Best World Coin Reference Book?

Discussion in 'World Coins' started by Electron John, Jan 18, 2017.

  1. Electron John

    Electron John Active Member

    I have been using a "Collecting World Coins" book from 2000 to help identify coin in my world coins collection and just recently updated that to the 15th edition (2015) but I am not completely happy with the "update". Have found a few errors already (coins with two obverse pictures and no reverse picture, mislabeled pictures). I noticed that there is also the "Standard Catalog of World Coins" guide book. How does that compare and are there any other reference/guide books that are better. I should say I am mostly interested in world coins from 1900 to present day coins. Thanks.
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  3. Stork

    Stork I deliver Supporter

    The Standard Catalog is nice, but also has errors. Shoot, they left out a whole segment of Japan in the 2015 (but were kind enough to post the pages on the Amazon page that has the book, after I left a negative review, which I notice has been concealed. I guess they didn't notice I'd upgraded the review and the stars and must have paid good money to get the review sanitized).

    I guess my point is that any catalog like these is never perfect.

    That said, my go to is the Krause/Standard Catalog (except for Japan), but I double check anything important and pretty much do my own searches for prices if it's any kind of significant amount--eBay, Heritage archives etc. PCGS and NGC are generally off on the finer details, and NGC's price is 'Krause' licensed for the most part.

    The Standard Catalog has a few pages that are great--you can flip through and look at various motifs that are associated with specific countries, a great way to do a quick ID to point you in the right direction.

    Neither is particularly great for the finer points of varieties. If you have a specific area of interest, then it's smart to look for a specialty resource.
    princeofwaldo and Electron John like this.
  4. tommyc03

    tommyc03 Senior Member

    I purchased the entire set of Krause World coin books last year. A pricey set but being a subscriber to Krause publications via Numismatic News I was able to get a nice discount and free shipping during the holiday period. It's my go to, even though some pictures leave much to be desired. And it's not necessary to buy new every year, at least not for me. Every few years, even five is enough for me as I'm not really into the very newest issues.
    princeofwaldo and Electron John like this.

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    I would first ask you the question - what do you want the books for ? I mean, what's your reason, what do you hope to have the books do for you ? I ask that because books on coins are tools, and like all other tools the tool you buy is determined by the specific job you want the tool to do.

    Do you understand what I mean here ? For example, some people buy these catalog books so they can identify coins, find out what country they are from, what mint or mints minted them, what their mint marks are, their composition, stuff like that. And for those reasons the catalog books are good. But that's about all they are good for.

    If you want to know about the history and background of the coins, what varieties there are if any, how to grade the coins, which examples are common, scarce, and even rare - you're not going to find any of that in the catalog books. For that kind of stuff you have to buy the specialized books.

    Now some people buy books because they want to know the values of the coins. But pretty much no book, catalog type or specialized book, is worth the paper they are printed on if that's what you want to know. If you want to know values, you yourself have to do the work and look them up in the auction archives because the only place you're going to find any values that are anywhere near accurate, realistic.

    Now all of that said, all books are useful. But just like it is with all tools, you always need more than just 1 - you usually need a whole bunch of them. With even something as simple as a hammer you probably need at least 3 and maybe even more of them because each one is designed to do a different job.

    So, what do you want the books for ?
  6. Electron John

    Electron John Active Member

    I mostly use them for identifying what country a coin is from. I also like to look up what different coins from a particular country that I don't have in my collection yet look like. This can help me determine which ones to go after. I am trying to get a few coins from every country and that being said it makes sense to get the ones that are the most interesting to me. I do use the values listed but only to make rough decisions. If I see that a country has two coins that I am interested in but one is generally selling for under a dollar at uncirculated conditions and the other is over $100 then I will focus on the cheap one. I am looking at this collect like a type set. Get one or two of the best looking coins from each country for as little money as possible.
    That said the books I have from the Collecting World Coins series do have a lot of info that I have found useful about when various governments fell or when new ones were formed, etc. This is also useful since I enjoy collecting coins from countries that no longer exist. By reading some of the country info I have learned about a number of countries or colonies that no longer exist. A bit of background info is very nice since I am not going to buy a book for each countries coins, that would be a collection in itself. Although once in a while when I find something that interest me, like the 1916 German East African 20 Heller, I might buy a book on it.
    Stork, ddddd, Rushmore and 1 other person like this.
  7. tommyc03

    tommyc03 Senior Member

    What Doug said about the values is true of any catalog like this, including the U.S. Red Book. But I do find enough information in the Krause catalogs to get me headed in the right direction. There is enough historical information before the listings of each country to get you interested and directed to the internet on. There is also a large symbol identification listing in the beginning of each catalog to help in identifying a particular coin, although, as in my post of the Saud & Morocco coins, I have trouble with certain symbols. So then I come here for help. These catalogs have also helped in finding interesting countries with nice coins that are very inexpensive to collect, even those with long runs.
    TommyP and Electron John like this.
  8. Electron John

    Electron John Active Member

    So it sounds like the Krause/Standard catalog is that better of the two for this type of general information.
  9. Dave M

    Dave M Francophiliac

    If you haven't looked through, you might see if its a viable alternative for you.
    Electron John likes this.
  10. tommyc03

    tommyc03 Senior Member

    I can really only speak for myself and of course, my budget. It does everything I need it to do, identifying, a baseline for values, some history, mintages, compositions, weights, sizes, etc. I suppose if I found something that really grabbed my attention historically I might invest in a book that specialized, but my library is sufficient right now and at my age I really do not want to expand much more on what I already collect. You might check a larger library to see if they have any editions just to give you an idea of the scope of the book(s). There are five total based on time periods. They are quite massive each and cover a lot of ground but are not all inclusive. For instance, Germany and all of the private state issues of which there are thousands are not included. That would require a whole volume of it's own.
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  11. Rushmore

    Rushmore Coin Addict

    I have all five volumes of the Krause set. I don't have any coins from the 1600-1700s except for a damaged 1773 Denmark skilling but having the reference books are nice to have for researching. I have the 6th editions of 1601-1800, 7th edition of 1801-1900, 43rd edition of 1901-2000, and 10th edition of 2001-.
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  12. GDJMSP

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    Well John it sounds like for your purposes the catalog type would serve your needs. But I think you would be best served by the Standard Catalog than by the book you are/have been using. Here are links to the 2 books, take a look -

    The Standard is 2,352 pages; the Collecting is 1,152 pages. That alone should tell you a lot, namely that there are a lot of coins that are not listed in the Collecting book. That's the disadvantage for that book. The advantage it has is that it a lot cheaper because its date range is 1900-date; and the Standard is 1900-2000. So to cover the same date range you want you'd need to buy 2 editions of the Standard - 1900-2000 and 2001-date. The advantage of the Standard is that it covers a whole lot more coins.

    Regarding this, well that's exactly the kind of thing you need to just ignore in all these books. All of the Karuse books are notorious for having worthless, sometimes even harmful, information when it comes to values. And I know that this may sound like an exaggeration, but I assure you it isn't, it's not unheard of for those values you used - $100 and $1 - to be reversed when it comes to what values actually are in reality. And yes I am saying they can be off that much.

    Now this probably isn't what you wanted to hear, but given your stated purpose, the Standard Catalogs would best serve your needs.
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  13. Electron John

    Electron John Active Member

    Thanks for all the input everyone. I only spent $15 for the 2015 "Collecting World Coins" book so I am not that deeply invested in it. Plus, as I noted, I am not particularly happy with it anyway. So I will look to see if I can pick up the two Standard volumes that I will need for a good price.
  14. princeofwaldo

    princeofwaldo Grateful To Be eX-I/T!

    Most of the valuation information is accurate in a relative sense in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, though specific valuations are sometimes way off. Used to be they tended to be too high, but over the past decade it has swung the other direction, and you must be careful about the catalog listing much lower valuations than the actual market. This particularly true for patterns and provas and that sort of thing, though chances are you are not collecting anything that esoteric, at least not yet.

    With that in mind, you should consider a used copy of the Standard Catalog of World Coins if cost is any consideration at all. My first Krause volume was a used 19th/20th century catalog (back when the two centuries were in a single book about 25 years ago) and I bought it used for $10. The used catalog was about 4 years old at the time, and I pretty much wore the thing out. I didn't replace it until 8 years later. The pricing information in it was useful, but as mentioned earlier, there is no substitute for doing a little research on your own regarding prices.

    What is truly amazing though, is the number of books out there about specific coins and the issuing authorities who struck them. Many are older publications that are no longer in print, but for the specialist are indispensable references. For instance, collectors of Russian copper coins must, absolutely MUST own a copy of Brekke if they want to really know what they are doing. Bitkin, a Russian general catalog is very good too, ---light years better than Krause--- but for the collector of 17th, 18th and 19th century Russian copper coins, Brekke is the bible.

    Other countries generally have at least one highly celebrated reference book. For Romania, it is Stambuliu. For Colombia, Restrepo. Nearly every other country that has struck coins in any serious way, has at least one specialized reference book.

    Most of these specialized reference books aren't cheap. But if you get to a point where your collecting pursuits are highly focused in one area, having access to these types of books will take you to a new level of sophistication and appreciation for this hobby that can't be experienced any other way.
  15. sakata

    sakata Devil's Advocate

    Here is what I do.

    1. Go online for a used book website (such as and look for old copies if the standard catalog. If you are patient you can find each of them for less than $10. This gives you a list of all coins except for the very latest, but the prices will be out of date. There is plenty of information about each country at the start of that country's listing.s

    2. Subscribe to for about $70 a year. This is the online version of the Standard Catalog. A little pricey if you don't use it a lot, but I do. The search feature on this site allows me to identify almost any coin in a minute or so. Knowing what it is allows me to then go to the printed version for any additional information if I need it, but I rarely do.

    3. Use E-Bay and various other auction sites to determine a current price for the coin. Most common coins are sold there and even rarer ones can be found if you know what you are looking for.

    This three way approach has served me well for many years and there are very few coins I cannot identify and price in just a few minutes. Some obscure ones take longer. The only real expense is the annual subscription to Numismaster, but I consider that a good investment because it saves me time and money to be able to identify and prices coins so quickly.

    Remember that the Standard Catalog prices are dealer prices. These are not the same as you can expect on Ebay and they are very different from what you can expect to sell them for if you want to do so. I have often thought that a blue book version of the standard catalog would be a good idea. The printed version is really the red book version.
    Electron John likes this.
  16. Bill in Burl

    Bill in Burl Collector

    You can get the whole Krause series from 1600 up until nearly today on a single disc, but I find it cumbersome to use. Any of those books will just help you with some ID's and what series seem to have some scarcities or neat varieties. Then you have to find specialty books. I've always told folks that the first $200 that you spend on coins should be books, not metal. ABE books, used stores, or on the internet to increase your library. The $25 cost of one book will pay you back ten to a hundredfold with a year.
  17. micbraun

    micbraun coindiccted

    Actually this is the correct link to the online version of the SCWC:
  18. TommyP

    TommyP BS detector

    Interesting. I knew the Krause catalogs were not reliable for pricing but I didn't know they were as far off as you seem to indicate. I guess I need to re-assess my whole foreign coin inventory if they're that far off.
  19. princeofwaldo

    princeofwaldo Grateful To Be eX-I/T!

    Krause had a promotional deal in the spring of 2014 when they offered all 5 century books (1600-2000) for all of $99. Not the DVD set either, but the actual books. I think it was right before the 2015 edition of the 20th century was about to come out, and several of the other centuries had been updated for release in 2015 as well rendering much of their existing inventory obsolete. It's the only time I have bought all of them at once, and if the same opportunity arises again I likely would buy all of them again in one crack.
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  20. Bill in Burl

    Bill in Burl Collector

    princeofwaldo: That is the deal that I got(it was about that long ago) ... the books all on one disc. I never knew it was a one-time shot. I thought that it was some entity that someone did it on their own by copying existing discs. I got it off Ebay.
  21. GDJMSP

    GDJMSP Numismatist Moderator

    If you want to find out actual real world values for world coins, and even ancients, I'd suggest you use these 2 links.

    Now you may not be able to find realized auction records for some moderns there, but you'll find just about everything else.
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