As a copywriter at Littleton Coin Company, I have certain reference books I turn to frequently, and keep right at my fingertips! These books provide numismatic facts and background that I need to write about the coins and currency notes we’re offering to our customers.
Collector David Sundman in Littleton’s library
Oh sure, the Internet offers quick reference to a certain amount of information. But it rarely provides everything I need, and rarely suffices for experienced collectors who want the behind-the-scenes stories about coins, paper money and related items that they own or may be seeking. Here at Littleton, we’re also fortunate to have access to an excellent and extensive numismatic library – painstakingly assembled by LCC president and avid life-long collector David Sundman. So we can do in-depth research on just about any numismatic topic right down the hall.
But each of us keeps certain reference works right at our desks for our daily use, and listed below are my ten “favorites.” These books and sets provide most of what I need, most of the time. And if you added some or all of these volumes to your collector’s bookshelf, you’d have ready access to a vast amount of important, valuable and fascinating information!
- A Guide Book of United States Coins (the Red Book), Whitman Publishing. This annually published guide is the U.S. coin collector’s “bible” – with listings and photos of every issue, design, variety and major error of American coins from colonials to date. You can quickly compare mintages in a series and find valuations for a range of grades.
- Walter Breen’s Complete Encyclopedia of U.S. and Colonial Coins, Doubleday. For more information on American coins, here’s the best all-in-one reference book. You’ll find in-depth historical and design material about each American coin type from colonials to modern issues – with listings, mintages, photos, and enlargements of varieties and errors.
Collector guidebooks often provide information not found on the Internet
The Official Red Book Series, Whitman Publishing. Besides their Red Book guide to U.S. coins (see above), Whitman offers numerous excellent Red Book guides for specific series – including the Guide Book of Half Cents & Large Cents, Guide Book of Buffalo and Jefferson Nickels, Guide Book of Morgan Silver Dollars and Guide Book of U.S. Commemorative Coins.
- Official A.N.A. Grading Standards for United States Coins, Whitman Publishing. With so much emphasis on condition in coin collecting today, this easy-to-use guide from the prestigious American Numismatic Association is indispensable. You’ll find full-color photographs and detailed condition descriptions for U.S. coins from 1793-date in a range of grades.
- Paper Money of the United States by Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, The Coin & Currency Institute. This is the definitive and most respected guide to U.S. paper money, National Bank Notes, Colonial Currency, Confederates and more. Includes historical and numismatic information for each type, full-color photos, and valuations in several grades.
- 100 Greatest American Currency Notes, Whitman Publishing. A beautifully illustrated book by Q. David Bowers and LCC president David Sundman containing facts, stories, survival estimates, valuations by grade, and collecting tips for America’s most legendary and sought-after currency notes. Discover the “dream” issues for paper money collectors!
- Standard Catalog of World Coins, Krause Publications. Organized in different editions by century, here’s the ultimate reference book for coinage from over 500 countries including obsolete, long-established and newly-founded nations. You’ll find illustrations, design descriptions, composition, universal ID numbers, and values by date and grade.
- Coinage and History of the Roman Empire, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers. The coinage of Ancient Rome tells the story of the empire, so the first book in this 2-volume set by David L. Vagi is devoted to brief biographies of emperors and other figures of the Roman Empire. The second book pictures, describes and evaluates coins associated with each ruler.
- The MacMillan Encyclopedic Dictionary of Numismatics, MacMillan Publishing. Late numismatic scholar Richard G. Doty clearly explains the most-seen numismatic terms and items in alphabetical order. Learn about broken bank notes, chop marks, doubloons, mules, overstrikes, remainder notes, scrip, tetradrachms, watermarks and much more!
- Coin World Almanac, Amos Press. When I can’t find it elsewhere, I always look here! The detailed index in this 700-page volume by the staff at Coin World leads to over half a million vital facts about coins, paper money, numismatic history and chronology, the U.S. mints and BEP, authorizing legislation, designs and designers, world issues, bullion – you name it!
While I’ve used these books frequently for years, I’ve only scratched the surface of the amount of information contained within these well-turned pages. But that’s a big part of what makes numismatics and collecting so enjoyable – there’s always much more to learn and discover!
Do you own or use some of these reference books, or do you have some other “favorites” you recommend to coin or paper money collectors? Please share your thoughts and experiences with other readers!