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 70th 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 Dennis Tucker:
Do you remember the first rare coin you ever laid eyes on? I remember mine—an old “nickel” that was special for two reasons: because it was so strange and exotic looking, and also (this was more of a feeling than a conscious thought) because it was a gift from my eldest brother. Mike was (and is) 13 years older than me, so when I was a tyke going into kindergarten, he was leaving home to join the U.S. Marine Corps—definitely someone to look up to!
One day, home on leave, Mike gave me a coin from the steamer trunk that held his collection. We sat down and he showed me a copy of the Red Book. Together we looked up this unusual coin and compared its physical traits to the grading standards listed. I was excited to learn that it was in Very Good condition—that sounded promising! He patiently explained that Very Good was better than Good (which made intuitive sense), but not as good as Fine. Okay; obviously I had a lot to learn, but with the Red Book I had the right resources, and thanks to that “rare coin”—actually, a super-common 1937 Buffalo nickel, worth all of $0.30 at the time—I was hooked on this great hobby. I read the book from cover to cover, absorbing its arcane and wondrous knowledge.
Since then I’ve enjoyed numismatics, from United States types to world coins (and most recently focusing on European medals and tokens). Now, years later, I’m living a collector’s dream: hired as Whitman’s publisher in 2004, I actually get to work as a hands-on member of the Red Book team. I never guessed that my career in corporate communications and publications would lead me to Whitman Publishing, the maker of the famous scarlet tome. I count among my coworkers Kenneth Bressett and Q. David Bowers—how much more fortunate can a numismatist get? Ken’s Guide Book of English Coins was the first world-coin book I ever bought, back when I started to branch into British and European material. And of course, there was many a Bowers title on my numismatic bookshelf. I’m honored to work with the hundreds of pricing contributors and researchers—now including Jeff Garrett as valuations editor—who make the Red Book so unique.
Working here, I feel a sense of history and a connection to other coin collectors. I can’t help thinking of the thousands—millions—who have been introduced to the hobby by Whitman coin folders and sustained and nurtured through their learning process by Whitman books.
I still have that 1937 Buffalo nickel, and also the first Red Book I purchased on my own. I wouldn’t trade either one for an 1804 dollar. I hope your journey through the hobby—and your experience with Whitman Publishing and in particular the Red Book—is equally enjoyable.