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First book encounter was a lasting one

I am thinking about my first Red Book. It is dated 1965. It had been published the year before, but as a kid, I didn’t know that.

ClassOf63 1120

Even if the prices would have been considered out-of-date by seasoned collectors, that did not matter to me. I undertook no transactions based on the prices listed there.

What I did do was begin to absorb the huge wealth of information the book contained. It laid out for me in a logical way all the U.S. coins struck until that time.

Life was slower then. I wasn’t in a hurry. Sure, I had school and other commitments that every kid has, but I also had a wealth of time to explore a fairly new area of interest.

I read the book cover to cover. Can you write that when many of the pages were little more than lists of dates, mintmarks, and prices in many different grades?

Nevertheless, I did read it. I went line by line. I noted what the rarities were in the popular series that I could find in change. I memorized mintages.

The last words I will probably utter in life will say the 1909-S VDB cent has a mintage of 484,000. That number was a yardstick. Coins with higher mintages were less rare. Coins with fewer were rarer still.

How did I know what rarity was? It was simple. I had had Whitman cent albums for a couple of years. I was looking to fill them.

I could not find a 1909-S VDB. The book said it was rare. My experience said it was rare. Trust was immediately established. This incredible book was reliable. I could prove it. Do newcomers whose first look at numismatic information is online have similar experiences?

How do you establish trust in the way things are in this hobby? Some collectors never do.

I have been called a crook by telephone callers asking me what the price of something is that they have purchased or found. They didn’t have a book. They didn’t have a newspaper. Or if they did, they seriously misinterpreted grade heads. All they wanted was confirmation of what they thought they knew.

Fortunately for me, with that 1965 Red Book, I had time to absorb, ponder, and test the information in it. It is a talisman now. The gold lettering is worn off in places, testimony to the frequency with which I used it. No edition since got such a workout.

As all longtime authors do over many years, I can marvel at what was not in the 1965 edition. What was there, though, was enough for me.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today

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