Dave Bowers submitted this appreciation of Dave Lange's book on coin collecting albums. Thanks! -Editor
The other day I spent a pleasant few hours brushing up on the history of the Chautauqua Movement in America. You may or may not know
that this started in 1874 at a camp on Lake Chautauqua near Jamestown in Upstate New York, as a course for Sunday school teachers. The idea
of immersing one’s self in several days of learning had appeal, and by the 1890s several Chautauqua companies were traveling circuits in
America in bookings arranged by agents. The typical circuit ranged from vaudeville and amusement to serious speakers on temperance,
suffrage, labor unions, and more. The movement petered out in the early 1920s.
One of the most popular speakers was Russell Conwell, who is said to have given his “Acres of Diamonds” several thousand times. It is
remembered today (by those who like and read history) as a motivational program—acres of diamonds (many opportunities) are all around you.
All you need to do is pick them up.
The same can be said for numismatic books! Hardly an issue of The E-Sylum goes by without an announcement of one, two, or a
handful of new books. No one can possibly buy or read them all.
In my own life I endeavor to buy a copy of each important or interesting book on American numismatics. Sometimes I overlook a “diamond”
among the “acres” of texts available today. Such an instance happened last week when I acquired a copy of David W. Lange’s Coin
Collecting Albums, A Complete History & Catalog: Volume One, with the central or main title, The National Coin Album & Related
Products of Beistle, Raymond & Meghrig. Makes the title of A Guide Book of United States Coins seem simple. My overlooking took
the form of my not discovering it until a year after Dave Lange’s book was first published.
I love numismatic history. You may have copy of my American Numismatics Before the Civil War book published in 1998. This is the
only book I have ever done for which the print quantity ordered, 1,000 plus a few overruns, was perfect. The book was advertised, all but a
few copies sold right away, and we never received any other orders! Someday I might write a History of American Numismatics covering
all eras. Marketing might be difficult now, what with the Internet and the like.
Book selling was different in the late 20th century. In 1979 when my The History of United States Coinage as Illustrated by the
Garrett Collection was issued, the 4,000-copy print run was sold out in days, and eventually about 15,000 went to buyers. In 1988 when
Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of United States and Colonial Coins was published my company sold over 10,000 copies the first
year. But I digress. Back to the topic at hand.
Dave Lange’s book is rich with numismatic history from the late 1920s today. The sale of Raymond’s “National” albums was about 50%
responsible for launching the rare coin market we know today. The other 50% credit goes to Whitman Publishing with its “Penny Boards.”
Until the late 1920s there were no albums in which to easily store coins. Paper envelopes 2x2 inches square were the norm, or coins could
be laid out in a thin drawer in a wooden cabinet.
M.L. Beistle changed that in 1928 with the invention of an album page made of thick cardboard, with round openings for coins and with
clear cellulose acetate slides covering the obverses and reverses. You could watch and enjoy your collection as the holes were filled in
one by one. These were licensed to Wayte Raymond who conducted the Scott Stamp & Coin Company in New York. Whitman on the other hand played
to the lower end of the market. With a Whitman page at hand it was fun to look through coins in circulation and hope to find the Holy
Grail, a 1909-S V.D.B. cent.
Both of these products started the date-and-mintmark procedure we know today. Believe it or not, in 1930 all Proof Liberty Head nickels
were priced about the same. A gem 1909-S V.D.B. cent cost a dollar. By 1940 the rare 1885 stood out above all others. Another interesting
aspect of the decade is that we were in the middle of the Great Depression. Rare coins were inexpensive, the new pages and albums made the
hobby fun, and percentage-wise the greatest decade of price increases in numismatics took place!
With Dave Lange’s marvelous book at hand you can travel through the years and see how Wayte Raymond in particular was the foundation for
advanced collectors. I treasure my copy as one of my favorite non-market books of our era (by non-market I mean that it does not list
population prices, give auction records, or predict the price of gold, etc., etc.). Its assets are that it is interesting and
Seeking to share my year-late enthusiasm I asked Dave Lange how his 288-page deluxe hardbound book could be ordered. I was informed that
it was published at $75, but is now just $59.95 plus $10 Priority Mail shipping while remaining copies last. More from Dave L.:
“Buyers can pay via PayPal to my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by check made out to me at the address below. All books will be
signed and/or inscribed, unless specified otherwise. I also offer my coin board book at half its publication price: $19.95 plus $5
shipping. If both books are ordered, a flat shipping fee of $10 will suffice.”
Full disclosure from me (the other Dave, Dave Bowers) in reverse: Writing this appreciation was my idea, and I have no benefit from any
order you place. I will state, however, that you will enjoy the book or books when you receive them.
Wolfeboro Falls, NH
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NEW BOOK: COIN COLLECTING ALBUMS, VOLUME ONE
Wayne Homren, Editor
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