“Numismatic Careers: A Chat with NGC” by Jack Topping.
[29 December 2017]
In 1987, a company called the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (“NGC”) was formed in order to provide a specific service to the numismatic community: an honest, trusted third party coin authentication and grading service. Although not the oldest third party group, established 15 years after the founding of the American Numismatic Association Certification Service (“ANACS”) and two years after the Professional Coin Grading Service (“PCGS”), NGC boasts an impressive 39 million authenticated and graded coins as of 2017, their 30th year of operation.
Max Spiegel, NGC Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, described employment, formal education, and careers in the third party coin grading service in an exclusive interview with JET Numismatics. For young coin collectors, some believe that their collection begins and ends with holding on to coins, placing them in an album, or simply protecting them in 2×2 cardboard flaps, for long term storage. However, the opportunities for younger generations to learn about getting more out of their collection, getting a numismatic education, and even making a career out of numismatics is vast, but unfortunately for the latter, not promoted as it should be.
As for the Numismatic Guaranty Corporation, their organization is described as a “dream job” for any type of numismatist, according to Spiegel. Spiegel continued to say, “You get to see some of the world’s greatest rarities and you are surrounded by some of the most talented numismatists in the world.”
For younger generations, many of the numismatists born in the 21st century are nearing the end of the K-12 educational system, and some will be seeking higher education. A difficulty for those considering our hobby as a career path through higher education is finding a degree involving numismatics. Currently, the University of Vienna in Austria offers programs involving numismatics, however for those numismatists seeking higher education in the United States, their options are slim to none.
When asked about this topic during the NGC hiring process, Spiegel offered an alternative to formal higher education, saying, “We look at numismatic experience and ability more than formal education. Many of our senior graders have decades of experience either as graders or dealers. Many of our junior graders have collected for a number of years and showed an eye for grading.” Spiegel goes on about the junior graders, saying, “They’re now being trained by the senior members of our grading team.”
For those determined to achieve a college degree, it is clear a degree specifically for numismatics is not necessary. According to Spiegel, “There are a variety of degrees that have a connection to numismatics, including economics, history and art history.” As for his organization, Spiegel said, “When NGC is evaluating prospective graders, however, we seldom consider what they studied in school. We are much more interested in their numismatic knowledge, grading ability and how well they work with our existing grading team. Prospective graders are always tested in a grading room setting before we make a job offer.”
In the final question to Spiegel, JET Numismatics discussed an important topic, all of which surrounded younger generations and the survival of numismatics. Without inspiring younger generations, the overall hobby and livelihood of many involved with buying, selling, and grading coins will fade away. The increasing attraction to video games, virtual reality (“VR”) technology, and other facets of digital age media makes inviting younger generations to the hobby even more difficult than what previous generations experienced.
As for the solution from NGC, Spiegel said, “It has never been easier to learn about coins. A simple Internet search can give you access to a wealth of information about coins and coin collecting. For example, NGC publishes articles and resources geared toward beginners, experts and everyone in between on its website, NGCcoin.com, and in the NGC mobile app”, adding that “…NGC and many other numismatic firms are continuing to embrace the latest technologies to make their services and products more accessible to young collectors and international collectors.”
Overall, the desire for learning about history, and more specifically, numismatics, is at the hands of the individual. Hopefully, with a robust K-12 academic program that includes various parts of world and U.S. history at an early age, younger generations will not only become inspired to collect coins, but may even aspire to make it their career in the future, through buying, selling, or even grading coins with companies like NGC.
Many thanks to Mr. Max Spiegel, NGC Senior Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Kristian Kudenholdt of NGC, and the entire NGC team for their contribution to this article.