Sunday, October 26, 2008

Grand Opening of New ANS Site: Good News, Bad News, Good News

The American Numismatic Society has opened its new headquarters and has updated its website. For more, see:

The Executive Director, Ute Wartenberg Kagan, and the staff should be commended for all their hard work in making the new headquarters a reality.

Of particular interest should be a small but wonderful exhibit of coins from members of the New York Numismatic Club. These range from ancient coinage to early U.S. coinage and medals.

Overall, the annual meeting of the ANS I attended in conjunction with the opening offered a bit of good news, bad news and good news. The good news is that the move is completed and the ANS finally has excellent facilities which have a finished look about them. The bad news is that like many not for profits, the ANS has seen its endowment get hit in a big way with the recent downturn in the stock market. On the bright side, however, all the money received for the sale of the old building has been held in cash so it has not evaporated like other funds in the endowment.

Over the near term, ambitious plans for expansion of programs will need to be put on hold and more than ever the ANS will need to rely on the generosity of its members to not just survive but grow. Unlike the Smithsonian and many institutions in Europe, the ANS is highly dependent on its members (chiefly academics, collectors and members of the numismatic trade) for funding. Anyone who supports repressing private collecting of artifacts as common as coins should realize this can't but also impact the continued vitality of one of the few places in the United States where coinage of all eras is not only preserved, but studied on an academic basis.

The benefits of the academic study of coins is evident to most numismatists, but it should also be noted that such study has real world benefits as well. Edmund C. Moy, the Director of the U.S. Mint, spoke at a dinner I attended in conjunction with the opening. He made clear that he hopes to reinvigorate our present day coinage, not by directly copying historical coinage, but using some of its design precepts to guide how we can make our own coins reflect the best of our own society of today has to offer.

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