A few weeks ago the American Numismatic Society presented John Weston
Adams with its Archer Huntington Award medal, an honor reflecting his
decades of numismatic research and scholarship. John, born in 1936,
discovered rare coins at age 9 when he tried to fill his Whitman
folders with one of each Lincoln cent from 1909 to date.
Today, John is as active as ever in numismatics, is the author of
several reference books and countless articles, and is probably
exploring some new frontier in the hobby — a true Renaissance Man.
Many collectors burn out in a year or two. How has John sustained
this interest for nearly 70 years? The answer: by diversifying his
interests and exploring new areas.
Similarly, Emery May Holden Norweb, born in 1896, entered the hobby
at the age of 10 when her father gave her an old coin. This started
one of the most remarkable careers in the history of our hobby. Over a
long period of time, she accomplished much in one field (her
collection of American Colonial and federal coins was one of the
finest ever formed) and then went to another. Before she passed away
in 1984 at the age of 88, her latest passion was communion tokens of
Scotland! There was always something new to be learned.
When John Adams reached a point of satisfaction in one series, he
went on to explore another. From Lincoln cents he moved on to collect
other specialties, ranging from Flying Eagle and Indian Head cents to
copper cents of 1794 (he built one of the finest collections ever), to
Betts medals treating the history of Colonial America, the medals of
John Law (famous speculator), to Comitia America medals authorized by
Congress, to Admiral Vernon medals.
I can speak to the same philosophy from my own experience. I started
at the age of 13 in 1952 with Whitman folders and a search for Lincoln
cents. Along the way I became a dealer. I decided not to compete with
my clients in the field of federal coins. I took roads less traveled,
such as counterstamped coins, tokens, and obsolete paper money.
Above all, I collected information. While still a teenager, I
interviewed B. Max Mehl, Stephen Nagy, Charles Foster, Joseph and
Morton Stack, and many other dealers and collectors. I bought not only
numismatic books, but many volumes on American history. If asked, and
without using notes, I could probably give a day-long seminar on the
California Gold Rush, the Philadelphia Mint, lost and found treasures,
and several other topics.
What does this have to do with you? Henry David Thoreau suggested,
to make life more enjoyable: Simplify. Simplify.
With a nod to him I suggest that to make your numismatic life more
enjoyable: Diversify. Diversify.