The NEW Official Blackbook Price Guide to United States Coins for 2014

2014 Official Blackbook Price Guide to United States Coins, 52nd EditionLast year I reviewed The Official 2013 Blackbook Price Guide to United States Coins I received as an e-book from the publisher. In that review I was surprised as to the quality information that was in the book including articles that were written by numismatists sharing their expertise with the collecting public. Unfortunately, some of the information seemed dated and needed updating. Apparently the editors agreed and worked to update information.

Based on the review, the editors turned to a numismatist whose experience with computers, the Internet, and writing for the collector who could add the information about using technology to enhance the collecting experience.

This is where your favorite blogger enters the picture.

The Official 2014 Blackbook Price Guide to United States Coins has an new chapter, “Using Technology to Enhance Your Collecting Experience.” Written in plain language for the collector, the chapter discusses what numismatic-related resources are online.

Blackbook Tech Chapter by Scott BarmanThe chapter opens with a brief history of how computers and the Internet has advanced my collecting experiences. This includes a brief history of the Internet from its birth as ARPAnet through the invention of the birth of the World Wide Web and the services we now take for granted. I wrote it so that when you hear something Internet and web history in the news you have the background to understand why it is important.

Following the introduction are sections that helps you find the information you want online. These sections are titled:

  • Online Price Guides
  • News and Blogs
  • Mobile Computing
  • E-books
  • Social Media
  • Buying and Selling Online
  • Auctions (Established auction houses and their online options)
  • Looking into the Future
  • Your Security Online

If nothing else, the section “Your Security Online” may be worth the price of the book. It is something I have written in many forms, in many places, and have lectured about locally. These are general awareness tips that everyone should follow.

To their credit, the editors Mark Hudgeons, Tom Hudgeons Jr., and Tom Hudgeons Sr. read my review and updated the 52nd Edition of The Blackbook to address many of my concerns outside of my chapter. It is a better reference than in the past and worthy of a place in your numismatic library!

Autographs For Education

After autographing my first copy of the book I decided that rather than give away my autograph I want to use it to help raise money for numismatic education. For every autograph, I am asking for a minimum donation of $25 to the American Numismatic Association Florence Schook School of Numismatics to be used to further all numismatic education.

You can either mail the check yourself to the ANA and show me that you donated or give me the check and I will mail all of them together. Checks given to me should be made payable to the “American Numismatic Association” (NOT ME!) with a note on the memo line saying “For The Florence Schook School of Numismatics.”

For your donation, I will autograph the first page of my article above the title and give you recognition here on the blog. Since the ANA is a not-for-profit organization, your donations are tax deductible to maximum allowed by law.

One way to find out where I will be is to follow me here on the blog since I usually announce when I am going to a show. For planning purposes, I will attend the Virginia Numismatic Association Show on Saturday, September 28; the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists show during October 24-26 (my attendance dates TBD) in Monroeville (a suburb of Pittsburgh); and the Whitman Baltimore Expo on Saturday, November 9. I might attend the Wall Street Coin, Currency and Collectibles Show in October if I can resolve a scheduling conflict.

Of course scheduling conflicts do arise, but let me know you if you will be looking for me at a show.

Post Script

Collectors of paper money, world coins, and stamps will be happy to know that the chapter will be adopted for the Blackbook covering those areas in 2015. I will also update the the current chapter since the online world has changed a little since it was written (e.g., Google shutdown the Reader service).

Book cover image courtesy of Random House.

An almanac that isn’t

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines almanac as “a usually annual publication containing statistical, tabular, and general information.” Almanacs have been around for a while in various forms from the earliest times of writing to today. Early almanacs were simply calendars of coming events and records of past events. They included holidays, phases of the moon, and significant dates that related to the weather for the farming community.

Although there have been many almanacs that bridged into the modern era, none had been as famous as Poor Richard’s Almanack written by Benjamin Franklin writing under the pseudonym Richard Saunders. Franklin published Poor Richard’s Alamanck from 1733-1758. Amongst the surviving almanacs include The Old Farmer’s Almanac that has been published continuously since 1792, the Farmer’s Almanac that has been published continuously since 1818, and The World Almanac and Book of Facts published since 1868. These are the almanacs that all others are judged against.

Whitman Almanac of US Coins 1st EditionHaving grown up with The World Almanac, reading the Central Intelligence Agency’s The World Fact Book, and being a begrudging fan of the Coin World Almanac, I was interested when Whitman Publishing sent out a notice that they just released the First Edition of the Almanac of United States Coins.

Although I read the description, I did not read it carefully because when I opened the package sent to me by Whitman, I found a skinny trade paperback-sized book. I reread the Whitman press release and it said the book was 192 pages. Initially, I felt disappointed in my hopes that there would be a competitor on the market to the Coin World Almanac since competition makes everyone better. So I can get over my initial reaction, I put the book down for a while to overcome my initial reaction to give the book a fair review.

After two weeks, I find I cannot hide my disappointment especially when I place the book next to the Coin World Almanac. Now in its eighth edition, the Coin World Almanac is 688 pages of numismatic reference that is a worthy comparison to any almanac in any industry. The problem with the Coin World Almanac is that it is updated every ten years. Having purchased the last two, the seventh edition seemed stale by 2004. I suspect the eighth edition will begin to feel stale by the end of this year if not by mid-2014. Maybe Coin World should consider shortening their update cycle.

Coin World does not have to worry about competition from Whitman. For as much as Whitman has invested in creating content across their “Official Red Book Series” from the many great authors, their Almanac of United States Coins is so lacking in content that it is many years away from being able to compete.

The only complement I can offer Whitman for this book is that many of the coin images are superb. I do like the images showing the relative grading of the individual series but wish it was expanded to include a few more grades. One example that would help collectors is that the difference between a VF-20 and MS-65 Walking Liberty half dollar is so vast, that having at least two intermediate grades (e.g., EF-40 and AU-50) would be helpful.

Whitman's Almanac v. Coin World's Almanac: In this case, size matters!

Whitman’s Almanac v. Coin World’s Almanac: In this case, size matters!

If had had to compare the Almanac of United States Coins, I would call it a light version of A Guide Book of United States Type Coins. The problem is that the Type Coins guide book, now in its second edition, is a better book even though it is not an almanac.

Whitman is going to have to learn that every numismatic reference book does not have to be a price guide. If they want to include type set-like guides, then do not make it look like a major component of the book. Otherwise, I would recommend people read A Guide Book of United States Type Coins instead. Thus the first improvement I would make is either eliminate the price guide information or find a way to minimize it as a central focus of each section. After all, an almanac is supposed to be about the content and the fact. Price guides are opinions that change with market forces that changes from the end of the editorial cycle until the book is published.

I know Whitman wants to sell books and has to find a way to make this book unique over their other offerings so they do not cannibalize sales, but they have to consider that they may never sell some of these books to certain people anyway. And if Whitman drops the pricing information, that still leaves their other books as an option for the reader. After all, Whitman can include a line at the end of each coin’s section that if they want in-depth information, the read can “consult” Whitman’s other book on the coin.

It is interesting how Whitman included a list of the authors for all of their books as credits but did not print the name of the editor of this book. However, Whitman’s press release named publisher Dennis Tucker as the editor.

Now that Whitman has disappointed me, they need to look at the content they have already invested in with their current books. They can start by taking whatever information is in the Red Book (A Guide Book of United States Coins), the Red Book Professional Edition, and the Blue Book (Handbook of United States Coins) and bring the content together to improve the current almanac. Just doing this would greatly improve this book. Then, it is a matter of an editor either convincing Whitman’s other authors to build on the chapters or distill the information in their other books to something suitable for an almanac.

I really wanted to like this book to the point that I put it aside in order to see if I could get over my first impression. Instead, I started to read another Whitman book that deserves the good review I will write in the near future. But I could not get over the disappointment. The text has no depth, facts that should be in an almanac are missing, and it seems like a glorified coin type price guide. Maybe they should market this as something for the very beginner, even for someone under the age of 12. Therefore I give this book a grade of F-12. The only factor that prevents this book from grading lower are the images. It is not a book I can recommend.

DISCLOSURE: Whitman Publishing provided the copy of the book I reviewed. I will not add this book to the library. It will be donated to my coin club’s annual charity auction in December with the proceeds going to the local Boys and Girls Club.

Cover image courtesy of Whitman Publishing.

ANA members should visit Colorado Springs

I am in Colorado Springs attending meetings at the American Numismatic Association Headquarters about updating the technology that is being used to support the education mission of the ANA. I will talk about my time in Colorado Springs over the weekend, but let me talk about being at the ANA Headquarters.

After walking into the reception area, to the right of the reception desk is the museum store that leads to the Rochette Money Museum. Even with the current exhibition about the history of the Civil War in numismatics, the first floor also has the first steam press used by the U.S. Mint, the McDermott/Bebee specimen 1913 Liberty Head nickel, and an 1804 silver dollar. There is also a balance from the Denver Mint.

On the other side of the main level is the Harry W. Bass, Jr. collection of gold coins and rare patterns. Bass put together the finest and most complete set of gold coins ever assembled. After Bass died, his foundation donated a portion of the collection to the ANA. I posted some of the pictures to Twitter and Pintrest and will post more when I return home, but pictures do this collection justice. You have to come here to see it for yourself.

If you are an ANA member, you should make a trip to Colorado Springs to see the Money Museum. Aside from being a benefit of your membership, the ANA has an impressive collection that is nicely displayed and worth spending the time seeing. Numismatically, there is not a display like this in the United States, especially since the Smithsonian’s National Numismatic Collection was taken off of exhibit. The ANA Money Museum is the only place you can see a real half-union pattern, typesets of every gold coin ever struck by the U.S. Mint, and even the oldest known surviving currency note.

Do you like Hobo Nickels? It’s here. Assortment of Confederate currency? They’re here, too. Examples of world currency? That’s in the lower level gallery. It is near examples of colonial currency including two Maryland notes I have in my collection.

But wait, there’s more. Do you want to learn more about what you’re looking at? On the other side of the lobby is the Dwight Manley Library. In the Manley Library you can find nearly every book ever printed on numismatics including government reports, price guides, specialty books, and books on nearly every topic of numismatics.

The library also has the oldest known illustrated coin book, dating back to the 16th century. It uses images of ancient coins to talk about the various rulers of the time. This book and the oldest book about numismatics, which does not have images, written in Latin.

Before you leave the library, stop at the old card catalog case and see the printing press that ANA founder, Dr. George F. Heath, used to print the first six editions of The Numismatist.

Yes, you can check out books from the library and have them mailed to you. Yes, you can see the traveling exhibits at various shows around the nations. But to get the full impact of what the ANA has to offer, you have to come to Colorado Springs and see for yourself.

Aside from figuring out when I can schedule a return trip, I want to know why I received three, new 2013 White Mountain quarters struck in Philadelphia when I am 70 miles away from the Denver mint.

Review: Electronic Standard Catalogs

There are few numismatic references as the Krause Publication’s Standard Catalog series. The multiple volume phonebook-sized references is invaluable to collectors of world coins and paper money. When it came time to update my set, I opted to buy the volumes on compact disk rather than “dead tree editions.”

Long time readers of this blog knows that I am a proponent of electronic books. E-books are the future and will dominate the publishing landscape in the next 10 years. I do not think paper will ever disappear. I believe that yearly references, such as the Standard Catalogs, will find a new, more successful home in electronic form.

I have read reviews where the Standard Catalog series has its problems with missing or inaccurate data, but it is one of the most complete references that exist. There are studies of various series that has more in depth information and a better reference for Canadian numismatics, but to have one reference for the world, there is nothing to match the Standard Catalogs. However, it would be a good idea for the staff at Krause to address the missing or erroneous information that has been communicated to them.

But this review is not necessarily on the content but the format. When you buy the CDs of the various Standard Catalogs you receive a disk with the PDF of the entire book with installation and reading instructions along with the occasional “bonus feature.” I have ignored everything on the CD except the PDF of the Standard Catalog.

Installation is easy. Insert the CD in your computer and copy the files to the hard disk. Since the files are big, the copy will take some time, but it is worth copying them to your hard drive rather than trying to use them from the slower CD. If your computer has a solid-state drive (SSD)—sometimes called a RAM or Memory Drives—I would recommend using that for storage since it is much faster than mechanical disks.

The real advantage is being able to load the file onto your mobile device and taking it with you. While you can use the files on a smartphone, the size of the file and the page formatting is best for tablets. Since I own an iPad, I was able to drag-and-drop the files into iTunes and sync the files to my iPad.

On the iPad, the Standard Catalog files were accessible using iBooks, which made navigation and searching easy. For my test in toting and using the iPad, I also sent the PDF of the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money to be opened using the Amazon Kindle app for the iPad, which requires send the file via email to a special address Amazon sets up for you once you register your Kindle app on their site. After you mail the file, then it can be downloaded to your Kindle or the app. I am not happy with the two-part process, but it does work.

There is little difference between using iBooks and the Kindle app for being able to read and search the Standard Catalog files. Searching was as easy as tapping on the screen to see the search dialog and entering what I am looking for, such as the name of a country.

While attending the World’s Fair of Money a few weeks ago, I was able to reach into my backpack to consult these references on my iPad. This was a lot easier than toting around phonebook-sized references.

The problem with using the PDF files is that the format is fixed and do not reflow to reflect the variations of the ebook formats. However, this is not Krause’s fault. Current ebook technologies, primarily the EPUB standard, does not support in-text images or the formatting of tables which is critical for the Standard Catalog references. The standards organization that is working on the next version of the EPUB specification is supposed to be addressing these issues. Until then, PDF versions are the best option.

PDF documents should be the first step on the road to ebook references. What would be better is an app that would run natively on the tablet. The app would be easier to navigate than a book possibly use imaging and pattern matching technologies to help collectors identify coins. A low cost app that may have a subset of the data with paid updates that might be available quarterly would be an option. In other words, if the costs are affordable (less than what it costs today for physical media), then it would make a worthwhile reference for all collectors.

For now, the PDF files make using the Standard Catalogs easier to use and even saves trees. I am all for saving trees especially when it is easy to use!

Review: The Official 2013 Blackbook Price Guide to United States Coins

Regular readers know that I am an advocate of the electronic world, especially when it comes to references that should be available in a more portable manner than paper. While dead tree editions will continue to be produced, certain references deserve to be provided in electronic form for portability.

In the collecting world, price guides are great to have in electronic form. You can carry them on your smart phones or tablets when you go to shows to have some idea what your potential purchase is worth. Understand that printed price guides are not the best source for prices. Prices can change daily, even hourly depending on market conditions including the costs of metals. At least the price guides will provide a general idea of the item’s value.

Price guides have more value than the prices. Some have very good and even excellent numismatic information. We know about the usual suspects in this area, but a reference to look at is The Official 2013 Blackbook Price Guide to United States Coins. The Official Blackbook is now in its 51st Edition.

I was provided an electronic review copy by the publisher with the only condition that I write this review.

Starting with the format, I cannot argue with that it is available as an e-book and complies with the full EPUB standard where the contents work, is searchable, allows bookmarks, and works well even on the iPad’s pedantic e-reader. Because e-book readers do not handle tables well, they have to be embedded as images (EPUB 3, which is still in development, should change this). However, The Official Blackbook does it in a way that makes it easy to resize them on smaller devices like the iPhone.

E-book usability issues should not be taken lightly. It is easier for publishers to publish e-books as PDF files or using other tricks that does not take advantage of the electronic formats. House of Collectibles, an imprint of Random House Reference, should be commended for doing this right.

One nice feature added by the publisher is the “Fast-Find Coin Reference Index.” This is a list of coin types, like Colonial Coins, and the name of the coin (e.g., Brasher Doubloons) that are clickable links back to the text. My only complaint is that this is the last entry in the Table of Contents and could be missed by the reader. Even though it is toward the end, I would move the entry near the top because it is that useful.

As a price guide, it is as good as any on the market with multiple price points, showing the differences between types, and mintages for each year. The tables do carry over the check box from the print edition that could be used to mark coins owned, but that is of limited usefulness in the electronic version.

After the price guides are very useful chapters about the contents of U.S. coinage. The chapters, “Primary Metals,” the silver and gold coin value charts, and the weights and measures are very good references. While other books have them interspersed within their pages, I like having this information in their own chapters.

Each section starts with a 2-3 page description on each coin type noting history, major varieties, and some design information. Where there are interesting subtleties between types, the authors provide images for the reader as a reference. Some references do this inline with the price guide, I like the idea of showing the images first and leaving the price tables as clean as possible.

At some point, the authors need to consider updating some of the numismatic writing and think about how to make it a better reference than just a series of articles. For example, the chapter “Coin Auction Sales” needs to be updated to include how most auction houses now offer Internet bidding, some are exclusively Internet bidding, and that the section’s author, Q. David Bowers, has not worked at Bowers and Merena in quite some time—I believe it was 2003 when he sold is interest in the company which since 2010 has become part of Stack’s Bowers.

The chapter “Expert Tips on Buying and Selling Coins” has some good information but needs to be updated to include buying over the Internet, using online auctions, and to separate the section on grading. In fact, the section about grading could be greatly enhanced as a standalone chapter and provide a better service to readers.

One chapter that either has to be rewritten or deleted from future books is the “Mobile Computing…” chapter. Aside from being seriously out of date with today’s online and mobile world, it is heavily slanted to support the business model of section author’s company. While it would not be bad for the author to include a blurb about their company at the end of the chapter, the entire chapter reads like one of those worthless white papers that I receive from computer vendors on a daily basis.

The two chapters that make the book worth buying is are the chapters “Erros and Varieties” and “Civil War Tokens.” Both chapters are very well written, informative, and if you do not learn something from either chapter, then you are not reading carefully. Although the author is not listed with the chapter, Mike Ellis s listed as a contributor. For those who are unfamiliar with Ellis, he is currently the CONECA Vice President and a leading expert in variety and errors. Having heard him speak in the past, having this chapter written by him is a great addition to the book and worth reading.

I also thought the chapter “Civil War Tokens” by Dale H. Cade was phenomenal. I never really thought about Civil War Tokens and their impact on commerce because of the coin shortages, but it was a fascinating read. In fact, I am re-reading this chapter because I know I missed some things while reading it for this review. I know I will now look at Civil War tokens in a different light.

There are other areas like Civil War tokens that the authors/editors of the book should consider adding as well as other impacts on U.S. coinage.

The bottom line is that after 51 years, it may be time to find a new editor to update this book and make it more reflect modern references. It has some great information, some good information, some information that is just plain useless, and there is information that could be added to enhance the book. But the great really shines while the good needs a little updating to make it great. For these reasons, I give the book a grade of MS62 with hopes that the 52nd edition will be better. I think that a proper refresh could make The Official Blackbook rival its red-colored counterpart.

E-BOOK REVIEW: Wild World

For the second time in a year I read a fiction e-book because its premise is coin-related. This time, I read Wild World by Ginger Rapsus. Rapsus is the author of United States Clad Coinage published in 1992 and is currently a columnist for Numismatic News. Her website says that she began writing fiction “a few years ago.”

Wild World is the story about Stacey Morgan, a nurse’s aide that works in a large Chicago hospital, who inherited an old silver dollar. Not being an expert in coins, Stacey researches the coin on the Internet and begins to realize that she has something special but not sure how special. The coin, an 1873 Seated Liberty Dollar, is something special because none exist except in the world of fiction writers.

After discussing the coin with her friend Peg, a nurse who works on the same hospital ward, Stacey plans to go to a coin show to try to figure out what her coin was worth. The story is woven between Stacey dreaming about a better life away from the grind of being an aide at the hospital and how the grind at the hospital is driving her to find out more about the coin.

Stacey and Peg are young women, both basically starting their respective careers. In some ways, Stacey envies Peg a bit for being a nurse while she was not being treated well as a nurse’s aide. Both women are not only interested with improving their future, hopefully out of that hospital, but finding a life partner.

Not knowing how to approach the coin community at the coin show, Stacey brings Peg for moral support. Both being young women also think about meeting someone interesting at the coin show but Stacey is more interested in finding out the value of her coin. They playfully play their “what if” scenarios as they ride the train to the show.

The women arrive at the coin show and go on their separate ways. Peg is looking for someone to date as Stacey tries to figure out who to talk with about her coin. After roaming the floor for a while, Stacey approaches a dealer who is less than friendly and tries to take advantage of her. While Stacey was being disappointed by this dealer, Jacob Grant, a numismatist with a secret about his real life, steps in and rescues her from this unscrupulous dealer.

Jacob helps Stacey talk with dealer who is an expert on dollars. Ironically, it was a dealer who Stacey discounted talking with because of a mistaken impression she made from the Internet. Stacey showed the dealer the coin and the adventure begins. In a scene that resembles the authentication of the George Walton 1913 Liberty Head Nickel, the unique 1973 Seated Liberty Dollar was considered authentic and became the buzz of the show.

Stacey was overwhelmed with how the coin was received by the people at the show and how she was treated by Jacob. In fact, she began to fall for Jacob. As the story unfolds, Stacey became disturbed by an incident at the coin show involving the first dealer she spoke with which she would learn that misinterpreted. Also, Jacob has a secret life and was worried that his secret was unsavory until she learned he is a professional football player in Chicago.

Wild World is written from the perspective of Stacey Grant, a somewhat naive young woman with no experience in the numismatic world. She has some preconceived notion of the people in that world, but later discovers that while some stereotypes are true, most of the time, the coin world is filled with “normal” people with an interest in coins. For the non-numismatist, this may help change their attitudes on coin people.

As a story, Wild World flows well after the first two pages, which I have described as a “word salad” trying to say too much to set the scene. The story paints a good mental picture that would help both those experienced with coin shows and those who have attended large conferences to imagine how the scene would feel.

After Jacob and Stacey meet, the book handles the relationship building process between these two young people very well. Rapsus does not rush the relationship and keeps the Jacob and Stacey out of bed until the relationship really heats up. When it did come time for the bedroom scene, Rapsus wrote about it in a manner that I think would not be objectionable to most people—basically, not overtly descriptive while giving the reader an idea of the scene. It also helped build on the relationship between Jacob and Stacey that also helped explain how he deals with his secret life.

One lesson that I do not think Rapsus was intending on delivering was that you have to be guarded as to what you learn on the Internet. Stacey’s misinterpretation of what the good dealer had on his website is an example of how researching information online needs to go past single sources. It is also a subtle lesson to dealers that maybe they should consider hiring a non-numismatic editor to understand how those not in the numismatic community sees their public face.

My only real complaint about the book is that Rapsus uses “Clout” as the nickname for the Chicago professional football team while using the real names for other NFL teams that the Clout plays. While the team, stadium, and Chicago landmarks have been fictionalized, not using Bears seemed out of place with the rest of the football-related story.

Wild World is only available in e-book form and available from the popular digital bookstores for $2.99, which is a great price. One of those stores described the book as being 150 pages. While what constitutes a page is different between e-readers, it does come in shorter than many other books I have downloaded making it a comfortable length even for someone who prefers non-fiction, like me. The story is well developed and only part of the ending is predictable. Since this is not a numismatic book but a work of fiction surrounding a numismatic setting, I am giving Wild World a specimen grade of SP67 because the first few pages need to be tightened a bit and the end should have been less predictable. Wild World is underpriced for the quality of the writing and should be on your reading list.

Cover image courtesy of Books by Ginger at booksbyginger.com.

BOOK REVIEW: One of a Kind

Could you build a story around the appearance of a fabled coin and make it an interesting read? We know there are true stories about the 1913 Liberty Head nickels and the 1933 Saint-Gaudens Double Eagles. But what would happen if the little known 1873-S Seated Liberty Dollar was discovered and put up for auction?

Numismatist know that the Coinage Act of 1873 put the United States on the gold standard and demonetized silver. This law hurt western mining interests who wanted both gold and silver to remain in circulation. It became known as the “Crime of ’73.”

At the U.S. Mint, the branch mint in San Francisco reported that it struck 700 Seated Liberty Coins but none have ever surfaced. What happened if one was found that was a heirloom of a rich family from the west coast? Then what would happen if the patriarch dies, wills the coin to a maid/personal assistant who then consigns it to an auction that attracts worldwide attention. This is the premise of the novel One of a Kind by Barbara Erlichman.

According to her bio, Barbara Erlichman was raised in England and came to the United States intending to work her way across America. Arriving in New York, she met her future husband and they started a rare coin business. Based in New York, they traveled throughout the United States and Europe buying coins and collectibles. When she contacted me about her book, she and her husband retired to Florida and this this is her first book.

One of a Kind weaves together four plot lines surrounding the auction of this one of a kind coin. Adam Sloan is the son of the business man who died and left the coin, a family heirloom, to his maid. Sloan, who is successful running the family business in his own right, wants the coin back because of its family heritage. Claire Waring, the efficient assistant of the head of the company handling the auction, has a personal stake in wanting this auction to go well. Ex-union boss Salvatore Corelli and his daughter Lucia returns to New York from their self-imposed Florida exile where Salvatore was convalescing after having two heart attack, to add this one last coin to his collection. Howie Roth is a vest pocket dealer, working the shows just to make it through his life, comes up with a scheme to try to get the coin before the auction. Finally, Lord Welton, whose passion are unique items, brings his American wife “back home” in his quest for the elusive coin.

Claire, who was tasked with organizing the auction, becomes a central focus as the lot viewing begins four days before the auction. As the organizer, she meets with each of the potential bidders as they view the lot and with Adam Sloan, who was trying to convince the auction house not to auction his family’s prized possessions.

With everyone in New York and vying for this prize, Lucia, whose physical appearance is first described in a less than flattering light, meets Howie and Lord Welton’s personal aide. Lucia falls for both but did not like ones approach over the other. She ends up falling into the arms of one of these men whose life changes from then on.

After arguing with the auction house and being stood up to by Claire, Adam Sloan becomes intrigued with her but finds out that her situation is more complicated than expected. Still, Adam pursues Claire almost losing interest in the coin. Then Lady Welton comes in to make the interaction interesting.

In the mean time, Howie looking for easy money convinces Salvatore Corelli to go along with his scheme until Lord Welton somehow finds out and makes Corelli an offer he cannot refuse.

Intrigued? You will have to read One of a Kind to find out more. Most of the interactions between these story lines in pursuit of the coin are nicely woven. The romance that is struck between some of the parties seem a little shallow. While certain passages make this book adult reading, some of these encounters seem like they move too quickly.

As for the description of the auction, the circumstances around the auction, the life of a dealer, coin shows, and the attitudes of all involved, Erlichman relies on her many years of experience traveling with her husband to coin shows to make the scenes more realistic. Her English heritage and life in New York City also adds to the richness of how the characters interact, especially when dealing with collecting coins. Erlichman’s handing of the setting allows the reader to absorb the story without the background becoming a distraction.

By the way… you have to read the book through the “Epilog” in order to find out what really happened to this one of a kind coin. It is a worthwhile twist!

I do not read fiction that often. Aside from my numismatic interests, my interest in history and politics have been filling the ebook apps on my iPad. After receiving a copy of the book from the author, I decided I would finished reading other books I started to concentrate on this one. Since this is not a numismatic book but a work of fiction surrounding a numismatic setting, I am giving One of a Kind a specimen grade of SP67 (remember, the Sheldon scale is based on 70 points) downgrading it just a little because the relationship development seems a little shallow. Over all, the book is a comfortable read for those interested in numismatics. New Yorkers, or transplanted New Yorkers, should also feel a home with the mental image of the scenery. If you are uncomfortable with the description of sexual encounters, then you could scan past those passages—these sections are not overly graphic but not suitable for younger people. Otherwise, you should enjoy reading One of a Kind.

Warman’s E-Book Sale

Since January, I have been advocating more electronic numismatic books. Up until this past year, the only e-books I have found were the books on CD/DVD and downloads from Krause Publications. After I posted those comments, I heard from Dennis Tucker at Whitman Publishing who partially corrected me and said that they do have plans to sell more e-books. Subsequently, I heard from Scott Tappa, Publisher at Krause Publications who said, “This year you will see more and more KP books available for e-reader devices like the iPad, Kindle, Nook, etc.”

Although both companies have started to publish e-books, it looks like Krause has embraced electronic as a full business model.

Earlier this week, sent out emails advertising their 4th of July Weekend sale by offering four of their Warman’s e-books to download for free. The Warman’s books are basic guides with the essential information in full color. For example, Warman’s Coins & Currency Field Guide is a solid price guide, but not as extensive as the U.S. Coin Digest. In fact Warman’s Coins & Currency Field Guide would be great to have on a smartphone when attending a coin show.

After receiving the notice from Krause, I was able to ask Meghan McKeon, Publicist for F+W Media, Krause’s parent corporation, about the number of e-books that were available on line. McKeon wrote, “Currently we have over 1,500 eBooks at all of our vendors (Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Sony, Google, iTunes). As of right now, we will continue to make our catalogs available in CD form with selected downloadable PDFs (from their website).”

I spot checked iTunes, Google, and Amazon.com to find quite a number of Krause books available on in e-book format. In fact, while checking iTunes, I download three of the four free e-books (I omitted Warman’s Stamps Field Guide since I am not a stamp collector).

While there, I also spot checked what was available from Whitman Publications. Comparatively, there were fewer choices than their competition. I was able to find e-books for titles like Cherrypicker’s Guide and 100 Greatest US Modern Coins, but not the Red Book or other books in their Red Books series. I like the Red Books series, but if Whitman is not delivering them electronically, I am looking for books elsewhere.

I currently own several e-books from Krause including two of the Standard Catalog of World Coins, U.S. Coin Digest, and now the Warman’s Field Guides in their recent advertisement. As long as Krause and F+W Media is publishing books in the form I want, I will continue to buy their products.

Book cover image courtesy of Krause Publications.

The E-Sylum App

Speaking of apps, The Numismatic Bibliomania Society has created an app for its electronic newsletter, The E-Sylum.

For those who have not heard of The Numismatic Bibliomania Society, NBS promotes the use and collection of all types of numismatic literature. The E-Sylum is their weekly electronic newsletter sent to email subscribers interested in numismatic literature and other topics of interest. It can be best described as eclectic with news, reviews, interesting numismatic tidbits, and discussions from a broad range of numismatists, authors, and collectors. It is worth subscribing or reading the issues on line.

While catching up with reading back issues, I found the announcement and immediately downloaded the free app from iTunes App Store. After a quick sync, the application was on my iPhone and ready to use.

As with many apps, it opens with a splash screen with the NBS logo. After a few seconds, the app presents a list of articles from the most recent edition. So far so good as I tapped on the entry for the reader feedback on the app. I was then presented a page with the title of the article and a link that says “Read More.” I am not sure why the app does this. It should open the page with the text of the story. For me, this type of interface tends to become monotonous and turns me off to the app.

After pressing “Read More” I open up the web page from the NBS site with the story. The problem with this is that the article’s formatting is for a webpage to be read on the computer. This makes the text smaller and requires additional manual manipulation in order to read the article. I know it is possible for a website to tell what type of device is reading it. NBS should consider updating the style of the page to display better for the smaller phone screen when being read by the app.

Another element I found curious is that the upper-left corner of the reading pane has what looks like a Notepad icon. I was not sure what it did so I pressed it. The article pane slid over revealing a light blue page with “Back” and “Save” buttons at the top of the screen. I am not sure what this does, but the screen stays blue and the “Save” button does not seem to do anything. At least the “Back” button slides the reading pane back into view.

I asked The E-Sylum editor Wayne Homren for his comment about my review. Wayne said, “I had a company plug our feed into one of their standard app configurations and publish it. I agree that the navigation could be (greatly!) improved. My goal would be to have an app that works more like The New York Times app I use every day, with an easy way to flick from story to story with a swipe of your finger.” It has the feel of a first version (“1.0”) app.

I really wanted to like this app but these issues may prevent me from using it on a regular basis. I hope that these issues will be fixed in a future release. Right now, I would give the app a grade of AU-58, just short of being mint state because of that blue screen that does not seem to do anything. I hope that NBS fixes the app because I really want to like it!

Here are the screen images of the app I saved from my iPhone:

Coin World Is Now Digital

Coin World has announced the available of their app for the iPad. “The free app offers rich content such as the News and Marketplace features that are available at Coin World’s website.” The app is free and can be downloaded from Apple’s iTunes App Store.

As part of the release, Coin World announced that Coin Values and Making the Grade are available as an in-app purchase. Coin Values, sometimes referred to as “Trends,” is their comprehensive value guide of more than 65,000 U.S. coins. It will cost $4.99 to purchase in the app. At this time, it may be the only price guide for mobile platforms.

Making the Grade is the electronic version of their popular grading guide book. It provides color image grading for 50 of the most widely collected U.S. coin series. The app leverages the iPad capabilities to zoom in on the images and adds the information about wearing for a coin. The book lists for $39.99 but will sell for $9.99 as an in-app purchase.

The Coin World app is only available for the iPad leaving those of us with only an iPhone out. iPhone users can download the PCGS Photograde app for the iPhone. Hopefully, Coin World will port this app to be used by the iPhone.

I will review the app when I purchase an iPad.

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