The Democrat & Chronicle of Rochester, NY published an article on June 28, 2016 about the Rochester Numismatic Association and one
of its more prominent members, the late John Pittman. The club is one of the oldest in the U.S., having been founded in 1912. See the
Newman Numismatic Portal article previously in this issue - NNP recently incorporated the RNA's digital archive. -Editor
The 2,198th meeting of the Rochester Numismatic Association began last week with a joke, actually two jokes.
A numismatic association is an organization for coin collectors, so it’s not surprising that one of the howlers cheerfully told by RNA
President Gerald Vaccarella of Brighton turned upon a coin-related pun.
Fifty or so collectors at the meeting groaned when Vaccarella threw out the punch line, something about a skunk spending his last scent.
And thus the meeting in the basement of the Rochester Museum & Science Center’s Eisenhart Auditorium was off and running, continuing a
coin conversation that began in January 1912 when the club was founded.
Think of that. The RNA, the second oldest numismatic association in the United States (the oldest is in Chicago), has continued to hold
meetings for more than 100 years. How can this be?
“The cross-section of people here is phenomenal,” says Susie Scoppa of Fairport, an RNA member. “It really is an interesting place to
be. And who isn’t interested in money?”
Scoppa has just retired from teaching Latin at Irondequoit High School, where she used ancient Roman coins to help her students learn
the language. It was fun; it was real; it worked.
Every coin, it seems, has a story to tell.
“Give me a dollar,” says Donovan Shilling of Penfield, a prolific writer on Rochester history and a member of the RNA.
I hand him a wrinkled bill. He hands me a shiny 2016 Sacagawea dollar coin. He tells me to look at the reverse side honoring the Native
American code talkers who transmitted secret messages in World War I and World War II.
Every year now, Shilling says, the Sacagewea coins feature the contributions of different Native Americans.
He clearly admires these coins, but he also likes coins that have images of ships. He dwelt upon this fascination at an earlier meeting
of the association this year in a talk titled “Coins and Medals Rekindle the Romance of the Sea.”
Everyone in the association collects, but as good as their collections are, they cannot rival that of the late John Jay Pittman, a
numismatic superstar who put Rochester coin collecting on the map.
Pittman’s life story is made-for-TV ready. Born into poverty in North Carolina (he was 10 years old before he got his first new pair of
shoes), he worked his way through college, became a chemical engineer at the Eastman Kodak Co. and quietly, shrewdly collected coins.
Most famously, Pittman took out a second mortgage on his home in Greece in 1954, traveled to Egypt with cash and purchased at auction
some of the coins in what had been King Farouk’s collection. He bought one of those coins, an 1833 $5 gold piece, for $605. It later sold
for $467,500. After he died, Pittman’s collection sold for $30 million. Yes, $30 million.
Pittman served a term as president of the RNA. He also was president of the American Numismatic Association and president of the
Canadian Numismatic Society.
He spent a great deal of time spreading the gospel of numismatics, telling groups large and small that coin collecting can be
educational, fun and rewarding. That message is repeated again and again at the meetings of the Rochester Numismatic Association.
“It’s an easy hobby,” says RNA member Maria Paris of Rochester, who especially encourages women to join as the group tilts male.
“(Coins) are small, transferable and very aesthetic.”
Which is why at 2,198 meetings and counting, the group is going strong. Which isn’t surprising. After all, who isn’t interested in
To read the complete article, see:
Jim Memmott: They’ve been showing the money since 1912 (www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/local/columnists/
To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
NEW BOOK: ROCHESTER NUMISMATIC ASSOCIATION CENTENNIAL HISTORY
FEATURED WEB SITE: ROCHESTER NUMISMATIC ASSOCIATION
MORE ON THE ROCHESTER NUMISMATIC ASSOCIATION
Wayne Homren, Editor
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