The Professional Numismatists Guild beginning in 2014 will sponsor a mentoring program at leading U.S. numismatic firms, with the goal for participants being full-time employment in the hobby.
The PNG expects to begin soliciting applications this fall from qualified candidates for the four 2014 internships. Specific information about how to apply for the internship program is expected to be announced in September.
The inaugural Promoting Numismatic Growth mentoring program for each intern will include prerequisite virtual instruction online about coins and the coin market followed by a rotation of three-month internships at participating dealerships and grading services.
PNG will fund the interns’ living expenses, while the participating firms will be responsible for the salary of the intern they are mentoring, according to PNG Executive Director Robert Brueggeman.
Brueggeman said that during the program’s first year, PNG’s costs to finance the program will total approximately $185,000, with support through fundraising. Brueggeman said PNG is committed to the program financially even before formal fundraising begins.
The mentoring internships will involve three-month rotations at a major auction house, a grading service, a coin shop and at a dealership that travels the coin show circuit nationwide, Brueggeman said.
The four firms that have already signed on to the program, Brueggeman said, are Heritage Auctions in Dallas; Spectrum Group International in Irvine, Calif.; American Precious Metals Exchange in Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Numismatic Guaranty Corp. in Sarasota, Fla.
The four selected interns will be required to sign confidentiality agreements with each sponsoring mentor firm to legally prevent privileged proprietary information from being shared with the other competing mentor firms, Brueggeman said.
Inspiring new dealers
PNG officials indicate the expected ongoing initiative will help educate aspiring dealers and bring them into a market where offspring of existing dealers are not necessarily following in their parents’ footsteps to take over the family’s numismatic business.
“The goal of this program is to ensure industry growth through the education and mentoring of future professional numismatists,” Brueggeman said. “We’ve established a Young Numismatist Education Committee and we’ll be developing a program that will provide a basic education in the fundamentals of numismatics followed by a rotating series of three-month internship programs at four numismatic companies. We anticipate we will begin taking applications this coming fall from candidates 21 to 32 years of age, and the expense-paid internships will begin next year.”
Brueggeman said the PNG will be soliciting applications for the internship program from coin clubs, through marketing advertisements in numismatic publications and via other related opportunities.
The PNG Young Numismatist committee overseeing the initial launch of the Promoting Numismatic Growth internship program, funded through the PNG’s Ed Milas Memorial Fund, is composed of Brueggeman and PNG Board members Mitch Battino (Hudson Rare Coins Inc.), Paul Montgomery (APMEX), Barry Stuppler (Barry Stuppler & Co. Inc.) and Fred Weinberg (Fred Weinberg & Co.)
Brueggeman said likely other PNG funding sources will help finance the internship program.
A separate board of directors for the Promoting Numismatic Growth program is composed of Brueggeman, Montgomery and Donald Kagin (Kagin’s), who will report to the full nine-member PNG Board on a quarterly basis.
Ed Milas was a well-known Chicago area coin dealer (operating Rare Coin Company of America, known as RARCOA) and a former PNG president (1983 to 1985). Milas died in 2011.
“This ambitious internship project will increase interest in our profession by offering the next generation a practical means of entering the business of numismatics, and establish a pool of prospective employees with the necessary skills our PNG member-dealers are looking for,” Brueggeman said.
PNG officials will be hiring an administrator to oversee the day-to-day operations of the program, including development of the education courses and videos, recruitment and placement of interns and fundraising to pay for the project.
“We envision a combination of courses and hands-on internship experience to give future professional numismatists knowledge about grading, counterfeit detection, coin and paper money photography and auctions as well as an advanced education about numismatics in general,” said PNG President Jeffrey Bernberg of RARCOA.
“This is a huge project of unprecedented scope for the PNG and our member-dealers for the future of numismatics, but the potential positive benefits for the hobby and the profession are enormous.”
Planting a seed
Brueggeman said the foundation for the program was formed approximately six to eight months ago, with subsequent formal proposal for the mentoring project presented to and passed by the PNG Board in May during the American Numismatic Association National Money Show in New Orleans.
To be considered for an internship position, a candidate would first have to complete the yet-to-be-developed online instruction and education prerequisites and then successfully pass in-person examinations, Brueggeman said.
Brueggeman said the proctoring of in-person exams would be conducted by a PNG member who resides close to a potential intern’s home address.
Those who successfully pass the testing will represent a pool of approved candidates from which the four initial interns will be selected.
Brueggeman said the four mentoring firms can hire their respective interns anytime during the three-month stints. Should an intern not automatically be picked up by a sponsoring mentor, that intern will be marketed by the PNG to its entire membership, Brueggeman said.
If an intern is hired for a permanent job before cycling through all four positions, that internship would be considered vacant and another candidate would be permitted to begin a cycle of internship, starting in the position the prior intern left open, Brueggeman said. Those who complete the perquisite classes and PNG certification internship will be eligible for a new PNG intern membership classification. This classification has been discussed by the PNG Board but is not yet approved.
Although the intention of the mentoring program is not to turn a financial profit for the PNG, Brueggeman said it is anticipated that some of the housing and transportation costs might be recouped retroactively from the hiring firm once an intern is offered and accepts gainful employment.
Brueggeman said that PNG hopes to develop funding on a revolving basis, to allow the program to run perpetually.
“The goal is to get young people jobs in the numismatic field by having them trained and so knowledgeable that they would be hard to pass up,” Brueggeman said. “It puts them on the road to becoming a professional numismatist.”
For Weinberg, who has been a professional coin dealer for more than 40 years and a PNG member since 1975, the internship program is long overdue.
“As our industry changes and evolves, PNG sees the need to make sure there is a pathway to becoming a professional numismatist — both small coin businesses and larger coin companies are always looking for talent — coin collectors who have advanced in their studies and have a strong interest in numismatics will be able to fulfill their desire to become professional coin dealers,” Weinberg said.
“With the PNG program, we hope to identify, educate, and provide internships for a number of interested parties who, without the support of such a program, might find it difficult to get access and experience in all fields of numismatics.”
Weinberg, a past PNG president who has also served several nonconsecutive terms on the PNG board, says he’s heartened by the positive response from the organization’s membership.
“The interest level from both small and large dealers and other coin businesses has been a pleasant surprise to the PNG Board, and is an encouraging start, and a level of support that is needed to make this program a success for all parties who participate in it,” Weinberg said.
Kagin holds the distinction of earning the first bachelor of arts degree in numismatics granted by Northwestern University.
Graduate and post-graduate studies earned Kagin a doctoral degree in numismatics, with his dissertation becoming the reference Private Gold Coins and Patterns of the United States.
Kagin has spent his entire life in numismatics, and credits his vocational numismatic training and tutelage under his father, Art Kagin, a founding PNG member, and uncle, Paul Kagin, as defining factors in becoming a professional numismatist.
That type of numismatic education and what PNG is planning to offer through the internship program are key components in training the next generation of professional numismatists, Kagin said.
“I’m excited about being involved with the education and development of professional numismatists for the future,” Kagin said. “It’s been a passion of mine for several decades. We have to look to the future.”
Kagin said the year’s worth of internships provided to those qualified candidates selected will be invaluable numismatic education opportunities.
For additional information about the Professional Numismatists Guild, contact the PNG at 28441 Rancho California Road, Suite 106, Temecula, CA 92590, telephone 951-587-8300, email it at info@PNGdealers.com, or visit the PNG website, located at www.PNGdealers.com. ■