World's Fair of Money Recap

Posted on 9/7/2017

Reflections from the author's 44th ANA show (and counting!)

It has been about a month since the 2017 American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money was completed in Denver, Colorado. The show saw the completion of my tenure as ANA president, and the many duties associated with the position.

The convention was also an important economic event for my company, as we had four tables right inside the front door of the show. Each year, we prepare well in advance for this major event, and we were “loaded for bear” as they say! This year’s convention marked my 44th ANA show in a row, and it was just as exciting for me as any before.

The ANA and Professional Numismatists Guild tried a different approach this year with the Pre-show concept. The Pre-show consisted of only Monday for those wishing to set up and do some wholesale business before the main event started later in the week. I personally like this schedule, as we were able to come in Sunday night, prepare our booth and show coins to our regular wholesale buyers.

The crowds for this event may look unimpressive, but I can promise you that a LOT of business is conducted during the Pre-show. First shot means a great deal in the rare coin business, and most of that happened on Monday.

Later that night, the PNG hosted its annual awards banquet and, as usual, it was well-attended and a lot of fun.

After opening ceremonies on Tuesday afternoon, the show hit the ground running with quite large crowds waiting for the doors to open for the public. Members are allowed to enter before the general public, and many took advantage of the opportunity.

This year’s ANA World’s Fair of Money had the usual giant bourse floor, with dealers from around the world setting up booths. One of the most interesting aspects of an ANA convention are the special coins and exhibits dealers bring for this exciting show. This year there was much attention to 1783 Nova Constellatio coinage, with one displaying what is being touted as the “first” U.S. coin and another with a nearly complete set of the enigmatic issue. Both exhibits were informative and an interesting study of the first pattern coinage of the United States.

My observation of bourse activity for the week is that if you had anything that would be considered “fresh” to the market, it sold very quickly. Buyers were eager to purchase attractive coins if they were priced at current market levels.

One the highlights of my sales for the week was a 1915 Panama Pacific $50 octagonal gold coin. The coin was graded NGC MS 64, and was pedigreed to the King Farouk collection.

An example of a 1915 Panama-Pacific $50 octagonal gold commemorative coin
Click images to enlarge.

Other fast sellers included commemorative silver coins, scarce date US gold coins, Morgan Silver Dollars, and NGC-certified ancient coins. In today’s market, it pays to have a diverse inventory.

A few dealers complained about sales, but in my opinion, their sales were a reflection of two important factors.

First, when browsing the bourse floor, any casual observer can tell you that there has been considerable consolidation in the rare coin market. There are less rare coin companies than there were several years ago, and there are a few mega firms with what seems to be all of the coins available. This is not true, of course, but many of the smaller operations have very limited inventory. Bottom line: It’s hard to sell from an empty wagon!

Second, there are quite a few dealers who are very specialized. They only sell one series or denomination. This can be very painful when your segment of the market is going through a downturn. That has been the case in recent months for Colonial coinage and early US copper coins. As mentioned above, diversity can be an important factor in today’s environment.

Another interesting factor in this year’s ANA was the US Mint. This year, the US Mint displayed some very interesting coins from its holdings. The US Mint brought two examples of the 1933 double eagle, which had been the subject of a long legal battle. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case about the ten 1933 double eagles taken from the Langbord family, and the US Mint felt it was time for the public to see the coins for themselves.

They also displayed the 1974-D aluminum cent that had been confiscated a few years ago. These mega rarities are seldom available for display, and it was an exciting opportunity for collectors.

The US Mint also decided to offer the 2017 225th anniversary sets at the ANA convention. Surprisingly, they allowed the purchase of 500 sets per transaction, and for about two days, there were large but manageable crowds in line to buy the sets. The ANA was firm in that it would not allow another crowd control issue like that which occurred when the US Mint sold the 2014 gold Kennedy coins. The sets created some buzz for the show, and I’m sure the grading services liked the action.

During the ANA convention, there are dozens of club meetings, special seminars and presentations. Next year, be sure to check the schedule for these events. If you do not take part, you are missing what makes the annual World’s Fair of Money truly special.

One of the most interesting meetings of the week for me was the invitation breakfast held by Coin Dealer Newsletter publisher John Feigenbaum. He discussed the methods and challenges of pricing rare coins in today’s market. This is a very complicated task, and John was very open and informative about how he arrives at his pricing for the CDN. Those in attendance also provided valuable feedback.

Thursday night of the World’s Fair of Money is generally packed with activity, and this year was no different. My first event of the evening was the bi-annual meeting of the Gold Coin Collectors Club. I was the featured speaker for the event, with my presentation being about the gold coins in the Smithsonian National Numismatic Collection. It was a pleasure sharing my many visits to the museum and telling everyone about the numismatic wonders at the Smithsonian.

Later that night, I attended the Numismatic Literary Guild gala. It was fun seeing all who labor each year on numismatic literature being recognized for their efforts. Book of the year honors this year went to the outstanding book about pattern coinage of 1792.

The show wrapped up for me on Friday night with the ANA awards banquet. This was an emotional event for me, as this would be my last hours as ANA President. I must say this year’s banquet was one of the best I have attended. All of the award recipients were amazing and gave heartfelt acceptance speeches.

My final comments focused on ALL of us doing our part to expand the hobby. The ANA has made great progress in recent years, and our new President, Gary Adkins, and his new board are committed to its future success.

If you have never attended an ANA World’s Fair of Money, you should start making plans now. Next year’s convention will be in Philadelphia, and it might be the best one yet!

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