The ANA Summer Seminar, 2014

The ANA’s annual Summer Seminar is a fantastic week long event dedicated solely to educating numismatists of all ages and all skill levels.  Their course catalog is comprehensive, covering a vast area of numismatics, and the chance to meet and rub elbows with some of the best in the business is worth the trip alone.  This year marked my second journey to Colorado Springs, Colorado for the Summer Seminar and this week was by far my favorite yet!  I can tell you now I’ll be back each year for the foreseeable future.

There was so much jam-packed into that one week that I couldn’t possibly begin to cover it all without writing a novel.  I took a ton of pictures (and had several people send their pics to me to use), and I’m going to let them do most of the talking for me.  This year I took Intermediate Coin Grading (also known as Grading 2), and I’ve also decided to include my notes from the class in the hopes of helping others over here in Nuggets.  

 

Saturday was essentially a travel day, with no classes scheduled until Sunday.  There was a generous window of time allotted for students to arrive at the Colorado Springs Airport, and a free shuttle to the campus appeared frequently.  My flight left LAX at 8am (abject misery), and I arrived in Colorado Springs a couple hours later.

I arrived at Loomis Hall, the main administrative building of the campus that also has some lodgings, around noon or so, and the two other friends I knew would be attending the first week with me hadn’t arrived yet.  I occupied myself by unpacking and rearranging things in my room before wandering around the campus to grab some pics.  The Colorado Springs College campus may not be all that big (about two city blocks), but it’s got a lot of green, a lot of open spaces, and is just littered with lovely spots and gorgeous buildings.

I met up with John Schuch II, a friend I had met at last year’s Summer Seminar and kept in regular contact with who was also to be my instructor for Grading 2, and his friend and co-instructor Steve Feltner.    I’d never met Steve before, but I immediately liked him and the two boys were nice enough to let me make a trio of it and tag along with them everywhere for the rest of the week.  We wiled away some time before eventually heading over to Gaylord Hall for the Opening Ceremonies.

After the ceremonies were concluded, it was decided that our newly formed group that also included the lovely Emily Silver (who works at the ANA) and a few others who were “fellow generational coin dealers” (as the wise Jon Williams quipped) had to hit a local favorite to celebrate Steve’s birthday.  So we all piled into some cars and headed for the Golden Bee, a sing-along piano bar and restaurant.

Sunday was the first day of class, and it was fast paced.  There were 24 students in the class, and we took a bit of time to give brief introductions and meet the instructors, then hit the ground running with coins.  The first day of class we were each handed a slabbed coin with the grade covered by a sticker.  We had 60 seconds to examine the coin, write down a grade, and pass it to our right. Once the entire group of 24 coins had been graded by each student, we went over each coin individually discussing the what/where/why/how of grading that particular piece.  It was a great day, and we ended up going through several rounds of 24 coins (with a lunch break thrown in there somewhere too).

Class was a blur of coins and passing in the dark, but it was amazing.  I learned a ton and steadily improved throughout, and while I took a ton of notes, there isn’t a whole lot else to report from the class times.

I had discovered Monday morning at breakfast that unbeknownst to me, my friend Tara was here as well! That night, Tara and I decided to walk the 1.8 miles to downtown Colorado Springs as everyone else had gone on an ANA sponsored trip to Denver for a Rockies game.  It was a mild night, and it stayed light late which gave us plenty of time to explore.  Any time we saw something off the main drag that looked interesting, we took a detour and checked it out.  It was a very pleasant change from my usual routine of “bourse floor –> restaurant in hotel –> hotel room –> bourse floor …” that I normally fall into at coin shows, and I left feeling like I had actually experienced the town.

Then it was class time again!  Class time is the best.  On Tuesday we broke up into 4 groups of 6 students and formed our own fake coin grading companies that would arrive at a group-grade for each coin. This time each student got the coin for 45 seconds, then at the end of each round we were given 45 seconds in which to discuss and arrive at a consensus. I was in a group with Walter Reed, Bruce Someone (I’m bad with names), Mike Someone (I mean really bad), C.J. Leach and Patrick Someone (I’m just amazed I remembered everyone’s first name).  We dubbed ourselves the Coin Camp Grading Service (CCGS) and proceeded to kick booty.  We won both all of the group rounds, and were the envy of all.

After class I decided it was high time I give the ANA’s Money Museum a thorough visit, and while I tried to take decent pictures of the treasures they have on display it was rather hard.  Everything, and I do mean everything, is under three inches of Plexiglas.  And before someone at the ANA emails me a virtual finger-shaking, there was no flash photography — the charming security guard saw me whip out my camera phone and politely reminded me of that straight away.  I did photoshop some of the pics in order to make them visible as all the coins were extremely dark, but that’s all!

Tuesday night we had dinner in the cafeteria and then we headed back to John and Steve’s to take advantage of their well furnished living room to greet our special visitor — Emily Silver’s pretty conure Penelope.

After our visit with Penny, Emily, Steve, John and I headed over to the YN Auction only a little late.  John registered for a paddle with which to bid, and we headed off to our chairs to watch the auction roll along.  We were only there for a handful of minutes before someone approached John and started whispering something to him.  It was almost as if … they were waiting for us …

Minutes later classical music comes on, and a pair of students waltz into the hall, one in a dress and one in “formal” gear (or as near as could be found in the moment).  A YN then announces that the next auction will be for Steve Feltner to wear the dress the student is modeling to the banquet.  I wish I had captured the look on Steve’s face — it was priceless.  No one had asked him beforehand, or ran this crazy idea by him first.  I was told later that Steve was a YN himself for many years before becoming a YN chaperon.  The YN’s come up with something crazy that involves torturing him every year at the auction and he either has to do it or buy his way out of it by winning the lot himself.  He’s an amazing sport, and even though he never knows what they’re going to spring on him he always follows through and does it to benefit the YN Scholarship Fund.

John’s all over the opening bid of $100, then Matt Kleinstuber (one of my teachers from Grading 1 last year) pipes up with “$500!”  John is deflated because that was his budget, but after a moment says “Screw it, $550”.  Mattie K walks over to John and they whisper. The auctioneer is a little taken aback, wondering aloud why the bidders are conspiring together.  A moment later they announce that they’re going to split a bid of $1,000, and the hammer comes down.  SOLD!

Wednesday came, the last day of class and the day of the final.  We had one more round of coins graded by our fake coin companies, broke for lunch, and then — it was time for the final.  Everyone passed, and everyone I talked to was more than happy with how they had done, myself included.  It was a bit stressful for me … any “exam” type situation like that can be, and I had the added pressure of counting both instructors as good friends.

After our little “graduation ceremony”, we all broke to kill a little time before the closing banquet, wiling away the time at a pre-Lunar Lounge.  Steve and John ducked out early and vanished — after all, Steve had to get dressed.

Steve’s grand entrance into the ballroom:

I didn’t go to the banquet last year, and now I wish I had; everyone from the semester was there, the food was great, and the speakers were great.  Don Bonser and Susan McMillan (ANA Director of Education) did most of the MCing for the night, and many awards and nods of recognition were given.  I even met Ken Bresset (and forgot to take a pic)!

While the banquet was proceeding and instructors were being brought up and recognized for their contributions to the Summer Seminar, we realized that Steve didn’t quite fill out his dress, so John and I gave him our napkins.  Apparently the table next to us was watching him “adjust” his outfit, because in the blink of an eye a pile of thrown napkins appeared in front of him.

After the banquet, the Coin Camp Crew headed back to the patio for our last Lunar lounge.  Much fun was had, and a few pics were taken.  Then came the hard goodbyes.  It was bitter sweet, as such things are.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up Thursday morning and packing. It was time to say goodbye to Colorado Springs, the best numismatic event of the year, and friends.

Random Pics

A few pics that didn’t really fit anywhere else.

 

This year’s Summer Seminar only confirmed what I already know: I will be coming back here every year that I can.  The first time I went, I thought it would be something like a major coin show, but it’s not.  It’s nothing like it, in fact.  In a world where fellow coin nerds are few and far between in our daily lives, spending each day with hundreds of other people who are passionate about exactly the same thing you are is a rare treat, and no one’s eyeballing their bottom line or worrying about cost vs profit as they may at shows.  Everyone is there for fun and growth.  And the educational opportunities? Unparalleled.

I left Colorado Springs a better numismatist with new and immediately close friends, great stories, and a refreshed love for our profession.  I just can’t speak highly enough of the Summer Seminar.  It’s that good.  

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