The More I Know, the More I Realize What I Don’t Know

February 1, 2012

by Charmy Harker (The Penny Lady)

Socrates once said “ouk imae idenai, ah mae oido” – which basically means, “the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”  And another author, William Blake, said it even colorfully:  “The larger grows the island of my knowledge, the longer stretch the shores of my ignorance.”

This philosophy has followed me through all the segments of my life, but never so much as during my numismatic ventures.  The story of how I came into numismatics was published in the Ledger several years ago, but in short, I inherited various coins from an aunt when I was in my 30’s.  At that time I didn’t have any experience or knowledge about coins, so I had no idea what the coins were worth.  Also, I had a full-time career as a litigation paralegal and a family so my plate was full and I didn’t really have time to learn about all the different coin series.  So I decided to focus on just one type of coin and since I’ve always had an interest in Native American history, I chose the Indian cent.  I began reading books, watching grading videos, searching websites, attending coins shows, studying all grades and quality of coins, and asking a lot of questions of dealers at shows who didn’t mind helping me.  I tried to learn everything I could about Indian cents (and later Lincoln and Early American Copper cents) so I would have a comprehensive understanding of these coins before I felt comfortable buying and/or selling them.

But the one thing that kept coming back to me throughout my quest was that every time I thought I had a good understanding of a certain aspect of coins, I would learn something else that would remind me once again how little I actually knew about numismatics!

As a dealer and collector of Indian, Lincoln and EAC cents, I feel pretty comfortable with my knowledge in these series.  But at almost every show I attend I get a question or two that stumps me – and the title quote of this essay once again pops into my head reminding me that I still have so much to learn, even in the coins I specialize in.

Further, I often attend shows with the famed Indian cent expert and author, Rick Snow, who is not only a good friend, but someone I consider as a mentor to me.  The more time I spend with Rick and his encyclopedic knowledge of Indian cents, once again, the more I realize how much I have to learn.  He has spent many years researching and studying Indian cents in depth and I could only hope to someday have even one-tenth of the knowledge he has on this beloved series.

Even Donald Trump knows he doesn’t know everything!  He said “It’s good to start each day by saying to yourself, ‘What can I learn today that I didn’t know before?’”  In that same speech, he continued with “It’s impossible to know everything, . . . it’s just no fun, for you or anyone else . . . and you will be missing out on some great adventures.”

And if you could choose the best place to gain more numismatic knowledge, it would have to be the ANA Summer Seminar program.  Personally, I still have a lot to learn and I believe the ANA program is the best place to gain knowledge in all aspects of numismatics.  The quality of their programs, the experience and knowledge of their teachers, their tireless volunteer helpers, and the camaraderie that occurs among all of these groups is what especially draws me to want to participate in the ANA summer program – not to mention the fact that I simply don’t want to miss out on another great numismatic adventure!

So never stop seeking knowledge – it is life-long but wondrous adventure!

About Charmy Harker

This Southern California mother of two has gone from a litigation paralegal to a preeminent authority on U.S. one cent pieces, specializing in Flying Eagle, Indian, Lincoln, and Early American Copper Cents.

Looking back on starting out as a brand new coin enthusiast to having amassed quite an empire of nice small cents, a little inheritance was the beginning of something very special and rewarding for her.  And because Charmy is a woman who specializes in only cents, she eventually earned the dubious title of “The Penny Lady.”  While she finds being female is somewhat of an oddity among coin dealers, she has never been made to feel like an outcast or that she didn’t belong in this business.  On the contrary, most every coin dealer with whom Charmy has come into contact with has been more than kind and helpful, with many now even referring their Indian cent customers.

Her main goals are:

  1. To provide high quality coins at a fair price.
  2. To make sure my customers are completely satisfied with their purchases.
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