Coin Update News published a nice interview with Mark Borckardt,
Senior Cataloger at Heritage Auctions. Here are some excerpts.
What is your favorite coin that you currently own?
Most people are surprised to learn that I have no coin collection.
Since I work with great coins on a regular basis, I believe that my own collection,
if I had one, would fall far short of my expectations.
However, I have an extensive numismatic library, so I will say my favorite book(s)
is copy number one of the two volume Silver Dollars and Trade Dollars of the
United States, A Complete Encyclopedia, by Q. David Bowers.
Dave autographed the first set out of the first box received from the printer in 1993, and presented that set to me in thanks for my contributions to the work.
How did you get started in numismatics?
My earliest recollection is 1963, when I was given a copy of the 1964 Guide Book
by a member of the church where my dad was the minister. I don't recall the name
of the church but it was in the vicinity of Monroe, Michigan, the home of ANA
founder Dr. George Heath.
What drew you to the research aspect of numismatics?
I have always had a love of history, and numismatics provides a medium to
study many aspects of history, including finance, politics, and especially,
people. I thoroughly enjoy the historical personalities involved in our hobby,
from Mint employees such as David Rittenhouse to collectors like Louis Eliasberg,
and dealers such as B. Max Mehl.
In June 1989 I accepted a position with Bowers and Merena Galleries, and for more
than a decade I worked on a daily basis with Q. David Bowers. His partner, Ray Merena,
once described it as an "immersion course" in numismatics, and I agree.
I wouldn't be where I am today without that experience. Thank you, Dave.
You are a very accomplished author; would you say that you were an author first, or a numismatist?
It is important to distinguish between collectors, numismatists, and numismatic authors.
A collector is someone who sets about accumulating items in a given series with little or
no interest in the background of those coins. For example, there are many people who collect
the state quarter series, or Lincoln cents, or some other series, having no knowledge of the
background of coins in each series. Eventually, they will seek the knowledge that makes a numismatist,
or they will lose interest and find a different hobby. I began as a collector and as a dealer.
Numismatists take the next step and seek knowledge to better appreciate the coins that they own
or handle, primarily through formation and use of a numismatic library.
Despite your kind words, I consider myself a numismatist but not a numismatic author.
I consider people such as Dave Bowers, Ken Bressett, Roger Burdette, R.W. Julian, David Lange,
Eric Newman, and others to be numismatic authors. My work is mostly background research that
has appeared in various books by others.
Do you have any advice for young numismatists who aspire to be authors?
Study and learn all aspects of numismatics, from minting technology to finance and history.
A complete understanding of how coins were made is imperative, from the earliest days to the
present. Knowledge of national and world finances and financial history is also important.
For example, knowledge of the California Gold Rush goes a long way toward understanding the opening of the San Francisco Mint, as well as authorization of the double eagle. Knowledge of world history and politics is also extremely important. Further study might include art and art history.
Being a numismatic author is extremely rewarding, but it doesn't pay the bills.
Everyone that I know who writes numismatic references has a "real job." In many
cases, that job also involves numismatics, such as being a dealer, cataloger,
curator, or reporter. In other cases, the job is entirely unrelated to numismatics.
A second career choice is extremely important.
To read the complete article, see:
Interview with Mark Borckardt, Senior Cataloger at Heritage Auctions
Wayne Homren, Editor
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