THE ORIGINAL AND THE SECOND
MR. RED BOOK
This Whitman Publishing release is an article by Joel Orosz about two pioneering Red Book editors.
Kenneth Bressett's memoir A Penny Saved: R.S. Yeoman and His Remarkable Red Book
celebrates the life of Bressett's mentor, hobby legend Richard S. Yeo (known as R.S.
Yeoman), and the longevity of the Guide Book of United States Coins (the
Red Book), first
published in 1946. The 352-page hardcover volume is available from bookstores and hobby
shops and online (including at Whitman.com). Here, numismatic historian Joel J. Orosz
provides an appreciation of both Yeoman and Bressett.
Two Whitman book series, the Handbook of United States Coins and A Guide
Book of United States Coins, both truly numismatic institutions, were the
inspiration and dedication of two men, who first established, then refined these
series for decades. One, Richard Yeo, was the founder, consummate salesman,
and ambassador; the other, Kenneth Bressett, was the scholar and developer. The
story of their joint achievement, annually renewed, is worthy of note and
Richard Yeo was a son of the Badger State, blessed with a flair for design and a
knack for making friends. Whitman Publishing of Racine, Wisconsin, hired Yeo
in 1932 and soon put him to work selling coin boards and, later, the celebrated
blue coin folders beloved by generations of young collectors. Although new to
numismatics initially, he wasn't afraid to ask specialists for guidance.
As R.S. Yeoman, Yeo continued as editor of the Red Book for nearly a quarter
century, making it into the most trusted guide for retail prices and earning him the
Mr. Red Book. Throughout the 1960s he appeared frequently as a brand
ambassador for his many publications at coin shows, conventions, and clubs,
where he autographed books and charmed collectors with his modest demeanor
and engaging personality. By the time of his retirement in 1970, he had proven his
pen name truly apt, for his
yeoman's service benefitted not only Whitman
Publishing, but all of numismatics.
Of all of Yeoman's many achievements, perhaps the greatest was mentoring his
At right, Dick Yeo and Ken Bressett
Ken Bressett of Keene, New Hampshire, became a numismatist while in his teens.
He had printer's ink in his veins, as one of his early jobs was as a
in the twilight years of the hot-lead printing process. In the mid-1950s Yeoman
was attending a coin show and Bressett discussed with him some questionable
items in the Guide Book. Instead of taking offense, Yeoman recognized his talent
and later engaged him as a freelance editor. Whitman hired Bressett in 1959, with
his responsibilities encompassing the Blue Book and Red Book series. By 1962 he
was made assistant editor and later managing editor in 1965, giving Yeoman more
opportunities to be a roving ambassador.
Bressett's tenure as editor lasted an astonishing 53 years; even after his formal
retirement in 2018, he has continued with special projects for Whitman. It was
natural, therefore, that following Yeoman's death in 1988, Bressett inherited the
Mr. Red Book.
Bressett's stewardship was lengthy, and also quietly revolutionary. He enhanced
not just two book series but an extraordinarily successful and truly beloved
numismatic institution. A glance at the 1966- and 2019-dated editions of both the
Red Book and the Blue Book shows how vastly he (often with some behind-the-
scenes help from his son, Philip) improved these iconic products. They employ
similar organizational schemes, but everything from the typeface to the factual
content was enriched. Page counts nearly doubled, incorporating new coin issues,
and novel research expunged old errors and added important fresh findings.
Timely special features were added.
Ken Bressett achieved the highly improbable: he supervised production of two
successful books and for five decades simultaneously preserved and reinvented
them—a seamless fusion of tradition and transformation.
Two men, two enduring book series, more than three-quarters of a century; one
shared sobriquet. Only the oldest coin collectors of 2023 can remember
numismatics without the Blue Book or the Red Book, all thanks to the
extraordinary exertions of not one
Mr. Red Book but two.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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