Coin Update continues its series dedicated to reflecting on the long history of Whitman Publishing’s Guide Book of United States Coins, also known as the Red Book, now in its 71st edition. “Red Book Recollections” features personal reflections written by Red Book contributors, collectors, and others with the aim of providing different perspectives on the long-lived reference work.
Our fifth narrative comes from David W. Lange, research director for Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC), Red Book contributor, and author of numerous books, including A Guide Book of United States Proof Coin Sets (now in its second edition).
David W. Lange
I received my first Red Book, the 22nd edition, for Christmas in 1968. Until that time I’d been using the Blue Book as my one-volume numismatic library. At the age of 10, I was only just becoming aware of the difference between the two. I had already begun to memorize the mintages and values for my favorite coins, such as Lincoln cents and Buffalo nickels, and my acquisition of this new and more powerful tool only added to my hobby enjoyment.
About 15 years later, I began to assemble a complete set of Red Books, a project which took me two years or so. The fifth edition was the toughest one, then as now, and I had to buy this and the first edition from numismatic literature dealers. I managed to find most of the others from a variety of sources, such as used book stores and coin club book sales, and putting the set together cost me much less than it ultimately was worth.
I’ve been present to receive nearly all of the special commemorative editions of the Red Book distributed during ANA conventions, though sadly I missed out on the first one, at the 1986 Milwaukee gathering, because of a work-related commitment. At the 1987 ANA convention in Atlanta, I had R.S. Yeoman sign my first edition, as well as the then-current 41st edition. The following year, at the ANA Summer Seminar in Colorado Springs, I again asked Mr. Yeoman to sign my new Red Book, released that very day, and I snapped a photo of him signing a copy for the person ahead of me in line. Little did I know that this would be among the last occasions that he would perform this satisfying ritual, for Dick Yeo (as I later learned his real name was) passed away not long afterward.
As a serious collector of the United States coinage for the Philippines, I was frustrated by the fact that these historic issues were not included in the Red Book. Having come to know editor Ken Bressett fairly well, I repeatedly asked him when these could be added to the lineup, and he assured me that they would whenever the page count permitted a new signature to be added to the book. This time came in 1998, and it was my honor to write the introduction to this series, which has appeared ever since. Coins from my own collection were the plate pieces for this chapter, though a few images have been replaced with sharper ones since then.
I’ve continued on as a contributor to the Red Book in a number of small capacities since that time, and I’m very pleased to see how the book has been expanded and greatly improved in recent years. It goes to show how a good thing can indeed continue to get better with age. ❑