• COLLECTING RED BOOKS, Continued Part #3

        COLLECTING RED BOOKS, Continued Part #3
        Frank J. Colletti

        In the last two articles we took a look at various regular and special editions of "A Guide Book of United States Coins" by R.S. Yeoman, and edited by Ken Bressett. The series, from 1947 to date, has developed into a specialty collection all of it own. As we saw before, there is the regular series form 1947 to date; then the special editions, some of which were discussed briefly. Now, hold on, there are still more. First, the really strange ones.

        Unbelievably, there are known examples for nearly every year that have the interior pages mis-bound and inverted (so that the first page is in the back and the end is in the front). These strange errors have become very collectible. When I first started collecting these I could buy them for from $5 to $10 each. Today, for an edition that I need for my collection, I will have to pay from $25 to $35 each, depending on the condition and year (naturally the earlier editions are more costly and ones for the first ten years will cost many hundreds of dollars). Other error printings are ones with the printing on the cover and spine off center, and some are even double printed (resembling a doubled die similar to coins). These errors were available years ago for $5 to $10 each. Today, they will cost about the same as the above inverted covers, or possibly more for dramatic mis-prints.
        The range of error printings is as varied as the printing process, and include duplicated pages, missing pages, blank (unprinted) pages in the middle of the text, and just about anything that you can imagine. These have become extremely popular and are often searched for. The limit of your collection is bound only by what you are able to find. Sometimes they may even be found on book shelves of regular bookstores. Then, there are signed editions.

        R.S. Yeoman, the originator of "A Guide Book of United States Coins" signed many books in his lifetime. If a collector approached him at a coin show he never refused their request. Unfortunately, Mr. Yeoman (born: Richard Sperry Yeo, pen name R.S. Yeoman) died in 1989 and is no longer available to sign books for us. However, his signed editions have become valuable collectibles. A 1st edition, 1st printing may sell for $600 in fine condition, but if it also has Mr. Yeoman’s signature, the value is about double. There is only one collector that I am aware of who has a complete set of the Guide book signed by Mr. Yeoman, a collector in the mid-west. I have corresponded with him and it took him a very long time to put together this set. If you are interested, even the later date books currently sell for $25 or more when signed, as opposed to a dollar or two if unsigned.
        In addition, Kenneth Bressett has assumed the editorial duties for the Guide Book. Mr. Bressett kindly signs books for collectors at many coin shows. These are available at more reasonable prices, but are still very scarce. I only know of one set from (about) 1958 to date that Mr. Bressett has signed. Why 1958? That is the year he started working on Guide Book. Currently Guide Books with Mr. Bressett’s signature are not selling for as high a premium as those with Mr. Yeoman’s signature. But in time they will become more and more highly sought.

        However, special editions signed by Ken Bressett sell for nice premiums even now.
        There are many ways to approach a collection of Guide Books, and many different sources for obtaining them. One coin dealer told me that years ago he had attended a flea market in New York City. Once seller had a box of Red Books and as he searched he found earlier and earlier editions. Making a long story short, he wound up taking home the first ten editions in very nice condition for only a dollar a piece! These ten editions would sell for many hundreds of dollars today. I have heard of first editions being found at garage sales for a quarter, and resold for a tidy profit. Again, the sources for your collection are only limited by your imagination, and the size of your wallet. If you search the internet for on line auctions you may, occasionally, find a nice deal on early editions, especially if they are mis-described. However, be aware that there is a lot of competition for the early years.

        It was as a result of my search many of the above books, varieties and special editions that I started to make notes about what was available. I continued to read many varied opinions about what did and did not exist as far a Red Book varieties. It seemed that there were many opinions, but very few actual facts available. The few definite facts were those contained in a short two page write up in the back of the Guide Book, under the title: "The Red Book As A Collectible." This article merely whetted my appetite for additional information and actual facts. It took a long time, but I was finally introduced to an employee of Whitman Publishing who had worked on the Guide Book for (actually) decades.

        It was this introduction that led to my purchasing a collection of over five cases of books from this former employee, that he had accumulated over the many years that he had worked there. My wife flipped when the UPS truck showed up and five large cases of books were delivered. Included in this collection were many books that had never seen the light of day (outside of the publisher). They included inverted printings, special editions, misprinted covers, sample printings, editing copies, and items too numerous to mention.

        However, then the real work started, and I had to research these varieties to determine what was simply an often repeated legend (example: the 1985 Coin World overprint had many copies destroyed by water – apparently a false story). Then there were the rumors, the ‘fact’ that there was a special edition printed for the ANA (American Numismatic Association) as a give away for a luncheon cruise. I contacted dozens of book dealers across the country about this. Finally, about when I was ready to give up the search and assume that the story was just another urban myth, I called a book dealer about some other pieces and he mentioned that he had a copy. I expected to pay many hundreds of dollars for the piece, but was able to acquire it for a reasonable price. After years of further calling, writing and research I was able to determine that only about 35 pieces had been produced. This is one of the rarest pieces in my collection.

        The end result of my years of research and correspondence with Ken Bressett, the current editor of the Guide Book is "A Guide Book of The Official Red Book of United States Coins." Published by Whitman Publishing this Spring, it is the result of years of study and research. The book is available from Whitman Publishing (at Whitmanbooks.com) for $18.95 and is also available in a very limited edition, 250 copies, in signed leather for $49.95. News flash: I was just notified that my book was awarded the ‘2009 Extraordinary Merit Book of the Year’ by the Numismatic Literary Guild, better known as the NLG, an organization devoted to writers of numismatic topics.


        Extreme Error: Inverted binding:

        Inverted Binding:

        Misprint cover: