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Building a Numismatic Library

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Part of the author’s expansive numismatic library is seen here. Courtesy of Vic Bozarth.
Click image to enlarge.

Researching any numismatic topic in the 21st century will mostly likely involve a substantial amount of time spent online. A large percentage of my research time is online. Put a keyword in the search engine and away you go.

While the information I am able to locate online is truly phenomenal, I still prefer holding a meaningful numismatic reference book in-hand. Admittedly I might be somewhat of a dinosaur, but my numismatic library is quite special to me.

When I started collecting in the early ‘70s finding any information about coins was difficult. The local library might have a couple of well-thumbed copies of “The Red Book” (A Guide Book of United States Coins). Usually these were out of date as well as often missing pertinent pages.

Coin literature wasn’t available in any great quantities. Even well-stocked coin shops were limited in the literature they offered because so little was actually available. The weekly coin magazines were great for market news and new coin issues. But, if you wanted to do any in-depth coin research or had harder coin questions, few reference books were available.

Part of the reason earlier numismatic literature (prior to 1970) is difficult to locate today is the limited numbers that were produced. Coin or numismatic literature, in that era, had a very small audience. Frankly, even today, if you are a numismatic author, you have to ask yourself the question, “How many books can I sell?”

Was it the lack of information available or the strength of my curiosity that fostered my love of numismatic reference materials? Who knows? Maybe not having the information made it more valuable to me. Regardless, I learned to highly value my reference materials.

When I traveled to coin shows, I took any literature, catalogs, advertisements, and circulars offered at the show. Sometimes, I would have to make an extra trip to the car with auction catalogs. Regardless, if something informational was available, I was all over it!

Once my career in numismatics took root, I continued to bring any pertinent coin literature home after conventions. I also took any competitors’ flyers, newsletters, or price lists to learn more. Because I attended many of the auctions, I continued to build my catalog collection. Today, my coin auction catalogs number in the low thousands because of a couple of collections I was able to add to my numismatic library over the decades.

Attending the largest coin shows and conventions for several decades, too, was a boon to my numismatic library. Early in my career, I would find and buy at least one major U.S. coin reference book at each major show I attended. Especially when a new reference book would become available, I found it in my best interest as a dealer to not only know about the book, but to be familiar with the information it contained!

Ultimately my numismatic reference library was built one book or catalog at a time. Similar to building a challenging set of U.S. coins, finding some of the books I desired wasn’t an easy task. Regardless of whether you are finding missing dates for your set or searching for that elusive out-of-print coin reference book the best collections require diligence.

I continue to reap the benefits of the knowledge my numismatic library has provided. I have a list of numismatic books I still desire based on both need and want despite having a substantial personal library already. I find it amusing, looking back over the decades, to recall when I had at some point (late in the 1970s) accumulated an entire bookshelf of numismatic literature. I was so proud of those books and catalogs! I still am!

Coin Collecting: Basics Miscellaneous

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