When, in 2020, the folks at Whitman Publishing asked if I would assist Red Book Editor Emeritus Kenneth Bressett with a new writing/research project, I did not hesitate a moment. I have known Ken for 35+ years, having worked with him at the American Numismatic Association (ANA) in the mid-1980s and later when he was a contributing editor, columnist, and author for The Numismatist, the ANA’s monthly magazine.
His encyclopedic knowledge is legendary, and I always marveled at the legion of books and articles that bear his name as author or editor. But collaborating with Ken on his most recent tome, A Penny Saved: R.S. Yeoman and His Remarkable Red Book, truly was an eye-opening experience. An energetic and laser-focused nonagenarian, he easily—and with good humor—recalls places, dates, and personalities with uncanny accuracy. Many editions of the ubiquitous Guide Book of United States Coins have distinctive backstories that Ken is eager to share . . . and A Penny Saved gives him an opportunity to do just that. Along the way, he presents his personal story, which illuminates his impact on the reliable reference and the numismatic hobby at large.
As Ken’s assistant in this challenging endeavor, my job was to help organize the wealth of information and illustrations featured in A Penny Saved, and to sift through the boxes of R.S. “Dick” Yeoman’s personal notes, correspondence, speeches, and articles that are part of the Western Archives. During my 38-year tenure with The Numismatist (1981–2020), I edited and proofread more than 54,000 pages of text, but never have I tackled a book of this depth, breadth, and length.
Ken and I met weekly to share news of our respective progress, verify details, and review photographs. At the time, the coronavirus epidemic was escalating, and we pledged to follow COVID-19 safety regulations. In our numismatic “bubble,” we enjoyed lively and productive conversations and, in the process, forged a true friendship.
During the months of research, I began to regard Dick Yeoman as a friend as well. Our paths had crossed on a couple occasions in the 1980s, but aside from his Red Book legacy, I had little sense of the man himself. That quickly changed as I studied the archival material, a good portion of which was written in his own hand. Humble and soft-spoken, Dick was a competent writer, but his prose electrified when he discussed issues that impassioned him. His rhetoric is particularly memorable as he considers numismatic speculators and investors, or shares his colorful views on coinage errors, varieties, and designs. Collectors will delight in reading a selection of such articles in A Penny Saved.
Dick was a popular and extemporaneous speaker at coin club meetings and conventions. As evidenced by his notes, he often crafted his speeches on the fly, jotting down his thoughts on hotel stationery. Dick honed his skills by joining Toastmasters, where he delivered critical observations about life—and occasionally numismatics—at weekly meetings.
It was through these writings that I came to appreciate Dick’s wit and humor. He maintained a file of jokes and puns that he used to enliven his talks. A Penny Saved offers a few quips that are classic Yeoman.
As the book’s preparation drew to a close, Ken and I were satisfied with what we believed to be a job well done. We lamented the end of our get-togethers, and I knew I would miss the promise and excitement of new discoveries. But now collectors can experience the joy of “a penny saved” and getting bettered acquainted with two numismatic pioneers who took that familiar phrase to heart.
By Kenneth Bressett; foreword by Jeff Garrett.
ISBN 0794849016. Hardcover, 8.5 x 11 inches, 352 pages, full color.
Retail $39.95 U.S.