ANA Celebrates 125 Years

Posted on 4/21/2016

A strong national collector organization is important and your membership in the ANA will help to provide the resources needed to ensure the future of the hobby.

As most of you know, last year I became President of the American Numismatic Association (ANA). The ANA is very important, as it is the largest organization devoted to numismatic education and promotion of our hobby. The ANA offers many member benefits, including the largest lending library, a world class coin and currency museum, the largest coin show in the world, and one of the finest numismatic magazines. I have been a life member since the early 1970s.

The ANA currently has about 24,000 members. This number has been stable for the last few years but has plenty of room for growth. One of my most important goals while President of the ANA is to increase our membership. This is vital for those who collect rare coins. The growth of the hobby and numismatic education is important for anyone who may sell their collection in the future. Everyone agrees that we need more young people to became interested in the hobby, and the ANA does this better than anyone.

The ANA was founded in 1891 by George F. Heath. It was formed to advance knowledge of numismatics and has stayed true to this mission ever since. 2016 marks the 125th Anniversary of the ANA. As part of the 125th Anniversary celebration, the ANA has launched an innovative membership drive. Several donors supplied the ANA with 2,500 Silver Eagles dated 2016. NGC very generously graded and encapsulated the coins with a special “limited edition” 125th Anniversary label. Any new member, or current member who renews for three years, receives an MS 69 example. Any new life member who signs up will receive an MS 70 coin! Since the launch of the program last week, headquarters has said the "phones are ringing off the hook."

ANA 125th Anniversary Silver Eagles
Click images to enlarge.


Since we are celebrating the 125th anniversary of the ANA, I think a brief look at the organization's history would be helpful.

Dr. George F. Heath created a small magazine devoted to numismatics in 1888. The original four page leaflet was titled simply NUMISMATIST. The new publication found a following, and later became The Numismatist in 1891. The February 1891 edition printed a question, “What is the matter with having an American Numismatic Association?" A follow-up statement was included: “There is nothing like the alliance of kindred pursuits to stimulate growth and interest.” On October 7, 1891, five men—Heath, William G. Jerrems, David Harlowe, J.A. Heckelman and John Brydon—met in Chicago to create the organization we know today as the ANA.

Heath then introduced the idea of numismatic conventions where members could meet one another. The first convention was held in 1891, then annually until 1896, and then in 1901 and 1904. After 1907 it was decided to hold conventions annually thereafter. The ANA library has many wonderful photographs of these early annual events. Many of the numismatic luminaries of the day are featured in the panoramic images taken to commemorate the events. Early conventions were attended by B. Max Mehl, the Chapman brothers, and Farran Zerbe among others. In 1919 Samuel Brown brought at least one of his newly announced 1913 Liberty Nickels to the convention in Chicago.

ANA conventions have always been a very important part of the organization. For decades the ANA has conducted what is considered the “must attend” event of the numismatic year. The shows feature one of the most important rare coin auctions of the year, with many fabulous collections having been sold. Many specialty collector organizations meet at the conventions, and a host of numismatic educational events are offered.

In 1908, Dr. Heath suddenly died, and Farran Zerbe, then President of the ANA, purchased The Numismatist from the heirs of Dr. Heath. In 1911 W.C.C. Wilson purchased The Numismatist from Zerbe and presented it to the organization. Since that period, the magazine has been owned and published monthly by the ANA. Many feel that Farran Zerbe may have abused his power at the time and took advantage of his position. Regardless of the early mishaps, The Numismatist has for decades been one of the best magazines devoted to the hobby. It should be noted that members can now view online the entire 125 years of the magazine. This is worth the cost of membership alone.

In 1912, the ANA attained national prominence as it was granted a Federal Charter signed by President William H. Taft. Later, in 1967, a permanent headquarters for the ANA was constructed in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The building now houses offices and a world class numismatic museum and library. The museum also houses the Harry W. Bass collection of American gold coins, pattern coinage and currency. Some of the finest coins in the world can be seen at the museum.

Please consider being a part of our 125th anniversary by taking advantage of the Silver Eagle membership drive. A strong national organization is important and your membership in the ANA will help provide the resources needed to ensure the future of the hobby. Do yourself a favor and join today!

Jeff Garrett bio

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