Never Too Old to Learn Something New

Posted on 12/28/2017

Take advantage of opportunities to enhance your numismatic expertise.

During my 40-plus-year career, I have handled about every coin in the Redbook. My knowledge of United States coinage is extensive, and I spend a considerable of amount of time doing numismatic research. There is always something new to learn, and new discoveries are constantly being made.

Unfortunately, my expert numismatic knowledge is pretty much limited to United States coinage. I have a general knowledge of other parts of the market, but I usually need to consult someone when offered a rare piece of currency, ancient coin, world coin, token or medal.

Recently, I was having lunch with a young protégé, and I told him that one of my biggest regrets was not becoming more proficient in other parts of the numismatic market. I encouraged him to continue to learn as much about United States coinage, but not to ignore other areas of the market.

For any young person wanting to become a professional numismatist, they are leaving a lot of money on the table by ignoring the above-mentioned specialties. Over the course of a long career, having in-depth knowledge of paper money, world or ancient coins, and exonumia can pay huge dividends. I can think of very little advice for someone just getting started that would be more valuable.

I am going to take my own advice in the coming months. For years, I have bought and sold paper money with very little knowledge or expertise. I find the subject of grading paper particularly perplexing. It seems like every time I find a scarce note, the buyer finds some flaw that was not obvious to me. From what I understand (which is very little), a piece of currency can be crisp and new, but a tiny corner fold makes it Almost Uncirculated. It would be like a coin with a bag mark dropping from MS 65 to AU 58.

Obviously, condition is very important with anything numismatics, and knowledge is power.

This March, before the upcoming ANA show in Dallas, Texas, the American Numismatic Association is conducting a two-day seminar on grading currency. The class will be taught by former PMG grader Glen Jorde. I have decided it’s time for me to at least the learn the fundamentals of currency grading. The ANA will also be teaching a class on grading United States coinage. These two-day seminars are very popular and usually sell out well in advance. I have a LOT of questions about the subject of currency grading, and I’m very excited to learn as much as possible during those two days.

One of the primary reasons for writing this article is to remind everyone about next year’s ANA Summer Seminars. These seminars are one of the best educational programs the ANA offers. Each year, over 300 students and instructors (many NGC employees) descend on Colorado Springs for a week of numismatic immersion. Many students return year after year to improve their numismatic skills. Most also enjoy the comradery, and many make lifelong friends.

The ANA and several other organizations offer scholarships to attend Summer Seminar. My first ANA Summer Seminar was in 1974 after having won a full scholarship to study Colonial coinage with my longtime mentor, Ken Bressett. I can accurately state that my week of numismatic study in 1974 changed my life forever. Information about the seminar and scholarships can be found at

The Summer Seminars are held over a two-week period from June 16 to June 28. There are two primary sessions of classes, with tons of activity in between and during the night. There is also an exciting coin show that is held in Colorado Springs between the two sessions.

The following is a partial list of classes being offered at ANA Summer Seminar:

  • Grading United States Coins (beginner, intermediate and advance)
  • The Business of Being a Coin Dealer
  • Detection of Counterfeit and Altered Coins
  • Detecting Counterfeit World Paper Money
  • World Numismatics
  • Collecting Roman Coinage
  • Numismatic Paper Money of Early America
  • Numismatic Publishing
  • The Modern Minting Process
  • Introduction to Numismatic Photography
  • Coin Carving: Modern Hobo Nickels
  • Collecting Mexican Coinage
  • Creating a Winning Numismatic Exhibit
  • Collecting United States Type Coins
  • Medals in America
  • Collecting Morgan Dollars
  • Early American Copper Coins

There are also several mini classes and evening lectures on a variety of numismatic subjects. One of the highlights of the week is a massive library sale of numismatic books that helps raise money for scholarships.

Please visit and download the full course catalog. Whether you attend a short course during a coin show, or travel to Colorado Springs for the full experience, these numismatic education opportunities will be among the best money you ever spend as a collector.

Numismatic education is vital to be a successful collector. The more you know about the area of the hobby you have chosen, the more you will enjoy collecting. You will also do much better financially when it comes time to sell.

Wish me luck in Dallas. If there is a test at the end, I hope I can pass!

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Jeff Garrett bio

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