Jeff Garrett: ANA Summer Seminar

Posted on 1/16/2020

There is no better numismatic education for new collectors, prospective dealers and professionals seeking to sharpen their skills.

Last summer, I had the pleasure of spending nearly a week in Colorado Springs as an instructor at the annual American Numismatic Association (ANA) Summer Seminar. While I had been to the seminar several times during my time on the ANA Board of Governors, and many years earlier as a student, it was my first experience teaching one of the four-day classes.

Each of my previous trips provided lots of memories and many great new friends, so I was looking forward to this one. The numismatic camaraderie is amazing and one of the greatest benefits of attending.

Teach your students well

Each year, the ANA must find qualified instructors to teach during the two-week long Summer Seminar sessions. Over the years, many of the instructors have become staples at these events and minor celebrities among the collectors who enjoy their classes immensely.

Occasionally, however, for one reason or another, someone decides they have spent enough summers in Colorado Springs teaching classes. This happened last year, and I volunteered to help teach Advanced Coin Grading. NGC sponsored my expenses for the week as part of its longtime commitment to numismatic education and the ANA.

I was not sure what to expect, or exactly how someone teaches advanced coin grading. But thanks to the wonderful welcoming of veteran instructor Don Ketterling and his much junior fellow instructor, Maxwell Gregory, I was able to jump right into the process. Maxwell is a brilliant young man from my hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. At the age of 21, he was attending his seventh or eighth Summer Seminar, this time as an instructor.

The Library and Museum at ANA headquarters

Making the grade

This class was full of eager students of all ages, genders and nationalities. I was stunned by the number of young people who wanted to learn the art of rare coin grading. Most of the students already possessed some grading skills, as it is a prerequisite to complete Coin Grading 1 and 2 before moving on to Advanced Coin Grading. That being said, skill levels varied considerably at the start of the week. By the end of the class, all had mastered most of the skills required to complete the class.

Interestingly, several of the students gleefully stated that they would be taking the class again this year. The abovementioned Maxwell Gregory told me that he had taken the class more than once as well when he was attending Summer Seminars. Every class is different, and students appreciate the opportunity to sharpen their skills. More than a few stated their goal of one day becoming a professional coin dealer.

Another aspect that makes the classes worth repeating is the different coins that students are able to study each year. Dealers around the country generously loan hundreds of coins to ANA headquarters for Summer Seminar. These loans are what make the classes so interesting. I also made an effort to bring some unusual and tricky coins for their deliberations.

Numismatic education at its finest

The ANA Summer Seminar is one of the best programs the ANA conducts. It is numismatic education at its finest. Each year, over half of those in attendance are repeat students. Many of the instructors have been teaching for decades, several of which are NGC employees. The ANA is very grateful to the individuals and companies who donate their time and talent to this amazing program. The Summer Seminar could not happen without them.

One of the most wonderful aspects of the Summer Seminar are the Young Numismatist (YN) students who attend each year. Last year, over 50 YN students attended Summer Seminar. Most were able to attend because of full scholarships made available by the ANA and other numismatic organizations.

Over 45 years ago (1974), I won a scholarship to attend the ANA Summer Seminar, and I can attest to the fact that the experience can change lives. Over the years, many professional numismatists have gotten their start at the Summer Seminar. Several are now instructors wishing to give back to something that was so meaningful to them. Young collectors are the future of the hobby, and numismatic education is the best way to ensure continued interest. Scholarships also are available for adults of all ages.

Camaraderie and immersion in coin collecting

The Summer Seminar is an opportunity for numismatic learning and, as mentioned above, camaraderie. Many students stay in the Colorado College dorms and spend time after class getting to know each other. There are also several optional tours to local attractions, evening lectures and other special events.

Attending the Summer Seminar is also a great opportunity to visit ANA headquarters, the Edward C. Rochette Money Museum and the Dwight N. Manley Numismatic Library. The library is the largest lending numismatic library in the country and is fantastic to visit in person. The museum features the Harry Bass collection of gold coins that is among the finest in the world.

The Harry Bass exhibit at the ANA Museum

Most Summer Seminar classes last four days and are intended to provide full numismatic immersion. The grading classes are the most popular and usually sell out well in advance. These classes are quite challenging but offer one the best ways to learn the art of coin grading in a short amount of time.

Several students have told me that the hands-on experience of learning to grade is invaluable. The seminars give everyone a chance to examine coins they may never see in their local area. The instructors work closely with every student, making sure they are ready for the next level before moving on.

The counterfeit detection classes are also favorites. This subject has become even more relevant in recent years, and students have the opportunity to examine the large reference collection of the ANA. One of the best ways to learn about counterfeits is to examine genuine and fake coins side by side. This, with expert instruction, gives students the best possible education on the subject. The counterfeit detection class is very helpful for coin shop employees looking to sharpen their skills.

See you there!

It is now time to register for the ANA Summer Seminar and to apply for one of the many scholarships available. Most of the classes fill up early, and everyone is urged to register as soon as the course catalogue is posted. This usually happens early in the year. If you want to learn how to be a successful coin collector, there is no better numismatic education than the Summer Seminar.

I look forward to seeing you there!

It's easy to register online!

2020 Course Offerings

These are just a few of the classes available. Check online at money.org/summer-seminar for a full listing.

  • Grading United States Coins, Part 1
  • Grading United States Coins, Part 2
  • Grading United States Coins, Part 3
  • Detection of Counterfeit and Altered Coins
  • Detection of Counterfeit World Paper Money
  • Numismatic Publishing
  • Introduction to Numismatic Digital Photography
  • Coins of Mexico
  • Collecting United States Type Coins
  • Intaglio Engraving
  • Archaic and Classic Greek Coinage
  • The Art of Engraving
  • Collecting Morgan Silver Dollars
  • Introduction to Medals and Medal Collecting
  • Early American Copper Coinage
  • Creating a Winning Numismatic Exhibit
  • The Modern Minting Process
  • Creating the Modern Hobo Nickel
  • World War II Numismatics
  • National Bank Notes

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