US Coins

Avoid mistakes in the hobby by getting a numismatic education

Educating himself numismatically prevented author Brad Karoleff from making a mistake and buying a purported 1950-D Jefferson 5-cent coin altered from another coin. Shown is a genuine 1950-D Jefferson 5-cent coin.

Images courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

Numismatic education comes in many forms. Collectors today have many more options to enhance their knowledge of the hobby than I did as a novice.

The greatest teacher, and most unforgiving, is experience. I often call it the University of Hard Knocks. After making a mistake that either loses money or that ties up money in an undesirable coin, one has a tendency to remember the error. But how can we avoid making the error in the first place?

I distinctly remember early in my collecting career purchasing a book on counterfeit detection. I was about to purchase a 1950-D Jefferson 5-cent coin to complete my collection and was able to avoid purchasing an altered date coin thanks to the knowledge I obtained from that book. That experience was the foundation for forming my numismatic library.

Today, beginning numismatists not only have multiple numismatic books available, but also multiple organizations to join. These individual organizations normally have a newsletter or journal they publish for the membership. The freshest research is normally presented in these club publications.

Another wonderful opportunity is the opportunity to attend the American Numismatic Association Summer Seminar presented each year in Colorado Springs, Colo. Students learn about the various areas of numismatics in each class they choose to attend. The entertainment, knowledge, and friendships acquired at the seminar will last a lifetime.

Many collectors are not able to take the time or dedicate the funds to attend a seminar in Colorado Springs. What can they do to further their numismatic education on a budget?

The ANA offers a correspondence course on numismatics that any member can access and complete at home. It is the ANA School of Numismatics Diploma Program. Each of its six courses is completed with an open book exam, but the final exam is a 200-question, closed-book exam that must be supervised by a proctor. The student has two years to complete the program. Mentors are available from the ANA to help students through the program.

ANA membership is required and the cost of the diploma program is $399 plus $10 shipping. You will receive five course books and a video to add to your library. After graduation you will receive your diploma acknowledging you as a Numismatic Scholar. The knowledge will last a lifetime and will surely save you more money than the cost of the course, by preventing numismatic blunders.

You can obtain more information on the course by contacting the ANA at

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