Dave Alexander submitted this review of "Mega Red", the new deluxe edition of the classic "Red Book". Thanks! -Editor
When this reviewer was a beginning collector in 1949-1950, two books dominated the world of U.S. coins: The Standard Catalogue of United
States Coins by Wayte Raymond; and A Guide Book of United States Coins by R.S. Yeoman and Kenneth Bressett. The two titles were rivals in
the 1940’s but the ultimate winner was the Guide Book, universally known as the “Red Book,” published in Racine, WI.
Wayte Raymond was a numismatist and publisher of steely integrity and unbending conservatism, an elitist with little love for popular
trends or shifting fashions in numismatics. His idea of book distribution was limited to a network of “established coin dealers” who
generally shared his views of the coin market.
Whitman provided a dramatic contrast, notably as publisher of such nationally famous lines as the Little Golden Books that were
distributed all over America through five- and ten-cent stores as well as booksellers. The new “Red Book” was instantly available to all
through this ready-made national network. National distribution and availability propelled the new catalog into the front rank.
When Raymond died in 1956, his books faded from view and the “Red Book” and its slightly older cousin the “Blue Book” ruled the
marketplace. By the time I joined the Coin World staff in early 1974 the “Red Book” was known to be a rigidly controlled
publication, so tightly limited in page length that as new material was added, older information had to be compressed or eliminated to
maintain the fixed page count.
The “Red Book” staff was essentially limited to R.S. Yeoman, Ken Bressett, Neil Shafer and Holland Wallace, who appeared from time to
time in news photos posing primly in white shirts and ties. One bizarre interlude that might be called the book’s Wild West experience
helped intensify the straight-jacketing process. In the late 1950’s, New York dealer John J. Ford Jr. began publishing exciting new
discoveries in the field of western Americana, primarily unknown pioneer gold coins and ingots. He obligingly sent information about them
to the “Red Book” despite his ownership of the rights to Raymond’s Standard Catalogue.
When vigorous controversy erupted over authenticity of many of Ford’s new discoveries, most of them were deleted from the “Red Book” for
“further research” and never returned to its pages. The addition of new material was now even more rigorously policed in the wake of their
The “Red Book” moved to New York City briefly with Saint Martin’s Press, then on to Atlanta and ownership by Anderson Publishing where
it remains today. By the 1980’s, the ”Red Book” had become a flourishing collectible in its own right and in 2009 a volume appeared devoted
to its study, A Guide Book of the Official Red Book of United States Coins by Frank J. Colletti.
By now the dramatic expansion of new U.S. Mint issues were making it impossible to continue the long-standing size limitations as new
commemorative clad, silver and gold coins, Bicentennial and other circulating commemoratives such as Statehood quarters, gold and silver
bullion coins gushed forth from the Mints in ever-increasing quantities.
Fighting back against widely distributed pricing newsletters and proliferating electronic publications, the publishers released paper
back and ring binder editions, and launched a larger size Professional Edition of the “Red Book.” All of these innovations prepared the way
for the new Deluxe Edition which many collectors first saw at the 2015 American Numismatic Association convention in suburban Rosemont, IL
in August 2015.
Measuring 7 x 10 inches, 2½ inches thick, this impressive new paperback was nick-named “Mega Red” by admiring collectors and dealers.
For courtesy’s sake, the name of the late R.S. Yeoman (1904-1988) graces the cover and title page, but the actual leadership is
acknowledged as Senior Editor Kenneth Bressett, with Q. David Bowers and Jeff Garrett.
An idea of the enhanced scope of the new edition may be gained from the five full pages devoted merely to the table of contents. The
listings for Colonial and early Federal issues reflect the vast strides that research into those collectibles has taken in recent years.
The new edition clarifies not only what Colonials exist but why they exist as well.
Intricacies of grading receive full investigation for each denomination, both for classical series and the most modern additions to U.S.
coinage with detailed photo images of the greatest precision.
The listings for early copper, half cents and large cents have been revolutionized by inclusion of varieties and valuation according to
the published works of early copper giants including William H. Sheldon, Howard R. Newcomb, Walter Breen, Roger Cohen and others. Early
silver and gold coin denominations are presented with similar completeness for the first time in a general U.S. catalog.
This wealth of important detail exceeds anything included in the earlier “Red Book” editions. The importance of this expansion of
information can scarcely be over-emphasized. Pricing has been meticulously expanded grade by grade and by inclusion of selected auction
records for the many great rarities that appear only occasionally on the numismatic market.
While U.S. Mint Uncirculated and Proof sets are familiar to most collectors and are included in complete detail, collectors may be
amazed at the sheer volume of bullion coins released by the Mint including First Lady gold and platinum eagles that few collectors have
ever actually handled.
A section on “Significant U.S. Patterns” provides a brief introduction to that fascinating area, while “Private and Territorial Gold”
lists an array of Western issues regarded as legitimate today. Several categories of private tokens are examined including Hard Times and
Civil War issues and Colorado’s Lesher Referendum dollars.
Coins of U.S. possessions covered in “Mega Red” include Hawaiian and Puerto Rican issues, with a very thorough examination of U.S.
Philippine coins offering a examination of this long-neglected series of 1903-1945. The Philippine coinage could certainly profit from
treatment in a separate volume if the Whitman series.
Among many appendices, the valuation list of past “Red Book” and “Blue Book” editions will attract reader interest, as will an
exhaustive roster of “Top 250 U.S. Coin Prices Realized at Auction.” Sections on coin handling, cleaning and conservation, the operation of
the market with its cycles and personal reminiscences of prominent numismatists round out this smorgasbord of the world of U.S. coins.
That this amazing book can be available at only $49.95 is a commentary on the efficiency of Whitman Publishing’s marketing. No dealer,
private collector or library can afford top be without this indispensable volume.
To read the complete article, see:
2016 Guide Book
of United States Coins, Deluxe Edition
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
NEW BOOK: 2016 DELUXE EDITION RED BOOK
Wayne Homren, Editor
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