Canadian astronomer Harvey Richer’s second numismatic book, 100 Greatest Canadian Coins and Tokens, is now available in wide distribution.
A long-time numismatist whose day job includes groundbreaking research in astronomy and physics at the University of British Columbia (UBC), Richer has published more than 150 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals. His first numismatic book came in 2017 with The Gold Coins of Newfoundland, 1865-1888. His new book, published by the U.S.-based Whitman Publishing, is one of about 12 new releases that were showcased at this year’s RCNA Convention in Ottawa. Richer’s book sold out quickly at the convention. Additional copies were recently made available by the publisher.
“I met Dr. Richer in 2017 at the American Numismatic Association show in Denver, and we discussed the potential of a new volume in Whitman’s library of ‘100 Greatest books,” said Whitman publisher Dennis Tucker, who has served in that role since 2004. The firm’s “100 Greatest” series features more than half a dozen books, including 100 Greatest Modern World Coins, 100 Greatest Ancient Coins and 100 Greatest American Currency Notes, among others.
“We immersed ourselves in the best way to present a subject as far-reaching as ‘the best of Canadian coins,’” added Tucker. Richer consulted with the Canadian Numismatic Research Society while developing his manuscript, and in 2021, he and Whitman began the final editorial work.
“Harvey Richer brought the same intellectual curiosity to 100 Greatest Canadian Coins and Tokens that he gave to Gold Coins of Newfoundland – asking questions, laying the groundwork and always looking for the human element. His writing is embellished with personal asides … and he’s not afraid to push boundaries in his exploration of what defines a ‘coin’ or ‘token.’”
Richer’s latest book also features “outstanding pictures” of the listed coins and tokens, many of which were shared by Heritage Auctions, a Texas-based auction firm, with others from Professional Coin Grading Service, Stack’s Bowers Galleries and several museums, archives and libraries. “The result is a gorgeous numismatic panorama, a virtual coin cabinet that can be opened and enjoyed any time,” Tucker said.
The book features forewords by long-time U.S. nunumismatist Kenneth Bressett, who coined the term “double die,” and Ontario-based natural science illustrator Emily Damstra, who has designed more than 40 coins and medals for the Royal Canadian Mint and U.S. Mint.
“In 100 Greatest Canadian Coins and Tokens — a wonderful book — Dr. Harvey Richer deepened my knowledge about some of these beloved Canadian animal coins and broadened my knowledge about many other Canadian coins and tokens,” said Damstra. “In some of the early examples he discusses, we see nature depicted as a secondary element surrounding text (for example, the maple leaves and seeds on the Province of Canada 1858 pattern cent reverse) or chosen for its value as a resource (such as the seal and the filleted cod on the Magdalen Island 1815 penny token). Sometimes the subject depicted is from the settlers’ original homeland rather than native to what is now Canada (such as 1823 and 1832 Nova Scotia half-penny and penny thistle tokens).”
Damstra added: “Nature wasn’t the only thing that drew me through the pages of 100 Greatest Canadian Coins and Tokens; I also love any good story that’s well told. This book is full of them. I felt a little astonished when reading about some of the ingenious ways that people facilitated commerce in the absence or shortage of an official currency, as Richer so enthusiastically details. Bits of playing cards as currency? Check. Clandestinely minted tokens? Ah, those Nova Scotians! Coins made from the buttons on soldiers’ uniforms? That’s in there, too, and readers are left to speculate as to how those soldiers subsequently fastened their coats. A book is more fun if it raises as many questions as it answers.”
As an observational astronomer, Richer is one of the Hubble Space Telescope’s most frequent Canadian users. Along with other telescopes, it helps him “explore the age of the Universe, the evolution of stellar systems, and the formation of galaxies,” according to his Peter Wall Institute profile on the UBC website. “My area of research is stellar astronomy, and I am interested in what resolved systems of stars can tell us about dark matter, the age of the oldest stars, the dynamical evolution of stellar systems, fundamental physics and the formation of galaxies,” he wrote in his physics and astronomy abstract, also on the UBC website.
“To investigate these diverse subjects, I observe a wide range of objects including nearby stars, open and globular star clusters and the resolved components of our neighbouring galaxies. “By understanding what’s going on in a smaller system like this, we can use it to our galaxy and the rest of the galaxies of the universe,” Richer told CBC News in 2017 while studying a 3D model of a star cluster using Hubble images.
Richer, who’s a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, received the Canadian Astronomical Society’s Carlyle Beals Award for lifetime achievement in 2014. He’s also the namesake of the Harvey B. Richer Gold Medal for Early Career Research in Astronomy.
The 10×12” hardcover book is 160 pages in full colour. The book retails for $34.95 US ($46.50 Cdn). The book is available on coinstampsupplies, with a 20 per cent discount for paid subscribers of Canadian Coin News and Canadian Stamp News.