I’d like to tell you how an obscure one-case exhibit of little
monetary value caused a sensation at an American Numismatic
The time was August 1998 and the place was Portland, Ore. My wife,
Christie, and I arrived early, landed in Portland on July 31, and
enjoyed some sightseeing in the eastern part of the state. Then it was
back to Portland for Auctions by Bowers and Merena Inc.’s Rarities
Sale on Monday night.
Next came Professional Numismatists Guild Day on Tuesday. The
doors to the ANA show opened at 10 a.m. Wednesday, and a large crowd
of visitors streamed in. Activity was strong for the rest of the week,
but not as dynamic as it might have been had it been held in a more
populated section of the country.
While buying and selling occupied a lot of my time, I also talked
with old friends and made new ones. I also took in several Numismatic
Theater presentations and society and club meetings.
One of the most interesting was on Wednesday when John Evans gave
a program to the Civil War Token Society. The subject was oysters —
mentioned on tokens. Oysters are hardy creatures, John informed the
audience. With their shells closed, they could travel long distances
Civil War tokens were then and still are one of my favorite
specialties — one of the relatively few popular series that has not
been “researched to death.”
That evening David Hall and I gave a presentation on behalf of
Professional Coin Grading Service and made the Universal Rarity Scale,
which I had devised in 1993, available for free and uncredited use by
the numismatic community.
Oh yes, the exhibits. They were varied and, as usual, wondrous.
American, world and ancient numismatic specialties were well
represented. Eye-popping Conder tokens from the 1780s and 1790s were
displayed by Jerry and Sharon Bobbe. One of the more whimsical setups
had “road kill” coins, mostly common and modern, that had been picked
up by a numismatist who had cycled nearly 3,000 miles. Lots of fun!
However, one exhibit was the talk of the show. Mounted in a single
case, it was a display of historical “slabs” used by PCGS starting in
1986, Numismatic Guaranty Corp. in 1987 and others later. And I still
remember it to this day.
Since then holders have gone through more changes. What a nice
exhibit these could make for a reprise at the August ANA convention in Philadelphia.
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.