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My money is on the new edition

If you were ill, would you want to consult a medical textbook from 1940? What if your 2007 Chevy needed repair? Should the mechanic look at a 1940 owner’s manual?

Dumb questions, right? Well, I get some peculiar mail from time to time, but it happens often enough that it occurs to me to comment here.

In my mail yesterday I received a letter that included a copy of a page from a 1940 Iowa Numismatic Association convention folder. The writer highlighted a Silver Certificate listing for a star replacement note. The writer wanted to know why it was listed that way.

Fortunately, I have an answer, but consulting 67-year-old texts for anything other than historical purposes is just asking for trouble.

The staff of the Standard Catalog of World Coins get inquiries about missing listings or errors in listings all of the time. The senders are very helpful in pointing out problems that creep into the database every time the computer decides to hiccup.

However, the staff also gets comments on things that appeared in catalogs from 10, 15 or 20 years ago. These aren’t particularly helpful. A simple check of a current edition would reveal whether the problem was corrected.

No collector I know or who I have ever been in contact with has demanded to sell his material at 1940 prices because the current price guides must be wrong. Why the mental glitch when it comes to simple information?

The hobbyists of 1940 did their best. They bequeathed us a rich legacy that the present generation of collectors has vastly improved upon. However, that 2007 catalog we are so proud of today will be just as obsolete come 2074 as the 1940 listing is now.

Not all old information is bad information, but when the texts diverge, you will win more often relying on the new books than on the old.