By V. Kurt Bellman
For my latest contribution to Numismatic News’ Viewpoint, I’d like to thank the Chicago Coin Club and its many committee chairmen for a superb collector experience at the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money in Chicago in August, especially Volunteer Chairman Carl Wolf for taking me under his wing to learn the job that I have been tapped for at next summer’s show in Philadelphia.
I got to experience several of the jobs performed by those who became known as “the blue shirts” at Chicago, and the shirt itself is one of my most prized souvenirs of the event. I feel more confident approaching next August now.
It is utterly amazing to me that the very modest-sized staff of the ANA in Colorado Springs is closing one national convention, then turning around to the opening of another in about 60 days for the first time ever. This is a gargantuan task. If you’ve ever helped put together even a local coin show, you’ll have a slight idea what doing two national shows within three months might be. The ANA staff is superb. Yes, occasionally mistakes happen, but they make them right.
I also will be in Pittsburgh at the inaugural ANA Autumn National Money Show on Oct. 13-15, and that is the main topic of this piece. I strongly believe that you, as a collector serious enough to be reading this publication, should try to be there also. You too should go to learn from and interact with your fellow numismatists.
There are excuses galore to not go, and I’d like to dispel a few of them here.
• “Only the bigwigs can afford national convention bourse material. I’m not in that category.” Neither am I, trust me on that. I am a “tweener” collector, too advanced to be a rank beginner and too poor to be a heavy hitter who’s on a first name basis with staff of the major auction firms. That’s okay. Coin people are the best there are. They love to talk and share, as long as a transaction isn’t under way that needs their undivided attention. The best money I spend at an ANA show isn’t on coins, but on attending events and dinners. It is there you’ll meet the best people in the world. Stick out your hand and introduce yourself.
• “I don’t even understand what the talk presenters are talking about.” Until recently, I didn’t either. But joining the Red Rose Coin Club of Lancaster, Pa., got me over that problem. Join an active coin club and try to participate. That pays huge dividends.
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• “Those bigwigs are all just a big clique. There’s no room for me in their circles.” Not true. I placed a proposal for a Numismatic Theatre talk at both Chicago and Pittsburgh this year, and both have been accepted. The Chicago one was about political economics and the Pittsburgh one is about my favorite series to search for varieties: Jefferson nickels. The point is this: Offer to share your particular knowledge and passion in coins and currency. People will come, they will listen, and they will learn from you, and you from them. What you know is valuable to your fellow collectors. Share it.
• “I don’t really know that many coin people.” So go and change that. Seek out the likes of former ANA Presidents John and Nancy Wilson of Ocala, Fla., two examples of hobby “bigwigs” without egos, who are some of the finest ambassadors in the field. I am proud to call them friends, despite the fact that I’ll likely never be in their league as a collector.
Yes, occasionally I do buy pieces for my collection at an ANA show. But mostly I’m there to invest in the knowledge that will help me build a better collection. It’s about what’s between your ears as much as what’s between the covers of your coin albums or 2x2 file boxes or cabinets.
Take the plunge and attend a national ANA coin show. You’ll be glad you did, and I believe it might just become a habit for you, as it has for me.
This Viewpoint was written by V. Kurt Bellman, a hobbyist from Harrisburg, Pa. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.