Volume 60, Number 11, November 2023
A time and a place ATTENDING the first coin fair after John passed away was always going to be tough, and the fact that it was Coinex (held on September 29–30), a show he went to every single year (bar the enforced Covid hiatus, of course) meant there might well have been many people wondering where he was, more so, perhaps, than if it had been another event. In fact, as we had managed to get the October COIN NEWS out shortly after John’s death, most people were aware of the fact and thus it was with condolences and heartfelt sympathy rather than questions about his absence that we were inundated with—and we would like to thank you all for your kind words. It was so gratifying to hear just what high esteem he had been held in and how he will be missed. Whilst the show was never going to be an easy one considering the circumstances, we knew we had to do it simply because it is Coinex—the flagship show of the BNTA and the “big” British show on the International circuit. Although other fairs do, of course, get international visitors, Coinex has always been the one that attracts the most and, like Berlin, the ANA and the big Far East shows, it is far more than just the bourse, with meetings arranged and friendships rekindled. That said, it is primarily a coin fair and not a social event or a numismatic society, so the bourse is hugely important; it is, after all, the British Numismatic Trade Association that organises the weekend so it would seem a trifle odd to miss out on the trade aspect! However, it is not, perhaps, a coin fair that is going to appeal to everyone. Being held in a hotel in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair, and attracting some of the biggest names in the numismatic trade means that you will probably look in vain for bargain trays or circulated Benjamin Bunny 50p pieces. This is a high-end affair—you realise that when you glance through the catalogue of one of the European auction houses and see they have an Una and the Lion in their next sale with an estimate of €1,000,000 (yes, that’s a million). Most of the auctioneers had a presence, some showcasing simply stunning coins (I’d never seen more than one Oxford pound on a table before—Morton & Eden had three) or highlighting their forthcoming sales with pictures of coins that you just know will hit record after record. The dealers “stalling out” also had their best wares on offer, with tray after tray to tempt the buyers. Not only was there more gold on display than you’d see at most shows, but the other coins were superb too, with simply stunning examples of every type of coin imaginable: Celtic, Roman, Greek, Islamic, Anglo-Saxon, Mediaeval, Civil War, Milled (there were at least five 1902 Matt Proof sets, for example), and New Issues (well, precious metal examples at least). There was literally something for everybody—if they had the money, that is. There was not, I fear, too much for those just starting out; few pocket money coins, no lower grade coins to be used as placeholders until a better example comes along. Coinex was not a place to go if you only had a few pounds in your pocket. This has been the case for a while, of course, and has inevitably led to accusations of elitism and calls for the event to be moved out of London so that it’s more accessible to the average collector; we had a number of people suggest to us over the weekend that the event would be better held outside the M25 and, whilst I can see why that might appeal to some (especially with London costs being what they are), I would suggest that to make such a move would be a mistake. No, perhaps Coinex isn’t going to appeal to the beginner, maybe it’s not the place to go for a bargain, or to rummage through a “junk tray”, and whilst not every dealer was catering only in high-end items, there were obviously many in evidence, certainly more than you’d see at most other fairs, but actually, that’s OK. There are plenty of other places collectors can visit that cater for serious buyers and beginners alike; there’s the London Coin Fair, the Midland Coin Fair at the Motorcycle Museum, York, Harrogate, Cardiff, the Yorkshire Coin Fair in Huddersfield, many well attended shows that give big spenders and pocket money collectors equal chance to add to their collections. Coinex isn’t that, it is the flagship show, the International show, the show that gives us the chance to see (and if you’re lucky, handle) some of the rarest, most desirable, coins ever minted and to lose that would be great shame. Whilst it wouldn’t be very healthy for the hobby to see every coin show packed full of auction houses offering €1m Unas, or dealers with tables filled only with coins whose accompanying price tags have altogether more zeroes than most of us are comfortable with, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for such things and to make Coinex just another coin fair would, I think, be a great shame. That said, if the BNTA membership think that the organisation should turn its back on the glitz of Mayfair and head to, say, Milton Keynes (I don’t pick that locale at random, it’s where the Orders and Medals Research Society are holding their Convention next year) then so be it—we’ll still be there, we rather enjoy it, and besides . . . where else would we launch our COIN YEARBOOK?
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