For decades, the hobby of numismatics has provided me with more benefits than anyone could ever hope for, from years of enjoyment to a pretty good living. Since assembling my first Lincoln cent album in the 1960s, my enthusiasm has never waned. Many of my non-numismatic friends envy that I look forward to going to work every day. I sincerely hope that the hobby remains relevant so that future generations can enjoy the same pleasures numismatics has given me.
The future, however, cannot be taken for granted. The hobby faces a serious problem of aging demographics. The average member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) is now about 63 years old. Young people in our society today have become very distracted with technology and social media. Getting their attention is difficult, but not an impossible task. The ANA is committed to attracting and retaining young collectors. Considerable sums have been invested in the ANA website (Money.org) and other social media platforms trying to reach younger collectors.
The COVID-19 crisis has given the hobby an unexpected boost. Millions of collectors and potential collectors have been homebound and exploring the internet. Over the last year, the ANA membership grew over 10% to nearly 30,000 members. Online business is booming for anyone with a significant web presence. Hopefully, some of these new buyers are in a younger demographic than has been the case in the past.
This newfound interest in numismatics is an opportunity that hobby leaders should be sure not to waste. The ANA sadly was unable to host the annual Summer Seminar last year, and this year’s event has recently been canceled. This major numismatic educational pillar of the ANA will be missed. In its place, the ANA has been able to offer streaming classes via Zoom. These have been a huge success, and they are clearly the future of ANA educational offerings.
In 2019, I had the privilege of teaching advanced coin grading in Colorado Springs to about 25 students. Last year, my online class had over 300 participants (the class is also available on the ANA website permanently and can be watched for free). Students could attend the classes from home without the expense and time of traveling to Colorado. We all know how wonderful in-person classes are during Summer Seminar, but the broad impact of online numismatic education cannot be denied.
Securing the future success of the ANA and coin collecting is an expensive proposition. No other organization does more to promote the hobby and provide numismatic education than the ANA. Each year, the ANA awards dozens of numismatic scholarships for the Summer Seminar to young people, many of whom later say the experience changed their lives. Now, the ANA is investing lots of staff time and financial resources in online education.
My wife, Mary Lynn Garrett, is currently a member of the ANA Board of Governors. She is leading the development committee. Despite the blessings of a healthy endowment, the ANA struggles each year to pay its bills. Last year was particularly difficult due to the cancelation of the World’s Fair of Money, which typically generates considerable revenue for the budget each year.
Without the financial support and volunteer efforts of the numismatic community, the ANA could not survive. For our members to continue to receive the benefits they have come to expect, we must all think of the ANA with our charitable giving. There is no better way to support the hobby we all love than a contribution to the ANA.
Many members of the ANA do not realize that the cost of their membership barely pays for them to receive The Numismatist each year.
The ANA probably would not exist today if it had not been for the planned giving of the Ben E. Keith family. Bequests are the lifeblood of most nonprofits that I have been involved with over the years. A few years ago, Mary Lynn and I updated our wills to include the organization that has meant so much to us over the years. There is no better way to promote giving back than by example.
Please consider a donation to the ANA during these trying times. If you collect coins, you have a financial interest in the future of the hobby. When it’s time to sell, you hope there will be new collectors wanting the pieces that you so carefully assembled. Find out more about giving to the ANA here.
NGC is the Official Grading Service of the ANA and has been a longtime partner of the organization.