Thursday, April 1, 2010

An education in high-end coin collecting: A Heritage Auctions Account Executive’s story

April 1, 2010
Written by Heather Harvey

(This is no April Fool’s joke. I have the pleasure today to welcome Heather Harvey to the Heritage Blog. Heather is an Account Executive for the Coin category, and – as anyone reading this probably knows – that’s a pretty big matzo ball [Happy Passover Ma!] here at Heritage. The biggest in fact. Thing is, when Heather came into her job, taking over from a very well-liked predecessor, she had big shoes to fill not only in getting to know everyone – and reveal her strong work ethic and positive disposition – but also in her knowledge of coins. As you can read below, that knowledge equaled exactly Zero. Fortunately for her, and all of us, there are about a million experts here at Heritage, give or take 999,950 or less, and an education was soon underway. Remember Heather, Cardinal Rule #1: It’s called a cent, not a penny! – Noah Fleisher)

Two years ago, on her fourth birthday, my niece received a large, silver-like coin from an older family member. She was told it was to go toward her colleges expenses.

College expenses? Huh?

She wasn’t alone in her look of bewilderment, because who honestly thinks a coin will contribute to the hefty fees associated with higher education these days? Maybe he forgot to take his medicine that morning…

Fast forwarding to my interview at Heritage six months ago. I was asked: “Do you know anything about numismatics?”


Coming from the person I was to replace I thought for sure I needed to know this to get the job (or at least know what the word meant). Timidly answering with a “no,” he assured me that it wasn’t necessary in order to organize the advertising for those particular venues. Although I didn’t know the first thing about numismatics, I knew enough about marketing to get the job as the Marketing Account Executive for coins and currency, and I began my advertising duties a week later.

That same week a whole new intricate world of numismatists and a hidden underground numismatic community was brought to light. The amazement on my face could not have been more apparent. People collect these things? These coins are worth what? This coin is how old? Someone spent that much on one coin? I can’t call it a penny anymore? Are these people OK? Don’t they know it’s only a quarter?

It seemed as if I would never run out of questions, and maybe I never will, because I’m still increasingly intrigued by not only the coins themselves, but the people who collect these tiny rarities.

Recently my involvement with numismatic advertising, in addition to my fervent curiosity of the collecting community, led me to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing and the ANA National Money Show ™ in Fort Worth, TX.

I’ve learned by seeing firsthand that, to the collector, it is so much more than just a quarter. They truly have a sincere love of… well, money. From the intaglio printing and secrecy surrounding the new $100 bill at the B.E.P, to the rows of gleaming showcases and wizened faces hunched into their magnifiers at the show, it was all most remarkable. These people are so passionate and knowledgeable about something I never gave a second thought to unless it involved my trip to the ATM because some store didn’t accept credit or debit.

After learning more than I ever thought to learn about numismatics, I’m finding this love/passion/obsession – whatever you want to call it – admirable. For someone to have such a unique understanding of a niche so detailed and so specific is absolutely fascinating.

Even so, I’m not sure I’ll ever summon this “collecting gene” and start my own private collection of fancy money no one else has. I’ll just secretly hope that my dear old relative will generously bestow whatever other college funding coins he may have laying around to my cause so I can sell them. I may not be a collector, but I can still relate to their love of… well, money. It’s just that, for now, I’d rather spend it!

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-Heather Harvey

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