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V17 2014 INDEX       E-SYLUM ARCHIVE

The E-Sylum: Volume 17, Number 4, January 26, 2014, Article 6

BOOK REVIEW: THE NATIONAL COIN ALBUM

National Coin Album David W. Lange’s new book, Coin Collecting Albums – A Complete History & Catalog Volume One: The National Coin Album & Related Products of Beistle, Raymond & Meghrig, is a landmark effort, lavishly produced and well worthy of inclusion in the library of every numismatist - particularly, but not limited to those in the United States. The book's press release summed it up well as follows:

Thoroughly researched and richly illustrated, this book is nearly 300 pages long, including 80 pages in full color. Portraits of the individual publishers, their business locations and original documents are among the hundreds of images.

All types of albums produced by the three named publishers are illustrated, and included are numerous detail images that reveal their distinctive features for ease of identification within the catalog pages. The several catalogs within the book provide each album entry with a unique Lange Number for exact communication between collectors.

Lange’s new book is hard covered and is printed entirely on 100-pound coated stock. This is a high quality book that is meant to last, and its cover actually reproduces the image of a National Coin Album binder. It is also anticipated that this will be the first in a multi-volume series of books relating the entire history of coin albums and folders published in the USA.

E-Sylum readers will be interested to learn of the connection of these ubiquitous albums to a famous U.S. numismatic author. Here's how Lange tells the story:

Beistle patent for coin album The very first coin album began as a product devised by one individual to house his own collection of half dollars. M. L. Beistle is best remembered in numismatics for his 1929 book, A Register of Half Dollar Die Varieties and Sub-Varieties. This was primarily a labor of love, and it proved to be one of his very few endeavors that failed to make a good return on investment.

Published just in time for the Great Depression, sales were sluggish, and many copies remained on hand at the time of his death in 1935. He enjoyed far greater success with a simple tool he devised to assist him in examining his collection.

In his study of these coins to determine all of their varieties, Beistle found it cumbersome to use a coin cabinet or paper envelopes for storage, and this prompted him to devise a quicker method of making side-by-side comparisons of coins having the same date. With his knowledge of paper products, and having his own company to manufacture these to exact specifications, Beistle was in an ideal position to see his vision realized. Thus was created in 1927 the Unique Coin Holder.

Rather than attempt to describe this product in detail, it will be easier for readers if I simply call it the ancestor of the familiar Wayte Raymond National Coin Album, as most collectors having an interest in vintage coin albums will immediately recognize the basic features of both. Initially there was only one size of Unique Coin Holder, and this conforms to the large size or portrait format National album. It also lacked a binder, instead having separate panels that served as front and back covers with the connecting rings exposed. Beistle also developed a slipcover to hold unbound pages, and these accessories are described more fully below under “The Unique Coin Holder.”

While Beistle initially produced his invention with openings for half dollars alone, he was an astute businessman who quickly realized the commercial possibilities of offering this product with a variety of opening sizes for all USA coins. The hobby was desperately in need of something that was both practical and attractive, as all that existed at the time were expensive and bulky wooden cabinets or simple paper envelopes. (p2)

Beistle was an inventor and manufacturer, but could only do so much to market his product on his own. For that, he needed a partner. The following excerpts from the Lange book explain what happened next:

M. L. Beistle’s Unique Coin Holder was a sound concept, and by 1930 it was also a proven seller. Beistle marketed his new product to hobbyists through ads in The Numismatist, yet he did not command a major presence in the coin market. Wayte Raymond, however, was an established and well connected dealer, and he had been among the earliest buyers of Unique holders. Raymond thus saw the Unique holder’s broader potential for selling large quantities of coins during the bleak years of the Great Depression. By the fall of 1930 Raymond had struck a deal with Beistle to become the exclusive distributor of Unique holders through the Scott Stamp & Coin Company in New York. Raymond’s connection to this product was not publicized until several years later, though it was clearly known to most of his fellow dealers.

Wayte Raymond set about working with the Beistle Company to upgrade the Unique Coin Holder’s appearance and utility. The separate front and back covers of Beistle’s devising were replaced with a wrap-around cover, to which the binding rings were attached on the inside of the spine. This had the desired effect of making the whole ensemble of binder and pages look more like a book, and Raymond renamed this revised product THE NATIONAL COIN ALBUM. In this form these albums became the mainstay at the upper end of the coin storage market for nearly 30 years, until being supplanted by better albums of competing publishers in the late 1950s. (p58)

Raymond realized that the wooden coin cabinets common in previous centuries were too costly and awkward for the middle class hobbyist he was seeking, and he further understood that the simple paper envelopes then widely used were aesthetically unsatisfying. Therefore, Raymond acquired the rights to Beistle’s Unique Coin Holder and upgraded it to THE NATIONAL COIN ALBUM so familiar to collectors of the 1930s-50s. The Beistle Company remained the exclusive manufacturer of National Coin Albums and the other Raymond coin storage products, but it never again advertised them under its own name. (p59)

Raymond National Small Binder
Raymond National Coin Album Small Binder

RNL3cC1d faceLange's research indicates that Wayte Raymond entered the coin album business in part to move the hoards of minor coins he had acquired from David Proskey and other dealers of the previous generation. Sets of three-cent pieces were easy and inexpensive to assemble in the 1930s-40s. At right is an image of the combined Three Cent Nickel / Three Cent Silver holder.

The above relates on a small part of the overall story of The National Coin Album and its impact on the U.S. numismatic hobby. Lange's book carries their story through to the present day.

The book is a delight to read, with many interesting anecdotes of hobby history. One piece of trivia many E-Sylum readers are aware of is the main product of M. L. Beistle's company - paper holiday decorations. I was happy to see the inclusion of images of two of the firm's anniversary medals.


Beistle 50th Ann obverse Beistle 50th Ann reverse
Beistle Company 50th Anniversary Medal

As already shown, the book is quite beefy from a numismatic research standpoint, but it is equally hefty as a catalog. Lange has carefully studied and compared thousands of coin albums from multiple manufacturers and plotted their evolution through multiple titles, editions and variants. A catalog number is assigned to each, and each entry lists the full title, publisher, publisher's stock item number, and other relevant information and commentary.

Far more than "just" a catalog, Lange's book is a sumptuous feast of hobby information, chock full of lavish, full-color illustrations. This is a very high-quality publication, and well worth the purchase price. It is one of the few numismatic books that is not only a reference, but worthy of curling up with in an easy chair for a pleasant evening's read.

The book is priced at $75, and buyers should include $10 for priority mail shipping. All books purchased directly from David will be signed, and personalized inscriptions are available upon request. Payment may be made by check made out to David W. Lange or via PayPal to LangeDW@msn.com. He may be contacted at POB 110022, Lakewood Ranch, FL 34211 or by email at langedw@msn.com. His website address is www.coincollectingboards.com .

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NEW BOOK: COIN COLLECTING ALBUMS, VOLUME ONE (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n32a02.html)
NEW BOOK: THE NATIONAL COIN ALBUM AND RELATED PRODUCTS (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v16n41a04.html)

Wayne Homren, Editor

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

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address: whomren@gmail.com

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