For many decades, starting in the 1930s, the city of Racine, Wisconsin, was home to the numismatic powerhouse of Whitman Publishing—the firm that popularized coin collecting during the Great Depression and World War II, mass-marketed coin boards and coin folders, and created the best-selling Guide Book of United States Coins (the hobby’s popular “Red Book”). Later, Whitman was managed in New York City, then for many years, it was headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, where much of its editorial work still takes place.
And for the past several years, the Red Book has also had a vibrant Kentucky connection.
If you’re 76 years young (or younger) and you collect American coins, the Red Book has always been a part of your hobby experience. The first edition was published in 1946, and more than 25 million copies have been sold since then. It’s as much a part of the hobby community as coins themselves.
Kenneth Bressett tells the story of Whitman Publishing, and of the man who authored its most famous publication, in his memoir A Penny Saved: R.S. Yeoman and His Remarkable Red Book.
Yeoman spearheaded the volume’s creation and was the hobby’s first “Mr. Red Book.” After Yeoman, with whom he worked starting in 1959, Bressett was the second “Mr. Red Book.” He’s nurtured the Red Book for more than 60 years, as editor, senior editor, and finally (semi-) retiring as editor emeritus in 2018.
Who took over from Bressett as the third man in 75-plus years to hold the senior-editorial reins of the Red Book? That would be Jeff Garrett of Lexington, Kentucky.
Garrett is no newcomer to the Red Book, or to coins. He’s been a life member of the American Numismatic Association since 1975, and served as the association’s president from 2015 to 2017. He founded Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries in Lexington in 1984. The firm has been in the same location for more than 30 years. He started the Bluegrass Coin Club in 1994, serves as a consultant to the Smithsonian’s National Numismatic Collection, and for many years was the valuations editor of the Red Book.
I’ve known Jeff Garrett personally and professionally for almost 20 years and have published many of his award-winning books, including 100 Greatest U.S. Coins and the Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins, 1795–1933. I know him not only as a businessman who understands the rare-coin market, but also as a numismatist, a researcher, and writer—someone who likely knows the answer to your coin-related question, or if he doesn’t, knows where to find it.
The Bluegrass State can be proud to count Jeff Garrett as one of its most celebrated numismatic sons, just as Whitman Publishing is pleased to have his steady editorial eye on the Red Book.
An important note about helping Kentucky after the recent floods: Earlier this week, the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels’ Board of Trustees committed $1 million to emergency relief and rebuilding efforts across flood-ravaged eastern Kentucky. General Gary Boschert, Board of Trustees chair, said, “We learned, from our recent experiences with partners in western Kentucky tornado relief, that recovery is a long-term commitment, and we will ensure that one hundred percent of contributions toward flood relief will be given to thoroughly vetted nonprofits providing assistance to the citizens and communities of eastern Kentucky.” If you’d like to help the Honorable Order’s relief efforts, you can contribute securely online or mail your contribution to The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, 943 South First Street, Louisville, KY 40203 (please note “Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief” on your check’s memo line.)
Dennis Tucker is the publisher of Whitman Publishing, a leading producer of books, storage and display supplies, and other resources for collectors and hobbyists. He was commissioned a Kentucky Colonel in March 2021 for his career in book publishing and his promotion of the Commonwealth’s status as an important subject in numismatics. His column “From the Colonel’s Desk” explores the Bluegrass State’s rich connections to American coins, tokens, medals, paper money, private currency, and related artifacts. To read more, visit the “From the Colonel’s Desk” archives.