The American Numismatic Association’s annual summer convention is
the show of the year for many coin collectors and dealers alike. Some
call it the granddaddy of all coin shows because most of the
specialized collector clubs and organizations hold their annual
meetings in conjunction with the weeklong ANA extravaganza of special
exhibits, educational forums and blockbuster numismatic auctions.
The atmosphere is electrifying as you step onto the gigantic
bourse floor amid the loud “buzz” of people talking and transacting business.
So it was during the summer of 1981. The ANA show opened on a
seasonably hot July 28 in grand style at New Orleans’s Rivergate
Convention Center. Precious metals had backed off of their meteoric
highs of early 1980, but enough investors remained in the coin market
to spread optimism and smiles down every aisle of the bourse. A “hot”
market seemed solidly intact.
It was my first summer ANA convention. Editor Margo Russell had
assigned Coin World’s editorial team to cover what in her
seasoned judgment would be the top news events of the week.
Friday, July 31: Margo and I were to meet at noon to take in the
spouses’ luncheon — work, but also an opportunity to sample New
Orleans cuisine. Approaching Margo at our appointed time, I sensed
something “big” was happening. As we made our way to the luncheon, she
related she had just been briefed that Congress was about to enact
legislation that could prove to be devastating to the coin market. She
had decided that the two of us would go on to the luncheon, but she
would “eat and run.” I was to stay to take pictures of a special
presentation. She would cover the developing story.
Back at the convention center, ANA leaders and a who’s who of
leading coins dealers were huddled, devising a plan of action.
Just after 11 that morning, Donald Kagin and Ken Bressett had
received a phone call from a friend in a brokerage firm asking what
they knew about two sentences that had been inserted in the
600-page-plus tax cut bill moving on the floor of the House of
Representatives. The language would have the effect of eliminating the
use of tangible assets (collectible coins, stamps, works of art, rugs,
antiques, precious metals) as tax-sheltered considerations in
self-directed Individual Retirement Accounts and Keogh accounts for
the self-employed. Favorable tax treatment had been a prime factor in
the growing coin market in recent years.
Throughout the afternoon and into Saturday, telephones wires were
sizzling with calls from New Orleans to Washington as hobby leaders
talked with members of Congress and their staffs. But, despite their
herculean efforts, the infamous “Section 314B” would remain in the
Economic Recovery Act of 1981, which President Reagan signed into law
Coin dealers and hobby leaders vowed they would never again be
caught unaware. Within two years, they formed a national trade
association based in our nation’s capital, the Industry Council for
Tangible Assets. Prevention of laws and regulations harmful or
burdensome to the coin and precious metals markets is ICTA’s focus.
Thirty-two years later, the language of “Section 314B” remains in
the federal tax code.
beth deisher was editor of Coin World for 27 of the 31
years she was on the publication’s staff. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.