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Steve Roach

The Art of Collecting

Steve Roach

Steve Roach, Coin World’s editor-at-large, has been deeply involved with numismatics for more than 20 years, starting as a young coin collector in Michigan. Two years spent as a coin grader, nearly three years at a major coin wholesaler and a stint as a paintings specialist at an international auction house have given Steve a rich understanding of the hobby, its market and the unique personalities and exceptional objects that make collecting meaningful. He joined Coin World in 2006 as a columnist, and has served as associate editor and editor-in-chief. He received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Michigan, a juris doctorate from the Ohio State University and is a Certified Member of the International Society of Appraisers.

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Archive for 'March 2015'

    Is being a coin collecting ‘oddball’ such a bad thing?

    March 31, 2015 11:44 AM by

    Are numismatists oddballs, and is that necessarily a bad thing? 

    Several of our eagle-eyed readers picked up on Jessica Pressler’s March 20 review of Kabir Sehgal’s new book Coined: The Rich Life of Money and How its History Has Shaped Us published in New York Times Book Review

    Pressler writes that the book’s author (an investment banker) is “not unaware of his privilege, and his thoughtfulness comes across as a pleasant surprise, particularly in the latter half of the book, where he introduces a gang of numismatists — coin collectors — whose hobby in the social food chain probably ranks somewhere below gold bugs and just above Civil War reenactors.” She adds, “Sehgal is respectful, even affectionate toward these oddballs,” ending the review, “Cool story, bro.” 

    Perhaps a harsh assessment.  

    Considering that, generally speaking, numismatists are financially successful, well-educated and among the most interesting people I’ve encountered, as a numismatist, I suppose I’ll wear the oddball badge with pride.

    Opportunities abound in our 'fierce' hobby

    March 25, 2015 11:25 AM by
    Paul Gilkes, in his wonderful cover story in this month’s issue, writes that after 27 years working at Coin World, “I can’t help but notice the number of familiar faces of dealers that I encounter show after show, year after year.”

    Coin collecting and numismatics as an industry is one in which one’s knowledge base grows deeper and broader with the passage of time. Each coin show introduces a collector to new coins and people; each addition to one’s collection helps educate the buyer and each passing year in our hobby brings us new people to meet and things to collect and discover.

    The stories that Paul shares in this month’s issue, and in the coming weekly issues in April, have common threads throughout, including a love of the hobby and longevity in it.

    Many, if not most of the stories involve an interest in coins that starts young, including for Q. David Bowers, who has been active in coins since he was a curious 13-year-old in 1952.

    Another common thread is that each person has had help along the way, in the form of mentors who have helped them develop their skills as a numismatist. Some continued in a family business, others started working under a dealer, while others picked up the collecting bug from a family member.

    The subjects of Paul’s story also share a love of the deal and of placing coins with collectors. As Heritage’s co-chairman Steve Ivy told Paul, the business of numismatics is “fierce,” but one that is ripe for entrepreneurship.

    Our hobby rewards those who go after what they want, treat people with respect, and honor those who have helped them along the way.

    As I reflect on what I’ve learned here at Coin World, I’m thankful for the lessons that former Editor-in-Chief Beth Deisher instilled and continues to share. I’m amazed at the mastery and tireless dedication to quality that news editor Bill Gibbs showcases every day.

    Each member of our editorial staff teaches me something daily as they cover the world of numismatics in our pages and online, and our contributors and columnists continue to educate me alongside our readers.

    It is always exciting to be part of such a dynamic and interesting hobby, and as the individual stories in our feature article show, the possibilities in our hobby are endless for those willing to learn and take chances. 

    Balancing cultural property protection and private collecting

    March 16, 2015 11:59 AM by

    Memorandums of understanding between the United States and other nations to protect cultural property serve a noble purpose. The broad concept behind these MOUs is perhaps even more relevant today, as we’ve seen certain political groups attempt to wipe out the material history of entire cultures.

    However, for an MOU to be effective, it also needs to be practical and enforceable. The possibility of the extension of the MOU between the United States and Italy that includes Roman Imperial coins is very real, and could have a wide negative impact on the market for ancient coins in the United States.

    Blanket import restrictions on coins aren’t necessarily practical as ancient coins enjoyed wide circulation well beyond their place of creation. This makes it often impossible to determine whether a particular coin was discovered within Italy and is, thus, subject to the export control of Italy. Further, it’s challenging to prove a given coin was illegally excavated from a specific site.

    Further, these MOUs create an uneven playing field between collectors in the United States and those elsewhere, including Italy, who are not hampered by these restrictions.

    While the Cultural Property Advisory Committee once excluded coins, coins are now included in MOUs between the United States and Cyprus, China, Italy, Greece and Bulgaria.

    As attorney Peter Tompa wrote in his blog, “It has never made sense to place restrictions on ancient coins, particularly when there is large, open and legal internal market for the exact same sort of coins within Italy itself.”

    Tompa adds that the imposition of an MOU “must also be consistent with the general interest of the international community in the interchange of cultural property among nations for scientific, cultural, and educational purposes.” Given that much numismatic scholarship is the result of private collectors, rather than museums or other cultural institutions, is it in the best interest to put in place broad restrictions that limit the collecting of these coins?

    Archaeologist Paul Legutko wrote in the public comments on the proposed MOU: “The academic field of classical archaeology would not exist today without the centuries of collecting that have stocked American museums and provided material for countless doctoral dissertations. It is hypocritical for academics to condemn the private ownership of antiquities, without which they would have neither their study material nor so many students in their classrooms.”

    Roman coins were more than a method of transferring value; they also communicated ideas and the power of Rome. Legutko observed, “The Romans who struck these coins would have welcomed the idea that these coins would travel thousands of miles to be studied and appreciated.”

    There are perhaps more effective ways to protect cultural property than implementing MOUs that include wide categories of objects that are too broad for practical enforcement.

    Mastery and the skill (and art) of readable numismatic writing

    March 9, 2015 3:47 PM by

    It’s currently a popular notion that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Coin World has been fortunate to have several longtime staff members who have developed true mastery of the skill (and art) of informative and entertaining numismatic writing.

    This issue represents Michele Orzano’s final week on the masthead, although you’ll likely see her byline in the weeks to come.

    Michele has been our go-to writer for all things paper money for more than two decades. A fixture at the Memphis paper money show, Michele’s knowledge of the paper money field will be missed.

    But, we’ll also miss Michele’s stories on the people who shape our hobby and make it into the fascinating place it is.

    She came to Coin World in 1985 not as a numismatist, but as a newspaper writer with an education in journalism. Her approach to storytelling, aversion to esoteric jargon and the way she has brought items together in her stories using plain-language reflects that experience.

    Writing about coins and paper money for 52 print issues a year, along with the additional daily demands of a robust website, isn’t easy.

    It takes patience, dedication and an understanding that our audience is specialized, but still wants interesting, readable stories that help them learn about things in their collection and introduce them to new collecting areas.

    Michele wrote beyond paper. For example, she was essential in Coin World’s coverage of the 50 States quarter dollars, from the program’s initial stirrings to the last coins for U.S. Territories and the District of Columbia in the follow-up program in 2009.

    She’s written hundreds of stories on the legislation that authorizes coins, new notes produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and banks around the world, and just about everything else numismatic.

    When I asked her what she’ll remember most about the hobby that she grew so familiar with, Michele wanted to thank “all the people who willingly gave of their time to answer my questions and teach me to look for the stories behind the collectibles we write about.”

    Writing about numismatics is a skill that can be learned with time and patience, but it takes a special person to do it well for nearly 30 years.

    The richness in background and the sense of how a singular event plays into history, as well as a memory of prior coverage provides an intangible depth to the stories written by our longtime writers, including William T. Gibbs (since 1976), Paul Gilkes (since 1988) and Jeff Starck (since 2003) that continues to inspire me (since 2006).

    Michele provides a high standard for the next generation of writers to aspire to, and the hobby is better off because of her work.

    Thank you, Michele, from all of us at Coin World. And thank you, our readers, for allowing us to join you each week as you pursue your hobby.

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    Commemorative coins honoring Mark Twain long overdue

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