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 Wayne Homren:
Why collect outdated editions of the Guide Book? Aside from the fun you’ll have marveling at the antiquated pricing levels and grading systems, the books provide valuable pricing history that can guide collecting decisions today.
I recall the day I was walking through a coin show and spotted a special coin in a dealer’s case—a Scott restrike of the Confederate half dollar. To me, it was the most interesting piece in the whole show, and I decided to buy it. But the $2,000 price tag gave me pause: Was I willing to spend that much on a single coin for my collection? I knew the dealer and asked if I could put a deposit on the coin while I slept on my decision, and he agreed. Back at home that night, I raced to my library and pulled out all of the old Red Books I could find. I grabbed a piece of paper and charted the price history of the coin. Not once did the value ever go down—year after year the value increased, at a fairly steady and impressive interest rate. Seeing the figures in black and white made it clear to me that I could easily justify my purchase as an investment. Mind you, I didn’t have a wife to convince in those days, so it would have been an easy choice regardless. But the Red Book convinced me.
The next day I returned to the show and purchased the coin. Several years later I sold it along with the rest of my Civil War numismatic collection, where the coin realized $8,625. Those old Red Books helped me more than quadruple my numismatic investment.