By Steve Carr
It’s funny how things happen. One of my favorite numismatic experiences started in 2004, when I met Jim Hughes. Jim worked in the numismatic division at the Smithsonian Institute. At the time, Jim was taking the ANA Summer Seminar Early American Coppers class, where I am one of the instructors. Jim and I talked about the large cents and half cents that were in the national collection (we all own it). Jim asked if I might be able/willing to look at the collection and help catalog them.
I was thrilled when he asked me. I was a professor at the local community college and was eligible to apply for a sabbatical leave. I could spend a whole semester looking at the coins, many of which were in the original mint collection of their product. I saw the potential for a neat project and applied for a sabbatical. My application was approved.
Logistics for this project were fairly easy. I already had a place to stay Washington DC, which was within easy walking distance to the Smithsonian. DC is almost 1000 miles from here but I had an aunt and uncle who lived in Dayton, OH where I could stay (about half way). I bought a digital camera, got a couple of lights and I was off.
The national coin collection was a whole lot more than I expected. As a beginning collector, at age 7, I had read in the Red Book about the 1849 double eagle ($20). There was only one, and it was at the Smithsonian. Seeing this coin was really a childhood dream come true. It was big and it was shiny. I was a little disappointed with the coin, though, as it had been roughly cleaned in the past. A picture is attached.
My next several blogs will talk about some of the things I saw and did at the Smithsonian. And, if you also like national bank notes, the Smithsonian has the complete proof printings for every bank. More on them next week.