History of the Montgomery County Coin Club
American numismatics was very different in 1959. U.S. coins were king, world coins were of interest to only a few, and medals and tokens were considered “exonumia,” exotic collectables on the fringe of numismatics. Recent uncirculated coins were snapped up by the bag and roll, and came in only two grades: regular and brilliant. America’s middle class was growing and so were their budgets. Coin collecting competed with many popular hobbies. Collectors could buy from department stores or numerous coin shops, in downtown or the new and growing suburbs. Maryland numismatics was dominated by the Washington Numismatic Society (WNS, founded 1927) in D.C., the Baltimore Coin Club (organized 1935), and the Middle Atlantic Numismatic Association (MANA, founded 1952).
It was in this environment that the Montgomery County Coin Club (MCCC) was founded as the first suburban D.C. club. According to its first Vice President R. C. Soxman, he and Ben Douglas, Wally Wilson, and George Huth were riding home from a coin show in Libertytown (near Frederick) when they discussed opening a new club in the suburbs. Noe Schneider helped organize it and became its first President. He also knew the manager of Perpetual Savings Bank in downtown Silver Spring and arranged for the club to meet there. Sixty people showed up for the organizational meeting in September, 1959, thanks to free publicity from Belmont Faries, who wrote about the new club in his numismatic column in the Washington Star newspaper. Many of the founders were also members (including officers) of WNS and MANA. One founder (and its first bulletin editor) was Ben Douglas, a well-known dealer who contributed to both the Red and Blue Books and wrote a coin column for the Sunday Washington Star from 1955-72. Douglas had revived the ailing WNS in 1936.
MCCC originally met in the Perpetual Building at 8700 Georgia Avenue in downtown Silver Spring, just one year after it opened. It now houses Sun Trust Bank and the owners have filed a request with Montgomery County’s Planning Board to replace it with a taller building. In March, 1979, MCCC moved to the Perpetual Building at 7401 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda near East-West Highway, and in September, 1980, they moved to the Citizens Savings and Loan Building at Connecticut and Farragut Avenues in Kensington.
MCCC met at the Silver Spring armory at 925 Wayne Avenue for exactly one decade starting in May, 1981. The Armory was then torn down to make room for the new downtown Silver Spring parking garage, and the club moved to its current home at the Schweinhaut Senior Citizens Center at 1000 Forest Glen Road, just outside the Capital Beltway, though limited hours and construction caused the club to occasionally hold meetings in other county-owned venues.
MCCC has always been first and foremost an educational club. Almost every meeting has a program, usually a speaker but also slide or video presentations. Being located on the doorstep of the nation’s capital has its advantages. In the early days, they hosted the Smithsonian’s curators (Dr. Clain-Stefanelli, his wife Elvira, and Mendel Peterson) who would bring important pieces from the national collection, including 1804 silver dollars and the ultra-high relief 1907 St. Gaudens double eagle. Other renown speakers were Mint Director Eva Adams, Numismatic News D.C. correspondent Burnett Anderson, authors Neil Shafer and Roger Burdette, coin designers Joe Fitzgerald and Leonard Buckley, and a number of local dealers including Al Bonan, Peter Boyer, Ben Douglas, Frank and Laurese Katen, Julian Leidman, and Walt Mason (some of whom served as officers).
Other programs included “fun night” with bingo (using wheat cents as markers), game shows based on What’s My Line or The Price is Right with a numismatic spin, or quizzes with prizes. For many years, “fun night” was regularly held each December. Special commemorative programs were held for the club’s 25th, 40th, and now 50th anniversary.Members have also been active with federal coinage concerns. In 1982, Joseph and Mae Clarke testified before the House Subcommittee on Coinage in favor of Frank Annunzio’s bill for two silver dollars and the first commemorative gold eagle for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and opposed to St. Germain’s proposal for 33 coins to be marketed by Occidental, a private company. Mae Clarke was quoted as saying “Coin collecting… is big business to some people, but it is a hobby!”
Kenneth Swab, who worked many years on Capitol Hill, was on the Maryland State Quarter committee in 2000 which recommended designs to then Governor Paris Glendening. Ken was rewarded with a Governor’s Citation and attended the unveiling reception.
Member Rudy Saenger served on the 1975 U.S. Assay Commission (President Carter terminated the Commission in 1980).
Regular MCCC members have also had their own spot in the limelight. Each meeting includes exhibits where members give a short descriptive talk. Sometimes these talks have generated programs, such as the Young Numismatists (YN) nights where junior members were invited to present on a topic of their choosing (premiered in 1961). Several members actively exhibit coins at local shows, and turned their exhibits into articles for the monthly bulletin. These included two long-running series, one by Herbert Hall on Canadian commemorative coins and one by Simcha Kuritzky on Arabic inscriptions on money (typewritten in English and عربي Arabic!). In 2008, long-time MCCC officer Simcha Kuritzky achieved the most lifetime ANA exhibit awards, and was given the Joseph Boling Award for Excellence in Judging in 2009.
MCCC held its own coin fairs from 1962-1965. These were an all-day affair, held at the Boys’ Club of Silver Spring on Forest Glen Road on a Saturday in May. They included dozens of exhibits on popular items such as $3 bills, pirate and colonial coins, Biblical coins, odd and curious money, Confederate bills, and Civil War tokens. Members also were present to identify coins brought in by the public. In later shows there was a dealers bourse, public auction, and door prizes. Admission was 25 cents for children and 50 cents for adults. Receipts were donated to the Boys’ Club.
MCCC sponsored a class on coin collecting at the Rolling Terrace Elementary School in Silver Spring in 1992. Twenty enthusiastic third graders attended and were allowed to select two coins after locating their country of origin on a world map. In 1996, the club bought a hundred copies of ANA’s video The Money Story and donated one to each of the county’s elementary schools. Member Joe Howard (a former school teacher) gave a talk on coins in 1997 to a middle school in Manassas, VA. Long-time Secretary and occasional President Jack Schadegg gave a talk on coin collecting to 115 elementary school-aged children at the Our Lady of Mercy summer school in 2003. Simcha Kuritzky and Kenneth Swab talked about coins to a local boy scout troop in 2004. Club members have also exhibited coins for National Coin Week at local libraries, and members helped man the Maryland State Numismatic Association’s (MSNA) numismatic information table at the Glen Burnie Mall for Coin Collector Day in April, 2001.
The coin club held an annual picnic for several years. Members brought and shared food, and there were a number of games for both children and adults. While the picnics were discontinued in the 1990s, the club has moved the refreshments indoors to the meeting night. The club provides snacks and heavy hors d’oeuvres. On special occasions, a deli dinner has been provided. Sometimes club members would bring food to share. Since 2007, the club has solicited donations to support the refreshments, and in 2009, placed a donation jar by the food which has covered most of the cost.
MCCC has always been active with other numismatic organizations. It was one of boosters of the Metropolitan Washington Numismatic Association (MWNA) founded in 1966, along with the Alexandria Coin Club, Cheverly Coin Club, Israel Numismatic Society of Washington D.C., Prince Georges County Coin Club (PGCCC, founded in 1964), and Washington Numismatic Society. MWNA held a coin show each mid-July until 1999, and raised almost a quarter million dollars for a number of local charities that help retarded citizens. It was because of competition with the MWNA coin show that MCCC decided, in 1966, to replace their annual coin fair with a donated auction, which has been held every year since then, usually at the November meeting. Later, MCCC joined with PGCCC and WNS to form Tri-Club which held coin shows from 1980 to 1988. MCCC is also a long-time member of the Middle Atlantic Numismatic Association (MANA, now Eastern States Numismatic Association ESNA), American Numismatic Association (ANA), and MSNA.
MCCC also issued its own wood for the 1985 ANA show in Baltimore, a cast pewter medal for the ANA Baltimore show in 2003, and was cosponsor of the 2008 ANA Baltimore show (along with Catonsville Coin Club and MSNA). The 2003 uniface pewter medals are not dated, do not mention the ANA, and were intended primarily as gifts to speakers. A number of them were plated in silver and sold to members. In addition, fifty were gilded in 2009 with a special golden anniversary logo appliqu&eaccute; on the reverse.
MCCC member Willy Massey designed and rolled elongated cents for the club, which announces that the Montgomery County Coin has met since 1959. It also gives the old post office box that was replaced in 2009. The elongateds made their debut at the February, 1995 coin club meeting when Willy brought his rolling machine and spoke on elongateds. Most were rolled on 1959 Lincoln cents. In 1996, he created the second elongated promoting his candidacy for MCCC Vice President in 1997.
In June 1999, Willy Massey designed and rolled a new elongated design for the fortieth anniversary of the club. He held a contest earlier in the year, and the winning acorn design came from past MCCC Presidents Andrew Luck and John Pylypec. Members were invited to bring their own coins to roll. The coin shown here is the only one rolled on a Paraguay 15 cent piece. In 2002, the ANA awarded Willy Massey a scholarship to attend their Art of Engraving course.
In addition to monetary donations from MWNA, MANA and Tri-Club, MCCC members Sid Schwartz and Ted Bennett bequeathed part of their collections to MCCC which sold the coins. Tri-Club donated a binocular microscope to each of the clubs upon dissolution. MCCC also has made a number of donations. The donated auction now benefits the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of both Silver Spring and Wheaton. Each year a small prize is given out to the member who most closely guesses the total sales. MCCC donated money to the ANA on the occasion of their show in Baltimore in 1993, and also joined the 1891 Club back in 1985. In 2001, MCCC donated money to the ANA in memory of past ANA President Stephen R. Taylor, who was a native of Delaware and active in local clubs. MCCC also donated money to the Forest Glen Senior Citizen Center, where they currently meet, to assist with maintenance of the facility.
Every MCCC meeting has a raffle. Originally MCCC raffled U.S. gold coins, from quarter eagle up to eagle. By the 1970s, the raffle was usually a Mexico five peso or Austrian ducat. Tickets were 25 cents each or five for a dollar. Profits dwindled by the late 1980s, and often the club lost money on the raffle. In 1992, MCCC replaced the gold raffle with a 50-50 raffle (the winner gets half of the evening’s proceeds), and raised the price to a dollar per ticket or six tickets for five dollars. Sales were modest, but, of course, the raffle always showed a profit. In 2000, at the request of several board members, MCCC returned to raffling only gold, and some years the profits were higher than with the 50-50 raffle. The raffle started with tenth ounce U.S. or foreign gold coins, but as gold prices rose, the coins shrank to 1/20 or 1/25 ounce foreign gold coins or even 1 gram gold ingots.
The club also has two to four door prizes given away to anyone present during the auction. In April, 1986, MCCC started a tradition that continues to this day: the bison chip drawing. Originally called the three-legged prize (the bison is a reference to the famous 1937 nickel variety), member names were written on small chips which were picked from a jar each meeting. The names were read off until they picked someone present at the meeting, who would then get a “leg.” This was done to encourage regular attendance, and the names of those picked but not present were originally published in the bulletin. Once a member had three legs, they would win the prize, which was a quarter ounce gold coin. This was changed to a proof silver eagle in 1993 due to financial concerns. In 2004, the prize was again changed to an uncirculated silver eagle but also the number of “legs” was dropped to only two. At first, maintaining the jar of name chips and the list of members with one or two legs was the Secretary’s job. However, when the Treasurer started tracking all the financial activity on a laptop computer running a BASIC program of his own design in 1991, he added a routine to randomize the list of paid-up members, choose them for the drawing, and store the results. In 2011, the name was changed to the Eagle Wing drawing and the member present recieved a wing on the Eagle as a recognition of the silver American Eagle prize.
Each meeting ends with an auction of numismatic items and literature brought by members. The club has received a commission of 5% since 1989. One auction night a year is dedicated to donations to the local Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, and occasionally other auction lots are donated for the benefit of the club, the club’s library, or other charities. Earlier meetings had a bid board at the back of the meeting room. From 1992-2000, MCCC had so many lots that a mail bid auction was held in addition to the live auction at the meeting. To cover mailing costs, a 5% commission was charged to the buyer as well as the seller.
MCCC maintains a number of items for member use. Their library contains over a hundred volumes. Originally, it was kept in a locked box in the Perpetual Bank meeting room, but since the club moved from there, the books have been kept at the librarian’s home. From 1994-2002, special donated lots were entered into the auction whose proceeds were designated for use in the club library. When Tri-Club dissolved in 1989, they donated a binocular microscope to each of the clubs. Any MCCC member could borrow the microscope, but only a few members availed themselves of this benefit. In 2003, the club purchased a Sony FD200 digital camera to be used with the microscope. This camera was designed to save the photograph to a regular 3.5″ floppy diskette, so the member did not need any special equipment to copy the file to their computer. These are still available for members to borrow, though few do. A much more successful purchase was a used digital projector in 2006, with which the club projects PC presentations as well as videos for their educational programming. Also, MCCC would regularly buy Red Books, Standard Catalog of World Coins, and coin supplies in bulk for resale to the membership for a slight profit.
The Montgomery County Coin Club has also kept pace with technology. Editor Mark Zimmerman created web-friendly bulletins starting in 1997, which were posted to our site hosted by the ANA. In 2003, the club opened its own web site, montgomerycoinclub.org, which has been upgraded by President Scott Barman to include a listing of all MCCC auction lots since 1998, back issues of the bulletin, and a live feed.
MCCC has about forty active members who attend regularly, and savings equal to five year’s expenses. Members are active in the Maryland State Numismatic Association and American Numismatic Association. The club has flourished for over a half of a century and is well positioned to continue to thrive.