At the ANA convention: ?Fun with coins before the show begins

Lot viewing is the many pleasurable activities that collectors can enjoy at the ANA World's Fair of Money.

Coin WOrld image.

This morning the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money formally opens to the public, but I’ve already notched one day of coin show fun even before the show began.

One of the benefits of arriving early to the show is the chance to spend time viewing lots in the auctions scheduled during the show. With a calendar full of meetings, educational forums, club gatherings and of course bourse shopping, taking time before the show begins to browse the highlights makes wonderful sense. Even if you’re under the watchful eyes of several security guards, making you double think every muscle motion and action so that you make clear you have only good intentions.

For writers, it’s a great chance to see coins that we’ve written about but may never have held in our hands.  

There’s something awesome about holding a gold litrae once in the famed Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection. This coin (a highlight of Stack’s Bowers Galleries sale) was issued circa 405 to 395 B.C., more than 2400 years ago! Here is something that circulated on this planet as money before the time of Christ, and I’m holding it in my hand!

There is a romantic lure to ancient coins, because they provide insights into and, more importantly, a connection with the civilizations that shaped the West and left a tremendously fascinating history.

Or consider the distater of Athens featuring Athena and the bull in the famous design. Rotate the coin at an angle and you immediately sense the depth of the engravers’ art, giving motion to the bull. The roughness and crudity of the edges reinforces our understanding of the violent manner by which ancient coins were struck, brute force manufacturing, measured in manpower.

Try experiencing that in digital photos — you cannot! It takes the 3-dimensional interaction to experience more fully that which captivates us collectors.

For collectors, lot viewing obviously provides a chance to compare similar coins which different pre-sale estimates. The green patina catches the light differently, or the wear on one Extremely Fine coin suddenly becomes more noticeable when placed side-by-side with an About Uncirculated example.

There is a practical purpose as well, especially when it comes to group lots – most major auction houses don’t have images of group lots because the time and expense is cost prohibitive.

Now that I’ve seen the contents of the Wiener Cathedral medals lot, for instance, I am much more likely to bid because I see one featuring Westminster Abbey (where I have been).

And, the bottom line is just that —– that seeing is believing and believing is wanting. Lot viewing translates pictures on a page to physical objects of desire. Instead of merely being photos in the abstract, the reality of the items before me makes me covet them all the more.

 As much as I want to view all the cool stuff in the Heritage auctions — my wallet might thank me if I don’t.

Who am I kidding? Collecting is a drug, and it’s in my blood and on my brain. The show’s about to start, and it’s time for another fix!