Books and their Value to Collectors, Part 3

Today books are more expensive and they do not sell as well as the lower priced ones did years ago. Today’s “coffee table” volumes contain great information and wonderful color pictures but often cost $20 to $50 each or more. Sometimes the cost of the book may exceed the amount a collector would pay for an actual coin or note, and beginners especially find the higher prices prohibitive.  Perhaps these hardbound books could also be published with a paper binding or be available as a smaller pocket book.

I believe it is important that all coin stores should stock books on various subjects, including the history of coinage, advanced studies of dies and designs, and of course price listings so that new buyers and advanced collectors are informed about market values and costs. Stack’s and the different companies owned by Dave Bowers published quarterly as well as monthly price lists offering coins for sale, as well as articles about various series. Also offered for sale were reference books from beginning to advanced. These publications were sent to in-house mailing lists compiled from customers, both auction and retail, and also to people who wrote in requesting information. This is how these companies grew their client bases.  To attract readers, there were sections devoted to current conditions in the market place and historical stories to advance interest in numismatics.

Our way of merchandising not only coins but also knowledge expanded our business and helped our clients to build wonderful collections. I believe that this knowledge also led these collectors to better enjoy their hobby and their cabinets. Reading about coins and learning what others have accomplished in various areas is just another fascinating feature of numismatics. And, in the long run, our business benefitted as many of the collections we helped to build came back to us for sale by private treaty or at public auction. It is easy to see why I still endorse the policy of “Buy the Book Before the Coin.”

In the past, coin collecting has been known as the “hobby of kings.” In ancient and other earlier times, only royalty or the very rich collected coins. They did so because coins were made of metal — often precious metal — that seemed to survive the elements. Coins were a source of economic development, a storehouse of value, and facilitated the development of trade from barter to the present high-speed electronic trading. Today, coin collecting has so many diverse areas that people of more modest means can be involved. Many specialties do not require a huge budget for entry or even completion. But, whether an item costs tens, hundreds or thousands of dollars, taking the time to find out about it makes you a smarter buyer and, I believe, a happier one.

There are many books available today, some written a century or more ago and modified with new knowledge. There are also new books being written every year covering every field of numismatics. These can create a foundation of knowledge to guide collectors to greater appreciation of the hobby. Current books on dealers’ shelves, at bookstores, super markets, or libraries, or even in digital form can continue to develop interest in coins, be a source of increased learning, and may even be a store of value for the future.

So, I suggest anyone wishing to advance in numismatics, seek out the catalogs, books, magazines and other publications that enhance interest and knowledge.


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