US Coins

ANS continues legacy of numismatic research

The American Numismatic Society has been at the center of numismatic research opportunities for more than 150 years.

Original images courtesy of American Numismatic Society.

The Joys of Collecting column from the March 14 Weekly issue of Coin World:

Some time ago, as a trustee of the New Hampshire Historical Society, I was involved in a discussion of how to improve public attendance. We took note that “Discovery Center” was a popular new name for museums and that the National Park Service uses “Interpretative Center.” 

By such thinking, if either the American Numismatic Association in Colorado Springs. Colo., or the American Numismatic Society in New York City would change its name to the American Rare Coin Discovery Center, attendance could see a sharp uptrend.

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This brings me to a new little series of columns about the American Numismatic Society, today a dynamic organization with the largest numismatic library and the most extensive research facility in the United States. I have been a member since 1958.

Let me start at the beginning:

In 1857, a great passion arose for coin collecting in America. The Act of Feb. 21, 1857, provided, among other things, that the familiar copper cent that jingled in pockets since childhood would be abolished, and in its place would be a new, smaller cent with a Flying Eagle design. Countless people feeling pangs of nostalgia sought to look through change and find as many different dates of cents as possible.

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The 1799 Draped Bust cent proved to be rare, the 1793 cents scarce, the 1804 Draped Bust cent slightly scarce. Hardly anyone knew that due to a lack of planchets on hand, no cents were struck dated 1815.

Also in 1815, Historical Magazine was founded. Many entries were devoted to rare coins.

Soon, Jeremiah Colburn began contributing coin columns to a Boston paper, and in New York City Augustus B. Sage did the same. Born May 13, 1841, Sage was a teenager with a sense of exploration and discovery. He learned numismatics the hard way — from old accounts in magazines and newspapers, by visiting museums, and talking and corresponding with others. No clubs or societies were devoted to numismatics. 

That changed Dec. 28, 1857, when seven enthusiasts met in Philadelphia to contemplate founding the Philadelphia Numismatic Society, which was done on Jan. 1. Sage considered a similar group. He sent a letter to a number of friends. March 15, 1858, in the Sage family apartment upstairs at 121 Essex St., the ANS was born. The rest is history.


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