Coin Books: Are They Accurate?

by blackspanielgallery

Many coin books are issued annually, and each year some changes occur, but some information is stable. decide when to update to a newer edition.

Coin books come in several types. Among them are books that discuss one or a few specific types of coins and those that offer information on coins of a country or a region, or of a time period.

If one is seeking information on pricing, there is currently a huge problem. Coins containing precious metal can change value in a day, so no coin book can remain current. For coins containing only base metals the prices offer a good snap shot of the values at the time the book was compiled. But, there is also a lag time from when the prices were real accurate and when the book can be purchased. Usually, slowly changing prices are close enough for most purposes.

Coin Book Can Predate the Year

As this article is being written it is March, 2017, but many 2018 coin books are already available.  So, in 2018 these books will already be old.  This has been happening annually for some popular books.  And, considering the number of prices for various coins in different grades that are contained in the books the prices must have been developed even earlier.  Yes, modern technology allows data to be updated rapidly, but printing is still a process that takes some time.


Other information, such as mintage figures, are not yet available.  In fact, looking at a coin book from an earlier year the mintages even one year preceding the date on the book were unavailable.  This probably indicates the mint had not released final figures when the book went to press. 


Of course, some are pre-sale items.


Coin Books for Older Coins

Some coin books specialize in older coins, and have a date range for the coins in them.  These have a more stable information base, albeit not a stable price base.  If one is just looking for information older editions of these books are good, so they do not have to be replaced annually.  This is especially true for books on world coins.  There are so many that they have to be grouped by time periods, many of which finished years ago.  

Ancient Coins

Ancient coins present another problem.  Accurate minting records do not exist.  Ancient coins are often found buried, so the number of known pieces is subject to change.  But, not every coin experiences changes in availability due to large groups of coins being found.  One can use an older book and keep up with a good magazine or online information source.  As with other coin books, prices here also are subject to change.

Why an Annual Book?

Collectors like the history of coins, and their values are important historical facts.  Some collectors like to look back and see what a piece in a collection was worth years ago.  There is a market for older coin books.   

Books on Types of Coins

If detailed information is needed on a specific type of coin it is probably available, especially of the type is no longer being minted.  Books on buffalo nickels and Morgan dollars are typical examples.  

Specialty Coin Books

Coin books exist on such topics as coin errors and detecting counterfeit coins.  Error coins are collectible, but take time to determine the extensiveness of the errors detected.  This is another place where a current book is helpful, but known errors in current coins and their extents of occurrence are difficult to really keep current with.

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Updated: 03/21/2017, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 06/30/2017

There are few, if any, old coins in change, but many collectors make a hobby out of looking for mint errors. Those are there, but it is not likely you will retire on a find. It is a matter of is the price of the book equal to the pleasure it will bring, just as you would ask before going to a movie. A book that launches a hobby is worth much more than a movie ticket, hence it is worth the price. If you read the coin forum you will see many collectors get, on a weekly basis, coin rolls from the bank and search them. One member of my coin club found a Confederate half dollar in a roll of half dollars, so things can happen. Can, and probably will, are two different things.

Digby_Adams on 06/30/2017

I was thinking about buying a book on pocket change,like the last one in your article. Do you think this is fool's folly or that there are still coin fortunes to be found in our pockets?

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