The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 34, August 23, 2015, Article 27


Last week I discussed the importance of numismatic mentors in handing down hobby knowledge from generation to generation. Here are some reader tributes to their numismatic mentors. -Editor

David Schenkman's Mentors: Ernest Seneca and James Ruehrmund

Last week Dave Schenkman of Maryland was inducted into the American Numismatic Association's Hall of Fame. He submitted this tribute to his mentors Ernest Seneca and James Ruehrmund. Thanks. -Editor

When you asked me about my early numismatic mentors, two names came to mind. One, Ernest M. Seneca, was a vest pocket dealer who attended the major auctions and bought high grade early U.S. coins for resale. He would let me purchase coins on time, which was important for a young collector on a limited budget. He sold me things like a complete uncirculated set of capped bust half dimes and a high grade 1795 silver dollar. More importantly was the fact that he took time to teach me the value of really looking at a coin, not so much for its technical grade, but for its aesthetics.

The second edition of my catalog of Virginia tokens is being printed, and it is dedicated to the other person. I wrote

“This book is dedicated to James C. Ruehrmund who, while a naval officer living in Norfolk, allowed this young and very inquisitive collector to spend numerous hours studying the vast and diverse array of numismatic items in his coin cabinet. The time he took to patiently answer what he must have thought to be a never-ending barrage of questions made me aware that there was much more to the hobby than just U.S. coins. Those visits were, in large part, the foundation for my lifelong interest in numismatics. Thanks, Jim.”

Hopefully I’ll see Jim next month at the Virginia Numismatic Association’s convention, where the book is slated for release.

Eric Schena's Mentors: Gene Brandenburg and David Schenkman

Eric Schena of Virginia submitted this tribute his mentors Gene Brandenburg and Dave Schenkman. Thanks. -Editor

I have been in numismatics ever since I was four years old. I have been especially fortunate in that I have had some outstanding mentors throughout much of that time. When my family moved to Northern Virginia in 1984, I met Gene Brandenburg at his shop at 211 King Street in Alexandria and quickly became a regular. He took me under his wing and I learned an enormous amount about the coin business and, rather importantly, awoke a passion in me to research the less traveled paths in numismatics.

At the time, Gorbachev and glastnost helped to open new avenues of research regarding early and medieval Russian coins and thanks to Gene I was able to start assembling a nice collection of "wire" coins. I also took an interest in ancient coins and in particular the mysterious coins of ancient and medieval Central Asia. When I started to work part time for Gene, he helped me learn how to attribute the coins with barely any starting information. I cut my teeth on these coins using Michael Mitchiner's Oriental Coins and Their Values (which he recently gave to me) and enjoyed every minute of it.

In college in the early 1990s, I minored in Russian Studies (though when I started it was called Soviet Studies) and used my interest in wire coins to write my senior thesis on them. His location in Alexandria also meant a number of great local items came through his shop and with one obsolete note in particular, a 12 1/2 cent note from A. Henkel & Son, I began my journey into the world of tokens and paper money of the Mid Atlantic.

He also introduced me to Nummis Nova and the tremendous fun of that as well as another person whom I consider one of my most influential mentors as well as great friend, Dave Schenkman.

I am forever grateful to Gene for taking the time to mentor me into what has proven to be an essential part of my life. I'm a firm believer in the power of mentoring and that it really never ends. Gene and Dave have really helped to hone my researching skills and keep my passion and interest in numismatics constant and continue to do so. If I become even one-tenth the numismatist they are then I will consider my career a success. I certainly hope to be a mentor myself and help a young numismatist's interests flourish and give back to the hobby that has given so much to me.

I'd like to hear from other readers about their own numismatic mentors. Who took some time to show you the ropes? Who made a real difference in your numismatic career?

As we can see from the above progression, one kind act of mentorship can echo through generations. In my case, it was William W. Woodside who mentored Glenn A. Mooney, and Glenn mentored me. I've paid it forward with programs for young numismatists in Pennsylvania and Virginia and like Eric, expect to also mentor some new collectors one-on-one. Let's all do our part to pass along the hobby tradition. -Editor

To read the earlier E-Sylum article, see:
WAYNE’S NUMISMATIC DIARY: AUGUST 16, 2015 : Jeff Starck and Numismatic Mentors (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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