Day one of the World’s Fair of Money: Viewing a once-in-a-lifetime rarity, for the third time in 15 years

?The American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money is, at its core, an event for collectors to buy and sell, and learn. But it seems every few years a rarity of epic proportion adds another element to the mix.

The ANA show opened on Tuesday, providing the collecting public the first chance to view a 1974-D aluminum cent. To say the coin is rare is to gloss over the story of its production — of course it’s rare — it shouldn’t even exist. 

As Coin World’s Paul Gilkes has skillfully reported, the coin was in the family of a late U.S.Mint assistant superintendent in Denver, with whom it surfaced recently. Earlier in 2016 the U.S. Mint and the family reached an agreement to transfer ownership to the U.S. Mint, allowing it to be placed on display at the Mint’s booth here in Anaheim.

As the flyer accompanying the display reports, “The return of the unauthorized Denver specimen supports the longstanding and fundamental principle that items made at United States Mint facilities, but not lawfully issued or otherwise lawfully disposed of, remain property of the American people.”

It’s fantastic ammunition for the ongoing battle between the government and owners of illicit numismatic items, which frequently are placed on display at ANA shows.

The first ANA show that I ever attended was 2003, in Baltimore. The show played host to a famous reunion of all five 1913 Liberty Head nickels, an event made possible by the re-emergence, and authentication, of the George O. Walton example after a nationwide search with a hefty financial reward.

I’m sure I didn’t understand the importance of the event,and the rarity of such a confluence of history — it was, after all, my first major coin show, period, despite being a collector for more than a decade.

In 2006, when another group of famously contested rarities came to the ANA show, I’d like to think that I was far more aware of the display’s significance.

That year, in Denver, the star of the show was a display of 10 of the 1933 gold $20 double eagles, which had been turned over to the Mint by the family of a deceased Philadelphia jeweler (the legal battle over these coins continues, and just last week the government won a major ruling).

It seems that every year at a World’s Fair of Money, there are fascinating displays of major rarities, whether by commercial or educational entities. These aren’t for sale, and there is no charge to view these historic items of our collecting heritage. They are just there, to be enjoyed, studied and appreciated. And that’s well worth the trip!