Kenneth Bressett’s A Penny Saved: R.S. Yeoman and His Remarkable Red Book

Ken Bressett with Yeoman plaque
Kenneth Bressett, editor emeritus of the Red Book, holding a portrait plaque of R.S. Yeoman, the book’s creator.

Whitman Publishing announces the upcoming release of A Penny Saved: R.S. Yeoman and His Remarkable Red Book, by Kenneth Bressett. The 352-page hardcover volume will debut in summer 2021, available from booksellers and hobby shops nationwide. In the meantime, it is available for preorder (including at www.Whitman.com and online bookstores).

The hobby’s popular “Red Book”—officially titled A Guide Book of United States Coins—is celebrating its 75th edition this year. In A Penny Saved, the Red Book’s editor emeritus, Kenneth Bressett, presents a history of the groundbreaking book and a biography of author R.S. Yeoman, who helped ignite a boom in coin-collecting starting in the 1930s and 1940s by promoting innovations including coin boards, folders, and new books. He tells the story of publishing giant Western Printing & Lithographing Company and follows the development of its offshoot, Whitman Publishing, from 1916 to today. Bressett, who worked alongside Yeoman, also shares his own life story in and out of numismatics. Both men have left indelible imprints on the hobby and on publishing in the United States.

Collectors have used the Red Book for generations, relying on its accurate and up-to-date coin prices, mintage data, photographs, technical specifications, and historical information. It is one of the most popular nonfiction books in the history of American publishing, with more than 25 million copies sold since the first edition debuted in 1946.

The Red Book revolutionized coin collecting by presenting, for the first time, an impartial, professional catalog of average prices dealers were charging for every U.S. coin. It made the hobby accessible to people of all ages, interests, and budgets.

A Penny Saved cover

In A Penny Saved, Ken Bressett has compiled never-before-released documents from the Whitman Publishing archives. He also shares a treasure trove of family photos, corporate memorabilia, and personal recollections about the Red Book and the coin dealers, collectors, researchers, and others who have made it so remarkable.

The book’s title derives from Benjamin Franklin’s famous aphorism “A penny saved is a penny got.” It also reflects Yeoman’s story of his first coin board, which he created in 1916 with a jackknife and a piece of cardboard to save an 1894 Indian Head cent he had earned on his newspaper route for the Evening Wisconsin. Twenty years later, during the Great Depression, Yeoman would help launch numismatics into a national craze by marketing and selling cardboard holders for sets of coins collected from pocket change.