by Dennis Tucker
Buy the book before the coin is good, solid, often-quoted advice for newcomers to the hobby. Frankly, it’s guidance for alifetimeof collecting; we should all heed it well beyond the beginner stage. And fortunately for today’s hobbyist, this advice has never been easier to follow-thanks in large part to one incredibly productive author, Q. David Bowers.
Numismatic publishing has experienced a renaissance, an exciting boom, over the past 15 years. Dave Bowers joined forces with Whitman Publishing in 2003 as the company’s numismatic director and as research editor of theGuideBook of United States Coins(the hobby’s best-selling annual price guide and reference, known everywhere as the Red Book). He had been a Red Book contributor for years before that, and had helped with other Whitman projects. But it was in 2003 that the relationship was formalized-if a handshake agreement can be called formal-and things really took off.
I joined Whitman Publishing myself the following year, as the company’s publisher. I’ve been a coin collector since around age seven, and like any good collector I owned a number of well-read Bowers books, most of them bought directly from his company (at the time, Bowers and Merena Galleries) when I was in my teens and early twenties. Among the Bowers books that traveled with me from my little hometown of Phoenix, New York, to college in Rochester, and later to Atlanta, were his 1987 monographThe Strange Career of Dr. Wilkins: A Numismatic Inquiry; the 1988 reprint of his 1964 classic,Coins and Collectors; and the 13th (!) edition ofHigh Profits From Rare Coin Investment(1991).
Working With Mr. Bowers
By the time I started working for Whitman Publishing, Q. David Bowers was a world-famous numismatist with decades of experience. Several hugely successful companies had his good name attached to them as a founder and officer. He had served as president of the Professional Numismatists Guild and of the American Numismatic Association. His track record as a dealer and auctioneer included selling many of the finest, most valuable, and most historic coin collections ever assembled. For years I (and many other fans) had read hisCoin Worldcolumn, The Joys of Collecting. He’d been named as one of only six living people in a roster of eighteen Numismatists of the Century in a 1999 poll conducted byCOINagemagazine. And as a book author he had a long shelf of numismatic titles to his credit, many of them best sellers.
I remember my first conversation with Mr. Bowers (as I addressed him a couple times), made by phone because he was in New Hampshire and I was in Georgia. Finally he said, If you keep calling me ‘Mr. Bowers,’ I’ll have to call you ‘Mr. Tucker.’ From that point on it was Dave, as he prefers it, as relaxed and down-to-earth as can be.
Since then I’ve emailed Dave or spoken with him on the phone nearly every day, and we’ve published dozens of new QDB books ranging from 96-page monographs to 900-page encyclopedias (plus several editions of the 1,504-pageMega Red, for which he serves as research editor).
Here are some thoughts on the development of his latest book,Inside the Rare Coin Marketplace, which will debut in October 2017, and where it stands in the Bowers oeuvre.
In 1999 Whitman Publishing had released an excellent new book by Kenneth Bressett, longtime editor of the Red Book. HisWhitman Guide to Coin Collectingquickly established itself as a popular introduction to the world of numismatics. In my first year at Whitman, one of my big projects with Dave Bowers was another new book that might be placed on the other end of the hobby spectrum. Its title isThe Expert’s Guide to Collecting and Investing in Rare Coins. Because of its sheer size (688 pages) it’s tempting to characterize theExpert’s Guideas a book reserved for advanced collectors. In reality, this was (and is) a volume for everyone with a serious interest in the hobby, whether new or old. As Dave wrote in his introduction:
It is never too early or too late to discover coins and the other delights that make up the world of collecting. If you are a preteen, welcome! Similarly, if you are in retirement, welcome! Numismatics knows no restrictions of age, race, religion, politics, or anything else.
TheExpert’s Guidewas a monumental undertaking, compiling Dave’s 50-plus years of hobby/industry experience in 34 chapters of engaging prose with more than 1,300 illustrations. We released it in October of 2005 with much fanfare, including mainstream publicity in theWall Street Journal. Collectors immediately fell in love with the book, and it earned strong reviews:
- Dave Bowers is uniquely qualified to write this book, said Clifford Mishler, retired chairman of Krause Publications. He brings proper balance to the interplay of collecting and investing in our hobby community.
- Ken Bressett, who wrote its foreword, asked rhetorically, Are there really ‘secrets’ to successful coin buying? You bet! And Dave Bowers reveals them. His style is entertaining, informative, and motivating. The profits you will accrue from reading this book extend far beyond the monetary.
- Bill Fivaz, coauthor of theCherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties of United States Coins, said, If there’s a single person who could write this book, it’s Dave B