A Bachelor of Arts in Numismatics? In the early 70’s I was attending the University of Kentucky in the honors program as a geology major. Coins were rapidly becoming much more fun than rocks. I dropped out of the second semester of my sophomore year to get married and do coins full time. I apprenticed under the coin repair master Paul Stockton for 3 months. We were mutually compensated since I was running his over the counter Pioneer Coin Shop for $1.00 an hour for his 35 hour week Monday through Friday. By working flea markets and coin shows on weekends I came to the conclusion that I could earn $2,000 a year doing my hobby as a business, and I could survive on this income. Frugal living was acceptable to me if I could be my own boss. The importance of a college degree could still not be overlooked and I probably knew that if I didn’t do it soon I might not ever graduate. I am very grateful that academia had entered the “Age of Relevancy”. The honors program offered tailored majors for a Bachelor’s degree if several criteria were met. All the course work for the usual Bachelor of Arts, Science or General Studies degrees must be met. Courses related to the chosen major or independent course work at the junior and senior levels must be taken to meet the major requirements. Any independent work in the chosen major needed a faculty advisor capable of evaluating the quality of the study or research. So I went back for my junior and senior years and got my Bachelor of Arts with a major in Numismatics in June of 1973. The normally offered courses that I took in the College of Arts and Sciences related to numismatics included: art appreciation, economics, ancient, medieval, and modern history, chemistry, physics and radiochemistry. Eighty per cent of my independent study credit hours were devoted to my undergraduate thesis. I analyzed non-destructively a series of silver coins struck at the Spanish colonial mints of Santa Fe de Bogota and Popayan. Silver from these two mints was largely a by product of the gold mining activities, and ½ to 8 reales were struck in limited numbers. Refining materials were scarce and contemporary sources mention possible gold impurities in the silver coins. To verify these statements non-destructively I used a high thermal neutron flux generated by a Californium-252 source to make my sample coins radioactive for a short period of time. By identifying and measuring the radiation emitted from the coins, the gold impurities could be quantified. Many of the samples had a 5% gold content, which raised the intrinsic value over the face value. This could easily have contributed to the numismatic scarcity of the silver coins from these mints. My chemistry professor, Dr. Ehmann, evaluated the radiochemistry scholarship, and my history professor and honors advisor, Dr. Scarborough, evaluated by numismatic research. I was fortunate that Dr. Scarborough was interested in the archaeological uses of Numismatics and appreciated research into this specialized field. I do not know if a similar topical major program is offered at any universities today.
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