The word “exploring” might best describe Robert W. Hoge’s life.
Hoge served for 12 years as the curator of North American Coins
and Currency at the American Numismatic Society. In April he
officially retired and took on the title of curator emeritus.
“I’m still exploring what all the title entails,” he said, during
an interview Oct. 4 with Coin World from the ANS offices on the 11th
floor of 75 Varick St. in New York City.
While at the ANS, Hoge served as curator for the North American
section, “but also [for] the Medals, Latin American, Medieval, and
entire Modern departments and, following the retirement of Michael
Bates, of the Islamic, South and East Asian departments as well. It
was fortunate that he knew not only French, Spanish and Latin, but had
studied Chinese, Arabic and Urdu as well,” acknowledges an ANS news
release summarizing his duties.
Following his father’s discharge from the U.S. Army, Hoge and his
family moved to Colorado.
He began to develop a focus on exploration when he announced to
his family that he wanted to be an archaeologist. He was 4 years old,
His mother’s uncle was an archaeologist and some of Hoge’s
interest could have been the result of that influence, he said.
By 1956 his lifelong love of history had kicked in after watching
the film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s novel War and Peace, starring
“From then on I wanted to collect militaria,” he said.
He remembers that, as a young child of about 8 or 9 years old,
while exploring a pond, he came across an arrowhead.
“For a period of time [after that] I wanted to be an Indian,” Hoge
said. “I would organize the neighbor kids my age and we would pretend.”
While in elementary school he recalls he and his classmates
participating in “show and tell.” He said some students brought in
coins and passed them around. Hoge became more intrigued with these
metal bits of history.
“I started getting rolls from banks but never found any Indian
Head cents,” Hoge said. “My grandmothers and a great-grandmother gave
me coins and my mother was always on the lookout [for coins] and
ordered them for me from dealers.”
He said the first coin he ever bought at a coin show was a Fugio
copper when he was 10 years old. He paid all of a dollar for this
tangible piece of history.
On his 12th birthday, his father surprised him by giving him a
coin collection he’d been putting together since before the younger
Hoge was born.
Hoge continued his fascination with exploring by majoring in
anthropology while attending the University of Colorado. He did his
post-graduate work at both the University of Chicago and the
University of Colorado, studying anthropology, history, geography and education.
In 1976, Hoge said, a friend told him of an opening on staff at
the Sanford Museum and Planetarium in Cherokee, Iowa. Hoge obtained a
position there. He described those five and half years working as a
director as a “great opportunity.”
In 1981 Hoge moved back to Colorado, specifically to Colorado
Springs, to become the first professional curator of the American
Numismatic Association Money Museum.
“What a fine position and a marvelous opportunity to learn
numismatics,” Hoge recalled.
He helped out the ANA authentication service, where he was able to
assure one collector that the Pine Tree shilling he found in a vending
machine was indeed genuine.
“It was the most concentric and flat piece I’d seen,” Hoge said.
He began teaching at the ANA Summer Seminars, where he enjoyed the
interaction with students.
Another special moment, Hoge said, was when he received a
telephone call from Doris Bass, the widow of collector and ANA
benefactor Harry W. Bass Jr.
“She asked if the ANA wanted Harry’s [gold] collection [for
exhibit on long-term loan],” he said, adding that the answer was an
The Harry W. Bass Foundation and the Harry W. Bass Jr. Research
Foundation, created by Bass before his death in 1998, financed the
creation of the Bass exhibit at the ANA museum.
The 500-plus pieces that constitute the Bass Core Collection, the
most complete known collection U.S. gold coins by die variety, is
displayed in a vault-like setting in the museum. The exhibit and
renovated ANA headquarters opened to the public July 14, 2001.
In June 2001 Hoge announced his resignation from his ANA
curatorial position. Hoge said he’d been thinking about making a
change. He said he already had twice been offered a position with the
ANS during his ANA tenure but had declined. In 2001, he said, he was
ready to make the move.
“The day I dropped off my key at my apartment rental office in
Colorado, I saw [the planes hit the Twin Towers] on the television in
the rental office,” Hoge said. “I thought, ‘What am I getting into?’ ”
When he was able to get a flight to New York City, he found upon
arrival that he couldn’t get into his new apartment because of the
upheaval in the city.
He said he stayed with friends for the first two weeks. But
despite the dramatic start of his next adventure, he said he felt
warmly welcomed at the ANS.
In addition to his curatorial duties at the ANS, Hoge was heavily
involved with the ANS Coinage of the Americas Conferences as well as
being a member of the J. Sanford Saltus Award Committee for
outstanding achievement in the art of the medal.
Hoge’s writing prowess is another avenue that has provided a look
at his explorations. Not only has he contributed chapters in books, he
has written numerous articles for the ANS Magazine as well as a
regular column in the magazine, “Current Cabinet Activities.”
One of the most interesting bequests Hoge cataloged for the ANS
museum was the Julius Korein Collection of Gobrecht dollars.
In December 2012 Hoge took another step in exploring all that life
has to offer, when he married Immaculada “Imma” Socias i Batet.
Hoge said his wife is an art historian and professor at the
University of Barcelona in Spain. He said the two met when she was a
visiting scholar at the Hispanic Society of America. The Hispanic
Society is located on Audubon Terrace in New York City, next door to
the former location of ANS headquarters.
Hoge recalls someone at the Hispanic Society referred her to the
ANS for information about one of her research projects. He said he
“was the person on staff who generally handled referrals for information.”
“She’d been coming to the Hispanic Society for years to do
research,” he said.
“We probably crossed paths many times [when the ANS was located
next door to the Hispanic Society] and never realized it,” he added.
Hoge said his newest challenge is to learn Catalan, a form of
Spanish spoken in the northeastern part of Spain where his wife grew up.
Hoge said he will continue researching and writing about topics of
interest to him as well as helping the ANS whenever possible.
“There’s always something to learn,” Hoge said. ■