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Red Book a life-changing volume

Usually it is things that are new, novel, or startling that newspapers put in their headlines. There is no avoiding that.

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However, last week I was able to put the arrival of the 72nd edition of the Red Book on the cover of Numismatic News.

There is nothing novel or startling about the appearance of a regularly published guide book.

But its arrival has a deep meaning for me. It is the first numismatic reference book that I ever purchased many years ago.

As I recall, it cost me $1.75, which was a huge amount of money for a kid more than 50 years ago. I bought it before I began earning a regular income from my paper route.

I had a conversation with my mother about spending money on coins. It probably lasted all of a minute or two, but it resonated with me.

She said that money should be spent on things that were important to me. Only I could know whether buying the Red Book met that criterion.

It did not take me long to determine that getting this book was important to me. It was worth spending my money on it. I bought it.

That meant I didn’t have the $1.75 to spend on Saturday movie admissions (35 cents), baseball card packs (five cents), various ice cream treats that I have forgotten the price of, but probably a dime each, and other things that fill the life of a kid growing up in America at the time.

It was money well spent. I learned enough to know how to burrow deeper into coins. As my knowledge grew, my willingness to spend on coins grew. My paper route money allowed me to make purchases both smart and dumb. I learned all the way. The Red Book certainly helped me minimize mistakes.

But this book opened the door to my purchases of subscriptions to Coins Magazine and Numismatic News.

One thing led to another.

Here I am celebrating 40 years as a numismatic editor.

At the time, my mother probably didn’t realize that our casual conversation changed my life. I’m sure I didn’t, either.

But I know now.

I am pleased to see that 78 percent of poll respondents said the Red Book was the first reference book they ever purchased. Just like me. I am sure this was as transformative for them as it was for me. Otherwise they would not be reading Numismatic News and answering our electronic poll questions.

The Red Book is a treasure in our field. Long may these annual editions keep coming to transform other lives.

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

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• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2019 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.

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