Once again David Bowers, with the assistance of Dwight Manley, has produced a marvelous book on the history of coins. The record of the Second Journey to the SS Central America is a much more manageable book than the first tome on the subject, A California Gold Rush History; the new book being only 210 pages.
It kicks off with a fascinating Forward by Bob Evans, the "chief scientist and historian" on the staff. But when you get into Bowers' writing, it becomes something unusual in nonfiction - a real page turner. The text flows smoothly across many subjects and is highlighted by quotes from books and letters written during the period, not by historians and disinterested outsiders, but by and from those who lived the events and conditions described. The book also has photos of many old drawing, paintings, posters and other ephemera of the Era.
The tale begins with the discovery of gold and traces the history of the Gold Rush in 1848 through 1856. The story pointedly highlights how the miners lived and how they gained and lost their fortunes. A chapter is devoted specifically to the Private Minters that operated in California during the period and the reasons for their existence.
The book proceeds to a brief review of the First Journey with the finding of the SS Central America and includes photos of the Ship of Gold Display at several coin shows. The Second Journey is deeply covered and engrossing.
The last chapter, titled, Numismatic Inventory of the 2014 Recovery, is worth the priced of the book by itself. The chapter provides a complete listing of the country of origin, date and mint of each coin recovered during this search. When it comes to the gold coins, the list becomes a photo album of the best example of each date and mint gold coin recovered, including the number recovered and the grading of the best example. This section covers $1, $2.50, $5, $10 and $20 US gold, Private gold coins and Fractional Gold Coins, California Gold Ingots (by Assayer) and Foreign gold coins.
The book concludes with several appendices, one of which includes a complete listing of the crew and passengers aboard the SS Central America on that fateful voyage.
For me, as a Native Californian whose family were gold prospectors and continued to classify themselves as Gold Miners through the 1910 Census, America's Greatest Treasure Ship is like reading the history of my family. But even to those not so linked, the book is an absolute must for your coin history library.
A few years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Bob Evans at the Long Beach Coin Show. There I bought a slabbed bit (0.5 gram) of gold flakes from the first recovery, a DVD on the Recovery and an autographed copy of the special Red Book edition covering the SS Central America. All of these hold a very special place in my collection.
I have to think that America's Greatest Treasure Ship is David Bowers' best works and is a Must Read on the book list of anyone interested in American Coinage.