BOOK REVIEW: 2011 U.S. COIN DIGEST
The E-Sylum (11/14/2010)
The obvious comparison for Krause's red-covered U.S. coin book is Whitman's classic "Redbook", A Guide Book of United States Coins. The books do largely cover the same territory, but I've always found that different books have different redeeming features, and I think the 2011 U.S. Coin Digest has a number of things going for it. While I'm not an active dealer or collector of U.S. coins (and thus can't vouch for the valuations), I feel I could safely recommend either publication to collectors or the general public seeking basic information and pricing information on U.S. coins.
One similarity I commend is Krause's use of the combination hardbound/spiral format Whitman began offering a few years ago. The inner spiral binding allows pages to lay flat for easy consultation while viewing coins, and the hard outside binding fits well on any numismatist's bookshelf. It's the best of both worlds for a book meant to be consulted regularly.
While the Whitman Redbook has grown and grown over the years to include more and more useful information, the Krause Digest felt a little slim by comparison. However, this may partly be due to the book's clean layout. There is actually 55 pages of front material before the listings.
The chapters provide a well-organized overview for the novice collector or member of the general public attempting to identify and price coins. Chapter 1 is a very clean and simple Type Identification Guide with images of all major design types of regular issue U.S. coins from Half Cents to Double Eagles. For the unfamiliar it's a great way to begin the book - I can hear readers saying, "look - I've got one of those!"
Chapter 2 provides the same advice I give to everyone asking me about the value of their coins: "Don't clean your coins" and "Always hold your coin by the edge." The three-page discussion on "Care and Storage of Your Coins" is simple and to the point.
Chapter 3, "How to grade" is a nice photographic overview of circulated coin grades. A picture is worth a thousand words, and the twelve-page guide illustrates ten different common type coins (including Indian and Lincoln cents, Morgan dollars and Barber designs) in six grades from AU-55 to G-4.
Listings begin on p55 with U.S. Half Cents. This departs from the Redbook practice of listing chronologically, with colonial issues appearing first. In the Digest, colonial coinage starts on p202. I think this is a good choice for the novice reader who is far more likely to have U.S. circulation coins to look up.
Commemorative coins are listed beginning on p153, followed by bullion coins, mint and proof sets. After the colonial coin section are listings for U.S. Territorial Gold, Hawaii and the Philippines. Each section is differentiated by colored "tabs" at the outer edge of each page.
All in all, the 2011 U.S. Coin Digest is a useful book that I think will serve the novice well. My boss inherited some coins from her Mother recently, and I'll lend her my copy to see if it works in practice.
For more information, or to order, see: www.shopnumismaster.com/product/2011-us-coin-digest/
To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see: NEW BOOK: 2011 U.S. COIN DIGEST (www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v13n20a06.html)