James Higby writes:
The E-sylum article on the Guide Book to the Redbook jostled my memory enough to go back through my favorites to find this article by Ed Reiter about R. S. Yeoman.
They called him "Mister Red Book." But Richard Sperry Yeoman did more than just write the best-selling coin book in history. He rewrote the history of the coin collecting hobby - transforming numismatics from a pastime of the scholarly and wealthy to a passionate pursuit of ordinary, everyday Americans.
R.S. Yeoman died on Nov. 9, 1988, at the age of 84, after suffering a stroke while driving his car near his retirement home in Tucson, Ariz. But the legacy he left is a towering testimonial to the quiet dedication of his long and fruitful life.
Yeoman never regarded himself as the giant he truly was. Indeed, he seemed embarrassed by the kudos he received - and his self-effacing manner endeared him all the more to those of us who had the good fortune to know him.
Dick Yeoman would often deflect admirers' compliments by saying he'd simply been lucky - a man who merely chanced to be "in the right place at the right time." The place was the Whitman Publishing Co. in Racine, Wisconsin, and the time was 1934. Yeoman was a young sales and advertising executive and got the assignment to market a new product: an 11-by-14-inch cardboard chart with rows of holes designed to hold and display various U.S. coins by date and mint mark.
This "coin board" had been devised by a man named J.K. Post. But Yeoman was the one who promoted it and expanded it from just a novelty item to the cornerstone of what became a coin collecting industry.
In 1940, Yeoman hit upon a method of improving the basic coin board: He reduced its size, added extra pages and a flap and came up with the Whitman folder. These simple yet ingenious modifications gave the coins more protection and, at the same time, made it far easier to store them and carry them around.
Though modest about his role in developing and popularizing these products, Yeoman readily acknowledged the importance of the "penny board" in stimulating the modern coin market.
"The system of collecting by dates and mint marks made all the difference in the world," he later observed. "The idea of filling holes one by one until the collector had put together a complete set - this had tremendous impact upon the American public.
Many of the collectors created by the coin boards and folders soon became curious as to how much their coins were worth. Yeoman and Whitman satisfied that curiosity in 1942 with the first edition of the "Handbook of United States Coins," or "Blue Book," as it's almost universally known. This gave wholesale prices - the prices a collector could expect to receive for his coins from a dealer.
"A Guide Book of United States Coins" - better known as the "Red Book" - was scheduled to join the Blue Book not long afterward, this time providing retail values. But World War II delayed the book's debut for five years. When it did appear, it proved to be an even bigger seller. Both books, in fact, rank today among the all-time nonfiction best-sellers, with total combined sales in the tens of millions.
To read the complete article, see: Mister Red Book (www.pcgs.com/articles/article301.chtml)
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