Featured Buy the Book Before You Buy the Coin

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by kaparthy, Jan 2, 2019.

  1. kaparthy

    kaparthy Supporter! Supporter

    BUY THE BOOK BEFORE YOU BUY THE COIN is a famous saying in the hobby.

    BUY THE BOOK BEFORE THE COIN headlined an advertisement in the March 1966 issue of The Numismatist. Aaron R. Feldman offered 25 titles, some of which were classics then as now: Sheldon, Beistle, and Bolender. Don Taxay’s book on counterfeits (1964) was a new addition to our knowledge base. The Friedberg family was still in its first generation with Paper Money of the United States.
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    Today, the self-styled "bibliomaniacs" of numismatics easily recognize Aaron R. Feldman (1894-1976) as an iconic literature dealer. He said, “I’ve always thought that if a man doesn’t own one coin, but has the knowledge that is in the books, then he’s a real numismatist.” However, Feldman himself owned many coins.
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    Feldman endured Parkinson’s disease in his declining years. He closed his shop and did business by mail. When it came time to sell off his literature collection to meet his medical expenses, he was caught by bad timing.
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    His own favorite literature dealer was Frank Katen (1903-2001) who has been called “the pathfinder of American Numismatic Bibliomania” and the “Moses” of numismatic literature. Unfortunately, Katen could not handle Feldman’s collection immediately. So, impatient because of his failing health, Feldman consigned his library to Swann Galleries, another specialist in books. But Feldman was not impressed with Swann’s appreciation of numismatics as a specialty. Like many coin dealers, their auctions had, in fact, treated coin books as “throwaways." Nonetheless, George S. Lowry, president of Swann’s was happy with the results: the sale grossed $13,000 (November 29, 1973), which, relative to the price of gold or gasoline today would be like a quarter of a million dollars. However, for Feldman, it was a disaster.
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    Boxes of 19th century auction catalogues, back issues of ANS and ANA publications, cartons of catalogs and ephemera from Wayte Raymond, James Kelly, Morton and Jospeh Stack, and Max Mehl all went for fractions of the pre-sale estimates. The two-volume Saxonia Numismatica by Wilhelm Ernst Tentzel, written in German and Latin and published in 1708, sold for $275. Researching this originally in February 2008, for an article in The MSNS MichMatist, I found the same books for sale from a German dealer for €350 (about $510-$520). Compared to gold and gasoline, these books remain greatly undervalued.
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    Literature is a tough sell. Coins are shiny; gold and silver are hard money. When you hold a 20¢ piece you can imagine what it bought in 1875. But if coins are “history you can hold in your hand” then without the history, all you have is a melted rock. The imagery, the iconography, the devices and legends, all lose meaning.
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    Collectors come to the bourse floor armed with price guides, Greysheets, Red Books, or armed with phones and tablets connected to the Internet. They want the best prices – and rightfully so. It is an immutable law of economics that price is a matter of supply and demand. With old coins, the supplies are more or less fixed. All that changes is the demand. Demand begins with literature. One collector writes an article for a magazine. Another collector creates an exhibit. Someone else gives a talk at an ANA convention. Eventually a book comes out. At every step, from original research, to the sharing of information, to the reading of good books, each aficionado enjoys profits not available to later buyers and sellers. The people with the price sheets are the last in line. They pay for the profits not realized in the sales of rare books.
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    It is perhaps unfair that collectible books are not prized more highly. The advantage is that almost any book at almost any price is a bargain. You cannot buy them much cheaper. The profits come from knowing what is between the covers.
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    The NUMISMATIC BIBLIOMANIA SOCIETY publishes a quarterly journal, called The Asylum. The NBS is somewhat rarified: it is a small group, admittedly. Annual dues are $40. However, their weekly email is called The E-Sylum and it goes out to over 5800 readers. Subscriptions are free here https://lists.capalon.com/lists/listinfo/esylum
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    (An earlier version of this appeared in CoinTalk back in 2008 here.)
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2019
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  3. green18

    green18 Sweet on Commemorative Coins Supporter

    This thread belongs in the 'Featured' section.........
    Noah Finney likes this.
  4. DrDarryl

    DrDarryl Well-Known Member

    ANA members have been receiving the weekly ANA Edition of The E-Sylum since June 2017. Here is an image of the latest edition.

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