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Was history a bonus or a useless delay?

Hobby terminology doesn’t always make sense. It just is. There is often a logic to it, something like the first explorer naming an island after his wife or his king.

Some mint errors have colorful names. The finders give them nicknames to try to raise their price on the secondary market. It doesn’t always work, but it is definitely worth a try.

I am reminded of this by a phone call I took today. The caller, who had a Russian accent, wanted to know what the phone number was to the “American Numismatic Association Certification Service.” He didn’t say “ANACS.” He said what the acronym used to stand for. So I didn’t simply give him the phone number to ANACS. In a split second my mind went into teaching mode.

I reacted to his question with more depth than I might usually because I figured he probably didn’t know the history, and because he sounded foreign, he might have certain expectations based on the name that might not be the case now.

The full name hasn’t been in formal use since 1990. I had no way of knowing where he might have gotten it. He even said during the course of the conversation that he didn’t have Internet, but his wife did.
The full name was dropped when the American Numismatic Association sold its authentication and grading service to a Sidney, Ohio, publishing firm 19 years ago. The ANA did not want its name used by the next owner, because that might imply an ongoing endorsement, but it also realized that there was high commercial value in the ANACS brand. To not completely wreck its enterprise value and maximize the sale value, ANA consented to the continued use of the acronym by the new owner.

Since that time ANACS has had another couple of owners and has built a very good business that puts it in the top rank of third-party grading services.

But what ANACS isn’t is an arm of the American Numismatic Association.

I did not expect my Russian caller to know that history. I do not expect most of my current readers to know it, but I somehow felt obligated to make this point as I was looking up the phone number for the caller. I often have these teaching moments as I edit stories and features for the paper.

Am I seeing and hearing nuances in my mind from this conversation that do not need to be made? Perhaps. Put it down to years of being an editor.

I would like to think that readers of my work make informed choices on accurate information rather than on some endorsement that seems to be implied that isn’t. I do not know what the caller was thinking. He did not tell me how he had decided it was ANACS he wanted to call rather than one of the other grading services.

I found the phone number and gave it to him. He thanked me. It was all over in just a couple of minutes.

Was the history of value to the caller? I don’t know. But it is of use to my readers. Numismatics is all about history. It is all about people and how their business relationships have evolved over time. It also makes me wonder how many phone calls ANA might still be getting.

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