Happy birthday, Coin World! Congratulations on your 60th anniversary. Now that’s a cause for celebration! Our team here at CoinsWeekly is a little envious, with our measly twelve years. And what a fantastic idea to celebrate your own anniversary by honouring the 60 most influential people in numismatics in the past 60 years! Just fantastic!
How Big is the World of Numismatics?
So, curious, I opened up your brochure to see who has created lasting changes in numismatics over the last few decades – and I was a little shocked. We Europeans have contributed hardly anything to numismatics. Just two (!) Europeans have found their way onto your list: Ulrich Künker, who has indeed contributed a great deal to ensuring that coin collecting is still possible in Germany today, and Chris Webb, whom I unfortunately do not know well enough to really understand the extent of his influence. Everyone else on the list is American, with Michael Chou perhaps serving as a link between the American and Asian worlds.
Well alright, then I’d like to understand why we Europeans have failed so miserably. Why haven’t we managed to influence the world of numismatics? What kind of major obstacles prevented us from being listed among the most influential people in numismatics? Thankfully, editor William T. Gibbs has provided a detailed breakdown of the criteria you used to make your selection.
- Candidates had to be living.
- Current Coin World staff members were ineligible.
- A candidate could be anyone who has had an effect on the hobby of coin collecting.
That’s it. And then publisher Rick Amos kindly elaborates on exactly what is meant by an ‘effect’: the candidates’ ideas had to be innovative and their contributions had to have enriched the hobby and made it better.
The Real Criteria?
How sad that the Coin World team found hardly any Europeans (and no Asians, Africans or Australians) who have made a contribution to the numismatics market with their innovative concepts.
But this might have had something to do with the circle of people considered by Coin World. Even some of the people included on the list found the selection strange, which we can infer from the fact that – and the editor William T. Gibbs admits this quite openly in his foreword – they first had to be persuaded to pose in the brochure by the Coin World ad sales team. In other words: the people who sell the ads for Coin World had to explain to the successful candidates why they deserved to be honoured as one of the 60 most influential numismatists of the past 60 years. Ouch.
Who Were the People Who Really Influenced the Coin Trade?
I haven’t been around for nearly long enough to be able to truly understand who has made a lasting difference in the world of numismatics, but there are certainly a few candidates from the last 30 years who come to mind. One of them is even an American, but one known for not paying for advertisement of his platform: A. J. Gatlin’s Coin Archives really shook up the market. Thanks to him, prices are now transparent and pricing is a piece of cake, which has opened up the world of coin collecting to whole new groups of people. If the Coin Archives don’t count as an invention, then I don’t know what does.
And then of course, there’s Dr. Hubert Lanz, the creator of Sixbid. Nowadays, when we buy our coins through all sorts of national and international auction platforms, we owe it to the idea of a German coin dealer and the programming of Wilfried Danner.
Incidentally, Mr Danner also revolutionised coin photography. I can still remember how we used to chuckle at the miserable photos from various auction houses. Nowadays, even an unskilled cleaner could take excellent photos thanks to ready-made photo systems. As far as I remember, the first person who not only came up with this idea, but also marketed his invention internationally, was Wilfried Danner. But I’m more than happy to be proven wrong.
Who Were the People who Changed Coinage?
Fortunately, the 60 most influential people in numismatics aren’t just coin dealers and grading institutes but also those who produce the collector coins, the mints, though of course – surprise, surprise – only the US Mint is considered. Not that the US Mint don’t produce some truly fantastic commemorative coins, but that’s not the point of the brochure.
When I think about who has really had a lasting influence on the world of international commemorative coins, several names spring to mind – first and foremost, Dietmar Spranz from the Austrian Mint. He is the ‘spiritus rector’ of the MDC, the Mint Directors Conference, where mints from around the world gather to share ideas. If, nowadays, commemorative coins look incredibly similar and are featuring quite similar motives, it’s also because the MDC passes on the same inspiration to everyone.
For years, Prabir De, and now his successor Dr. Manfred Matzinger, have headed up the MDC Technical Committee. In this committee, leading coin technicians share ideas and solutions at an international level. So, if anyone has any real influence on the appearance of coins, it is the heads of the committees in which the leading technicians of all mints discuss their new issues.
What about medallists? Do medallists still have any real influence on the appearance of coins? Nope. Medallists are the executors of marketing departments and must strictly adhere to the requirements of the technical team, if they haven’t already been replaced by a computer programme, that is. And when it comes to technology, there is one man whose advice has helped to equip countless mints around the globe. Dieter Merkle from Schuler Pressen GmbH.
And while we’re on the subject of technicians… If we want to talk about whom we have to thank for most of the special coin technology that is taken for granted nowadays, then we should take a look at Liechtenstein, where Michael Vogt demanded technical innovations from his minting partners for many years. The customers rewarded his efforts, and many mints around the world honour CIT Coin Invest by imitating their products. All I’ll say is this: colour on coins and high relief coins.
The fact that the market for contemporary coins is so international today isn’t just because of the Internet, but primarily thanks to an international coin fair, where shoppers from around the world have been coming together with state and private mints since long before the Internet. Now, even though this coin fair has an English name, it is not held in the United States, but in Germany. And the creator of the World Money Fair is a Swiss man, Albert Beck.
Dear Coin World team, I’d better stop now. It was a really great idea you had. And if you had called your work ‘The 60 Most Influential Numismatists from the USA in the field of US numismatics’, it would have been an excellent brochure. However, the result is a slap in the face for all those among them who actually had an influence on the development of numismatics.
The problem is that your list of honourees includes quite a few people who do actually deserve to be honoured. And that’s why I really want to emphasise that this critical article is not an attempt to discredit any of the people included in your list. Nevertheless, it devalues an honouree’s own achievement if readers suspect that they have been included among the 60 most influential people in numismatics, not because of their achievement, but for other reasons.
Happy birthday – but please don’t do this again.
You can read the biographies of Coin World’s honourees for yourself here.