An Interview with Ben Wengel, NGC Summer Intern

Posted on 8/13/2009

NGC was fortunate to have a talented and ambitious intern on staff this summer. Read the full interview here.

Ben Wengel is a specialist in VAMs and recently completed a six-week internship with NGC. He is entering his senior year at Beachwood High School in Cleveland, Ohio, plays the clarinet in the band and is an avid Cleveland Cavaliers fan. Ben can attribute 400 to 500 VAMs from memory and is currently writing a book on die markers for Top 50 Peace Dollars.

How long have you been collecting?
For almost 10 years. I started when I was 8 years old.

What kind of collection do you have?
Mostly VAMs. I did a lot of modern commemoratives when I was younger and I have some contemporary counterfeits (Micro O’s) and pattern coins.

What about VAMs attracts you?
I fell into it around age 12 or 13. I purchased a Top 100 book and it really interested me. I started going to shows, cherry picking and eventually developed to a point where I wanted to start making discoveries.

Have you discovered VAMs?
In June 2008, I was the youngest person to discover a VAM. Currently, I have 24 discoveries.

Any particular highlight discovery coins?
Nothing in particular. No “list coins” but a couple of pitted reverses, die breaks and minor doublings.

Any dream coins you are looking for?
I’ve always wanted to cherry pick a Proof Morgan, a circ one. I’ve heard of this happening a couple of times.

Are you a member of any organizations?
I am a life member of SSDC (Society of Silver Dollar Collectors) and a member of ANA, Coneca, and National Silver Dollar Roundtable.

Have you built a registry set?
Yes, I am on the NGC registry for Top 50 Peace Dollars.

What did you learn during your internship?
I basically revamped the entire way that I grade coins. Looking back, I wonder how I graded coins before this internship.

Do you feel comfortable with your grading of circulated and uncirculated material?
Mostly the uncirculated and problem coins. I didn’t touch up on the circulated too much, but it has really helped.

What is your rough estimate of how many dollars you looked at while you were here?
I would estimate it in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Are there any particular coins you saw that were highlights?
I saw some great rarities while I was here, including a (1907 $20) Ultra High Relief and a Proof Bust Dollar graded 66 Cameo. Also, a 1794 dollar came through along with a bunch of early gold type coins that you never get to see.

What are your plans for the future?
I am interested in business. After completing high school, I plan to attend college.

Are you interested in a career in numismatics and, if so, anything in particular that you are interested in targeting?
I really want it to be a career. I would probably stick with VAMs and target variety attribution and research. I wouldn’t mind grading.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in variety collecting or numismatics?
Read up and know what you are doing before you start buying.