s Volume 1 feels rushed and overly technical, as if it were trying to do too much too fast and in too small a space.
This is to be expected, however–is it really possible to cover 500 years of Mexican coinage in 490 pages without giving something the short shrift?
Volume 1 also didn’t exemplify the Whitman layout philosophy that we’ve seen come into bloom in recent years. Coin images are sequestered “plate style”, and coin descriptions are provided in numismatic shorthand.
We bring this up not to be overly critical of the effort–which was undoubtedly immense–but to the beginning and intermediate collector that Whitman traditionally caters to, Volume 1 may seem like a joyless affair.
For Volume 2, Whitman radically overhauled everything. Two comes across as more of a reboot than a continuation of the conversation. Which is odd, but at the same time very much welcome.
Starting with the Coinage Reform of 1905 (which saw the production of Mexican coins come under federal control), and continuing through to the Coinage Reform of 1992 (which saw the introduction of the new peso), Volume 2 reads like a long-tenured and trusted roadmap for collectors of the series.
Also included in Volume 2 is a comprehensive guide to 20th- and 21st-century Mexican commemorative coinage, the popular Mexican Libertad bullion coin program, and Mexico’s Pre-Columbian commemorative bullion series.
It’s essentially a Bowers Series book about numismatics, which should come as welcome news to most collectors who might be considering a purchase.
To be honest, this tried-and-true formula is what Whitman does best, and in spending a weekend with Volume 2 it’s hard to contemplate that this well-fleshed-out and necessary reference is only now coming to print.
In Whitman’s press materials, the publisher claims that “future volumes … will focus on media of exchange from pre-Columbus days through the colonial period and Republican decimal coinage … and the coins and tokens of the 1910-1920 Mexican Revolution”. And while we don’t know how these future volumes will turn out, we think it’s safe to say that no reference written for the English-speaking market will have a greater impact on bringing new collectors to Mexican coins than the Whitman Encyclopedia of Mexican Money, Volume 2: Modern Coins of Mexico, 1905 to Date.
This is an exceptional book that belongs on the shelf of every collector and therefore we give it CoinWeek’s Editor’s Choice Award.
Whitman Encyclopedia of Mexican Money, Volume 2: Modern Coins of Mexico, 1905 to Date
By Don and Lois Bailey; Diana Plattner, Research Editor
Whitman Publishing, LLC, 2015. 474 pages.