Whitman Publishing debuted the 71st edition of A Guide Book of United States Coins at the Whitman Expo on March 31, 2017. Early orders have been taken and some retailers are still waiting for their orders to arrive. For the hobby, waiting for the new Red Books is an annual rite of passage, even though some do not buy the book.
Over the years, the Red Book has been updated to include more color, better images, and more information. With the work of Q. David Bowers and the Whitman staff filling out the library of books about every coin type, mint and proof sets, and even a Red Book for the Red Book, there is an incentive to increase the purchase pattern.
Then there’s MEGA RED, the phonebook-sized version that includes more information, in-depth analysis of some coins, and more items including significant tokens and major errors. For those not old enough to remember the phonebook, a relic caused by the Internet, if you lived in a densely-populated area, the 1500-page MEGA RED book is about as thick as the telephone book used to be in those areas.
Contributors page from the 71st Edition of the Red Book
There is something a little different in this version of the Red Book. If you open to the Contributors page you will see the name of your favorite numismatic blogger. Last year, I responded to a call for pricing contributors to the Red Book. We provided an area of expertise and were assigned to submit the prices for our area. I volunteered to work on modern coin prices.
Modern coins are those classified as being struck after 1964 when silver was removed from most U.S. coins. These are the coins that some dealers do not show a lot of love for because they are not perceived as worth the effort to sell. Although some of that has changed since the State Quarters were first introduced in 1999, the hobby should show more respect to these coins especially since we are 53 years into the modern era.
Although many feel that the Red Book pricing is obsolete when it comes out, it is still a good guide to understanding the foundation of pricing even if there is are market fluctuations. Thus, it would not hurt to get these prices closer to being correct, especially for the upcoming collectors. After all, this is a “guide,” not a price list.
Lapel pin given to Red Book contributors
For my part, I would attend shows with a worksheet I created of modern prices. The worksheet is stored on my iDevices and was editable as I attended shows and looked at coins online. When I noticed a glaring difference between what was once printed in the Red Book versus what I was seeing on the bourse floor, I would note the changes in my worksheet. Using this information, I would take the average of the prices and use that to recommend updates.
Using modern terms, the coin prices reported by the Red Book is the result of crowdsourcing. Volunteers enter prices and the editors make the final determination from the input provides. It is not a perfect system but it works in an area where coin pricing is more of an art and not a science. Although I did not check to see how my recommended updates affected the prices in this edition of the Red Book. I just hope it helps.
Over the last few years, Whitman has been adding more information to the Red Book to entice people to buy a new edition each year. This year, they are adding new information to the MEGA RED Book to the book whose page count continues at 1,504 pages. It is physically a large book with a lot of information.
The key feature of the Red Books are the prices. Prices are set by industry insiders who report what they have seen as prices for coins. Because of the publishing lead times, the prices may not be accurate to market conditions. Some say that the prices are not in line with current prices because the market moves quickly. In fact, a comparison with online resources like the Numismedia Fair Market Value prices and PCGS Price Guide shows that the Red Book may need updating for the most common coins. The disparity is that great.
Even so, the Red Book in all its forms probably is the bestselling book on U.S. coins of all time. Whenever someone wants to know more about U.S. coins and what they are worth, the persistent recommendation is to tell them to buy a copy of the Red Book.
This brings us to the latest poll question:
Will you buy a 2018 Red Book?
Yes, I always buy the Red Book (37%, 7 Votes)
I don't buy any of these books. (37%, 7 Votes)
I will buy the 2018 MEGA RED Book (16%, 3 Votes)
I don't always buy the Red Book but I will this year (11%, 2 Votes)
I buy the special edition Red Books when they are produced (0%, 0 Votes)
I buy both the Red Book and Blue Book (0%, 0 Votes)
I don't bother with the Red Book and only buy the Blue Book (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 19
Select as many as you want. If you have another opinion, add your comments to this post.
An adage of numismatics is “Buy the book before the coin.” It was first used by numismatist and dealer Aaron Feldman in an advertisement that appeared in the March 1966 issue of The Numismatist. Aside from being used to sell books, this sound advice tells collectors to enhance their knowledge of the hobby.
Education is important because helps build the skills and tools they need to navigate the world. Education helps us read, write, calculate and communicate. Without education, we would not be able to perform our jobs competently, accurately and safely. Education also gives us a view of the world which we live and provides a context to how we arrived at society today.
Numismatic education is important because it teaches us how to understand the and navigate the world of money and the economics that made it necessary. Without numismatic education coins, currency, bonds, tokens, and medals are just objects to be ogled without context. We would not know why these items are important or how to collect them. Numismatic education not only teaches us about how to identify these items and collect them but provides the background into history that explains how these items represent today’s society.
The areas I find interesting are the history and policies that have led to how things are today. History gives us the lessons learned as to how it was once done and the evolution of the policies that govern the way any institution is run. This is no different for the money manufacturing apparatus of the United States.
I have been on a book buying binge. If I find a book that will add to my curiosity, then it will become part of my growing library. Over the last few months, I have probably spent more on books than coins. With the exception of the few review copies (that I really should review), most of the books I buy are older and have information that I have not found anywhere else.
There are books from my new stack of older books I would like to highlight.
History of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 100 Years
Compared to the U.S. Mint, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing does not get the same love by collectors. Created as the National Currency Bureau in 1862, it became the official security printing agency of the United States government. History of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing covers the first 100 years of the agency’s history. Printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and sold for $7.00 in 1962, this book outlines the growth of the agency from cutting fractional currency printed by commercial printers to pioneering currency production including new press operations and how to create plates.
It is a beautifully produced book that stands out for its quality in both production and writing. The history of the BEP is well written with images of the process with images of some of the printing element interspersed throughout the text. Also included are intaglio printed images from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing archives. Between the pages with the intaglio prints is a tissue-like paper to help protect and preserve the images.
Although there are many good online histories of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing none of them are complete and does not include the other security printing history of the agency including bonds and stamps.
Three on Counterfeiting Currency
The most read post on the Coin Collectors Blog is “How easy is it to pass counterfeit currency.” I am fascinated that since I published that post there it has logged over 5,000 unique hits. I am sure that the post is being picked up by search engines and shown to people who are looking for illicit information. They are probably disappointed that the post is not an instruction manual, but I am fascinated that so many people would be interested.
It made me curious about the history of counterfeiting in the United States. Since I am on a book buying binge, it was time to find some interesting titles:
Illegal Tender, Counterfeiting and the Secret Service in Nineteenth-Century America by David R. Johnson. To save money, this is a former library book in very good condition. I have skimmed this book and it looks like it will provide a good background as to the evolution of the U.S. Secret Service. The U.S. Secret Service is a unique agency. It was formed to investigate and deter counterfeiting of U.S. currency starting in 1865. They were so well respected that they were asked to protect President Theodore Roosevelt following the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. Although many countries have divisions of their law enforcement services that investigate counterfeiting, the United States is the only country that has an agency whose mission to protect the currency from counterfeiting.
Banknote Reporters and Counterfeit Detectors from 1949
Counterfeit, Mis-Struck and Unofficial, U.S. Coins by Don Taxay. While my copy has condition issues, including water damage, it is still a book written by Taxay that has to be worth reading. Since this is my most recent purchase it has been added to the “up next” queue.
Bank Note Reporters and Counterfeit Detectors, 1826-1866, by William H. Dillistin. Published by the American Numismatic Society in 1949, this book is a survey of experts in counterfeit detection that describes what to look for. It is also a catalog of publications in counterfeit detection and the authors. An interesting exercise may be to work on trying to find the papers and pamphlets listed in this book. I also liked the images in the back of the book that shows what to look for to detect counterfeits.
Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada
Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada by P.N. Breton
When I reviewed 2017 Canadian Circulating Coins, Tokens & Paper Money I noted that the third section of the book is dedicated to Breton Tokens. Breton Tokens refer to the coins and tokens that were documented by Pierre Napoleon Breton in 1894. Although I am not a collector of Breton Tokens it would be great to have a copy of the book. Think of it as owning a copy of “Penny Whimsy” by Dr. William Sheldon or the first edition of United States Pattern Coins by J. Hewitt Judd.
I have to admit to “picking” this book during a sale of books from my local coin club. The club is selling off items in its library that there seems to be little interest. Periodically, a few books are brought to a meeting and sold by silent auction. When Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Relating to Canada, I did not pay attention. I was drawn that it was an older book about Canadian coins and that it is written in both French and English. What made this book stand out is that each page had two columns with the French text on the left and the English on the right. The format was fascinating I bid and won the book. Only after I started to go through my pile this past week to prioritize my reading list did I realize what I had purchased.
Although this is not a priority read, to have a contemporary reference about Breton Tokens written by P.N. Breton should make a fascinating read.
If you are a collector of Canadian coins and looking for a standard reference, there is nothing better than The Charlton Standard Catalogue of Canadian Coins. Available in two volumes, the Charlton catalogs would be the Canadian equivalent of the Red Book Professional Edition. Charlton Press also publishes books for the Canadian currency and token collectors. All of the Charlton books are very comprehensive on their respective topic and a must for the Canadian collector.
Like the Professional Edition of the Red Book, the Charlton Catalog is not a quick or portable reference. When I am searching through coins at shows or if I am just trying to identify something I had just acquired, I want a quicker reference with some basic prices that does not require me to hunt around the other information I am not interested in at the moment. I think I found the perfect reference for Canadian numismatics.
While searching one of my favorite online coin supply retailers, I came across the 2017 by W.J. (Bill) Stanley. It is published by Canadian Wholesale Supply of Paris, Ontario. Within the book, it does not carry a copyright date and it does not have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN). It can be found at a number of online numismatic stores but not on stores like Amazon that require an ISBN.
But if you are collecting Canadian Coins, Breton Tokens, or Canadian Paper money you should have a copy of this book sitting next to your Charlton Standard Catalog. While the Charlton books are very complete with a lot of information, the pictures are in black and white. All of the coin images in the Stanley book are in color. Although you can guess what the colors are, seeing the color images on varieties and being able to compare them with coins is of great help.
Canadian Coin Section sample pages
Index of the Coin and Currency Section
Bill Stanley’s purpose of this book
Sample of the Vicki Cents
Sample page showing how varieties are illustrated
Another advantage of the Stanley book is that it consists only of circulating coinage. Although the Royal Canadian Mint has expanded its catalog of non-circulating legal tender coins over the last decade, if you are just collecting circulating issues, then the other stuff is clutter. It is just the basics of what was circulated in Canada.
This book is divided into three section. The first are circulating Canadian coins, the second for Canadian currency, and final are the tokens. The coin and currency section has a single introduction, guide to reading the tables, and an index to find the particular type you might try to find. The coin section has their pages numbered beginning with page 1 with the introductory parts numbered with Roman numerals. But the currency section begins on page B-1 following page 54 of the coins.
Canadian Currency Section sample pages
Beginning of the currency section
A sample page of the currency section
The tokens section appears as if it was a separate book bound with the coin and currency section to make one book. It has a title page followed by a similar introduction, guide to reading the information, and an index. The introductory pages are not numbered but the token listings begin on page T-1.
Breton Tokens Section sample pages
Title page of the Breton Tokens section
Index to the Breton Tokens section
A sample from the Breton Tokens section
A sample from the Breton Tokens section
If the book was bigger, these page numbering anomalies would be confusing. I only noticed this when I tried to figure out how many pages are in the book. Considering that not every page is numbered and there are some blank pages in the middle, I think there are 132 pages in total. Not very thick and spiral bound for easier handling.
Prices in the book are given for the basic grades and includes prices for significant auctions and prices gathered for rare and significant coins. As most of us are aware, most printed price books are obsolete by the time they are published. What Stanley does is use information he gathers from auctions and coin shows around Canada to determine the prices. In his introduction, Stanley admits he uses his judgment to exclude what appears to be bogus data based on bidding wars or data from untrustworthy sources. He also admits that there may be errors.
Without reaching out to Stanley, it appears he is the sole responsible person for the prices and content of this guide. Maybe that is a good thing considering the inaccuracy of similar guides from other publishers. However, after go through his guide and a number of other sources including the prices from a few Canadian dealers, this book may be more accurate than his caveat suggests.
After that, it is pages of coin listings similar to any price guide you may find. The number of coins minted is included on each line. There are images of coins, images of varieties with an arrow point to subtle differences, and prices in the most relevant grades of circulating coins.
I cannot speak about the Charlton Standard Catalog of Canadian Currency since I do not own that book, but similar to the coins’ section, the Canadian currency section is nothing but the basics. Color images are reproduced from the Bank of Canada and have “SPECIMEN” superimposed on each note. Descriptions note signature, portrait, and serial number differences (i.e., prefix types) for the notes and the prices in the most relevant grades.
Tokens are a very important part of the history of Canadian money. When coins or currency was not available, Canadian towns and provinces created tokens to act in the place of money. The history of Canadian tokens is fascinating and worth another report. It is important to note that the cataloging of tokens is based on the work Pierre Napoleon Breton in his book Illustrated History of Coins and Tokens Related to Canada originally published in 1894, since republished and updated. As part of his cataloging of tokens, he assigned them a number that is now known as Breton Numbers. Stanley lists Canadian tokens by Breton Numbers.
Although I am not a collector of Breton Tokens, I am fascinated by other areas of numismatics especially if they are different. What thrills me about this section is that the tokens are imaged side-by-side with their basic information and prices. It is not a tome on their history but if I was a collector, it would help me identify these tokens and what I might expect to pay for them. I found myself flipping through the pages looking at the tokens, what they say, and thinking about their possible history. I want to go back through my back issues of The CN Journal (publication of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association) and find some of those stories about tokens I never read.
Flipping the pages of such as basic reference, I never thought I would learn so much. I think it is because all of the other information has been omitted, I can see the coins, images of the varieties, and the prices without distraction. Now that I have learned a number of things, I can pick up other references to learn more.
My only minor nit about this book is the page numbering scheme and the lack of coherent index or table of contents. I give it a grade of MS-68 for being a simple reference of circulating Canadian numismatics and a book that I recommend.
That explosion you might have heard was the collective minds of the numismatic community when it was revealed that a 1964 Morgan Dollar exists, or at least once existed.
The press release issued by Whitman Publishing for the new fifth edition of A Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars, by Q. David Bowers, that included the following paragraph:
The pricing, text, and certified population data in the fifth edition have been edited and updated. New research covers counterfeit error coins and other topics, including a numismatic bombshell: recent discoveries and photographs revealing the previously unknown 1964 Morgan silver dollar. (emphasis added)
Whitman included an image of the cover as part of its promotion of the book and features this coin. Its grey matte appearance with some flatness on Liberty’s face gives the appearance of a circulated coin.
No other information has been provided.
Close-up of the alleged 1964 Morgan Dollar from the cover of A Guide Book to Morgan Silver Dollars 5th Ed. by Q. David Bowers
Without seeing the evidence that is published in the book, the condition of the coin can lead one to question its authenticity. If the coin was a trial or experimental strike that coincides with the striking of the 1964 Peace Dollar, then should the coin appear uncirculated?
We will find out on September 27, 2017 when the book is scheduled to be released to retail outlets (or preorder on Whitman’s website). Until then, we are left to wonder if this is legitimate or a great fish story to sell books?
Even though a court had ruled that the Langbord the U.S. government return the ten 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle gold coins that Joan Langbord, the surviving daughter of jeweler Israel Switt who claims to have found them in late 2002, there is still only one legally to own 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle.
Prior to the Langbord’s discovery of her hoard, only one example was legally exported to Egypt to be included in the collection of King Farouk. This was the coin that eventually was sold in 2002 for $7,590,020 to a private collector. Half of the proceeds were paid to the government as part of a settlement with British coin dealer Stephen Fenton, who was arrested trying to sell the coin at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 1998.
The price paid for this coin was the most paid for a single coin until the sale of the 1794 silver dollar sold for $10,016,875 in January 2013. While the 1794 silver dollar had a great story, nothing compares to the sale of the coin known as the Farouk-Fenton Double Eagle.
Two books were written about the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagle that spans its history from the conditions of their beginning to the the auction sale after being removed from storage at the World Trade Center before its destruction on September 11, 2001.
This is not a coin that an ordinary collector can own. Rather than owning the coin, why not own the auction catalog from that sale?
The Southeby’s/Stack’s auction with the Farouk-Fenton 1933 Saint-Gardens Double Eagle as the only lot was held at 6:00 PM on Tuesday, July 30, 2002 at the Sotheby’s headquarters located at 1334 York Avenue in New York City. When the hammer fell, the coin was purchased for $6.6 million plus a 15-percent buyers’s premium. As part of the sale, the government required that the coin be monetized by paying the $20 face value that would have been paid by the Federal Reserve at the time.
It was a beautifully produced auction catalog. Even though the catalog is a summary of Tripp’s book, it is a piece of numismatic history. And since I cannot afford the coins, I bought the book instead of the coin.
As it does three times per year, Whitman rolls into the Baltimore Convention Center for the Whitman Baltimore Expo. This time, rather than the showing being in Halls A and B it was held in E and F. The new location within the building was not as intuitive to find as walking to the end and Whitman did not do as good of a job as they could have in placing their signs. But for general access, which is was off of South Sharp Street, it provided a little better access than off of West Pratt Street, which is a main artery as it passes in front of the Inner Harbor.
Although there were the same number of booths, the space felt smaller. Lights were brighter since these halls seem to have been converted to using LED lighting—the brighter space made the convention center seem less cavernous. Aisles were not as wide and some of the layout changed, but it seemed to have the same number of dealers. Some of the dealers who had larger spaces did downsize and the one vendor of supplies that is not Whitman did not set up at the show. It is not known if they decided not to attend or were not invited to attend. Since Whitman does not carry all books and supplies, it would be nice if they had another supplier.
On thing I have noticed is that since the death of numismatic book dealer John Burns in early 2014 there seems to be fewer numismatic book offerings at some of the east coast shows. Aside from missing his sharp wit, I was always able to find something a little off-beat or out of the ordinary amongst the books he had for sale. While there was a book dealer at this show, the items were more toward what I would consider ordinary. I hope someone steps in with some interesting items.
As I walked the floor and spoke to many of the dealers (late Friday afternoon), they all said that they were doing well. With the area still a bit chilly and no sports to take over the downtown Baltimore area (home opener for the Baltimore Orioles is on Friday, April 10), visitors to downtown Baltimore had plenty of time to visit. For those of us who like access to a major coin show, it is good to hear. If the dealers are doing well then they will keep coming back. If the dealers come back, the show goes on.
Both the U.S. Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing had booths at the show. While the U.S. Mint was showing current products, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing had some historical information. Although it is good to see the U.S. Mint at the show, it might be nice to see some historical artifacts. Since most of the U.S. Mint’s collection was given to the Smithsonian Institute, maybe they can be convinced to bring an exhibit to the show. Having the Smithsonian there would be very different than other shows since they have a different type of collection than the American Numismatic Association, for example.
2015 March of Dimes Commemorative Proof set will cost $61.95 when released
The U.S. Mint was showing off the March of Dimes Commemorative set that will go on sale later this year. The set features a proof 2015 March of Dimes Commemorative dollar, a proof Roosevelt dime from San Francisco, and a reverse proof Roosevelt time from Philadelphia. The reverse proof dime is beautiful. It seems that the reverse proofs are really attractive coins. Seeing this set only enforces my desire to buy it when it becomes available.
Another interesting find was the First Edition of the Red Book Deluxe Edition. While flipping through it at the show, it looks like the Red Book on steroids. There is more information, more detail on pricing, and some other features. A first impression is that it extends the Red Book franchise a bit beyond what they called their Professional Edition. While there is a lot of information, my first impression is that I wish it was more of a cross between the Professional Edition and the Coin World Almanac. Both books have their places, but to combine the pricing and information that is updated yearly (the Coin World Almanac is updated every 10 years) would be a great resource. Hopefully, I will get my hands on one to review.
Finally, no show would be complete with out my one cool find. After walking the floor for a few hours I finally stat at the table of Cunningham Exonumia and had a nice chat with Paul Cunningham while searching for something New York. While I have not given up coins or Maryland Colonial Currency, I seem to be having more fun trying to find tokens and other exonumia from New York City and my hometown of Brooklyn. I have seen Paul at many other shows and have purchased from him. He always has a great selection. For me, I may have exhausted some of his inventory. This time, the pieces he was offering this weekend I already have in my collection.
But it did not stop me from looking. Tokens are very interesting. They are alternatives to money and are more tied to the culture of the community than money. For me, a New York Subway token not only represented a ride on the subway, but it also represents a different part of my life. It makes collecting very person. Although I have a collection of subway tokens I continue to look because you never know what you can find—especially an error.
What I found was a large token with an error. It was sold as the “Large Y” token where the “Y” was supposed to be cutout. Those tokens were used from 1970-1978 and two fare increases starting out at 30-cents in 1970, 35-cents in 1972, then 50-cents in 1975. But what I found is not that token. After examine the token carefully and some others I have, this is an error to the “Solid Brass NYC” Token. Introduced with the 60-cent fare in 1980, the “Y” was part of the raised design and not cutout. The clue as came when examine the obverse (the side that says “New York City Transit Authroity”). Between the “N” and the “C” is the tail of the “Y” but without its top. That tail would not have existed on the earlier tokens because they would have been cut out. Instead, the is a die issue where only the tail of the “Y” on one side was struck.
Large Brass “NYC Token” used from 1980-1985 with partial “Y” (obverse)
Large Brass “NYC Token” used from 1980-1985 with missing “Y” (reverse)
It might not be the error I expected, but it is an error nonetheless! It also does not make it any less fun or valuable because it will fit nicely in my collection.
If you were not able to make it Baltimore, here are some of the pictures I had taken at the show:
Most of the time I do not like repeating press releases or reporting on press releases. Press releases are written by or for the company issuing them. By design, they are written so that the announcement shows the company in a good light. I would rather use the product and report about it based on my own experience. But I am going to make an exception because of the long term implications.
Whitman Publishing issued a press release to announce the release of the first volume of the Whitman Encyclopedia of Mexican Money, by Don and Lois Bailey. The first volume of a planned four-volume series starts the series with an overview and history of Mexican coinage and currency covers pre-Columbian money to the colonial era, the independence movement, revolutions, modern coinage reforms, commemorative programs, and silver, gold, and platinum bullion.
Numismatic Cataloging Systems
Created by: Chet Krause and Cliff Mishler Cataloging system of foreign coins, primarily used by the Krause Publications’ Standard Catalogs
Created by: Professional Coin Grading Service PCGS maintains its own cataloging system for United States coins
Created by: Albert Pick Pick was a German notaphilist who developed a cataloging system for currency
Created by: Leroy Van Allen and George Mallis Developed by the authors in 1965 to catalog die varieties of Morgan and Peace dollars
Created by: Richard S. Yeoman Original author of A Guidebook of United States Coins (The Red Book) developed a cataloging system primarily for Asian coins
Significant in the announcement is that this book introduces the cataloging of Mexican coinage with the Bailey-Whitman numbering system. The press release called this a comprehensive cataloging that is cross-referenced to “older systems.” Although I have not seen the actual book, page scans sent by Whitman as part of the press release shows that the older cataloging system being cross-referenced is the Krause-Mishler (KM) numbers used in Krause Publications’ Standard Catalog of World Coins.
Those of us who study and collect foreign coins have come to rely on KM numbers to help identify coins. The KM system has not only been unable to keep up with the proliferation of modern non-circulating legal tender coins (NCLT), especially from Canada, but is severely lacking when it comes to cataloging varieties.
Aside from omissions, the Standard Catalogs are riddled with errors that sometimes are never corrected. In the case of the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, which is also known as the “Pick” catalog since it is organized by Albert Pick’s numbering scheme, it is so riddled with problems that Owen Linzmayer has produced his own catalog with better pictures and details called The Banknote Book. In fact, you can buy the book as a four-volume set or individual chapters representing different countries. I highly recommend Linzmayer’s books over all others. Go to banknotenews.com to learn more.
While I am not a collector of Mexican money, the sample pages provided by Whitman make the book look very compelling. It is difficult to review a book based on selected sample pages from the publisher, but it looks like something that could be used as a model for similar treatment of other countries. It would be nice to see similar books for Canadian, English, and Chinese coins.
If Whitman continues and provides comprehensive catalog information for other coins, it will be good for the industry. Between Whitman and Owen Linzmayer’s work, it should force Krause to fix their issues and provide better and more complete information to the collector. As we know, the more you know about your collection the better you enjoy collecting. This is why competition is good!
Since learning to program computers in 1976, I have been a proponent of technology and its positive effects on the progresses we have made in many areas of our lives. This technology has progressed things we can see like the automated teller machine, quicker checkouts at the grocery stores, smartphones, tablets, and even all the gizmos in your car. If I look at the iPhone in my pocket and compared it to the Poly 88 that I first programmed or the IBM 360 that I submitted punch cards to, it would be like trying to compare a Roman Denarius to an American Silver Eagle.
For those not olde enough to remember, this is a computer punch card!
A lot has happened in the world of technology. In the more than 35 years I have been doing this professionally, I have kept up, adapted, and even embraced new technologies looking for ways to enhance whatever I am doing. Not only have I worked to make technology accessible but in the last 25 years I have been working to keep it safe.
I love what technology has done to enhance many aspects of our lives. And you do not have to be a user of technology to have it affect the way you live. Computers help with inventory control to ensure store shelves are stocked; manage traffic control both in the air and on the ground; and generally make the behind-the-scenes management of a lot of things easier including maintenance on this blog.
Since my response to Dennis Tucker, Publisher of Whitman Publishing LLC, I have received a mix of private email notes about one phrase: calling physical books ‘Dead Tree Editions.” In the first two hours after the post appeared, I received more than two-dozen email notes running slightly in favor of physical books. As of Wednesday afternoon, the score was 17-15 in favor of real paper.
I do not know the demographics of those who did not volunteer the information, but based on the comments like, “I have been collecting for umpteen years…” or “I was a teenager when clad coins were just beginning…” it does not take much to get a general idea of demographics.
Of the 17 who responded that they prefer paper books over e-book, I am guessing that 12 are like me, members of the AARP demographic (50 and over).
However, contrary to what some have written, I am not a techno-snob!
Scott’s 1974 Plymouth Gold Duster. No computers in this baby!! For more images of this car, click here.
I really understand that people have their preferences and that technology does not belong in certain areas. These people have a preference for the “old ways.” Whether they have a preference for books over e-books, classic rock over today’s pop, or a drive classic car whose closest computer is in the driver’s pocket, I have no problems with people opting for paper books over electronic edition.
My complaint is not with the preference but the availability of e-books that will allow me and everyone else to choose. I understand the need for choice because neither Whitman nor I will convince everyone to only read e-books.
However, if you look at the demographics of the ANA and its future, the next generation that are its future members, the so-called Generation X people, is the first generation of significant technology adapters and e-book readers. Gen X’ers are the first big wave of technology adapters who know of a connected world and have a vague memory of a world before Al Gore invented the Internet.
Right behind Generation X are the Millennials who grew up with the explosion of the Internet and probably have never read a newspaper cover-to-cover. While hobby publishers may have some time adjusting with Generation X, they will lose completely to the Millennials if they do not adapt.
Whitman is not the only publisher that needs to better examine its use of technology. Krause Publications is not much better. Where Whitman lacks in vision, Krasue lacks in execution. Rather than embrace electronic publishing that is friendly to e-readers, Krause and F+W Media, its parent, is holding onto the old-style by offering its products using Portable Document Format (PDF) rather than using formats that are friendlier to e-readers.
Standard Catalog of World Coins CD set covering 1601-1900
I have purchased the Krause Standard Catalogues and the various antique guides from F+W on CD or DVD because that is what is available. I use them as part of my hobby and my new professional life in the collectibles business, but I wish I had real e-reader formats so that I can use the tools to bookmark and make annotations.
Even the venerable Numismatic News has stuck its publishing toe in the e-publishing waters by making one edition electronic. However, instead of embracing the newsstand formats that would be friendly to an iPad or Kindle e-reader, they are mailing PDF layouts of this publication. I hope you have plenty of space in your Inbox.
In the meantime, the American Numismatic Association is producing an e-reader friendly version of The Numismatist that is far easier to read than the PDF edition of Numismatic News emailed monthly. Since The Numismatist reader app works well, I stopped receiving the paper edition of The Numismatist opting for a Basic membership and to read the journal electronically. I do not miss the “Dead Tree Edition.”
It is not a demographic issue as it is a commitment to the hobby’s future. I am sure the people at Hemming’s Motor News have a similar problem with demographics as those faced by Whitman and F+W. If you read their publications, you will notice that their demographic skews to an older population. Yet, they have quietly embraced the technologies that some of their readers want while still publishing physical magazines. I recently subscribed to the digital version of Hemming’s Classic Car on my iPad and love it!
How could Hemming’s do this for the auto enthusiasts market but Whitman and F+W cannot do the same for numismatics?
Whitman and F+W have shown that they cannot be relied upon to be the leaders in producing the numismatic information in a way the future of the hobby will embrace. Since other markets have proven that it is possible to embrace technology to enhance the physical world, I can only emphasis my commitment to help the ANA build a better technology infrastructure because if we leave it to the market, they will fail the hobby.
In letter to the editor that will appear in the February 10, 2014 edition of Coin World (now available online), Dennis Tucker writes that the target of the American Numismatic Association website rebuild and acknowledging “’Young Numismatists are the future of the hobby’ are slogans to murmur approvingly, without logical reasoning.” He goes on to give his view of the market to target without recognizing facts of market forces.
For the record, Dennis Tucker is the publisher of Whitman Publishing, LLC whose books are widely read in the hobby. Whitman Expo, a division of Whitman Publishing, runs probably the three largest commercial numismatics shows in the country out of Baltimore.
Tucker, whose business is selling physical books, or what I would call “dead tree editions,” opines that it would be wiser and more productive to target those in the 50 and 60 year old demographic than 10 and 20 year olds. It is obvious that Tucker is looking at the issue from the spectrum of the business he is responsible for rather than the real future.
One problem with Tucker’s argument is similar to those in many other hobbies that rely on the collecting of physical objects: if the hobby cannot be translated to the younger demographic then the future of the hobby will be lost. As the final wave of the baby boomer generation celebrates their 50th birthday this year, empty chairs are becoming more prominent at meetings with fewer standing there to fill those chairs. There seems to be a smaller pool of people ready to join even though the population in the demographic that Tucker wants to target has grown.
Another problem with his argument is that it does not address how to reach this or any other demographic. Based on his company’s business model and his letter, Tucker is implying that even his target demographic is not using technology and cannot be reached using technology. Unfortunately, that flies in the face of researched facts.
Pew Internet and Lifestyle Study: For the first time, a third of American adults own tablet computers
One way to judge the acceptance and usage of technology is to look at the most cutting edge device and see who are its users. In 2013, the device still on the cutting edge is the tablet. Whether it is the iPad, Kindle, Nook, or any number of other manufacturer’s device, the tablet can be considered one of the most disruptive advances because it disrupts markets in so many areas. Tablets have created new markets for services as well as forced others, like traditional newspapers and magazines, to change the way they do business.
Using tablets as a barometer, we can look at the “Tablet Ownership 2013” report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project. In their study, Pew reports that through May 2013, tablet ownership has grown from May 2010, one month after the iPad’s introduction, the number of tablet users have increased from 3-percent to 34-percent. That is more than an 1100-percent increase in three years!
Further, Pew’s research found that the demographic with the most significant ownership are the age group of 45-54 with 38-percent ownership and 35-44 with 49-percent. The first is part of the market that Tucker wants to target while the latter is the market that should be next.
US Tablet Owner Demographics as of September 2013 (courtesy of marketcharts.com)
Pew’s research also looked at tablet ownership by income and found that 56-percent of adults that own tablets earn $75,000 or more per year. If Tucker’s goal is to target those with disposable income, just look at one of the fastest growing area of technology to understand where the markets are going.
Another study recently release by Pew notes that e-book readership has grown as the sales of e-readers have risen. While the study does not say people have not completely replaced their dead tree versions with electronic editions, there is anecdotal evidence that if more titles were available electronically, those with e-readers would take advantage of that.
In a broader look at the emerging online world, Pew Research provides trend data that shows that more people are using the technology in their daily lives. Not only are more than 60-percent of the 50-64 year old demographic using the Internet and associated technologies a large numbers, but e-reader ownership is increasing. It is also increasing in the younger demographics, including those in the 30-49 year old range who would be Tucker’s next generation of customers.
The ANA, like any business, has to adapt to new markets or they lose their relevancy. It is not enough to say to target one group over the other but you have to target the markets where they are moving. Even if the business is concentrated in one market, it has to adapt and diversify within its market or it becomes irrelevant. As a stark example, you can look at the downfall of Blackberry. Once the king of the smartphone, Blackberry, once called the Crackberry because its users were addicted to it like a crack addict was addicted to crack-cocaine, went from the most popular phone to the least popular phone because they ignored the trend set first by Apple then by Google’s Android.
Borders, a one-time success story, did not adapt to the changing market and paid for that failure.
History shows how significant technologies disrupt markets and those that do not adapt go the way of the buggy whip, blacksmith, telegraph, Kodachrome film, and the Motorola DynaTAC phone. If the ANA cannot reinvent itself by adapting technology to what its potential members are doing, the ANA will go the way of Blockbuster, Polaroid, and Borders Books.
Whitman and Tucker could help the ANA by looking at this future and target their books to this growing demographic. While the quality of Whitman’s books have improved, the companies selling tablets and e-readers are reporting increased sales of their products and an increased sales of content for those products.
Amazon is betting a lot on the tablet and e-reader market. They sell the Kindle nearly at their cost in order to lure customers into their dedicated markets. Amazon hopes to sell you a Kindle so that you buy their e-content which they make money by transferring bits. Not only has Amazon built in the infrastructure to transfer bits of information, but they are selling it as a service to others in order to reach the same markets. Amazon is betting that once you are in their market, they can sell you these bits, which are cheaper to store, package, and ship than dead tree edition books.
While the e-book market is growing, Whitman and other hobby publications are dipping their proverbial toes in this market. Although Whitman does offer a number of its books in e-reader format, they do not market that fact nor do they do any outreach in order to build that market. It is as if they publish this content so that when the topic comes up they could say that they do have e-books. They are checking the box, so to speak.
Kodachrome; You give us those nice bright colors; You give us the greens of summers; Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah!
With its premier content, Whitman should be out front of the numismatic market for e-publishing. Tucker and his marketing department should be standing on the proverbial street corner marketing their e-book offerings. This will not only help the hobby but his own company by reaching out to the demographic that the ANA is targeting: the connected numismatist.
Growing the ANA is like growing a business; you have to look at what your target market’s demographics are and figure out how to reach them. For hobbies like numismatics, the new target is online where the current generation is moving and where the next few generations will be. Not adapting to those new markets can make both the ANA and Whitman as relevant as the Betamax and go the way of Woolworth’s or Pets.com.
I am glad the ANA is doing something to expand its market.
Trend chart courtesy of the Pew Internet and American Life Project Data chart of the Pew Research courtesy of marketcharts.com Image of Borders closing is courtesy of PennLive.com. Kodachrome box image courtesy of Wikipedia. Kodachrome lyrics (image caption) by Paul Simon