What makes you an expert?

I get this question all the time; I also think about it a lot. I think a lot depends on who you are with, and what you are talking about. I can find a famous, well respected, US Coin guy who would not be an expert on ancient Chinese coins. May not even be able to tell you anything about one. That does not mean he is not a coin expert, it just means he has a specialty, and outside of that, he may be a bit weaker in his knowledge.

As I spoke about in a few of my last posts, I was out at the ANA Summer Session. In that group, for those two weeks, I am pretty low on the totem pole regarding knowledge of coins/exonumia/currency. I would even say that I am one of the carvings underground that you can’t even see. I have a foundation, but not a great deal of depth or longevity on the subject matter.

Two weeks go by, and I am out at the National Auctioneers Association (NAA) Conference & Show. In that group of people, I am a coin expert. In fact, Steve and I gave a class on “Million Dollar Coin Auctions”. Now that class was titled towards the auction industry for obvious reasons, but in that room and in that convention hall, I am still on the more topside of the pile with knowledge of numismatics.

Knowing is Half the Battle

I think that knowing that you will fluctuate your level of expertise is a good thing to keep in mind when out in the world. Our internal dialogue and conversations are well and good, but no one ever should expect to be the end all and be all of all knowledge on something. Well except the American guys who have walked on the moon, those guys are in an elite group, and we all need to nod our head to them.

• Neil Armstrong (CDR, Apollo 11)
• Buzz Aldrin (LMP, Apollo 11)
• Pete Conrad (CDR, Apollo 12)
• Alan Bean (LMP, Apollo 12)
• Alan Shepard (CDR, Apollo 14)
• Edgar Mitchell (LMP, Apollo 14)
• David Scott (CDR, Apollo 15)
• James Irwin (LMP, Apollo 15)

I think it is also important that we always strive to try to make yourself more knowledgeable, not just in something that will benefit our work, but also with will make up a better person, as a whole. I have found that as my knowledge of other things has facilitated my numismatic understanding, and vice-versa. I learn a ton at ANA, a lot of it not necessarily about numismatics. I learn a ton at NAA, not necessarily about auctions. Now I will fully admit that I am a geek, and so learning to me is fun, but I think that it also keeps us young. It keeps us flexible and makes us see the world anew at times. And for me, that may by the best part or taking any class or going to any talk!