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My experience at Summer Seminar

A recap of the 2005 ANA Summer Seminar by ACCG Scholarship recipient Rachel Fulton

By Rachel Fulton |
July 14, 2005

"I'd like Rachel Fulton to come up here for a moment," said Gail Baker during the opening ceremonies for the first session of Summer Seminar 2005. I stood and walked up front, trying to think of what I could possibly have done wrong in the short hour I'd been on the campus.

"This is Rachel's first year at Summer Seminar," continued Mrs. Baker. She turned to me and asked, "Rachel, could you tell us what you expect to get out of Summer Seminar?"

Talk about being put on the spot. She hadn't told me she was going to do this. I walked to the microphone slowly, desperately trying to pull together something to say.

"Well, I've been interested in coins for a long time, but I've only really been collecting for about a year. My interest really peaked when I went to my first coin show last November. Roman coins were my main interest, so when I found out about the Coins of the Roman Empire course, I was dying to come. I hope to learn a lot, not only about Roman coins, but also about coin collecting in general. I am also looking forward to getting to know other collectors. You see, when I show others my coins, the typical response is, "Neat...but is that it?" So I'm looking forward to being among people who don't think I'm weird."

This Summer I attended the Coins of the Roman Empire course on a scholarship from the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild. I came into this course knowing very little about Roman coins, and David Vagi and Kerry Wetterstrom have given me a foundational knowledge. I still have lots to learn, I know, but I've made a good start. During the course I've learned about the importance of books, how to attribute coins, spotting fakes, and Roman history. Also, on the last day of class, each student presented a report on something they'd studied.

I had never really thought about the importance of books to coin collectors. I mean, we're collecting coins, not books, right? Wrong! I now know that every good coin collector has not only coins, but a library to go with them. I found that some collectors spend nearly as much of their resources collecting books as they do coins. So I brought back with me the beginning of my library, which I'm going to greatly enjoy reading.

Now to attribute a coin, all you have to do is read the emperor's name, right? During this course, I learned how complicated attribution really is. Why do we call Caligula Caligula, yet on his coins, he is Gaius or Caius? And what's with the enormous range of mint marks? And how come these coins don't even say the denomination on them? During the course we spent a good deal of time on attribution, and after much practice, I feel that I'm beginning to get the hang of it. We even learned how to use RIC. Also, looking at hundreds of Roman coins over the course has helped to familiarize me with attribution.

Before this course I hadn't really thought about fakes, so it was a bit of an awakening for me. Listening to David Hendin speak about counterfeits, I realized how important it is to know the credibility of a dealer before you invest a lot of money in his coins. I also learned how dangerous E-bay can be when not used properly. Learning about the pervasiveness of fakes hasn't turned me off collecting ancients, but rather showed me that I need to know dealers‚ reputations, get second opinions, and not jump blindly into a deal that seems to good to be true.

Another thing David Hendin spoke on was restoring coins. I hadn't realized that all Roman coins were buried at some point. Some coins are so beautiful that they sure don't look like they were ever covered in dirt. Mr. Hendin spoke about the right way to restore coins, and the wrong way. He told us about his techniques and showed us many before and after pictures. He also gave some tips for doing some simple restoration of our own.

What are ancient coins without history? They become as food without salt and bread without yeast. My love of ancient coins has always been deeply rooted in history, so I greatly enjoyed how David Vagi took us through the history behind the coins, emperor by emperor. I feel like I watched the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. I learned about the crazy emperors Caligula, Nero, and Caracalla. I learned about the great influence Noble Roman women often had. I learned about the practice of Damnatio, passed by Caracalla on his own brother, Geta. I learned that few Roman Emperors actually died natural deaths, and concluded that Emperor was perhaps the most dangerous job in the empire. And the best part is that with the books I brought home, my understanding of the history of the Roman Empire is just beginning.

On the last day of class many of the students gave reports on things they had studied on their own. I talked about the mythical founding of Rome and its commemorative coins. I discovered lots in the preparation - did you know that Romulus and Remus were supposedly fed not only by a wolf, but also by a mockingbird? The other presentations were also extremely educational. I learned in detail about the year of seven caesars, that the amount of lead in wine might have led to many of the Roman aristocracy's medical and mental problems, a bit about early Republican coinage, and much more.

In addition to attending the Coins of the Roman Empire course, I was also involved in a number of activities while at Summer Seminar. I went to Pike's Peak, toured the Gallery Mint, attended the ANA book sale, visited the ANA Money Museum, and participated in the YN auction. Through my entire time at Summer Seminar, both during these activities and my classes, I met new people, made new friends, and found inspiration in fellow coin collectors.

I enjoyed seeing the Gallery Mint display that outlined the making of coinage through its entire history. I had the opportunity to hear a presentation about the evolution of the making of coinage, and see demonstrations. I also got to strike my own coins, both the modern way, and also the way mint workers in ancient days did.

During the first few days of Summer Seminar ANA held a used book sale. Having just learned about the importance of books, I was thrilled. True to my expectations, I came away with a whole box of catalogues and books, a perfect supplement to my budding library.

I loved having the chance to visit the ANA Money Museum at my leisure. I enjoyed perusing the Bass collection, along with the two exhibits; Barter, Bits & Dollars: "The Money of Colonial America," and Oops!: "Mistakes on Money." I especially found [interesting] the many mistakes (previously unknown to me) which could be made in [making] money.

I had never participated in, or even been at any kind of auction before Summer Seminar. I therefore thoroughly enjoyed my involvement in the 16th annual Summer Seminar YN Auction. I helped with putting out the catalogue, and also with lot viewing. Then, during the auction, I wrote the final prices and bidder numbers on one of the catalogues. I now know a lot about how auctions are organized and run, as well as how to participate in them.

But not only did I learn a lot at Summer Seminar, I was also encouraged by fellowship with other coin collectors. I enjoyed seeing other people's coins and sharing my own. I appreciated being able to ask questions and discuss issues.

So in the end, I must say that my time at Summer Seminar was a huge success. It exceeded all my expectations. Not only do I have a good knowledge of Roman coins, and coin collection in general, but I also had a wonderful time getting to know others like myself. I am so grateful to the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild for giving me this opportunity. If it weren't for their scholarship, this wonderful opportunity wouldn't have been possible. I know for sure that I love Roman coins and coin collecting, and I look forward to seeing my collection, as well as my knowledge, grow in years to come.

Tags:
rachel fulton
david vagi
young numismatist
ana
roman
david hendin
kerry k. wetterstrom
scholarship
summer seminar

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