Which Coin Price Guide Should I Use?… The Red Book? Or The Black Book?

Price guides are an essential part of coin collecting whether you’re a beginner or an expert.

Not only do they offer current prices on all of your U.S. coins, but they are also loaded with tons of useful knowledge about coins.

Where do you think I learned everything I know today?

Only half of it came through actual experience of owning coins. The other half is from reading through several price guides, coin books, and articles on coins.

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U.S. Coin Price Guide Books

Following are some of the differences between the most popular coin price guides.

There are several coin price guides out there made by different companies, however I only use a few so I’m not familiar with a lot of them.

The two I use most are the Black Book and the Red Book.

 

Official Red Book Coin Price Guide

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The Red Book is published by Whitman.

They’re one of the more popular distributors of coin supplies, and they are frequently referred to often by coin dealers as a reliable source of information about U.S. coins and American currency.

The Red Book offers coin prices as well as hundreds of color coin photos, historic information on coins, and explanations of how to grade your coins.

 

The Red Book has been valued by hobbyists for more than five decades as a comprehensive reference to historical data and current retail prices for all United States coins. Chapters in the book include detailed listings of Colonial coins, from 1616 to the opening of the federal mint, and all United States coins, including early American coins and tokens, early mint issues, regular mint issues, proofs, private, state and territorial gold, silver and gold commemorative issues. Source

 

Official Black Book Coin Price Guide

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The Black Book is published by House of Collectibles.

It is sometimes referred to as the Blackbook, and it’s also a popular price guide among coin collectors.

The Black Book breaks down average coin values for all types of U.S. coins and also provides information on coin grading, mintmarks, and other useful bits of coin info, including some detail on coin auctions.

The Official Blackbook has all the information you rely on, including current values of coins, more than 18,000 prices, expert tips on buying and selling coins, and lists of coin publications and associations. Plus, a new updated market review traces current trends in collecting and investing. New treasures in U.S. coins are discovered every year — and this guide will help you evaluate and find those hidden assets. Source

 

Official Blue Book Coin Price Guide

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There is also a Blue Book, although I’m not sure exactly what the differences are in it. It is published by Whitman — just like the Red Book is. The only difference may be that it is a softback book, and it’s a little cheaper.

The Blue Book is a coin price guide that informs you on the approximate amount of money you can expect to get if you sell your coins to a coin dealer.

Since 1942, the Blue Book has been the annual reference used by U.S. coin dealers to make buying offers. Likewise, coin collectors use it to find out what dealers will pay for their coins. Features: Average dealer buying prices for U.S. coins from 1616 to today, historical information, actual-size photographs of hundreds of coins, grading and collecting tips, and detailed mintage records. Source

 

Best Coin Price Guides: Red Book vs Black Book

Both the Red Book and the Black Book list every U.S. coin ever minted.

What is the difference between the Black Book and the Red Book? Well, price for one. The Red Book comes in hardback and spiral editions whereas the Black Book is a soft paperback. You can pick up a copy of the Black Book for about half the price of the Red Book.

I prefer the Red Book because it offers a lot more details about the coins, such as where the mint marks are on the coins you’re looking up, close-up pictures of double died coins, close-up pictures of errors on coins, history of the coins, etc.

The Black Book also gives a brief description and sometimes a little history, but not as mush information as the Red Book offers. The Red Book also has full color photos, whereas the Black Book only uses black and white photographs.

You do not have to use either of these books if you don’t wish. You may find another book that is more to your liking. But my first pick is the Red Book.

 

How To Decipher The Codes Inside Price Guides

Inside coin price guides you will find abbreviations such as G, VG, F, VF, EF, AU, MS, PF, BU, etc. So what do these abbreviations mean?

Well, if you open up one of these books and try to find a price of a coin without reading the front sections first you may be a little baffled. Here is the breakdown:

G = Good – Refers to a coin with a grade of Good.
VG = Very Good – Refers to a coin with a grade of Very Good.
F = Fine – Refers to a coin with a grade of Fine.
VF = Very Fine – Refers to a coin with a grade of Very Fine.
EF = Extra Fine – Refers to a coin with a grade of Extra Fine.
AU = About Uncirculated – Refers to a coin with a grade of About Uncirculated.
MS = Mint State – Refers to a coin with a grade of Mint State.
PF = Proof – Refers to a Proof coin.
BU = Brilliant Uncirculated – Refers to a coin or roll of coins in Brilliant Uncirculated condition.

Now, there are several levels to each coin grade. Even if the difference between two of the same coin is only one number and not detectable to the naked eye, the difference in price could be a lot. For instance, coin grades will contain levels such as G-4, VG-8, F-12, VF-20, EF-40, AU-50, MS-60, PF-70 and everything in between.

Of the coin price guides discussed here, the Red Book tends to be more helpful for beginners when trying to identify the grade of a coin — to some extent. However, being able to accurately grade a coin really comes mostly from experience and a keen eye.

Jay

I have been collecting and trading coins for years. Coin collecting is a hobby for me, and I've done a lot of research about coins through the years.

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  • Anonymous

    Can you tell me the value or 2 pennies.
    One is a 1914 (There is no D or S) in fair shape. Easily can read both front and back.
    The second is a 1944(D) penny in fair shape

    • Anonymous

      Drenlab,

      The value of a 1914 Lincoln cent in the condition you’re describing would be about $1 to $2. The 1944-D, however, is worth only about 10 cents.

  • Anonymous

    Type your comment here.can you tell me the value of a 1968s penny uncirculated,I have a canvass bag of $50.00 worth pennies from U.S.ASSAY OFFICE S.F. MINT

    • Anonymous

      Loriamar,

      Individually, uncirculated 1968-S Lincoln cents won’t fetch too much in typical uncirculated grades — 2 cents to 3 cents each if you sold them to a coin dealer on an individual basis. If you have a $50 face bag straight from the U.S.Mint though — and it’s still sealed — you might find an eager buyer who will pay more, perhaps as much as $200 to $300 for the whole bag — maybe more, perhaps a little less though.

      The real value in such a bag as yours comes in finding either what collectors call Gem specimens (very well struck, spotless, undamaged uncirculated coins) or minor varieties and errors.

      The one major issue with bags though, especially when they contain copper coins like yours, is that they are notoriously responsible for causing nicks, scratches, scuff marks, and toning, especially after over 40 years. There could be some nice finds in there, though.

      Good luck!

  • Rhonda

    i have a silver in color penny dated 1999 minted in denver it doesnt stick to a magnet a fraction larger than a regular penny and smaller than a nickel does anyone know about it?

    • Anonymous

      Hi Rhonda,

      I could explain the silver color as being either the coating of copper missing from the coin (which would make it worth $50 to $100) or a regular penny that was chemically altered by private experimentation — fairly common for school kids to do such things.

      Unless it’s a real error involving missing copper (caused by a Mint mistake), your piece isn’t worth anything more than face value.

      As to why it’s apparently a fraction larger than a regular penny I can’t say.

  • jnttbarrera

    i found a pennie dated in the earlies 50′s. i think it is a 1952 D. my eyes are old lol. anyways it is metal of some kind and it sticks to a magnet.

    • Anonymous

      Hi, JN –

      Without seeing the coin, I can’t say for certain why it sticks to a magnet (copper doesn’t stick to magnets). Perhaps your coin was coated with a magnetic metal…

  • Davidandmiki

    i have some coins from mom,s collection.need information on 3 pennies that are silver looking one side is lincoln and the other side is a wheat picture and it is 1943 and it states that it is unc. there are 3 of them and r they rare.msh

    wheat

    • Anonymous

      Hi, David –

      Your pennies are steel cents that were made in 1943. If they have no wear and are fully uncirculated, each is worth around $1 to $2. If they’re worn, however, each is worth 25 cents or so.

      While 1943 steel pennies aren’t rare, they’re extremely hard to find in circulation anymore and make perfect additions to any coin collection!

  • Jim

    I have a 1934 penny, copper color with Lincoln on the front and a picture of a boat on the back with the inscription The Morro Castle Fire. There is an edge on this coin on the side with Lincoln, but not on the side with the boat.

  • 19jim

    i have i 1958 penny is that rare

    • Anonymous

      Jim,

      1958 pennies aren’t really rare, but because of the wheat ear design on the back of pennies from 1909 to 1958, all coins of that date range are getting removed from circulation by those who want to save these pennies with the now-obsolete design.

      While your coin is common in that hundreds of millions were made, it’s still worth 3 to 5 cents, which is more than face value.

  • rdreckmann

    I discovered a Lincoln head copper penny without a date and mint mark is it rare.

  • rdreckmann

    I discovered a Lincoln head copper penny without a date and mint mark is it rare.

  • Janrichgmr

    I have been looking over some of my old coins. I have a 1920 ad 1935 mercury head dimes, pretty worn. I have a 1936 buffalo/indian head nickel, also pretty worn. i have a mint condition 1993 silver dollar (says: “1.oz. fine silver” on the back). I have a 1943 silver half dollar. are any of these worth anything?

    • Anonymous

      Yes, Jan, each of your coins are worth more than face value. Here’s a breakdown of the values for each of your coins:

      1920 and 1935 Mercury dimes: $2 to $3 each
      1936 Buffalo nickel: 50 cents to $1
      1943 Walking Liberty half dollar $8 to $10
      1993 American Silver Eagle $35

  • Dughur

    wouldn’t it be better to sell the liberty half dollars today at per silver ounce prices instead of the coin value of 8-10 dollars

    • Anonymous

      That depends, Dughur. If your Liberty half dollars are scarce dates or they are in better grades (say, for example, only lightly worn or uncirculated), then you’re better off selling them for their numismatic value. However, if your pieces are common dates and well worn, then their numismatic value and silver bullion value are essentially the same. The $8 to $10 price you’re quoting is from when silver prices were a tad lower than they are at this time.

  • Sweetbtfl8

    How and whom do I go to too sell my coin and get the values worth?

  • Bill_debi Gilson

    Why is there such a price difference in the redbook and the blackbook for the same coin?

    • Anonymous

      Bill,

      Whenever price guide publishers publish prices, they are usually compiled by sampling dealers’ prices, interviewing dealers, taking trends from sales and final prices, and various other methods; also bullion values are factored in for coins that are largely bought and sold on metals prices. Based on what methods are used and when the prices are done, you can easily spot some discrepancies between the various price lists.

  • william

    how much is a 1902 indianhead penny worth
     

    • JoshuaTheFunTimesGuide

      William,

      A 1902 Indian Head cent in typical, worn condition is worth around $3.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dean.vanluven Dean Vanluven

    i am looking for a OFFICIAL 1965 BLACKBOOK UNITED STATES COINS 2nd Edition, and OFFICIAL 1964 BLACKBOOK UNITED STATES COINS 1st Edition. if anyone has one for sale or know where i can get them please e mail me at daycrow2000yahoo.com.subject OFFICIAL 196? BLACKBOOK UNITED STATES COINS ?nd Edition. that way i wont over look it and deleat it.

    • JoshuaTheFunTimesGuide

      Hi, Dean -

      You may have great luck searching eBay. Let us know if you find the editions you’re looking for!

  • HowwCoins

    It probably isn’t valuable unless it is in a Extra Fine Condition to Uncirculated.

  • HowwCoins

    That’s a good coin to keep, but isn’t any more than then about $1-$3 or so.

  • Tami W.

    Hi, I need some info please. I have a 1943 steel penny with an S on top of another letter (I think it is another S) I can’t find a value for it. I see people talking about a D on top of a D but nothing about the S on top of another letter. Can you tell me if this is worth anything?? There are also a couple other letters on the back that look doubled up but I can’t be sure if just looks like it to me. I am really confused by this coin and why no one mentions it anywhere. Can you tell me if you have an answer I would appreciate any help. I did weigh it and it is for sure the steel penny lol unfortunately not the copper one. Thanks in advance

    • JoshuaTheFunTimesGuide

      Hi, Tami -

      Would you mind posting a photo of your 1943 steel cent here in the comments section so I can try and attribute it?

      Thank you!

      • Tami W.

        Yes of course

        • JoshuaTheFunTimesGuide

          Hi, Tami -

          Thank you for posting that great photo. From what I can tell from the image, it appears your 1943-S exhibits machine doubling, which means the die bounced off the coin during the striking process, creating a shadowy second image. Such pieces can be worth $3 to $5.

  • cos

    i have an EF 1909-o dime i paid like 9 bucks was that worth it thanx

    • JoshuaTheFunTimesGuide

      It sounds like you did well, Cos! A 1909-O Barber dime in Extremely Fine usually has a book value of at least $40 to $45.