'Behind the curtain' PNG activity benefits all in the hobby

Published : 06/17/11
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A prospective member of the Professional Numismatists Guild asked me, “What exactly does PNG do?” Good question.

Many people know about our annual PNG Day shows held before each of the annual Central States Numismatic Society spring conventions and the American Numismatic Association summer conventions. Most people probably don’t know about our many activities “behind the curtain” that benefit collectors and dealers.

The PNG is a nonprofit organization established more than a half century ago by the esteemed Abe Kosoff, our founding president. Today, more than 260 of the country’s top rare coin and paper money dealers are members, including distinguished researchers, authors and hobby leaders such as Q. David Bowers, a former president of both the PNG and ANA, and John Albanese, a founder of Certified Acceptance Corp. who also help found both the Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corp.

Some critics claim PNG is “elitist.” Well, thank you. A definition of elite is “the best or most skilled members of a group.” PNG membership requirements are strict and involve background checks, financial disclosures and a vote by the full membership.

In addition to the upcoming PNG Day, Aug. 13, we are jointly conducting an official “pre-show” with the ANA, Aug. 13 to 15, prior to the ANA World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Ill. For decades, private commercial firms have grabbed the ANA’s coattails and conducted unofficial pre-shows. This time the ANA will directly benefit by receiving money from the official pre-show and the affiliated auction by Stack’s Bowers Galleries.

Here are some other important PNG activities.

Education: The PNG supports various numismatic educational projects, for example, an annual Young Numismatist Scholarship that provides airfare, tuition and accommodations for a student to attend a weeklong session of the ANA Summer Seminar. We also recently provided financial and informational assistance to author Kevin Flynn in the creation of his new book about nurturing young numismatists, Coin Collecting for the Next Generation.

Many PNG members volunteer to conduct PNG Share the Knowledge educational seminars at various coin shows around the country. We plan to have a seminar in conjunction with the ANA-PNG official pre-show in Rosemont in August.

Hobby outreach: PNG members frequently assist the general news and business media to provide expert answers to questions related to coins, paper money and precious metals. PNG’s legal counsel, Armen Vartian, has provided information and amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs in significant cases involving numismatic properties, such as the 1933 double eagles. We also are closely working with the International Association of Professional Numismatists and Ancient Coin Collectors Guild to combat excessive restrictions on importing numismatic items, as well as providing financial support for their legal efforts.

Reward fund: The PNG provides reward money for assistance in the apprehension of suspects who are subsequently charged and convicted of crimes involving numismatic items.

Consumer protection: PNG provides financial support to the Numismatic Crime Information Center founded by former police chief Doug Davis. We have been jointly working with the Industry Council for Tangible Assets, ANA, NGC and PCGS to warn buyers about imported (and domestic) counterfeits being sold in online auctions and elsewhere. PNG teamed with the ANA and ICTA to successfully make significant, positive changes to a Federal Trade Commission advisory about investing in gold. We’ve accomplished a lot of behind-the-scenes work, but there’s much more to do. For example, eBay has refused to respond to our complaints about several blatant sellers and we’ve sent information to law enforcement agencies.

PNG member-dealers must participate in mandatory, legally binding arbitration if disputes involving numismatic merchandise cannot be resolved otherwise. Most of the time, disputes involve simple misunderstandings and are quickly resolved without the need for arbitration.

One PNG critic has loudly complained we’re doing nothing about coin doctoring. Wrong. After our extensive, initial attempts to create a definition of doctoring were rejected in a democratic vote by the PNG membership, we’re still working to craft an acceptable and enforceable definition. In the meantime, no one — repeat, no one — has filed any formal complaints with PNG about any members involved in doctoring, which is in violation of the PNG Code of Ethics regarding knowingly dealing with altered or repaired numismatic items without fully disclosing their status to customers. No doctoring complaints. Not even from a loud critic who seems to have evidence, but has refused to provide us with anything except criticism. We encourage anyone with substantive information to provide us with specific details. PNG investigates every formal complaint.

The numismatic marketplace is large; from “vest pocket dealers” who work the floor at coin shows to neighborhood “brick ’n mortar” shops to major dealers and auction houses. There’s an old, but important axiom: If you don’t know coins, you’d better know your coin dealer. We welcome your comments. Visit personally with our members at the PNG Day on Aug. 13. Just let us know you’d like to attend and we’ll send you an invitation.

We’re not perfect, no one is, but if you’re serious about numismatics, you should check us out at www.PNGdealers.com.

Robert Brueggeman is executive director of the Professional Numismatists Guild.

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