US Coins

Bowers says Baltimore Coin Expo 'one of best ever'

The Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo held at the Baltimore Convention Center from Thursday, March 31, to Sunday, April 2, was one of the best ever. 

“Over 1,400 dealers were here,” said Mary Burleson, president of Whitman, “and from the time the doors opened on Thursday morning, thousands of collectors roamed the bourse floor. This was one of our best shows ever, even better than last year!”

“This Expo exceeded everyone’s expectations,” Lori Kraft, show manager, commented. “Dealers are essential to any show’s success, and all I talked to had smiles on their faces. Of course, collectors and their checkbooks made all of this happen.”

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There was a lot going on at the expo, ranging from Kids’ Korner activities each day for the younger set to meetings of specialized groups including the Liberty Seated Collectors Club, Barber Coin Collectors Society, John Reich Collectors Society, Early American Coppers, and the Maryland Token & Medal Society. Leonard Augsburger gave a special presentation on the new Eric Newman Numismatic Portal, a boon for anyone interested in numismatic history and research.

In the meantime the United States Mint had a display along one convention wall. Starting as soon as the show opened, a long line formed as buyers watched the clock. At noon precisely the Proof 2016 American Buffalo 1-ounce gold coin was released in all sales channels, including in-person sales by Mint staff at the show. Excitement prevailed, and on the first day 1,865 were sold. On the next day only nine were sold. Why? The Mint had sold out its entire show allotment! 

“The Essence of Timeless Beauty” was the backdrop for this timeless design. 

“We were happy to be able to offer the coins to collectors attending the Expo,” said Mint spokesman Michael White. “James Earle Fraser’s Buffalo nickel design is one of the most popular designs on American coinage, symbolic of the strength of our nation and our heritage.” 

Throughout the expo the Mint staff were busy selling other coins, including Proofs, sets, and commemoratives. On display for the first time and not for sale was a gold 2016 Winged Liberty Head dime — a coming attraction commemorating 100 years of this motif.

There was another “first day” of release event at the show. At the large Whitman Publishing LLC wall display of books, the new 2017 cover-date 70th Anniversary Edition of A Guide Book of United States Coins was released with great enthusiasm. Editor Kenneth Bressett, Jeff Garrett as valuations editor, and I as research editor pre-signed 48 books and numbered them with the first day date. Each day at 2:00 in the afternoon at the show 10 copies were given away for free to attendees who filled out tickets and put the stubs in a jar. “You are not allowed to sell your copies on eBay,” I kidded the winners when on the first day I was the one to draw the lucky numbers.

On Thursday night Wayne Homren, editor of the popular E-Sylum e-newsletter, hosted a dinner of the Nova Nummus group, a regional society for writers and others, to which I was fortunate enough to be invited. Over the course of several hours I was reminded how many talented people are at work with research — many being from the “old guard” active for a long time.

In the meantime, Stack’s Bowers Galleries kept up a steady pace of auctions, with four separate catalogs. The total realization was over $13,500,000. “The Baltimore Expos are always a highlight in our auction program,” Chris Karstedt, vice president of the company stated. “This was one of our best ever. Bids came from all directions — from the sale gallery at the Expo, via the Internet, and on the telephone. Many record prices were set, and action was strong from start to finish.”

Leading the sale was a 1799 Capped Bust gold $10 eagle, graded Mint State 66 by Professional Coin Grading Service, that attracted wide attention and kept going up and up until only one floor and three telephone bidders remained. (All prices include the buyer’s fee.) They dueled it out, and the coin went through the roof at $493,500. Among other gold coins, an MS-61 1808 Capped Bust $2.50 quarter eagle, the only year of the design type, was bid up to $223,250.

Among large copper cents in the Twin Leaf Collection, presented in a separate catalog, the rare 1839/6 Coronet cent in PCGS About Uncirculated 53 (PCGS), one of the finest known of this seldom-seen issue, went to a buyer attending from New England. Among the more unusual items was an original roll of 1935-D Winged Liberty Head dimes that went for $28,200. Although rolls of dimes and other coins from the mid-1930s were once bought and sold with regularity, such are seldom seen today as they have been broken up for individual sale.

Among currency a $10 Series of 1902 Date Back national bank note of the First National Bank of Horse Cave (Kentucky), a well-worn Paper Money Guaranty Very Good 10 but very rare note crossed the block at $12,337.50. A $20 national gold bank note of the First National Gold Bank of Oakland (California), PMG Fine 12 Net with repairs and a tear, sold for a strong $15,863,50. A serial number 1 Original Series $1 national bank note of the Concord National Bank (Massachusetts), PMG Very Fine 20, went to a new home for $15,275.

“Rarity came to the fore in the sale,” commented Stack’s Bowers Galleries specialist Peter Treglia. 

All too soon, the show was over. Everyone I spoke with had a nice time.

“Remind everyone that the next Expo will be at the Baltimore Convention July 14 to 17, and it is not too early to make reservations,” Mary Burleson suggested as she left for home. Indeed, I plan to be there and will look forward to meeting and greeting Coin World readers and others. 

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