An Informal Roundtable

​I enjoy writing books, corresponding, and various aspects of research and communications. Keeping in touch with some of my favorite people—numismatists—has always been a pleasure. The vast majority of my correspondence, by e-mail in recent years, involves research, answering questions, and giving opinions, often helping someone building a collection. I have always been happy to do this, even if a sale is not in the offing or if a person is just beginning to collect. At the recent Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo in Baltimore, when others on the staff were showing coins for the several auction sessions (including the D. Brent Pogue Collection Part V) and tending the Stack’s Bowers Galleries bourse table, I spent most of two days in a chair between the SBG bourse and the Whitman Publishing display.

Wayne Homren, editor of E-Sylum, the free news site sponsored by the Numismatic Bibliomania Society, wrote about this in his next issue:

“On Thursday and Friday Dave Bowers was at the Stack’s Bowers Galleries booth, dividing his time between there and the Whitman Publications display across the aisle. He was holding court, so to speak, with a continuing stream of people coming by to say hello, chat, or to have a book or two signed. This wasn’t planned. It started when Dave sat down and people started coming over. Keeping him company part of the time was Catherine Canuti of Collateral Finance Corporation (CFC).

“I was delighted to take a chair and chat with Dave, Catherine and many who came by. Dave helped me sign up new E-Sylum readers including Catherine, Richard August, who has been collecting and studying colonial coins since 1960, and Frank Robinson, a polymath, long-time numismatist, and author of several books. If I had stayed there all day I probably would have a couple dozen names of new subscribers. It was a wonderful way to spend part of the afternoon. We had a lot of laughs over stories of West Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Trump Tower, the Playboy Mansion, coin shows, the future of the American Numismatic Association, coin dealer side hustles, and free VIP tickets to see and meet Elvis Presley at one of his shows. And of course, we talked about the hobby past, present and future.

“Later I caught up with the crazy-busy Mary Burleson of Whitman who was attending to multiple items of business related to the show. We had a nice chat about coin shows and the Newman Numismatic Portal. Dennis Tucker joined us for a bit before he had to head off to the airport.”

All of this was lots of fun. The topics Wayne heard while there are reflective of the “degrees of separation” in numismatics. Connections are often very close. As strange as it may seem to readers, most conversations at conventions or correspondence by e-mail (I personally answer every message sent to me, from the newest beginner to the most seasoned specialist) have nothing to do with grading or values. Numismatic history, current market conditions, research, and more are popular topics.

Most of the numismatists who were active years ago and who are still active today have a high degree of learning. Doctors, attorneys, securities brokers, scientists, writers, teachers, and others are in the majority, not to overlook those who have been successful in business. Most have diverse interests in addition to numismatics.

Reflective of this I share this comment along with a birthday wish:

Eric P. Newman, who on May 25th will be celebrating his 106th birthday, has been a friend since I was a teenager. His interests are wide-ranging—law, history, research, butterflies, travel—you name it. Some years ago the American Numismatic Society held a special dinner for him at the Explorers club in New York City. He and his late wife Evelyn probably visited more different countries that have any members of the United Nations. He once asked me to name a country he might not have visited. After having no luck with some obscure African and Asian nations—he had seen them all—I said, “How about Surtsey?” This was a new volcanic island that had erupted in the North Atlantic, not a country, of course, but a remote place.

Eric’s answer, “I hired a helicopter in Reykjavik and flew over it.”

A quick review of the leaders past and present in specialized societies such as Early American Coppers, Colonial Coin Collectors Club, Medal Collectors of America, Civil War Token Society, Token and Medal Society, Liberty Seated Coin Club, Society of Paper Money Collectors, Numismatic Bibliomania Society, John Reich Collectors Society, and Barber Coin Collectors Society are well educated, have been with the hobby for more than just a few years, and have good basic libraries. Numismatics has been a way of life — an enrichment.

Turning back to the Baltimore Expo, a number of newcomers came by to chat and some to ask advice. My usual recommendation: Spend a few hundred dollars on books with good, readable information other than investment information and prices, take the Guide Book that you probably already own and read it cover to cover, including the front section, join the American Numismatic Association, and subscribe to Coin World and Numismatic News. Buy coins very slowly, and before you buy each one, learn as much as you can about it.

That is for starters as a longer list might be impractical and scary. If any of these people come by next year, I can expand the list—buy or borrow copies of Dr. William H. Sheldon’s Penny Whimsy, S.S. Crosby’s Early Coins of America, and walk over to the Whitman booth, spend a half hour there, and buy a dozen of the titles that interest you the most. Check out the ANA Summer Seminar—worth attending.

Most people who discover coin collecting jump into investment, spend most of their discretionary money, and within a year or two find that their coins have not yielded a large profit, or may have registered a loss (making a profit involves carefully building a collection over a long period of time), and leave.

So—if you would like to enjoy numismatics for the rest of your life, buy some books and read them. I guarantee you will have a good time.


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