The Importance of a Trusted Price Guide

I never claimed to be a writer, and I still don’t even though and I co-wrote with John Schwartz the “Standard Guide to Small Size U.S. Currency, 1928 to Date”. My writing ‘education’ consists of one course in “Free Writing” taught by Professor Nelson at the illustrious Minot State University, where I earned a four year business degree after dropping out of the geology program because my brain was impermeable to higher math. Prof. Nelson always taught, ‘Write as you would speak to someone standing in front of you since you can always edit later.’ This is my preferred writing method by which I will share with the readers of the newly established SPMC posts or web blogs all the ‘secrets’ of the Small Size Guide (SSG), from its early genesis to the method used to compile the current 10th edition and future editions.

My involvement began in the late 90s as a major contributor to the 3rd edition, which eventually led to my co-authorship with John Schwartz starting with the 8th edition. My interest began with my grousing about what I considered defects in the earlier editions. Rather than becoming only a professional complainer, however, I decided to see what I could do to help improve this Small Size Guide. I believe it is fair to say that the SSG has retained and even increased its respected status as the small-size ‘bible’ amongst this specialized collecting fraternity over the decades of publication.

For all those defect watchers out there let it be known that I consider this book every Small Size U.S. Currency collector’s project and avidly solicit comments, questions and other input. My next post will be a conversation that I had with an interested collector who was concerned that I had inexplicably, and perhaps, unjustifiably, dropped the price on a note. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself since this first post is about errata and corrections for the just published 10th edition.

Early on it made more sense to divide the writing and editing duties so John concentrates on the vetting of bad data (of which there is plenty and some has persisted since the time of earliest O’Donnell Handbooks), adding new issues and updating the serial number ranges. A good example of these self-perpetuating errors is the listing on page 111 of the $5 1934, Dark Green Seal (DGS), non-mule San Francisco district Federal Reserve Notes (FRN). Thanks go to Randy Vogel and Jamie Yakes for conscientiously pointing out that these all had brown Hawaii emergency overprints so no DGS notes can exist. This error has been printed in all 10 editions of the SSG, but will not be in the 11th without a footnote correction. Randy is a serious San Francisco collector and Jamie is no doubt known to the readers of the SPMC Journal “Paper Money” as one of its excellent researchers and frequent contributors. This is a good example of effective collaboration within the hobby that helps to continuously improve the SSG.

My main focus is on general editing and pricing all the issues in the SSG – a large task that I spend literally thousands of hours trying to perfect which is a fool’s errand in a constantly fluctuating market. While I try to keep the prices reasonable and verifiable, I also strive to add more VF and Gem CU price columns with each new edition. I certainly don’t do this for the author’s pittance, or to see my name on Amazon, but rather I do it for the same reasons Jamie, Randy and hundreds of others contribute to the SSG. Namely, to make it a trusted reference by which we all can gain from expanding the hobby in a literal and literary way.

I will be touching on issues ranging from conflicts of interest for dealers, or collectors for that matter, who are directly, involved in producing hobby guides to how I come up with prices based on empirical data or, rarely, shot-in-the dark pricing for issues just released. For now I will close with some more errata of major import to the 10th edition.

Page 30 – In the F-A through V-A block, line 3 UA is listed incorrectly, it should be QA.
Page 74 – Heading at the top of the page is incorrect and should be 2009, not 2006A, as none were printed.
Page 144 – The 1988A F* Washington (common) and Forth Worth (rare) need to be split out as separate line items. There is little information on pricing, but I paid $75 for a VF and will pay $500 and up for any star Fort Worth CU notes.
Page 316 - The $100 1985 FRN B* is definitely not unique. I blame this error on my untimely illness that prevented me from attending Memphis for the first time in 15 years since it would have been edited out had my co-author and I had the opportunity to discuss at that sweltering event.

Feel free to check out the News + Updates page on my website at for further updates on errata and send emails to with your comments, corrections or other information.

Happy New Year and Happy Hunting!


Christopher Baker's picture


I'm very happy to be able to communicate with the members and governors of SPMC under this new web site. These initial blogs are already a top notch start to the site.

First, I enjoyed reading your blog post regarding the work that goes into writing the guide book, a book which I find immensely useful, especially since I've only recently, within the last 2-3 years, become more serious about studying and collecting currency, after many years of deliberating and leaving this curiosity unchecked. Likewise, I've just got one year at SPMC under my belt.

I am curious about what, if any, discussion or trending towards digital versions of these guide books might be going on at this time? A printed book is certainly practical and enjoyable to hold but just as this web site for SPMC has taken the step and expanded online, what are the chances of digital versions of the guide book you have contributed to appearing in the future?

Editing or revision of content would be much more streamlined with an easier way to disseminate this to readers (or paying subscribers-- so you continue to earn income from your efforts). The usefulness of moving between a guide book's pages, say on an iPad, iPhone or other smart device while traveling or attending shows is easy to imagine, while also surfing between web sites such as SPMC, or your own web site and the various forums and groups of hobbyists, as well as online reference sites.

I would love to read your thoughts on digital guides (Apps) or anything regarding the pros/cons you foresee with a step in that direction for currency guide books.

Regards, Chris