One Man's passion

Posted on Tues, 26 August 2014 by Alyson Thomas
Posted in: Coin News
One Man's passion Bigger than you think

COIN NEWS has just been to the American Numismatic Association’s “World Fair of Money” (ANA) for the second year in succession. The show, in the cavernous Donald E. Stephens convention centre in Rosemont, a suburb of Chicago was, as I mentioned last year, so unlike any British show that it took a while to adjust to the scale of it all. Everything numismatic was there—from the Mints of the World showcasing their new products, to the part-time dealers just trying to get a little extra cash by disposing of their “extras”. We were there both because we had an enjoyable show last year and because it coincided with OMSA (the Orders and Medals Society of America show) just a week later, so we were able to kill two transatlantic birds with one stone. What we were not there to do was pick up our award from the Numismatic Literary Guild (NLG) which we won for the “Best Issue” in the “World Numismatic Magazine” category in the annual worldwide competition—we came first with our July 2013 issue. It came as a complete surprise and we weren’t even at the award dinner (sorry about that NLG, we’ll come along next year!). We were, however, at the Austrian Mint’s event celebrating 25 Years of their Vienna Philharmonic Gold Bullion piece, and at the Royal Mint dinner (where some new projects were unofficially announced—you will know more about them as soon as the official announcement is made) and we would like to extend our thanks to both organisations for their hospitality.

Hospitality is actually what this event is all about and whilst there is, of course, a great deal of activity in the bourse itself, the real business is done in meetings behind the scenes, where mints, wholesalers, metal companies, investment companies, etc., get together, much as they do in Berlin in February, to shape the future of the “new issues” side of the hobby. Add to that the hugely successful auctions held in the week of the convention and you soon realise that the amount of money that is involved in the ANA is far more than just the deals done with collectors.

That’s what I love about this hobby: its sheer scale and diversity. I’ve said before that I don’t think there is another “leisure interest” that spans the centuries quite like ours does. Rarely will you see objects that changed hands 2,000 years ago classed in the same bracket as items made last week; yet in numismatics that is exactly what you have. However, the time-span is just one side of the diversity, as huge conventions like the ANA demonstrate. In the same week as you had hundreds of people queuing up for the specially minted “50th Anniversary of the Kennedy Half Dollar” coin (the first gold one purchased at the show, slabbed and identified as such, changed hands twice before the event was over, firstly for a profit of over $3,000 on the original $1,240 asking price, the second time it sold for a staggering $100,000!); you also had wholesalers placing orders to include in their new catalogues and ancients dealers chatting one on one with dedicated collectors eager to purchase a new Islamic coin for their collection, and that’s not to mention the auctions and some of the stunning results achieved there!

In this “Comment” last year I asked whether the UK couldn’t hold an event similar to the ANA? Whether we couldn’t encourage dealers from across the globe to come in for a huge convention over four or five days? But now I realise that actually that is only one very small part of a show like this. As much is done away from the bourse as in it and whilst I know we have the wherewithal to encourage the dealers to come in to create a huge “coin fair”, there’s far more people we need to attract than just the numismatists. I stand by my thoughts of last September: that the classic British fair, with a mad rush first thing and then a distinct tailing off quite a while before the publicised official end of the event, is not an ideal model to encourage more overseas dealers or collectors who may well be loath to travel in for just one or one and a half days; however, simply extending a “coin fair” over a longer period of time will not an ANA/Berlin clone make. This hobby is more than just dealers and collectors and whilst they are, and always will be, the backbone of it, its diversity means a huge convention in the UK needs to encourage everybody involved to get on board, to bring together branches of the hobby that normally have little to do with each other. I still think we can do it, but it will be a bigger job than perhaps I realised 365 days ago! It’s easy, when you are involved as we are in the “collector facing” side of numismatics, to forget there’s so much more to it than we see. But then that’s what makes it so fascinating!

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