Jeff Garrett: The World Money Fair 2024 in Berlin

Posted on 3/14/2024

A trip to a major show in Germany provides valuable insights into the future of coin collecting.

A few weeks ago, my wife and I attended the World Money Fair in Berlin, Germany. My main specialty has always been United States coinage, and for several years I doubted there would be much to interest me at a European coin show. That has changed in recent years, as my interests have grown to include ancient and world coinage.

Also, my wife, Mary Lynn Garrett, is a board member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), and she likes to see how other countries operate successful coin conventions. We now make the trip every year and the relationships we have developed are just beginning to bear fruit.

LEFT: Mary Lynn and Jeff Garrett with ANA President Tom Uram at the World Money Fair.
RIGHT: NGC and PMG at the 2024 World Money Fair.
Click images to enlarge.

From the start years ago, I could tell that Europeans operate quite differently than rare coin operations in the United States. The show is held at the largest hotel in Germany. The Estrel Hotel and Convention Center is giant, with over 1,000 rooms. The hotel is in a former section of East Germany, and there is not much night life in the vicinity. We always choose to stay at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Berlin. There are great restaurants, shopping and museums nearby.

For any first-time numis-tourists, the Bode Museum has one of the greatest numismatic exhibits in the world. There are several other museums in the area as well, and you should arrive a few days early to explore.

It should be remembered that this show includes representation from every facet of numismatics. This means rare coin dealers, auction houses, mass market companies, world mints, packaging companies, coin supplies dealers, bullion companies, mint equipment companies (some with full-scale presses on the bourse floor) and many others. The diversity is astounding.

Europeans love meetings, and this was obvious as soon as you entered the hotel. There were rows of tables in the lobby with people giving pitches on their wares. Nearly every meeting room in the hotel was booked by some large company, and they were conducting nonstop meetings the entire week.

A couple of my friends who do extensive business with these companies told me they had almost 100 meetings lined up for the week. Most of the meetings had been planned for months. The show did not officially start until Friday, but there was a constant buzz of activity in the lobby from Monday and on.

Coin offerings at the 2024 World Money Fair.
Click images to enlarge.

Later in the week, the crowds started to assemble for opening ceremonies. The hotel was jam-packed, with lines going out the door of the convention hotel. I have not heard the final attendance number, but they had estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people for the week. This is probably more than our own ANA World's Fair of Money.

For anyone worried about the demand for rare coins and paper money, you can take heart in the crowds these events generate. There were thousands of people eager to buy everything from ancient coins to the most recent offerings from mints around the world. The French mint was especially active this year, as they were offering coins to celebrate the Paris Olympics later this summer. Their banners and marketing material were everywhere and hard to miss.

The week also featured invitation-only educational forums. The first was the Technical Forum, with minting experts from all ranges of the coining process explaining or announcing recent innovations. This was a little too technical for my taste, but the other 200 or so people seemed to be enthralled by the presentations.

The second day's event was the Media Forum, which was intended for the introduction of new numismatic products. This is where many of the mints and marketing companies announce products they have developed for the coming year. Modern coins are an extremely important facet of this convention.

Another interesting aspect of the show was the prevalence of companies that sell gold and silver. Bullion is a big deal at these shows, and it was available in every shape and size imaginable. Europeans love bullion and its long-term safety from currency depreciation. I imagine that people who still remember World Wars and political instability have a deeper appreciation for bullion than most Americans.

Bullion marketing at the 2024 World Money Fair.
Click images to enlarge.

The show also had amazing diversity of booth operations. There was a section of small tables of just a few feet to major installations that surely cost six figures. The largest booths were done by the world mints, and they have the most dominant presence at the conventions.

Several large mass-market companies also erected elaborate booths with eye-catching graphics. Many of these companies were major sponsors of the various events and banquets. Most evenings, some world mint or mass-market company was hosting a reception. They know how to entertain at the World Money Fair!

I have heard for years that European collectors did not care for third-party certified coins. This must be changing, as evidenced by the large number of tables with NGC-certified coins being offered. Nearly every large numismatic company offered some NGC-certified coins at their booths. Ancient coins were particularly popular and world coins seemed to be gaining steam as well.

The reasons for third-party grading are universal, in my opinion. The guarantee of authenticity and quality are very important for anyone spending a considerable money on their collection. The liquidity afforded by certification is also hard to ignore. My guess is that, in the next decade, certified coins will be as widely accepted in the European markets as in the United States. NGC had a booth at the show and seemed quite busy anytime I walked by.

One of the most exciting developments of the show was when a German coin dealer recognized me (from the American TV series "Pawn Stars") and asked to show me some rare US gold coins. He presented me with three amazing 1893-CC Double Eagles. After some discussion, it was decided to send the coins to the US (via NGC) and see how they grade. I'm anxiously waiting for the results. As mentioned above, the time invested in traveling to Germany each year is now starting to pay off.

One of our goals was to learn why the World Money Fair is so successful. Also, I wanted to know why collectors in Europe seem to have more enthusiasm for the hobby. I believe a large part of this is because of marketing. The world mints make a huge effort to market an array of products throughout the year. They produce coins for circulation and, more importantly, for the collector market. They even strike circulating collectible coins (low mintage) on occasion to stimulate demand.

World mints at the 2024 World Money Fair.
Click images to enlarge.

The mass-market companies in Europe are also more prevalent and more highly respected than in the United States. These companies are key sponsors of many of the events during the week. They sell coins with great stories and spend a lot of money to do it. These companies and some world mints are actually part owners of the convention and have a vested interest in the show's success.

This year's World Money Fair was a wonderful experience, and I highly recommend attending the show if your schedule permits. My greatest reward for the week has always been the numerous people that we meet. These are relationships that will prove valuable in the future for business and camaraderie.

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