US Coins

2022 ANA World’s Fair of Money offers best, worst

Charles Dickens was nowhere to be found at the 2022 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money, but words from his 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities serve as an appropriate summation of the activity.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…”

Focusing on the good, the show’s return to its usual hall within the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center brought a much more professional appearance than the flea market atmosphere that prevailed in last year’s event, when uncarpeted wide aisles and stark surroundings left some unimpressed. Carpeted aisles and the return of world businesses contributed to a positive outlook. Educational displays, which last year were tucked away in an adjacent room, were also in the main hall, allowing the entire show to be presented in one area and easily accessible.

Many reports throughout social media channels were positive in terms of business conducted and expectations met.

Plenty to see

Several attractions supplemented the bourse floor activity this year. The educational exhibits were plentiful, and many visitors took the time to look at the dozens of exhibits carefully placed in the area. Visitors were given the opportunity to vote for their favorites, while the ANA judges scrutinized the displays for their own awards.

At the opposite end of the hall, the United States Mint made a return to the floor, with special guest Ventris C. Gibson, 40th Mint director, making scheduled appearances to talk to attendees. She was surrounded by displays of Mint products now available for collectors, along with special activities and giveaways directed at younger collectors.

Adjacent to the Mint display, the massive Nemo, a 6-ton remotely operated submersible, captured attention and directed visitors to the display hosted by the California Gold Marketing Group and Holabird Western Americana Collections LLC. Ringing the area around the Nemo were artifacts recovered from the SS Central America, including personal items of passengers and crew members to offer a glimpse of life at the time of the ship’s 1857 sinking.

One of the featured items on display there drew a surprise visitor to the World’s Fair of Money. Linda Stanton, great-granddaughter of the ship’s purser, Edward Hull, was given the opportunity to actually hold the recovered keys that were used by her relative.

Adjacent to the Central America space, the ANA featured a showcase of historic rarities from the ANA museum and private collections. Its displays included a selection of Baker-Manley George Washington-related medals that were given to the agency at last year’s World’s Fair of Money, error notes from the Beebe Collection, and a display courtesy of Legend Numismatics that featured the top two Professional Coin Grading Service registry sets of Proof and regular-issue 20-cent coins.

On the bourse floor, visitors to the GreatCollections booth could see the first appearance of the Koessl Collection of Matte Proof gold coins. Tom Koessl explained that he started collecting with the 1909 and 1910 sets, but “went wild and had to collect all 32 pieces.” It became a 35- to 40-year adventure.

“I took my time to do it right,” he said. “I wanted to buy the right coin for the set. I wanted to match the characteristics of the coins within the year for the set. I wanted the finest known or most original and didn’t want to buy an inferior coin.”

Koessl has sold the collection intact, thanks to the efforts of John Albanese and Ian Russell, and Koessl expressed his gratitude for those responsible because it was important to him to have it sold as a set. Koessl added that he and Sharon, his wife of 52 years, plan to direct some of the proceeds to benevolent efforts.

Off the floor

The World’s Fair of Money serves as a gathering point for the membership of numerous organizations and provides on-site educational opportunity.

Through a series of education presentations such as the Maynard Sundman Littleton Coin Co. Lecture Series and “Money Talks,” visitors get multiple chances to expand their knowledge. Presentations reach a wide variety of topics and this year included subjects such as hobo nickels as folk art, academic research on the detection of Chinese counterfeit coins, and good luck pieces and magic amulets.

Several organizations held social gathering and business meetings with assembled membership. As reported in the September monthly issue of Coin World, Women in Numismatics held its final awards ceremony. Other national and international groups that gathered included the Token and Medal Society, John Reich Collectors Society, Society of Bearded Numismatists and Bust Half Nut Club.

The Numismatic Literary Guild held its annual award ceremony for its writer’s competition. John Dannreuther received the Clemy, the organization’s top honor in recognition of writing skill and dedication to numismatics. John Kraljevich was named the annual Ribbit award winner. Coin World was honored with Best Professional Publication and Best Audio for the Coin World podcast.

Special events were also held after hours, with invitational gatherings on behalf of the Royal Mint of Spain and the National Numismatic Collection among the events held after the show close. The ANA held their 131st annual awards banquet on Friday evening before the show’s final day, with top service awards presented. Rod Frechette was named Numismatist of the Year. Fred Weinberg was tabbed for a Lifetime Achievement Award. Thomas Uram was honored with the Chester L. Krause Memorial Distinguished Service Award.

Now the bad news

Show activity got off to a bad start before the public was allowed into the hall. On Monday during show set-up, thieves made off with an entire showcase from an unattended booth that contained Rolex watches, cash and coins, by loading the case upside down onto a wheeled cart and exiting the building with the goods. During the show, a dealer reported rare currency items missing from the company’s display. At least four other thefts were reported.

The criminal activity led to ongoing outcry for better security at coin shows. Shortly after the initial theft report, the Numismatic Crime Information Center posted its “Coin Show Tactics for Dealers” to the group’s Facebook page. The 67-point message spells out steps to take to help prevent unwanted occurrences.

While investigations, insurance claims and lookout alerts continue, the incidents serve as a constant reminder to be on guard. Reports of criminal activity are not limited to just large national shows, but appear to be on the increase elsewhere too. As the NCIC noted, “During the past several months, organized groups have been targeting coin shows and coin shops. However, most recently, NCIC has seen coin show dealers becoming high profile targets.”

The incidents cast a pall over what could have been otherwise labeled a positive event. It remains to be seen how lessons learned will be put into use in the future. While many believe larger scale coin shows are on the way out, those who rely upon such events for face-to-face meetings, once-a-year reunions, and membership activities remain hopeful that the events hold a secure spot in the years ahead. For now, the show must go on.

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