New Sovereign design unveiled

Posted on Tues, 25 October 2011 by Alyson Thomas
Posted in: Coin News
New Sovereign design unveiled The way forward?

EVERY year the numismatic “season” in the UK starts at the end of September/beginning of October with a series of auctions in the big London Houses (and outside the Capital) and the British Numismatic Trade Society’s (BNTA) “Coinex” show held in central London. For the last few years Coinex has taken place in the Millennium Hotel, Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, a few hundred yards from its former home at the Marriott Hotel. In the intervening years a couple of different venues were tried: Earl’s Court in West London and the Excel Centre in East London, but neither was deemed suitable so back to Mayfair the event went. This was very much in keeping with the image the BNTA wanted for their flagship show—they weren’t looking to create just another coin fair, they wanted it to be the crème de la crème of British coin bourses with dealers and visitors from across the globe attending. They have certainly succeeded with the event as it now stands with a large number of US and European dealers and auction houses taking tables alongside their British counterparts. Some of the biggest names in worldwide numismatics now have a presence at Coinex and it certainly cannot be considered just another coin fair!

Of course it isn’t just those who have a table that make a coin fair ordinary or not, but those who come through the door to buy from the dealers or indeed sell to them, and here Coinex is different too. Where most shows will either be free to get in or charge a modest few pounds entry, Coinex charges non-BNTA members a massive £50 to get in on the first day before 2.30pm (a “mere” £25 after that time)—the second day though is free for all. This is sending out a very strong message to collectors and dealers alike: you can come to our event, and come in for nothing, but if you want the pick of the best stock in the world then you have to pay for the privilege. When the pricing structure was first announced our ’phone lines, email in boxes and mail bags were full of indignant collectors horrified at the entry fee and you can understand why, £50 is a hefty chunk of cash to fork out for the privilege of parting with even more cash when you’re inside the room. They couldn’t understand why the “ordinary” collectors was seemingly being ignored in favour of the high rollers and a few stated that they wouldn’t be going at all—even on the Saturday—and indeed the Friday of the show was noticeably quieter than in previous years, at least for us launching our COIN YEARBOOK. That said, the dealers we spoke to all seemed to have had an excellent day and it appears that those who did pay their £50 did so because they had every intention of spending more. There may have been less people walking the floor but it was a case of quality over quantity with most of those who had tables agreeing that the BNTA had probably made the right decision.

One of the dilemmas of coin shows has always been that it takes as long to chat to and serve someone buying a £10 coin as it does someone buying a £5,000 coin, but the rewards for the dealer are obviously vastly different. Most dealers would of course happily spend their time talking to as many people as possible who are spending £5,000 or more and, whilst none would turn away someone spending just £10, you can see why they might be keener to attract the former rather than the latter. Every dealer we know will just as happily sell his low end items as the high end ones, but ultimately they have to make a living so the more high end items they sell the better—that’s business for you and cannot be denied. So when they know they are faced with a room full of the people likely to go high-end who can blame them for being delighted? Unfortunately, not all collectors fall into the “high end” category and so, rightly or wrongly, they do feel excluded from Coinex, the free Saturday notwithstanding, and that has ruffled a few feathers in the hobby. A number of people we expected to see at the show simply weren’t there, having decided they didn’t agree with the BNTA’s pricing decision, and others have told us that they won’t attend again—they feel the event has become too exclusive and it isn’t, therefore, for them. It is a shame that collectors feel that way, although it is understandable. However, I ask this question: is it really so wrong to have an “exclusive” show once a year? Is it really a bad thing to have an event where the international dealers can spend a lot of money coming over to London in the knowledge that the people they meet, at least on the first day, will be serious buyers with serious money? There are, after all, dozens of inclusive coin shows up and down the country every year—not least the London Coin Fair in Bloomsbury—that are inclusive and open to everyone, so what harm is there in holding one that’s a little different? Coinex has always been a little different, has always wanted to be seen as the premier UK event and perhaps this pricing policy is the way forward. After all, the fact that the Saturday was free means that it isn’t being elitist, just selective on day one. Is such a selectivity the way forward for this event? The dealers we spoke to would perhaps say yes, but what, I wonder, do the collectors think? We would be delighted if you would tell us.

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