April 2015 | Rebecca Rego Barry

A Coin Collector's Tales

9781616892562.jpgJust in time for Tax Day, Harley J. Spiller, aka Inspector Collector, releases Keep the Change: A Collector's Takes of Lucky Pennies, Counterfeit C-Notes, and other Curious Currency (Princeton Architectural Press, $19.95). In this upbeat and quirky account, Spiller shares his passion for mutilated money. "Mint" may appeal to most collectors, but Spiller prefers patina--misprinted bills and discolored dimes. Much like a collector of imperfect books, Spiller considers use, even damage, worthy of study and appreciation. He writes, "I thrill to the serendipitous discovery of mangled money, whether it is coaxed out of its camouflage within a muddy tree bed or dusty corner or found smack in the middle of a road." 

Skimming the history of penny production, banknote engraving, and artists who alter dollars and cents (Mark Wagner among them), Keep the Change is slim and selective, e.g., when one thinks of maimed coins, what comes directly to mind are those decorative, elongated pennies cranked out of machines in touristy locales, and yet, they make only a brief appearance in the book's illustrated glossary. (What is the history of those souvenirs? Does Spiller collect them?) And yet its 112 pages are packed with fascinating facts, colorful illustrations, and zippy writing. Those with an interest in money (and presumably, that's just about everyone) will find it enjoyable.  

Photo Courtesy Princeton Architectural Press