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 Neil Shafer:
All the years I was at Whitman (1962 to 1981), the Red Book was always the product of primary importance. This fact was well supported by sales, which as I recall topped one million in 1964 alone. The collecting of Red Books was well underway and had been an ongoing activity for many collectors, and of course, this aspect has continued unabated into present times.
My participation in the preparation of this book was somewhat limited, as my particular fields of activity centered more on world numismatics. Yet each year around April, when the next edition was in earnest preparation, I was called upon to work alongside Dick Yeo and Ken Bressett in entering values and doing anything else there was to be done editorially in order to get the book ready for publication.
In order for us to be able to work uninterruptedly and in a peaceful atmosphere, we always went to stay for a few days at Lake Lawn Lodge in Delavan, Wisconsin. As needed, we had guest assistants to provide some degree of guidance with respect to what the coin market had done the past year, and to help with a value structure that would accurately mirror and in some ways predict market activity. Individuals including Ben Dreiske and Art Kagin were such participants, each acting individually, as only one such assistant would work with us during any given session. Remember that in those years the activities of the market were not nearly so frenetic, and the Red Book was the absolute bellwether of all market trends. Its July release date was always very eagerly anticipated by the hobby. In fact, there was so much attention given to what the new Red Book would say that security measures had to be imposed in order to make sure no new information or books leaked out before July!
As an aside, Lake Lawn Lodge had a decoration on each outer door of every room consisting of a little Native American with several feathers, the exact number of which varied slightly from door to door. As we walked the hall to the dining room or to our workroom we would often take notice of these feathers, likening them in a joking way to the tail feather varieties on Morgan dollars!
We had a number of specially prepared books to help with our compilation of data and values. Chief among them were the interleaved editions, now considered to be prime Red Book rarities. How I wish I had thought of saving them when they were so available to me!
My work on the Red Book remained pretty much the same through Dick Yeo’s retirement in 1969 and Ken Bressett’s 1980 departure; at that time, and for only a single year, I became the coordinating editor. Ken then resumed that position and has maintained it admirably well ever since.