I hate to make it sound crass, but the only requirement for membership in the American Numismatic Association appears to be paying dues. Is it true that at one time your membership had to be sponsored?
I don’t know when it changed, but when I joined the ANA about 40 years ago you needed a member to sponsor you. A friend recently told me of his potential sponsor asking him some questions to ensure he was sufficiently knowledgeable prior to being sponsored. Today the organization is open to anyone, regardless of numismatic knowledge, who has an interest in the hobby.
In your estimation would you say a cashless currency system encourages inflation?
Studies have been done that confirm people are likely to spend more money when paying by a substitute for physical currency. Likewise, people also hesitate more to spend money when they carry large rather than small denominations. We’ve already seen this through debit and credit cards. A cashless society in which electronic transfers replaces physical cash will likely encourage additional ‘blind’ spending which in turn could easily bring about more inflation.
What’s a good book for a hobbyist to use to learn more about grading, including how to spot a counterfeit?
There are several good books on the subject, those published by the American Numismatic Association and Professional Coin Grading Service being my favorites. In addition to books I would recommend considering attending grading seminars offered periodically by the ANA. A hands-on experience coupled with reference books will give you a better understanding of grading and counterfeit detection.
There appear to be three principal grading services. Is the grade of one considered more accurate?
I won’t endorse one service over another here, but it is suffice to say collectors appear to favor one service above the other two regardless of what may be perceived as being acceptable grading. A word of caution—always look at the coin first, not the ‘slab.’ The encapsulation will help you access the grade of the coin, but it is their opinion. This is not an absolute. Ensure you are satisfied with the coin. Don’t depend on someone else’s opinion.
In your opinion, what’s a good loupe for the average hobbyist?
There are inexpensive magnifying loupes made with either plastic or glass easily found by shopping on the Internet. It is important to determine what magnification you want to use to examine your coins. I would recommend anything between five and 10 times (5x to 10x), however if you want to do very detailed work you might consider something as powerful as 30x.