Sarah Miller ’13 developed a passion for numismatics as a child after attending a coin show in Missouri. Miller has followed that passion to her current position as director of numismatics for Heritage Auctions, the largest collectibles auctioneer in the world.
Accompanied by her father, Miller began attending coin shows and conventions in Illinois and neighboring states at age 11, eventually traveling nationally by the time she entered high school. At age 14, Miller was offered her first job by a coin dealer in Colorado. Numismatics is the study of rare coins, often involving historical context and visual design.
“I worked with this same dealer all throughout high school and college, moving up within the business over time as he mentored me and my knowledge of rare coins increased,” said Miller.
While at North Central, Miller majored in finance and economics but decided to continue a career in the coin industry as a numismatist.
“Coins are valued by collectors for the artistry and beauty of their designs,” said Miller. “History is a huge part of what we do as numismatists; coins can teach us about the time they were made and the people who designed and used them in everyday commerce.”
At the New York office of Heritage Auctions, Miller acts as the contact for most people wishing to learn about their coins and how to buy or sell them. Clients range from those who have simply stumbled upon the coins to experienced collectors who need assistance with their collections. Miller evaluates the coins in person or through pictures, looking for unique features and the overall condition.
“The process for evaluating a coin begins with evaluating its condition,” said Miller. “Coins are graded on a scale from one to 70, with one being so worn it’s nearly unidentifiable and 70 being perfect. Within this range, values of the same coin can vary wildly and so can prices.”
For some coins, Miller can refer to values estimated by a third party service when the coin is certified by professional grading services. Miller also researches previous auctions of the same coin in similar conditions, and consults pricing guides within the industry to determine an accurate price. While Miller has seen a vast array of coins, a significant amount are worth only a few dollars. Still, the daily excitement remains.
“Every day is a treasure hunt. You never know what clients may bring in or call about, or what people might have in their pockets, safety deposit boxes or change jars,” said Miller. “Once I found a coin worth $10,000 in the bottom of a Folgers coffee can that a family brought in.”
Although this career choice stemmed from a personal hobby, Miller looks back at North Central with gratitude. Miller feels her collegiate experience prepared her for her career journey.
“In an environment that allowed me to explore many different viewpoints, I learned more about the world through studying abroad, meeting students and professors with unique ideas, and taking a fascinating mix of courses,” said Miller.
A Spanish minor has come in handy to communicate with Spanish-speaking clients about their coins. Miller also maintains strong friendships from North Central, despite the distance between New York and Naperville; several of those friends attended her wedding in New York.
“North Central gave me a great foundation for much of the exciting work that I’m thankful to be doing now, and I look forward to what the future may bring,” said Miller.
“North Central gave me a great foundation for much of the exciting work that I’m thankful to be doing now...” Sarah Miller ‘13