Coin Collector? An Introduction To The American Numismatic Association

If you collect coins, you should consider becoming a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA) – the largest non-profit organization in the world dedicated to “educating and encouraging people to study coins and related material,” according to the ANA mission statement. It currently has about 25,000 members, and membership is open to anyone who wishes to join. While the ANA is clearly an American entity, its members include collectors from other countries.

What is the American Numismatic Association – ANA?

The ANA was formed in 1891 by Dr. George Francis Heath and fellow numismatists to promote the interests of the hobby and advance knowledge in the field. It serves the interests of collectors, the general public and academic communities focused on numismatics, including not just coins but also medals, paper money, and similar objects.

Benefits of an ANA Membership

The numerous benefits the ANA provides to its membership include receiving the group’s award-winning monthly magazine, The Numismatist, which is edited by Caleb Noel and allows access to the complete archives of the publication online that date back to 1888. The magazine is considered the gold standard for coin publications and has published a great deal of cutting-edge research as well as entertaining and informative articles and other features that appear in every issue.

The ANA also maintains the most extensive numismatic lending library in the world of more than 128,000 books and other materials that allows members to receive books by mail for no cost other than postage; the Money Museum is in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where the ANA’s headquarters has been located since 1967. The museum is one of the largest numismatic collections in the world.

The ANA has held annual coin conventions in most years since 1891 and two per year since 1978. The shows include the World’s Fair of Money – the largest annual coin convention in the country – held each summer, plus a National Money Show coin show in the winter. These shows include educational events, auctions, and more, and allow thousands of collectors to meet each other and network. 

Most summers, the ANA holds what is considered the best educational programs in numismatics at its headquarters facility, such as courses on grading coins, ancient coins, and much more. Then there are the many programs for younger collectors, known as Young Numismatists, who can earn free coins by completing certain coin-related activities. Since 1968 each year, one such collector has been named Young Numismatist of the Year. One of the recent past recipients of the award, Kellen Hoard, who is a college student, was just appointed to serve on the prestigious Citizens Coinage Advisor Committee (CCAC) that reviews the designs that appear on all U.S. coins and medals.

Coin ConventionCoin Convention

Then there is National Coin Week, which was first held 100 years ago in 1923 at the suggestion of a then-serving ANA governor. It is an annual event held from April 16th to 22nd that is focused on a different specific theme each year and is dedicated to promoting the hobby among the general public as well as offering educational and other activities to increase the group’s membership ranks. For example, the 2023 theme was “Our Country, Our Money, Our America,” which focused on how money tells our country’s story and helped form our national identity.

In addition, members have access to substantial savings on insurance for the collections; they can enjoy free online courses on all aspects of the hobby known as the ANA eLearning Academy, discounts on subscriptions to coin publications like Coin World, and much more.

Some History About the ANA

The impetus for forming the ANA came from the fact that collector Dr. George Heath lived in a rural area and had difficulty obtaining the coins he needed and meeting other collectors. That led him to publish a four-page pamphlet called The Numismatist that listed coins he needed and covered topics in the hobby. As his subscription list grew larger, it was clear there was a need for a national organization for collectors.

American Numismatic Association LogoAmerican Numismatic Association Logo

In October 1891, Heath and four other men met in Chicago and formed the ANA. Heath then proposed the idea of a national coin convention, first held in 1891, then each year until 1895, and then again in 1901 and 1904. After the 1907 meeting in Ohio, it was decided to hold annual conventions.

When Heath passed away in 1908, then-president Farran Zerbe became editor and publisher of The Numismatist, which he purchased from Heath’s family. Zerbe was a famous collector, especially of silver dollars. After that, the magazine was purchased by a Canadian collector who presented it to the ANA, and since then, it has been published by the ANA.

In 1912, President Howard Taft granted the ANA a Federal Charter and signed it into law. An amendment was passed in 1962 for a larger board of governors and to make the charter permanent, which was signed into law by President Kennedy.

How the ANA is Run

The ANA is run by a Board of Governors that consists of nine members, including the President, Vice President, and seven governors, who are each elected by the membership in odd-numbered years.

The current board was elected in 2021. An election will be held later this year in which Thomas Uram, former Charmain of the CCAC, ANA Governor, and President of the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists, will run unopposed for the position of president. The current president is Dr. Ralph Ross. In addition to the board, there are also various advisory committees.

The ANA also bestows various awards for excellence. The highest honor a member can receive is the Chester L. Krause Memorial Distinguished Service Award, which was most recently awarded in 2022 to Mr. Uram. The award was previously known as the Farran Zerbe Memorial Award.

Finally, there is the Numismatic Hall of Fame at the Colorado headquarters, which enshrines the most important numismatists of all time, with the first group doing so in 1969. Among the few living members are Beth Deisher, longtime former editor of Coin World, and Barbara Gregory, who edited The Numismatist for decades.

The success of the ANA is a testament to the dedication of the group’s membership. As founder Dr. Heath said in 1891: “The foundation of the ANA was not laid for today alone but for the long and distant future as well. Each member can do a little in contributing to its success.”

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