In his October 27, 2014 Stack's Bowers blog article, Harvey Stack begins a new
series on the value of numismatic literature. -Editor
One question I hear quite often from beginning as well as advanced collectors is: "Why buy
the book before the coin?". The question often comes from Internet collectors, who seem to
think of that as the only source of information. Well, the Internet is good, but at the same time
it can’t offer everything.
I was brought up in a numismatic retail shop, run by my father and uncle, which was opened in a
recession period. The goal during the 1930s at the first Stack's in New York City was
developing a solid base of collectors that the store could serve. So they assembled a vast
selection of inventory, with coins from ancient to modern, from the United States as well as the
rest of the world, in gold, silver, copper and any other metal. They also assembled a library of
reference books, auction catalogs, price lists and photographs. As dealers retired, Stack’s bought
entire libraries. Likewise Stack’s would purchase collectors’ libraries, including those assembled
Printed information about coins and their history was not always found in the average coin shop,
but Stack's tried to have as many books as they could among the items they offered for sale.
During the 1930s and 1940s many of the now-famous collectors were building their cabinets. Each had
a specialty or two or three, and when these specialized collections were sold, the auction catalogs
became current reference books.
Among printed references we had The Numismatist, and publications from the American
Numismatic Society. Unfortunately this type of publications often carried very technical
information about a series that interested the writer, and rarely had guidance for new collectors
on how to build their own collections. One of the early standard references published during this
period was the Standard Catalog of United States Coins. It was basically a tabulation of the
dates and mints issued by the United States, and showed suggested retail prices. Most other
publications had numismatic ads from dealers around the country, but no suggestions how to collect
or what to look for.
Some specialized references were more informative and descriptive, but many were either the
inventories of collections being formed or were so highly specialized that they made it difficult
to learn the basics. Auction catalogs of the period and of the decades before were the basic
guideposts for the collector. The dealers or auctioneers who wrote the catalogs (some were
extensively illustrated by drawings or early photographs) learned about the coins as they created
the catalogs. They were also the experts on grading and other aspects of collecting. In this way
the dealer/auctioneer became the teacher, passing this information on to other collectors.
It was (and still is) often said, that one should not try to build an outstanding collection
without guidance from books, dealers or fellow collectors. Coin clubs in and around large
metropolitan areas became sources for information and these clubs grew rapidly as the information
disseminated between members guided collectors in many areas including rarity, grading and
To read the complete article, see:
Books and their Value to Collectors, Part 1
THE BOOK BAZARRE
SELECTIONS FROM THE JOHN HUFFMAN LIBRARY
: Browse and Shop Approximately 3,000 Numismatic
Books from the Respected Library of John Huffman—All Books Recently Discounted 20%.
or go to www.SecondStorybooks.com click on “All Subjects” and select “John Huffman
Wayne Homren, Editor
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