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When I was growing up in Vienna, Virginia in the 1950s and 60s, there was a tiny library on the corner of Maple Avenue and Center Street. It has since been moved, but has been preserved as a museum.

Even when I was a kid in ancient times, it seemed like a remnant of the distant past. Most of the books were very old and I rarely found one I wanted to read. But there was one I checked out numerous times.

This was the New Yorker Album 1925-1950: a collection of cartoons from the magazine over a quarter century. At the age of 10 or so, I didn’t get a lot of the jokes, but I loved the artwork; especially by Charles Addams of “Addams Family” fame. I thought it would be great to create my own cartoons, and I fooled around with that a few times, but eventually decided I didn’t “have it” and never pursued it.

Now that I am retired and old enough to be indifferent to what people think of my work, I’ve drawn a number of cartoons for the fun of it. I’ve discovered that, rather than being funny, most of them are slightly clever and hopefully capable of raising an eyebrow or two if not a laugh.

I may use a few of them to illustrate future books. If I do enough of them, I may even self-publish a book of them. For now, I’ve posted 19 on my website, in case anyone wants to raise an eyebrow or two. They are all on one image, so you’ll have to click on it or enlarge to see detail.


New Book on Roman Coins is here!

Available on Amazon in both color (hard and paper) and black and white (hard and paper).

A collector’s guide to the large Roman coin known as the sestertius. These magnificent coins were struck for more than 250 years by the emperors of Rome. This lavishly illustrated, 306 page book includes chapters on the history of the denomination, physical characteristics of the coins as they are today, alterations that affect value, and considerations when buying. There is even a chapter on sestertii in the movies and on television.

The bulk of the book consists of a portfolio of more than 360 fully attributed specimens, with an enlarged photo of each (~2x) and biographical sketches for every imperial personality represented. There are also lists of types issued for each person and comments about the historical or collector significance for most entries. Appendices offer keys to legends and reverse types. 

I’d recommend the color version because these coins come in a wide range of gorgeous colors, but I’ve been poor long enough to want to offer a cheaper version as well.

New Book Coming!

Well, I tried avoiding new book projects. They keep me awake at night. But this one started writing itself. A resurgence of my 60+ year love affair with sestertii – the large Roman brass coins that were minted from 20 BC to the AD 260s – led me to pull together various sources of information I’d collected about them through the years. Then I realized that, once again, there was a book I wanted that didn’t exist – a collector’s guide to the Roman sestertius. So I’m writing it.

This book will include hundreds of coin photos plus discussions of coin surfaces, patinas, alterations, history of the denomination, buying strategies, and even a chapter on sestertii in the media. Should be available before the end of the year in two versions: color (pricey) and black and white (much less so). Keep watching here!

Wilt the Winner

blog-wiltSomething a bit different this time.

When growing up during the 1960s, I was a fan of the 7 foot 1 inch basketball legend, Wilt Chamberlain. Wilt took a lot of flack during his career, most of which I thought was unjustified.

Late in his career, people seemed to mellow towards him a bit, though I still thought he was underrated.

Then, in 1991 (he died in 1999), he made a very ill-conceived comment in a book about the number of women he had slept with. Boom! He’s been a bit of a joke to a lot of people ever since, and his fabulous achievements on the basketball court have been “reconsidered”  as well.

He still has his fans, but I have seen many absurd statements about his career – for example, that he was a loser who choked in big games, only put up big numbers because he played against white midgets, and wouldn’t be more than a bench-warmer in today’s game. Nonsense!

Finally I had enough and decided to write this book, to “set the record straight.” I’ve taken some novel approaches to analyzing his statistics and tried to put his career into perspective for those who weren’t around to see the man play or don’t know how to evaluate the little video footage that survives.

My stepson says nobody will care. Maybe he’s right, but you’ve got to stand up for your heroes because no one in the future is likely to. Available as a paperback and Kindle book on Amazon.

P. S. I know the front cover says “records” – I’m referring to the dozens of NBA records he still owns, 45 years after he retired.



Trilobites – the Film?

stargirlAfter unsuccessful attempts to market screenplays based on my novels Vipsania, Bulla Felix, and Dreamweaving, I never expected my book about Trilobites to appear in a movie.  So I was quite surprised when I was asked to sign a release allowing Disney to use the book in an upcoming TV movie entitled “Stargirl.”

Apparently the film, in which “A quirky, home-schooled teenager shakes things up at her uptight high school in Arizona” features at least one character who is a paleontologist. The film makers want to use my book “as set dressing/props (cover, inside pages)” in the film. Wonders never cease!

Meanwhile, an interview about my fossil collecting and my book entitled Fossil Collecting in the Mid-Atlantic States, which was published more than 27 years ago, appeared in the Hampshire Review (based in Romney, West Virginia) this past Wednesday, written by Ed Dewitt and featuring several pictures of fossils – me included.



Coin Stories Revised

1806-blogI’ve recently updated and enlarged my coin collecting memoir, COIN STORIES, as a color paperback, black and white paperback (much less expensive), and Kindle e-book.

This revision (44 new pages) features the addition of many photographs and new chapters as well as the enlargement of all previous sections. The new edition was inspired by my recent love affair with early United States coins and by the publication of my new books ANCIENT ANIMALS AND THEIR COINS and THE EARLY COINS OF ATHENS.

In 60 years of coin collecting, I have had a very wide range of interests (e.g. United States, varieties and errors, world, ancient Indian, Medieval British and European, and ancient Greek and Roman) while pursuing the hobby in a very individualistic and even eccentric way. I think that every coin collector will find something of interest here.

New Book About Ancient Coins

blogThe early coins of Athens probably receive more collector interest than any other ancient series.  Despite this, there continue to be many uncertainties about their age, sequence, and historical context.

I recently bought a modest little obol from the earliest owl mintage, which was identified differently by different coin dealers who offered the coin.  In an effort to figure out which dealer was correct, I did a thorough review of the various guides and professional articles on the subject. My research gradually developed into some new ideas about Athenian coinage, which I am now presenting in the form of a book entitled The Early Coins of Athens. It is illustrated with photographs of 100 coins as well as diagrams and charts.



What Animal Am I?

e-What-ANIMAL-CoverHow much do we really know about the animals around us? This book presents lists of interesting and often surprising facts about familiar – and a few not so familiar – North American Animals. The challenge is to identify the animal before seeing its full-page picture.

Most of the animals are mammals, but there are also some birds, reptiles, insects, fish, and others. Many of the “facts” are quite amazing and may help us to be a bit more impressed by our wild neighbors.

The drawings come from a variety of earlier publications that I illustrated, augmented by appropriate backgrounds showing habitat. What Animal Am I? is available in paperback and as an ebook on Amazon.  It is written for children 8 and up, but should be of interest to adults as well.

Never Give Up! Never Give Up!

slThus spake Winston Churchill. My version of WWII has been the saga of my first serious book – Selected Lives: The Autobiography of a Soul.  It has been through countless revisions, reversions, name changes, abridgements, expansions – you name it.

I began work on Selected Lives in 1982, finished it in 1986, self-published it in 2006, and again in 2013, and again this week (November 2017).  Through it all, the book has sold a grand total of 17 copies!

I’ve written apologies for it and defiant celebrations of it; I just won’t give up on it.  Why?  Because I think it is a great book – the best I have ever written.  Yes, the artwork is a bit stiff and the writing a bit naive.  It was my first serious project at age 30 – I was feeling my way and a bit terrified.  But come on – an illustrated journey through the history of life culminating in spiritual enlightenment, told in first person?  Nothing had ever been written like this before, as far as I know.

I can’t fully duplicate the spirit of Selected Lives because it was the product of innocence now lost and a firm faith in my inspiration that I have never been able to completely recapture since the disappointment of its commercial failure – or, rather, the lack of interest.

I’m not sure if Selected Lives was ahead of its time or a century or two behind the times. All I know is that I love it.  And so, I have restored all the episodes that I had deleted because I thought the artwork was lame or the stories contrived – because I want to honor the Muse that gave them to me in the first place.

So here it is, as it was. This time around, I don’t give a damn if anyone buys it or likes it; this time is for the ages.

Six New Books!

coins-cover-bw-BLOGWell, sort of. One of the disadvantages of on-demand printing is that color is prohibitively expensive.  I mentioned in a recent post that the price for my Coin Stories book went up after the addition of 30 pages from $15.95 to $27.95 – a lot of money for a 108-page book.  So, I have “de-colorized” Coin Stories and published a black and white version, priced at a much-more-reasonable $12.95.

This inspired me to take another look at my other color publications and create more affordable black and white editions. Here is a complete list of my new books – plus two of my father Jim Burns’ books that I also “de-colorized”: