I continue my reminiscences of my first American Numismatic
Association convention. The time was August 1955, and at age 17 I was
not yet old enough to be a member of the ANA (18 was the requirement).
However, the association had 40 bourse tables to sell at $50 each
and some were not spoken for.
I had been a dealer since 1953 and had attended a number of shows
in the East, but this prospect would be my first long-distance trip —
to Omaha, Neb.
The ANA awarded me a table with the provision that my father be
responsible for the integrity of my transactions. Minors were viewed
with a wary eye. Quite a change, I must say, from now. Youngsters are
welcome and the Young Numismatists group within the association has
special programs and is very much appreciated — as the future of the hobby.
The 1955 show set a record with 500 attendees. Today, well over
10,000 register, and the number of bourse tables is in the hundreds.
The bourse was in the Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton-Fontenelle
Hotel. Dealer tables were placed all around the walls, and in the
center were tables for educational displays. A kindly old gentleman,
O.L. Harvey, from Seminole, Okla., had a complete set of four 1879 and
1880 $4 gold Stellas on view. I had never seen such before, so he let
me examine them.
Among the coins I had for sale was an 1849-O Seated Liberty half
dime, a worn example of this rare date and Mint. A man came over to
look at it, while I was talking to someone else. When I returned my
attention, he had departed, as had the half dime. The dealer having
the bourse table next to me, Charlie, a railroader who dealt in coins
part time (and who wore the same tie, with a stain on it, each day at
the show), told me that he knew the culprit, a well-known shoplifter,
but there wasn’t much that I could do about it as he needed to be
caught in the act.
I learned that others around the bourse were quite aware of him.
Proof sets were all the rage in 1955, and at the convention Sol
Kaplan posted a list of bid and ask prices for modern sets from 1936
to date, changing certain values during the show. This created quite a
stir, and at later conventions he set up a large chalkboard to do
this. At the convention I saw three complete 1915-S Panama-Pacific
International Exposition sets for sale, which was amazing. The “rare”
was common, it seemed. I still had a lot to learn.
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries
and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached
at his private email, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or at Q. David Bowers, LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.