US Coins

Bowers: Annual 'Red Book' takes a lot of preparation

The Joys of Collecting column from the Jan. 30, 2017, issue of Coin World:

It is that time of year when publisher Dennis Tucker, project coordinator Eleanor Burden, and the Whitman Publishing staff gather input from dozens of contributors to create the next edition of A Guide Book of United States Coins, nicknamed the “Red Book.” Kenneth Bressett, the long-time editor, is the decision maker for changes and suggestions, some of which are routine, others of which require study. I am the research editor and Jeff Garrett is the valuations editor. 

A few years ago, who would have heard of “Reverse Proofs”? Or of putting dates and Mint marks on the edges of coins (as on dollars) where they cannot be seen if in an album? And, all of the quarter dollars in the various programs that began with the State quarter dollar series in 1999 need to be illustrated and new mintages registered, not to overlook new commemoratives, American Eagles, and the like. Just keeping up with current coins is a challenge — much different from, say, 40 years ago, in 1977, when the only yearly changes were the mintages of the cent, 5-cent coin, dime, quarter dollar, half dollar, and (Eisenhower) dollar, plus Proof mintages of the same.

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The Guide Book had its beginning in 1946 when Richard S. Yeoman decided to launch a yearly book with mintage figures and prices. He tapped well-known writer and researcher Stuart Mosher to create and edit most of the text on, essentially, a ghost-writer basis. The first Guide Book had a cover date of 1947 because it was published so late in 1946, in November, according to Tucker.

You may be surprised to learn that when the 2018 edition is released in this coming March, about two-thirds of the copies will be sold in other than numismatic outlets. More than any other single factor, the Guide Book is a missionary for getting people interested in collecting coins. No other effort comes even close!

When I started in numismatics in 1952 the first book in my library was the 1953 edition. The Guide Book was then the only single market source.

Things have changed, what with gold and silver prices, investors coming and leaving, and more. In the 2018 edition there will be both ups and downs, as you will see. With all of the media sources for pricing information now, the Guide Book remains the main go-to source. How nice this is!

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