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PNNA Home / Awards / Scholarships / 2004

Scholarship Report - 2004

Thank you PNNA by Dale Smith

I want to thank the Pacific Northwest Numismatic Association for giving me the opportunity to attend a session of the 2004 ANA Summer Seminar. The scholarship made it possible for me to go to Colorado Springs, Colorado and attend class.

I began collecting coins only six years ago, when my friend Carl Steiger invited my wife and I to a coin show being held in Seattle. Carl has collected coins and bank notes since he was a child; yet, despite becoming friends during high school and seeing a few of his German inflation-period bank notes, I didn’t get the bug. I remember finding mercury dimes and buffalo nickels, and, on rare occasions, even an Indian cent, in change when I was a young boy in the late 1960s. Perhaps if I had seen some of Carl’s U.S. coins when we became friends, the collecting bug would have bitten me sooner. After college, Carl began pursuing Greek and Roman coins. On our visits, he would show us his latest acquisitions and he often had a coin auction catalog lying out on the coffee table.

In April 1998, Carl persuaded us to accompany him to the coin show being held in downtown Seattle. I finally came down with numismatic fever. Carl encouraged me to look examine an ancient Chinese coin, and sat me down at one dealer’s table in front of a junk box filled with Roman bronzes. He offered to buy me the example of my choice. With his help, I picked out a coin from the reign of Constantine the Great. Later that weekend, he gave me a buffalo nickel. From then on, I was hooked.

The World’s Fair of Money was held in Portland, Oregon, that August. We went, and I bought several pieces – a couple of Chinese cash coins, some Indian cents and a 1960 Hong Kong dollar bearing the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. That started my twin numismatic passions – women on coins and currency, and British Commonwealth coins.

I love the hunt for coins, and the finding and the buying. Since becoming a coin collector I have attended many shows in Oregon and Washington, as well as visiting many coin stores. While I had acquired some catalogs and several books, my numismatic library took second place to chasing after sixpences and shillings. I collected coins, and learned their history, yet never really studied them.

I knew about the [ANA] summer seminar. It sounded interesting, yet wasn’t something I really considered. I figured the money would be better spent buying coins, then on traveling to the American Numismatic Association headquarters and spending a week in a classroom.

Scott and Lisa Loos, whose table I regularly haunt at various shows, mentioned the PNNA scholarship to me. They were enthusiastic about the seminar, both having attended. Lisa had taken Prue Fitt’s class on “Women in history on money and art” the year before, which captured my interest, since that covered one of my collecting passions. Lisa clearly had had a blast in the class. They told me the seminar would be a very worthwhile experience and encouraged me to apply for the PNNA scholarship. I decided to send in an application

While attending the National Money show in this March, I learned that I had won the PNNA adult scholarship. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Lisa and Scott told me I would have a great time. Joe Boling, PNNA treasurer, was very helpful in handling my paperwork and arranging payment.

Arriving at the Colorado Springs airport, I met an ANA staffer and several other students. We quickly fell into easy conversations about where we were from, what we collected, and what courses we were taking. This experience was repeated again and again after we arrived at Colorado College, from Loomis Hall to the cafeteria and lounge. “Meeting-and-greeting” continued throughout the week. This was something else about the seminar I had not considered. Making new friends and sharing mutual enthusiasms for the hobby was a truly heady experience. Even better was yet to come.

Prue Fitts had been scheduled to teach “Women in history on money and in art” during the first session of the 2004 Summer Seminar, and I promptly signed up for her course. It turned out that Prue’s class was canceled. I wound up with my second choice, “Collecting Coins of the World – 1500 to now”, as my second choice.

“Collecting Coins of the World” was co-taught by George Cuhaj, an editor from Krause Publications, and Emmett McDonald, a long-time world coin collector and retired chemical engineer. There were eleven students in the class. Aside from myself, there were four Young Numismatists, two teachers, a coin dealer, a grandmother, a long-time ANA museum volunteer, and a drummer.

The class covered a lot of ground. Four centuries of coins, focusing on Europe, the British Commonwealth, Latin America and Asia. Trade coinage and gold were discussed in separate sections. We viewed two ANA slide presentations on two different collections of coins, one that was crowns of the world, a specialty of Emmett’s as well. Emmett and George were great. Emmett has a lifetime of experience collecting world coins, with enough coin lore and anecdotes to fill a month of classes. George’s technical expertise was invaluable, as was his instruction in using the Krause catalogs. Both encouraged class participation and had wonderful senses of humor.

Emmett brought a number of pieces from his collection for us to examine. There is no substitute for studying a coin up close. We discussed a bit of metallurgy, a bit of chemistry, and coin-design elements, as well as economics and history. We took a coin I.D. quiz, where each of us had to identify several unattributed coins, using the Krause catalogs.

“Collecting the Coins of the World” showed me the value of looking beyond the mere beauty of a coin. The class also increased my appreciation of the value of research in numismatics. I gave a short presentation on die numbers used by the British royal mint on some of their coins during the later 19th century, having spent the night before researching the topic in the ANA library. The library was amazing, and I kept wishing for more time spent there!

I had also signed up for a night class, Joe Boling’s “Detecting Counterfeit World Bank Notes”, held for three evenings. I collect women on bank notes, with a sub-collection of Queen Elizabeth II. But I had not studied the production of bank notes beyond the basics. Joe’s class was a rigorous examination of printing methods, security devices, and the many means counterfeiters used to duplicate notes. He is extremely skilled in identifying counterfeit currency and managed to pack a lot of information in three nights.

I also attended a couple of “bull sessions,” which were actually mini-classes. My favorite was the one on Jetons, presented by one of my “Collecting Coins of the World” classmates, Greg Thompson. Another highlight was the book sale. I bought a stack of books on world coins. My only regret is that I couldn’t buy more!

Thank you, PNNA, for giving me the opportunity to attend the 2004 ANA summer seminar. It taught me what numismatics really is. It is not just chasing after coins and putting them in your collection, it’s also discovering the design, use and history behind the coin. And thank you for creating the scholarship. It is a very worthwhile endeavor.