The American Numismatic Manual
Dickeson, Montroville Wilson (1860)
One often thinks of the "Red book" as the first standard guide, but Dickeson is the true eye opener. Here is the straw man, the first attempt at a comprehensive overview of American coinage. While the plates look like play money and technical errors abound (for example, the 1797 half dollar is unlisted), Dickeson represents a necessary stepping stone in American numismatic scholarship. An accumulative science by definition evolves, and Dickeson could have done much worse as he drew upon the few written sources along with personal contacts in the nascent numismatic community. The result was the first comprehensive, illustrated view of aboriginal, colonial, federal, pattern, and territorial coinage. While modern guides are far more accurate (and affordable), they do not convey the wonder of birth that one senses in Dickeson. Voted #70 of the top one hundred items of numismatic literature by the Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
Note: the first edition (1859) is titled the American Numismatical Manual. Later, "numismatical" was shortened to "numiismatic."