By Steve Carr
I really missed not doing a blog last week, but I have what I consider a reasonable excuse. I was on my summer vacation, teaching the Early American Copper class at the ANA Summer Seminar. For me, each Summer Seminar is an opportunity to meet friends I haven’t seen for a year or two, watch the sun set over Pikes Peak, and learn about numismatics.
Doug Bird and I have taught similar classes at the Summer Seminar for more than 15 years. My teaching actually stemmed from the idea that I wanted to take a class on these coins, but no instructor could be found. I was teaching at the local community college at the time and knew I could organize a class. But I needed an expert, and Doug volunteered. Jim joined us last year and, by acclimation of this year’s class, was voted a third instructor. Everyone wanted him to return.
Our trip was an uneventful 8 hour drive, followed by a quick set up at the Colorado Coin Club show. We spent the next two days buying and selling. We also looked at a lot of coins. We ended up buying an 1860-O half dollar in a PCGS AU 58 Proof Like holder. CAC even put their sticker on the slab. It is a beautiful coin and I wonder if it is really a proof. It is harder to examine in the slab so I guess we will take their word for it. Still, I would like to examine this coin a little closer. Maybe it is a branch mint proof!.
On Saturday night we set up the classroom and were ready to go at 9 the next morning. We had 13 students in our class, and this may have been the best class we have ever taught.. They ranged in age from teenagers to retired people. We even had three females in the class. Everyone worked well with the other students and we had a great time. We started by giving each student a very low grade large cent to see if they could attribute it over the coming week. This gave students something to do in their spare time and all eventually identified the right variety. This type of attribution, where you have to find pick up points on the coin and use a reference to determine the variety, is a key step to successful attribution. Then we talked about conditions at the first US Mint. Then, we covered grading, EAC, market and technical and then learned about attributing cents and half cents. For each exercise, coins were provided for the students to use.
We also talked about and saw some mint errors (the workers at the first US Mint worked under primitive conditions that led to lot of mistakes) and the original dies used to strike the 1823 “restrike” coins. Those dies were really neat! We also covered how to properly store your coppers, good ways to buy and sell, and shared insights on the copper collecting community. Overall, students looked at more than 200 large and half cents. Each student also got a gift from John Wright, a copy of his The Cent Book.
At the end of the class, the vast majority of the students wanted a copper 2 class next year. I’m thinking about that and it may become a reality.