A collector’s library is worth its weight in gold coins. A basic library may include the latest edition of a general guide book, a grading reference, and specialized volumes for whatever series the collector likes.
Coin books may be found at a local coin shop, if there is one, and can be purchased online. Often a major convention will feature tables of reference books for sale, perhaps new editions or copies of the most popular volumes.
But there are other ways to build a fine library, at a minimal cost. Collectors who keep their eyes open can make good finds, and fill their shelves in no time.
Libraries often have book sales. Old Red Books and other coin books can be found at these sales. My local library has an ongoing book sale. One section of the building houses bookcases filled with books for sale. Prices range from 25 cents to $1. On my last trip, I spotted many years of Red Books, a few Blue Books, and a Brown and Dunn grading guide.
Although some books may be outdated, it’s helpful to browse through these books and get a feel for what the hobby was like years ago. Some ideas and collecting advice can be found in older books. And besides, it’s numismatic history. If the books are really old, reading the coin prices can be an experience – and a hoot! It is cheap entertainment and the money goes to fund a worthwhile activity.
Although not as common as in years past, there are still some independently owned book stores that can hold treasures. One of these stores is located a short bus ride away from my home.
On my last trip, I found Numismatic Art in America, a collector’s research book if ever there was one. Over the years, I’ve found Collecting World Coins, a selection of Bowers series Red Books, a guide to Civil War tokens, and a bunch of old hardcover Red Books.
If you are a regular customer, perhaps you can become friends with the store owner. You can tell him/her of your interests. When coin books come in, the owner can put these books aside for you, so you would get first chance at them.
Don’t hesitate to really get in there and look! Study each shelf. You may be surprised at what you can find. And remember, sometimes books are shelved in the wrong section.
Check out the Hobby section, along with the History section, maybe even Political Science and Art. Coin books may be there.
My favorite book store is Half Price Books. I frequent a store near me, in front of a large shopping mall. My first stop is the Hobby section, which has two shelves of coin books. I’ve found many books, older and more recent, to add to my coin library.
Perhaps my best finds were the original Coins and Collectors by Q. David Bowers, and Don Taxay’s The U.S. Mint and Coinage. I’ve also found Bowers series Red Books, 100 Greatest US Coins, and quite a few coin albums.
Sometimes auction catalogs lurk on these shelves. I recall finding an armful of recent catalogs on one trip. I also found a catalog featuring an early large cent collection.
Antique stores may have old coin books, but I’ve found mostly Red Books in those. Garage sales are also good for finding old books.
Years ago, a trip to a local coin shop yielded a collection of Red Books, dating back to the 1950s. They sold for 50 cents each. The books were in nice condition, considering their age. Covers were bright and intact, with all pages and not that much wear. I came away with a tote bag full. The store owner told me, “I think you got the best bargain today.”
Finding a different reference book can lead to a new collecting interest. Pick up a book that is not related to anything you’re collecting now. Read, study, check out the photos. Grab a book on a modern series, such as modern dollar coins or Jefferson nickels, and you might learn that modern coins can be fun too.
Every serious collector desires a bookcase filled with reference books. Look at libraries and book stores, and you may be pleasantly surprised at what you might find for very little money.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
More Collecting Resources
• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2018 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.
• Keep up to date on prices for Canada, United States and Mexico coinage with the 2017 North American Coins & Prices guide.