This past summer, through the kindness of the Professional Numismatists Guild’s Young Numismatist Scholarship, I had the opportunity to attend the American Numismatic Association Summer Seminar in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colo.
Many of my friends couldn’t understand why I would want to go all the way from Massachusetts to Colorado to sit in a classroom studying coins when I could be going to the beach and having “fun.” They don’t know how passionate numismatists can be, or how much enjoyment I get from learning about classic U.S. commemoratives.
I read about the PNG scholarship offer in a news story, and normally I wouldn’t enter such a large national competition, but something about it caught my eye. So, over the next month, in between writing papers for my college classes, I decided to work on an essay about why I should be chosen to receive the scholarship. I explained my love of numismatics and what I was hoping to learn about coins, specifically the grading system. I knew a lot about coins as far as their histories and designers but wasn’t too familiar with grading and would have to rely on what a dealer or a grading capsule stated.
I sent the essay not expecting to hear anything back. Fast forward a couple months and I received the news that I had won!
From the moment I landed in Colorado to the last night I was there, I enjoyed every second of it because I got to talk, eat and sleep numismatics. When someone is passionate about something that is all they want to do. It just so happens that I don’t have a lot of people around me who collect coins so the only way to get my numismatic “fix” would be to go to the local flea market on Sunday mornings or attend the local coin shows. It was so refreshing to be around people who are as intrigued by numismatics as I am and who enjoy discussing coins as much as I do.
Before the seminar I considered myself a pretty advanced collector, until I was surrounded by kind people who were so filled with knowledge that they made me feel like a novice. I decided I was going to get as much information out of them as I could. Unlike many situations where important people don’t want to bother with younger, less experienced collectors, all of the illustrious ANA members, educators and dealers realize that the YNs are the future of the hobby. That is proven through the time and effort they put into making sure each YN leaves the Summer Seminar more educated and more excited about numismatics.
The class I chose to enroll in for the week was Early U.S. Commemoratives 1892-1954, a subject I had heard about but knew very little about. I guarantee there is no other place that a collector would receive as much knowledge and information on their chosen subject as at the ANA Summer Seminar. Not only were we provided a book and lessons giving us the history of each coin, but we were lucky enough to be able to look through the ANA Money Museum’s collection as well as one of the instructor’s complete sets. This was an invaluable experience, for I got to hold in my hands hundreds and hundreds of commemoratives in various grades, to see in person what all 144 of the silver commemorative coins looked like in their respective grades assigned.
After spending a week in class with great instructors and fellow collectors, all of whom were very helpful to me, I knew “everything” about the early U.S. commemoratives and decided that I would start collecting them. Anyone who enjoys U.S. history should look into this series because of the great stories that are tied to these coins commemorating everything from significant to obscure events in our American heritage.
The entire week was a surreal experience for me to be surrounded by the giants of the hobby; names I knew through reading their books and articles or seeing their advertisements. To think I ate at the same table as the editor of the “Red Book,” the executive director of the ANA and one of the founders of Professional Coin Grading Service was mind-boggling. I spent hours in the Money Museum in awe that I was looking at some of the most legendary coins in the hobby, coins that I had only read and heard about.
I thank the PNG for affording me the opportunity to attend. Unlike the material objects that we collect, knowledge is something that we can never lose. For this reason I strongly encourage other YNs to get involved with the ANA Summer Seminar for the amazing, collector-changing experience it is.
Paul Zapantis of Massachusetts, the PNG’s 2012 scholarship winner, is a senior at Worcester State University completing his student teaching this semester for a degree in health education and a minor in middle/secondary education.