U.S. Coin Price Guide

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The Most Admired Book in Numismatics
By Kenneth Bressett

When R.S. Yeoman published the first edition of his now-famous Guide Book of United States Coins in 1946, he could hardly have guessed that a day would come when another book would be written recounting the history of his effort. Nor could he have envisioned his book becoming a collectible in its own right. Yet that is just what has happened to this unique coin reference. It is probably every author’s dream that their published work will pass the test of time, but few books have ever achieved the longevity of what has turned out to be the world’s most popular coin price guide.

The genesis and development of what has become known simply as the “Red Book” are ably narrated by author Frank Colletti in the fascinating account given in this book. The numerous editions of A Guide Book of United States Coins that have been issued annually since its inception have, over the years, become a mainstay of the coin hobby, and a challenge to collectors to save as sets for a permanent reference to track the price performance of their coins. A complete set of Red Books can now be assembled only through a combination of chance and persistence. The result of such effort, however, provides the collector with a wealth of information about U.S. numismatics, an excellent insight into coin values and price trends, and an important asset that continues to grow each year.

It was my pleasure to have known R.S. Yeoman from my early days in numismatics, in 1948, to the time of his death 40 years later. My respect for him never wavered. He was a man of the highest integrity, gentle, thoughtful of others, and a keen businessman. His understanding of coin collectors kept him always in tune with their needs and wishes. It was his desire to provide collectors with products that were as precise as possible, sparing no effort to give unbiased pricing information and up-to-date numismatic information.

Kenneth Bressett (right) with R.S. Yeoman and Western Publishing president Gerald Slade.
Dick Yeoman’s involvement in the hobby was ubiquitous. He traveled extensively and was a keynote speaker throughout the country at local and national coin shows. He was always available to converse with young and old alike about their involvement in numismatics. As a keen observer of trends and events, he instinctively knew what was missing from the marketplace and set to work developing products that would satisfy collectors’ needs. Not content with producing the first and only book dedicated to giving factual, unbiased pricing information for people who had coins to sell (the Handbook of United States Coins), he immediately set about designing the Guide Book, as a companion piece that would give even more information and list current retail prices for all U.S. coins. Later he expanded the Whitman line of coin collectors’ products into the most extensive ever produced. The coverage included books on many areas of numismatics, coin folders and holders of all kinds, and a broad array of related accessories.

The legacy that Yeoman left to the hobby lives on in annual editions of the Red Book. Over time, countless numismatists, students, collectors, and dealers have contributed to the vast amount of information contained in “their” book. The work has become something of a community effort, as users have assumed ownership and share in making it as useful and accurate as possible through their ever-watchful eyes. No typographical errors ever go unnoticed, and no erroneous prices go unchallenged; the numismatic community demands that each edition be as accurate as possible.

“A trailer load of Whitman Red Books”—1970.
Orchestrating the efforts of numerous contributions each year is the mission of the book’s editor, and I have been blessed with that responsibility for many years. After working directly under the guidance of Dick Yeoman for over 15 years as co-coordinating editor for all Whitman products, I assumed full editorship of the Guide Book in 1975.

Throughout the years it has been my privilege to work with many of the leading numismatic dealers and scholars. Among the hundreds of experts who have contributed to the content of the book is my son Philip Bressett, a keen numismatist and companion, who has assisted in the pricing compilations since 1980. My involvement has been a richly rewarding experience, for which I will be eternally grateful to my friend Dick Yeoman.

The story of A Guide Book of United States Coins as told by Frank Colletti in this fascinating account is not merely a story about those who produced it, but a tribute to the thousands of individual contributors who have honed its contents to the point that it has become a numismatic standard and a valuable collectible in its own right. It is a success story that remains unparalleled by any other similar book.

 



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