Last week Ron Abler posed an age-old question for numismatic authors: should my book include prices?
James Higby writes:
A reference book that gives an estimate of rarity alone is not so useful to even a somewhat advanced collector, as it gives no direct indication of value. Demand has to come into the picture somewhere, and demand is going to be expressed in terms of the money it will take to own an example of the coin in question, even if that money is in the form of an estimate and/or quickly goes out-of-date. Knowledgeable collectors should be able to handle ball-park figures, while less experienced collectors require them to get their bearings.
There are Civil War store cards of which there are only one or two examples known, but they will bring nowhere near the money that a draped bust, small eagle half dollar will bring, even with around 200 known. That's called demand.
Fred Schwan of BNR Press writes:
Ken Bressett taught me that the dollar amounts listed in books are best called values rather than prices. Prices are for items that are actually for sale.
You do not need values in numismatic books unless you want them to sell. The unfortunate truth is that for a book to sell, it needs to have values. True, there are a few exceptions, Coins and Collectors (my favorite) is one example. There are positives to this truth. Even if David Lange is correct that values are often little more than guesses, they are still the guess of an apparent expert and can be of use to readers.
I have told this story many times. I was releasing a book at a European show. At a reception before the event, I was discussing the new book with two prominent dealers. One of them was having the first look at the book. Dealer two asked dealer one to look up the value of an item in the brand new book. Dealer one reported the value and dealer two laughed. Uneasily, dealer one asked the value was high or low.
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
TO PRICE OR NOT TO PRICE? THAT IS THE QUESTION
Wayne Homren, Editor
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