Posted by Jeff Garrett on 9/26/2013
Over the last 35 years of collecting and dealing rare coins I have met many wonderful and very knowledgeable individuals. Quite a few of these people have had a profound impact on my career and life. As I have mentioned several times before, mentors can be extremely valuable in your numismatic journey. As a new feature for the NGC Weekly Market Report, I will occasionally contact a numismatic luminary and ask them ten questions related to rare coins. Hopefully you will enjoy hearing their answers as much as I do.
Our first interview is with noted numismatic legend, Ken Bressett. He is known as “Mr. Red Book”. My history with Ken goes back to the mid-1970s. I had won a scholarship to the ANA Summer Seminar to study Colonial Coinage. My teacher was none other than Ken Bressett. I have very fond memories of one of my first numismatic adventures. Today, Ken Bressett, Dave Bowers, and I work closely on the Red Book each year. Ken has many valuable insights that I am sure you will find interesting.
- Q: Ken, how long have you been involved with the Red Book?
A. I began sharing numismatic information with Dick Yeoman in 1956, and did it out of friendship and concern for the accuracy in the book. In 1959, he asked me to move to Racine, WI and work for him full time on this and other projects.
- Q: How has the process of pricing changed since you began work on the Red Book?
A: The basic process is the same in that we still survey key US dealers and average their opinions to gain an insight into current price trends. In the early days we did the calculations without use of computers or even adding machines. Today the system is far more refined and computers do much of the work for us. The final numbers still require human analysis and consideration of factors that machines simply cannot supply.
- Q: Do you think the Red Book will continue to be an important source of pricing in the future?
A: Yes, because it is a handy source of information for so many frequently asked questions, and because it stays abreast with all of the rapidly changing parts of the hobby. One of its most important uses is that it provides a benchmark for tracking where prices were at about the same time every year for the past 65+ years.
- Q: We are most familiar with your work regarding United States coins. What other areas of numismatics interest you?
A: I enjoy all aspects of numismatics, but have refrained from actually collecting US coins to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest. I collect coins of China and Japan because they are so challenging, and ancient Greek silver coins because they are historical and beautiful.
- Q: If price were no object, what coin would you most want to own?
A: The ancient silver decadrachm of Syracuse known as the Demaretion.
- Q: Do you still travel to rare coin events, and which is your favorite?
A: I like to visit the major shows to stay in touch with the market and visit with long-time friends. The ANA is undoubtedly the most important show of the year, while the FUN is, well, the most fun.
- Q: Who is the most interesting person you have met in your years of numismatics?
A: Eric P. Newman. I recently attended a party for him on his 102 birthday. He regaled me with stories from his past and the many enjoyable times we spent together. His incredible memory and life experiences are astounding, and extend far beyond what most people only know about his numismatic activities. He is truly a modern Man for All Seasons, and a great humanitarian.
- Q: Who had the greatest influence on your career?
A: Eric P. Newman. He has been my numismatic mentor for nearly 60 years. But beyond that he has greatly influenced many decisions in my life and career choices. His moral values and work ethics are inspirational. His broad numismatic knowledge is uncanny.
- Q: You have published quite a few books in the last several years. What are you working on now?
A: Right now I am doing research on the origin of money and its many and various uses. Perhaps it will become a book someday, but my reason for this study is the enjoyment I get from staying involved in numismatics at all levels.
- Q: What is your best piece of advice for new collectors?
A: Follow your heart and collect whatever appeals to you regardless of popular trends.