The story of Whitman Publishing began in the 1930s with Richard S. Yeoman, an important figure in coin collecting in America . Western Publishing Company hired Yeoman as a commercial artist in 1932. One of Western’s companies was Whitman Publishing Company, which specialized in children’s books, puzzles, and greeting cards. Yeoman, a coin collector himself, became interested in the new coin boards his company produced in 1938. He helped create an extensive sales network for the coin boards, with outlets ranging from hardware stores to dime stores, shoe parlors, and gas stations. In 1940, Yeoman even redesigned the boards to be easier to handle, changing the board format to one with folding panels, and added many new titles to accommodate a wider variety of coin denominations. He helped advance the hobby of coin collecting among the general public by bringing novice collectors a simple, inexpensive method of storage and a catalog their coins.
Yeoman also compiled information on the coin collecting market and the current values of coins, for he believed a book with this information would provide an incentive for collectors seeking rare coins. Handbook of United States Coins: The Official Blue Book of U.S. Coins was first published in 1942. Then and the now, the “Blue Book” has served as a source of information on coin history and pricing for dealers buying and selling coins. In 1946, a second book, A Guide Book of United States Coins: The Official Red Book of U.S. Coins, the “Red Book,” was published to provide collectors with pricing information for buying and selling coins to dealers. These definitive pricing guides are still the industry standard.
In 1959, Western hired Kenneth Bressett, who helped Yeoman write and edit numismatic books. They created over 300 coin collecting books and products for the hobby, working together until Yeoman’s retirement in 1970. Bressett continues to edit the Red Book and the Blue Book for Whitman Publishing in addition to consulting on other titles.
In 1982, Mattel, Inc. acquired Western Publishing and sought to leverage the book publishing and toy manufacturing capabilities to promote its toys and characters. But after only two years, Mattel sold Western to Richard A. Bernstein, who subsequently sold it to a group led by Richard Snyder in 1996.
Western Publishing changed its name to Golden Books Family Entertainment and under Snyder’s ownership, Golden Books focused on publishing children’s books. As part of Golden Books’ relatively small adult publishing division, Whitman Coin Products brought steady revenues and profits to the division. Nevertheless, Golden sold its adult trade group, including Whitman, to St. Martin’s Press in 1999, and directed its focus to children’s titles.
In 2003, the H.E. Harris company bought Whitman Coin Products from St. Martin’s Press. As H.E. Harris also manufactured and sold coin albums, folders, and accessories, this acquisition was an ideal way to consolidate the leading numismatic supply companies in the industry. H.E. Harris changed its name to Whitman Publishing, and Whitman now features three distinct product lines: Whitman, H.E. Harris, and the U.S. Mint. Within each brand, there are coin supplies and accessories to meet any collector’s needs. Whitman Publishing markets its books and accessories nationwide through major hobby distributors, dealers and national accounts.
Whitman continues to produce the Red Book and the Blue Book with Ken Bressett at the helm. Whitman has also revived numerous out-of-print titles and developed a new book series called The 100 Greatest, with the inaugural title, The 100 Greatest U.S. Coins, published in 2003.
Whitman hired renowned author and numismatist Q. David Bowers as its Director of Numismatic Publications and under his stewardship has developed a second new book series, the Guide Book series. Each book will focus on a specific denomination or design series and will provide a complete history of the coins and an extensive price guide.
In June 2004, Whitman Publishing hosted its first national coin show, the Whitman Coin and Collectibles Atlanta Expo. The Expo has grown and branched out, and currently takes place three times yearly in Baltimore and once yearly in Nashville and Philadelphia.