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 Jesse Iskowitz:
I first discovered the Red Book in 1955. I was at a friend’s house, and his father was a collector and asked me if I knew anything about collecting coins. I told him that I collected Lincoln cents. He asked me what years I had and what years I did not have. I was surprised to find out that there was more out there than one 1909-dated cent.
He told me what the rare coins were and wished me luck in my search for them in my pocket change. As I was leaving he gave me a copy of the 1955 Red Book, and boy was I surprised by the wealth of information that waited for me between the front and back covers. I was hooked on coin collecting and also trying to find the early editions of the Red Book at the library.
Over the years, I have been able to collect a complete set of Red Books. I find that to this day I never get bored reading the early editions. And because of my love of early copies, I have also collected copies of early catalogs—such as The Reliable Coin Book by C.F. Clarke & Co. (Le Roy, New York), The Star Rare Coin Encyclopedia and Premium Catalog by the Numismatic Company of Texas (copyrighted by B. Max Mehl in 1939), and the J.F. Bell sale of U.S. gold coins in April 1963—and any price list from the early years. I was asked to do the pricing in the Red Book in the early ‘70s, and I am honored to be still doing it every year.