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 72nd 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 next narrative comes from Jeff Garrett:
My work as valuations editor for the Red Book began just a few years ago. Whitman Publishing is very good to work with and dedicated to making the Red Book the best rare coin reference possible. When the current owners purchased the Red Book, the data was stored on index cards. Whitman has since done much to bring the Red Book to modern standards. The pricing, which I am mostly responsible for, along with Ken Bressett, is carefully reviewed by our contributors to provide the most accurate numbers possible. Whitman is also constantly looking for ways to improve the Red Book, and there will probably be many more innovations to come. I am proud to be a part of this great team.
Much has changed over the last three decades in rare-coin pricing and numismatic literature in general. In the early 1970s, when I began, the Red Book was the key reference on United States rare coins. It is easy to see how the book got the nickname “the rare-coin bible.” I can still remember the anticipation of each release of the Red Book. In early summer people would not price their coins until the Red Book arrived. Most of my early study of rare coins was the memorization of mintages, prices, and other bits of trivia gleaned from the Red Book. I still have those early dog-eared copies in my library.
Today’s collectors have no idea of the wealth of knowledge they have compared to 20 or 30 years ago. One year’s production at Whitman probably outweighs all the books available at the time.
Ken Bressett has done a great job over the years maintaining the integrity of the Red Book. He guards very carefully what is included in the book and has always avoided being manipulated by promoters. Compiling the prices for the Red Book is a huge endeavor, and Ken deserves much credit for his efforts.