Michael Berkman

Honored for Writing About Coins

At age 14, Michael Berkman has taken his passion for coin-collecting far beyond the fondness an average teenager has for hoarding baseball cards, Beanie Babies, stickers or Pokemon paraphernalia.

Since third grade, Michael has collected more than 200 coins and has built a library of more than 600 books on numismatics, which he keeps in two large cases in his family's Potomac home, where he lives with his parents and 10-year-old brother (whom Michael describes as a serious Beanie-Baby collector).

And currently, Michael is writing a book on the history of gold coins, which should contain some 600 pages when completed by the end of the year.

"I collect copper, a few gold coins--nothing impressive. My tastes go further than my wallet does," said Michael, who last month received two awards in Chicago at the American Numismatic Association World's Fair of Money, an event where coin-collectors meet. "The last two years, I've mostly collected literature. Books and catalogues are just as interesting, if not more," he said.

At the fair, he received a $5,000 first-place award in an essay contest, in which he competed against other young collectors. His essay, "The History of American Numismatic Literature," won the contest, which was sponsored by the Professional Coin Grading Service. Competing against adult and professional collectors, Michael also won the Maurice Gould Memorial Award from the American Numismatic Association, for "United States Gold Dollars," a chapter of his book, "United States Proof Gold and Related Issues."

"It's a strong interest of mine, and publishing a book is the culmination of my efforts and also something I consider enjoyable," Michael said of his hobby.

Michael, who will start his sophomore year at St. Andrews Episcopal School in Potomac today, has written 400 pages by working weekends since November and throughout the summer on the book, in which he tries to trace every proof gold coin in existence.

"It's going to be a reference book that a dealer or collector can use to evaluate coins on the basis of value, history and other aspects," he said.

One of Michael's favorite coins is a $20 gold piece, commissioned by President Theodore Roosevelt, who wanted the coin to be included in high circulation. There was some conflict with the engravers at the U.S. Mint, because the design came from an outside sculptor. A similar, less-detailed coin was released. According to Michael, the original design was sold at auction recently for $1.21 million.

Once the book is complete, Michael hopes to write several more, focusing on pattern and experimental coins (which are prototypes of designs for coins), with a goal of a six-volume series on gold coins. After finishing high school, he wants to attend the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, to study and have a career in (what else?) finance.

Montgomery Leadership Awards

Recent Graduates Honored

Five 1999 graduates of Montgomery County High School received $1,000 awards from Leadership Montgomery for their community service and leadership. Students were chosen based on completing at least 260 hours of school-accredited community service by the end of their junior year and from essays they wrote about their community-service experience.

Mark Michael Chite, from Sherwood High School, received the award for his volunteer service to the Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department; Craig Adam Erdrich, of Montgomery Blair High School, wrote about his involvement with the Ronald McDonald House; Sadhana Jackson, of Gaithersburg High School, wrote on the importance of a mentor; Benjamin Jeremy Lesnick, of Sherwood High School, spent his time working with the blind; and Kristine Held Schmitz, of the Academy of the Holy Cross, received leadership experience through her work with Girls Rule!, a mentoring project for fifth- and sixth-graders.

Gwendolyn Boyd

Women of Washington Panelist

Gwendolyn Boyd, of Silver Spring, recently was selected to serve as one of four panelists during the Women of Washington Luncheon: "A Century of Change: Celebrating Women's Lives." She was also profiled in a Washingtonian Magazine special report, "Our Story" about women in the Washington region. Boyd, 43, is a mechanical engineer who works as a program officer at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel. She was the first woman to join the lab when she began her career in 1980.

Organizations

Smart Growth and Neighborhood Conservation, a Maryland nonprofit organization, is one of 25 finalists nationwide in the Ford Foundation's Innovations in American Government Awards. The group received $20,000 and will compete for a $100,000 grant, which will be awarded next month to 10 of the finalists. This program is the nation's first statewide, incentive-based effort to curb sprawl.

Bethesda Academy of Performing Arts's Deaf Access Program received a Meritorious Service Award from the Maryland Association of the Deaf at the association's 36th Biennial Conference in Baltimore last month. The program, in its seventh year, provides cultural experiences, for deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing teenagers, through participation in acting companies.

CAPTION: "My tastes go further than my wallet does," says coin expert Michael Berkman, 14, who won awards for essays on collecting.