The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 7, February 17, 2008, Article 7


[James Higby submitted the following review of the new
edition of the classic "Brown book", Modern World Coins
by Richard Yeoman.  It was also published Monday on the
rec.collecting.coins newsgroup. -Editor]

The latest (14th) edition of Yeoman's classic Modern World
Coins is visibly thicker and larger in size than the 13th,
which appeared a quarter of a century ago.  I first got wind
of its coming while sitting in a coin shop almost two years
ago.  Since I keep my collection of world coins by Craig
and Yeoman numbers, I always carry with me professionally
rebound copies of those books to serve as ready references
and checklists.  The proprietor, seeing this, informed me
that he had been solicited to place an ad in a new edition
of the Yeoman.  My reaction was, "No way."  The fact is,
as much as I cut my teeth on the Yeoman "Brown Book" and
learned to love it as a teenager, it is an anachronism that,
surely, no one would try to resurrect today, I thought.
Further inquiries to the Whitman reps at several coin shows,
including the 2007 ANA Convention in Milwaukee, yielded
know-nothing shoulder shrugs.  So I, too, was astonished
to see this latest edition advertised in the numismatic

The cover serves notice that it is part of "The Official
Red Book" series of coin books launched by Whitman some
years back.  There is an attractive grouping of world
coins pictured on the cover as well.  The book has
considerable visual appeal, all told.  The foreword
includes much of the original Yeoman introductory text,
and the preface consists of an updated "Appreciation of
R.S. Yeoman" by David Ganz.  A short blurb about editor
Arthur Friedberg follows that.  I have always appreciated
the inclusion in the introductory matter of a chart of
various numeral systems, as well as an explanation of
some of the more common coin dating systems.  My favorite
quote by Yeoman, from his discussion of determining the
origins of strange-looking coins, is preserved as well:
"That is the romance of collecting world coins.  The
quest is the thing."  It should be noted that Whitman
produced the first twelve editions of this title, then
many years went by before Friedberg's Coin and Currency
Institute took over for the 13th edition, and now this
newest edition is again from Whitman Publishing.

I find the content to be excellent overall in terms of
its mission.  Of course, those of us who are used to the
Krause telephone book series find it hard to believe that
a book calling itself A Catalog of Modern World Coins
could ever take their place.  The fact is, it can't and
it doesn't.  Instead, it catalogs world coins from roughly
1850 to 1964 by type, with a very few notes indicating the
rare dates.  Representing an era of very conservative
issue of non-circulating legal tender and commemorative
pieces, the editor has continued the practice of including
in this latest work, for example, the three 1930 pieces
honoring the 1000th anniversary of the Althing, Iceland's
parliament, a set now missing from the mainstream Krause stack.

As promised, prices are normally given for three states
of preservation:  VF, EF, and Uncirculated.  I find it
quaint that this edition persists in giving prices only
for VF examples in areas such as the Indian States, a
practice that originated with the very first edition by
Yeoman.  Without doing intensive market research, but
relying on my own familiarity with the realities of the
2008 world coin market, I propose that this edition of
MWC does a good job of capturing the current state of that
market.  There are several areas, Danzig for example, that
seem to me to be priced more in sync with today's market
than other world price guides I have seen.  A quick check
of prices listed for certain other key coin types reinforces
my notion.  Price guides are just that, guides, and the
market has a life and mind of its own.

The photographs are its weakest point.  They range from
excellent to just adequate, and there are a few klinkers
as well, photos that are dark and poorly contrasted.  They
appear to me to be the same photos used in the previous
edition, with a touchup here, a Photoshopping there.  But
then, that is true of most illustrated coin books that
are offered at popular prices.

Appendices include an extensive listing of precious metal
content of the coin types, an index to coin denominations,
and a list of mints, central banks, and agencies, complete
with URLs.  Yeoman's layout scheme was designed, as he said,
to reduce the use of the index.  The present index,
nevertheless, is helpful and adequate to the task of locating
the listings for the countries in the book.  Eight full-page
ads round out this volume.  If you are looking for a
research-quality reference work, this book is not for you.
But if you are looking for something interesting to browse
while slung back in your recliner, its 522 6" x 9" pages
are well worth the price of $19.95 (Canada $20.25).

Still, questions nag:  Except for the appeal of nostalgia
to aging baby boomers who read this title in our youth,
why did Whitman choose to resurrect this title after a
hiatus of a quarter of a century?  Who is going to buy it,
and why?  MWC is most useful, it seems to me, as the
centerpiece of the original trilogy of which it was a part.
First, William Craig, in his groundbreaking Coins of the
World, last published in 1976, catalogued coins from the
century immediately preceding MWC (and using its own,
separate numbering system), while Yeoman's Current Coins
of the World (I lovingly call it MWC, vol. 2) was made
necessary by the proliferation of new coin types, which
would have made too unwieldy a book out of MWC, had the
title been expanded to include them.  It should be noted
that Current Coins last saw press in 1988; a new edition
of that title would necessarily be at least twice, possible
three times, as massive.  As a collector of both coins and
books, I would love to see new editions of both Craig and
Current Coins, and now wonder if Whitman has a mind to
produce them as well.  I doubt very much that they would
tell me, even if they did.

[Roger dewardt Lane adds: "It's very interesting to see a
new edition.  I started my Modern Dimes of the World type
set checking off the types from these books.  I have the
whole set of Brown Books, including one issued in Japan
with Japanese text."

Now that's a book I'd never heard of - a Japanese edition
of the Brown book.  This could be an interesting E-Sylum
topic for our next issue - numismatic books translated
from English to other languages.  -Editor]


  Wayne Homren, Editor

Google Web
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization 
promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor 
at this address:

To subscribe go to:
Copyright © 2005 The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.



Copyright © 1998 - 2020
The Numismatic Bibliomania Society.
All Rights Reserved.
NBS Home Page
Contact the NBS webmaster