The Joys of Collecting column from the May 2, 2016, Monthly issue of Coin World:
Located on the 11th floor of 75 Varick St. in New York City, the American Numismatic Society today is a dynamic organization with the greatest numismatic library in America and, perhaps tied with the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian, the greatest institutional collection.
Actually, the two are very different. If you want to be amazed by Colonial coins and large copper cents, the ANS has everything. If you want to see the be-all and end-all in American gold coins, go to the Smithsonian. To learn more about the ANS check the Internet.
The hobby (or is it an industry?) of coin collecting has a rich history dating back to the 19th century. I find this to be fascinating to explore. The ANS is a vital part of that.
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As mentioned in recent columns, the society was founded New York City in 1858. In this year and in 1859 it was a brilliant comet in the numismatic sky and held many meetings. Then it flared out and disappeared, or seemed to.
Lo and behold, at the home of George H. Perine, M.D., on Jan. 23, 1864, a meeting of the ANS was held. In attendance were Mortimer S. Brown, Isaac J. Greenwood, Edward Groh, Frank H. Norton, James Oliver, and Dr. Perine — several old members plus the new face of Perine. Enthusiasm must have prevailed, for another meeting took place March 11, at which time the name of the group was changed to the American Numismatic and Archaeological Society, probably in an effort to appeal to a wider population than just the numismatic community. The society had a collection, including some coins, tokens, and medals from the earlier days.
On Monday, April 4, 1864, the Metropolitan Sanitary Fair opened in New York City, proceeds to benefit sick and wounded soldiers.
Along with hundreds of paintings and many exhibits in a large building on 14th Street near Sixth Avenue, the ANS had an exhibit of interesting coins dating back to ancient times.
April 27, 1865, the ANS commissioned local engraver Emil Sigel, well-known for his many Civil War tokens, to create a 3-inch medal depicting recently martyred President Lincoln. A die broke and many other problems beset the project. Not until April 1866 were medals available for subscribers, by which time the martyred president had been dead for a year. Today such medals are rare and highly prized.