Original Photos and Negatives Commissioned and Used by Don Parsley in the 3rd, 4th and 5th Revisions of Overton's Standard Reference Work
I was astonished and thrilled when Don Parsley consigned this numismatic treasure. When he undertook the 1990 Revision (3rd Ed.) of Overton’s opus Parsley and his wife owned “The Overton Collection,” a nearly complete, high grade die variety (and sub-variety) set of lettered edge bust half-dollars, 1794-1836. (Parsley studiously added to and improved the Collection after Al Overton died in 1972.) Parsley commissioned a professional to photograph the entire Overton Collection as well as coins from fellow collectors who owned the few die-pairs missing from the Collection or who had distinctly finer specimens. He augmented his father-in-law's work by adding sections to the book that included photos of edge lettering (employing an edge mirror), striking errors, oddities and anomalies, altered and counterfeit coins and counter-stamped bust halves. A new section on grading was added, providing collectors with photos of bust halves in grades good-6 through mint state-65. The 3rd Edition concluded with a new section displaying what Parsley labeled “sixteen major groupings of design types that were used during the forty-two years of the lettered edge series.”
The Parsleys parted with the Overton Collection in July 1993. Before doing so Don Parsley arranged for another 586 photos to be taken of coins in the Overton Collection. The invoice for photographic services, dated June 23, 1993, is included in this lot. These photos, as well as a few others needed to illustrate newly recognized die states and die varieties, were available for inclusion in Parsley’s 2003 and 2013 4th and 5th Editions.
All photos in this lot are black and white. Individual photos are encased in clear plastic sleeves. The entire assemblage is organized and housed in 3 large file-boxes; the first, labeled 1794-1815, is shown above. On the back of each photo Parsley wrote the die variety and die state of the pictured coin. He also noted the coin’s ownership, most often “my collection” (The Overton Collection), sometimes a colleague or collector, as in the case of the 1817/4 O.102 and R.8 1829 O.120 pictured above which were owned by Charlton E. Meyer, Jr. Negatives for the coins are sheathed in large, clear plastic sleeves and housed in a 3-ring binder.
I am not sure of the exact number of photos contained in this lot, certainly over 1,000. When they arrived, I had to wonder what happened to the plates and photos used by Martin Luther Beistle in his 1929 Registry of half-dollars. Where are the photos we see in Daniel Webster Valentine’s 1931 seminal work on half-dimes or Ard W. Browning’s 1925 work on early quarters or Milford Henry Bolender’s 1950 study on bust dollars? Are they in private hands or numismatic museums? Have they been lost? The purchaser of this lot will enjoy excitement and well-deserved pride of ownership; he or she must also assume responsibility for preserving these photographic records for future generations.
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Sheridan Downey, Numismatist 4400 Keller Ave.,
Suite 140, PMB 398 Oakland, California 94605 firstname.lastname@example.org (510) 479-1585