Remembering David W. Lange (1958–2023)

David W. Lange, longtime Whitman Publishing author, has left the hobby community after a rich life devoted to numismatics.

He died on Monday, January 16, 2023, after cancer slowly took his health and energy over the preceding months.

Dave was the author of nearly a dozen books and hundreds of articles on United States coinage and related subjects. For many years he was an instructor at the American Numismatic Association’s Summer Seminar, focusing in particular on collecting type coins. He was a columnist for the ANA’s monthly magazine, The Numismatist, since 1988. In 2009 he received the Association’s “Lifetime Achievement” award, and in 2017 was recognized as “Numismatist of the Year.” In 2021 Coin World named him one of the sixty most influential people in numismatics since 1960.

I met Dave Lange shortly after joining Whitman Publishing in 2004. By that time, he’d been Director of Research for Numismatic Guaranty Corporation in Sarasota, Florida, for ten years. In that role, he was responsible for die-variety attribution, counterfeit detection, research, and writing, and for maintaining NGC’s coin census report and Certified Collectors Registry. He was a regular on the show circuit—a friendly and enthusiastic researcher and collector.

One of the earliest projects we worked on together was the publication of his History of the United States Mint and Its Coinage (2005), which, in an informal polling of independent booksellers, ranked #182 among the “Books Everyone Should Read Before College.” That same year, we published his Guide Book of Modern United States Proof Coin Sets, volume 4 in the Bowers Series.

David W. Lange as a young collector, with his father (standing), and the next-door neighbor who helped him build his Lincoln cent collection. June 1967. (Photograph courtesy of David W. Lange and Whitman Publishing.)

Dave loved to talk about coins, the hobby’s history, and a thousand interests. His own collecting had started in the early 1960s, around the age of six or seven. His older brother Doug gifted Dave his Whitman blue folders partially filled with Lincoln cents. Years later, Dave told me that, since that day, he didn’t know a time when numismatics didn’t have his attention.

His first numismatic purchase was a 1914 Lincoln cent in Good condition, bought at the local F.W. Woolworth’s coin-and-stamp counter. Most of his circulated Lincoln cents—the ones he truly cherished—were either ones he pulled from pocket change, gifts from his brother, or coins donated by friends and family. A next-door neighbor, Bob, who worked emptying the parking meters along San Francisco’s waterfront, helped fill in many missing slots in his coin folders. Dave sentimentally kept his well-loved and well-circulated coins long after he sold his high-grade Mint State collections.

David Lange (left) and Q. David Bowers at the Professional Numismatists Guild banquet, ANA World’s Fair of Money, August 5, 2009. (Photograph courtesy of Q. David Bowers and Whitman Publishing.)

He remembered the first U.S. Mint Proof set he bought, a brilliantly shiny new set of five San Francisco coins that cost $5 in 1971—”and I’ve been on the United States Mint’s mailing list ever since.”

Over the years, his interest in the hobby grew, and he was recognized as an expert in die varieties, U.S./Philippine coinage, Lincoln cents, Buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes, modern Proof sets, and other series. The books he wrote are regarded as standard references.

Dave Lange surrounded by Whitman coin folders and albums—among his many hobby-related passions. His sense of humor shines in this portrait from his last book, Coin Collecting Albums—A Complete History & Catalog, volume three, Whitman Publishing Company: Folders and Albums 1940–1978.
(Photograph courtesy of PennyBoard Press and Whitman Publishing.)

He was a constant advisor to Whitman Publishing. In the past year or two, we consulted him on the Red BookMega Red100 Greatest Canadian Coins and TokensA Penny Saved, the Cherrypickers’ Guide, and numerous other projects.

Beyond his numismatic knowledge and expertise, Dave Lange will be remembered for his warmth and good cheer. Ancient-coin specialist David Vagi, a colleague at NGC, told me, “He was a real gem, one of my favorite people in the world. More than anything, I’ll miss his generosity and his astonishing sense of humor.”

Dave Lange and Ken Bressett at the debut of the latter’s A Penny Saved: R.S. Yeoman and His Remarkable Red Book, ANA World’s Fair of Money, August 11, 2021. (Photograph by Dennis Tucker, courtesy of Whitman Publishing.)

At a Rittenhouse Society breakfast a couple of years ago, I asked Dave why he was clean-shaven after wearing a beard for many years. He made everyone laugh as he talked about soaking his graying beard with hair dye and then taking a nap. He overslept, and when he woke up, his normally reddish-brown beard was nearly jet-black! “That was the end of it.”

I recently asked him his opinion on changing the Red Book’s Barber coin nomenclature from, for example, “Barber or Liberty Head Dimes” to simply “Barber Dimes” (since nobody today calls them “Liberty Head” coins). He replied, “I think you should revert to calling them Morgan dimes, quarters, and halves, just to mess with readers. After all, that’s how they’re identified on early Whitman folders!”

Dave Lange and longtime Numismatist editor-in-chief Barbara Gregory at the ANA members banquet, August 13, 2021. (Photograph courtesy of Dennis Tucker.)

Those old coin folders were dear to his heart. Through his PennyBoard Press imprint, which he founded in 2007, Dave shared a passion for collecting, researching, and educating people about coin boards, folders, and albums and the history of their production in the United States. I believe he knew more about Whitman Publishing’s early coin boards and folders than anyone else alive, other than Kenneth Bressett.

David W. Lange at the Rittenhouse Society’s annual breakfast, August 14, 2021. He was elected to the Society in 2005. (Photograph courtesy of Dennis Tucker.)

Whitman Publishing President Mary Burleson says, “David was always such a bright light in the numismatic community. He was always willing to assist with any request. When I talked to him in December, he was so determined to fight through the treatments and to return to the Baltimore conventions.” Whitman Senior Editor Diana Plattner laments his passing as “a terrible loss for the hobby.” Bill Fivaz, coauthor of the Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties, a book that Lange contributed much knowledge to, says, “He was certainly one of the good guys, and will be missed by the entire collecting community as well as many others.” Ken Bressett, Editor Emeritus of the Red Book, says, “I am deeply saddened by the news of David’s passing. He will be missed by everyone because he was a friend to all. He was a very special comrade.”

-Dennis Tucker, publisher of Whitman Publishing.

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