Unbroken Tradition

Posted on Fri, 17 June 2011 by Phil Mussell
Posted in: Coin News
Unbroken Tradition Fair chance

THE London Coin Fair at the beginning of June, held as ever in the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury, was a great success—a large number of people eagerly queued in the foyer before the 9.30am opening and throughout the day a steady stream of visitors ensured that the event felt busy right through to the afternoon. As always COIN NEWS was there and as always it was great to see so many old friends—even if we had seen some of them only the week before at Eddie Smith’s excellent Leeds fair (a fair that goes from strength to strength and is now so over-subscribed that the only place we could fit in was outside the main room in the foyer—and glad we were to get that spot too!). Both shows were, of course, business. We were there to do a job: to sell books and subscriptions and generally “fly the flag”, but at the same time it was good to catch up on the news, both coin-related and personal, from people we have known for years. Such events are always a pleasant mix of business and pleasure and as one collector who spoke to us in London pointed out, many of the people who come to the fairs treat them as much as social occasions as “hobby” related ones. Now that’s all very well, and it really is great to see so many familiar faces at these fairs but I couldn’t help thinking that too often it is ONLY the familiar faces coming through the door and that, having been doing the shows for more years than I care to think about, I can actually more or less guarantee exactly who I’ll see at which event.

Don’t get me wrong, it really is great to see people and catch up; being based down in Devon we can sometimes feel a little out of the loop and the fairs are a great way to stay in touch, but seeing the same people from week to week does mean that we, and every other dealer who “stalls out”, has to try to keep their stock reasonably fresh. That’s obviously quite difficult for us as there are only so many numismatic books available. But it is difficult for the coin and banknote dealers too—seeing the same people all the time means they have to turn stock over quickly. If they don’t those same people quickly tire of seeing the same old same coins and in due course they’ll not bother visiting that dealer’s table at all. But the simple fact is that there isn’t that much material around and as a consequence dealers will buy and sell to each other just to keep things “going round” and keep the customers coming back.

If there isn’t that much ready stock to be found then the obvious answer is to try to sell the coins that are around to more people: get a new set of customers through the door. But that in itself is as problematic as finding new items to sell to the old customers. The challenge is, of course, how does an organiser get out to new people whilst at the same time maintaining the safety and security of the show (there are, after all, hundreds of thousands if not millions of pounds worth of material on the tables at some of these events) and without filling the place with well-meaning members of the public keen to ask questions about the 20p without a date or the £2 coin with the Queen wearing a necklace but not so keen to actually buy anything? I remember talking to a dealer once who stated that he would far rather “ordinary” members of the public (i.e. non-numismatists) didn’t come to shows at all—he wanted only serious buyers prepared to spend serious money. Of course he did, he was there to make his living—but if everyone thought like that we’d end up in an exclusive little club with dealers only selling to a select few and to each other and whilst that might be great for some it isn’t really going to help the hobby long term. Conversely, advertising a show indiscriminately may well attract new people but they may well be exactly the sort of people not wanted: the kind of people that cost the dealers money either through theft or wasted time. What then is the answer to this quandary? How can an organiser attract new people who are both interested in coins and willing to spend money at a dealers table? The answer is simple: we sell 10,000 copies of COIN NEWS every month and we estimate that it’s read by three times that number or more and yet the same 500–1,000 people are the ones we see at the coin shows week in week out. Now, taking into account that some of our readers are overseas and therefore won’t come to a UK show (although many do, as the London Coin Fair demonstrated) and others are unable to travel, but I still estimate that there are over 20,000 coin collectors who could easily get to a fair—they simply choose not to. Therefore I would like to put out an appeal to all of you out there who have never been to a show in your lives: look at the calendar in the back of COIN NEWS every month, check our website and find out where we are going to be and then make an effort to come along and say “Hello”. We love seeing the familiar faces at these events and really enjoy catching up with the news We love greeting old friends every week, but we’d also like to make some new ones from time to time—and that’s where you come in. See you at the next fair!

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