U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Warren S. White, (Scott to his friends) has been collecting coins since he was a youth. He's had some impressive coins in his collection, including a 1955 Doubled Die Penny, a 1794 Large Cent, a 1937-D 3-legged Buffalo Nickel, and, of course, a 1909-S VDB Penny. Perhaps even more impressive is Scott's current collection, which comprises 28 Dansco coin albums and ranges from Half Cents through Golden Dollars including everything in between. As Scott puts it, he's "only missing about 125 coins to have them all done." By anybody's standards, Scott White is a serious coin collector!
However, Scott's dream collection, and the one he has put the most time and energy into completing, isn't a coin collection at all, but a collection of books about coin collecting. To be precise, Scott's most elusive collecting endeavor was to compile a complete collection of the U.S. Coins "Red Books," properly titled A Guide Book of United States Coins by R.S. Yeoman, and edited in recent decades by Kenneth Bressett.
The Red Book - A Coin Collector's Bible
The Red Book has been called the "coin collector's bible" because it is the most widely used U.S. coins price guide in the world. The first edition of the Red Book was published in 1947 to great acclaim by the coin collecting community. The first press run of 9,000 copies quickly sold out, necessitating a second press run of 9,000 more. Copies of this first edition are listed in the Red Book itself for $1,200 to $1,500 each, but anybody who has tried to buy a nicely preserved copy will assure you you'll pay much more than that to obtain one.
The second edition of the Red Book, updated for 1948, had a press run of 22,000 copies, and although exact press run figures aren't available for most years following that, the Red Book steadily grew in popularity and sales. By 1965, an astounding 1.2 million copies of the Red Book were printed for the 18th annual edition! In the years since 1965, the press run has varied along with the fortunes of the coin market in general, but the Red Book remains the best selling coin collecting related book year after year. To learn more about why the Red Book is so popular, and what it has to offer, check out my book review of the U.S. Coins Red Book.
Some Special Red Book Editions had Small Press Runs
Although the first edition of the Red Book, published in 1947, had 9,000 copies printed during each of two press runs, this isn't even close to being the rarest edition of the Red Book. There have been several special editions published over the years with press runs ranging from 500 to 1,500 copies. These special editions typically have the same content as the regular editions for that year, differing only in the covers they got. Most of the special Red Books were issued in conjunction with the American Numismatic Association (ANA) and available only to people who attended that years' annual ANA convention banquet. Even with these small press runs and very limited distribution, the special Red Book editions weren't overly difficult to find, if one was persistent. All except one, that is...
The Rarest Red Book Ever Published
The highly sought after 1987 40th Anniversary Red Book with the Special ANA Cover has emerged as the rarest Red Book ever published. Although 500 copies were printed and distributed to the banquet attendees at the 1986 ANA convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, contemporary reports indicate that a large number of people simply left their copies behind, lying on the tables. There is no reason to doubt these accounts, because the 1987 Special ANA Red Book is very hard to find! In fact, Scott, (whom we met at the beginning of this article,) searched for many years to find a copy of this extremely rare and elusive edition to complete his collection of every Red Book ever published.
A Red Book Collector's Quest
Scott was quite vigilant in his quest for the 1987 Special ANA Red Book. He checked online auctions religiously; he had a list of numismatic book dealers he contacted regularly, and he had a want list with any reasonable source. Scott asked just about anybody who might know how to find a copy if they could get one for him. He sent me the following email on Oct. 20, 2006:
Hello,I had never communicated with Scott before. This letter, sent to a stranger who also collected coins, is a testament to his utter perseverance. And, like most Americans, I have a soft spot for the courageous folks who risk their lives in our military services in order to keep us safe here at home. I was determined to do my best to help Scott find his last Red Book.
I am in a bind and looking for some help. I have a nice collection of coins (if I do say so myself...) but at the time I am stuck on my collection of R.S. Yeoman red books. I have them all but ONE and cannot find it no matter how hard I look, and the fact that I am in the military stationed overseas is no help...I cannot find the 1987 40th ANA Edition red book. Do you know a place online or by mail that I can look into that might help? Have have done and continue to look at E-bay.
Any help you can give me.