Coins We Love: Guten Tag!

Coins We Love: Guten Tag!

One of my goals running for the ANA Board of Governors was that I wanted to reach out and learn more about parts of the hobby that were unknown to me. I looked at this honor as an opportunity to not only learn more about how I could serve the ANA, but also how to better myself and DLRC at the same time. One of these aspects was to learn more about the world coin market, ancient coins, and try to experience other coin shows that I had not attended. As a result, I decided to do something that had long been recommended for me to do, and that was to attend the World Money Fair in Berlin this winter. I’ll warn in advance that this message is a bit long and rambling, but I’ll blame the jetlag for that. However, now that I’ve had a few days to process the trip and recover, I’ll state that the experience was nothing short of astounding, shocking and educational.

I made the trip once again with my oldest son, Wes, and we decided to take a day or two in Italy to adjust our time zones and examine the coin world in ancient Rome and in Florence. Our adventures there were interesting and a good learning experience, but it was very clear that the coin experience in Italy was going to be quite different from what we experience here in the United States. We had a great time, enjoyed some lasagna and discovered quite a bit about what was going on in the collectors' mindset in Italy. The thing that I didn’t expect was that coins and stamps are so interrelated there. In fact, every coin shop we visited mixed coins and stamps together.

However, the main event for this trip was obviously going to be the Berlin show. Somehow avoiding baggage handling strikes in Germany, we arrived and had a weekend full of a numismatic culture we had never experienced. The show was open to the public on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with a cost of about $20 per day to attend. As we adjusted to the area, we decided to make our visits for the actual show all day Friday and Saturday.

For those of you who don’t know, this annual winter event is the biggest coin show in Europe. While it doesn’t refer to a collecting organization, it’s the ANA’s World’s Fair for a continent. Walking in, I expected to see some impressive displays, some trading amongst dealers, and a whole lot of unexpected. Well, the unexpected occurred right as I entered into what some described as the “budget section,” as there were probably about 50 dealers in a small side room that were displaying all kinds of coins. For the most part, there were only a few US coins sprinkled in, but there was a large amount of world currency, a few slabbed coins, a large number of uncertified world coins, and an even larger number of uncertified ancient pieces. This was all to go along with the copious stacks of paper money, which seemed to be interspersed between every other table or so. However, the largest assortment was that of modern product from various mints, mostly European.

After walking through that section, we made our way through the main exhibit hallway where the larger dealers and auction houses were set up, advertising their upcoming auctions. These were somewhat interesting, but to be honest, it was kind of the expected area and it was really not that dissimilar to the higher end part of the US shows, with nothing impressive or out of the ordinary. However, in the next section we wandered through three separate rooms in a hallway that were absolutely lined with tables in limited square footage but with a higher average value than the budget section. There was a large increase in the number of gold coins, more slabs, and the quality of the ancients improved dramatically. However, there was still a large amount of stacks of European currency exchange and some more slabbed coins (many outside of display cases, which made the security concern persona inside of me die a little bit). After meandering through these halls and rooms, there was a large exhibit hall to the right, which when you entered was like entering into the World Mint Shangri-La. I remember years ago, when attending the ANA shows, there was a large number of attending world mints. We still get quite a few of those that show up during the August show, but this room put those events to shame. Every world mint that I could even imagine (except for the United States, surprisingly) was in attendance.

There were several private mints also in attendance, as well as some packaging companies, media conglomerates, and educational ventures… I’m sure there were other things as well, but it was all a bit overwhelming. However, this room was an absolute joy to explore. The best part was that the displays were not your typical coin show events, but they were incredible, expensive displays that were set up to really showcase their new products and the highlights from their country. Honestly, this was the most impressive trade show room for coins that I’ve ever seen. While the trading rooms were crowded with people, this room was PACKED on the first day and the demand for these modern issues was quite incredible. There were some lines of several hundred people to buy new products from some of these mints that were releasing special issues. It was clear that this was the place to be, and if you were looking for a quick flip or to find something unique, this was the place to get to first thing in the morning. Honestly, I didn’t buy a single coin in these Ticketmaster-like lines because I didn’t really feel the need to pursue that angle, but it’s certainly something that I would suggest learning more about for any future attendance. But we did spend several hours observing these halls looking at every single one of these exhibits, talking to the principles of these organizations, and trying to figure out not only what the ANA can learn from this, but what DLRC could do to improve its presence at major events. It was really an eye-opening experience. You could see some of my favorites in the pictures below. This was clearly a mega-marketing event and the displays clearly cost thousands of dollars to put up. Of course, not only did we visit it all day on Friday, but we ended up coming back for a half day on Saturday just to see what was left and to get the experience with the smaller crowd.

To conclude the tour of the impressive convention center, the last room of the show was at the end of the hallway, where they had something called the Technical Forum going on this week. This room is apparently not an annual event, but the show brought in companies that are involved in the technical side of minting coins. These large companies are often contracted out by (or sell equipment to) governments to produce coins, paper money, bars, and other pieces of new memorabilia, and their displays of equipment and videos were quite impressive. We even had a chance to produce our own coin through these machines as you can see in the photo below. This was a fun place for a couple hours to learn more about the processes and it was certainly a worthwhile addition to the show and a fun one that was incredibly educational from a numismatic standpoint and from an engineering background.

It was obviously a lot to take in at this event, but I’ve avoided discussing the lobby area full of international numismatic conversations, meetings, and general merry-making…while the show is not numismatically the most educational event that I had attended from the collecting standpoint, it was fascinating to learn more about the European market and collectors around the world. The shocking thing to me is the focus on modern product and how it is such an incredibly large piece of the world coin market. I’ll admit that the designs were gorgeous, and it made me a little jealous compared to what our circulating and commemorative coinage bears, but it also opened my eyes to a new type of collecting. As a history lover, I’ve always loved the pieces that connect me to the history, but the techniques that they’re using to create the displays of historical events in some of these new issues also got me excited about branching out into different forms of collecting, such as modern portrayals of ancient Roman history.

Upon returning home, I’ve been reading up on articles that were posted by other attendees from this event, and it appears that the overall attendance across the show's three days was over 13,000 people. This absolutely blew my mind in comparison to what we’re able to bring for the largest shows in the United States. It gives us something to strive towards in the future, not only as part of the ANA but as active dealers at major shows. Interestingly, the wholesale business at this event seemed to be dramatically less than what occurs on the United States' side. Now this might just be because of when I was attending, but it did show me quite a dramatic difference between the purpose of some international shows in comparison to those in the US. American dealers seem to have focused more on the transactional buying and selling between dealers, whereas this event was clearly more geared towards the collector and retail sales. I think that this event is probably closer to what DLRC would love to see in the major numismatic events in the years. We utilize shows for acquiring inventory, but the impressive displays and the beauty of showcasing new issues and the overall draw was really inspiring.

One thing I forgot to mention was that on Saturday morning as the show was opening, the line was far out the door… and it wasn’t because of a lack of speed at the registration desk. It was the crowd looking to enter, much more similar to a Comic Con than to a coin show. I’m not sure that my travels will take me back there on a regular basis, but if Wes has anything to say about it, I have a feeling we will be booking a flight for next January quite soon.

As for now, I’ll depart by bringing some of these highlights to your attention for the following week. Continuing to launch our next Red Carpet Rarity series, we also have our regular Sunday events that spill over on a weekly basis. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our 2024 Silver Eagle offerings. This is new for us, but our proximity to the new grading service and the oversized demand that we hear from our customer base looking to acquire collectible modern coins as well as affordable silver pieces for their investment needs means we are now offering MS69 and MS70 Silver Eagles graded by CAC Grading. Whether you want one or 1,000 of these new offerings, we’re happy to help! We’re also offering to meet or beat anyone’s best price on these issues, so if you’re in need of coins or you just want to buy a piece to show off to your neighbors, we’re here. If you buy 10 or more, we will also include a new CAC sample slab that you can give to your favorite budding numismatist. Thanks again for reading this week's unusually long message regarding our adventures, but we hope that you found it interesting and we hope to see you on a floor very soon, whether that be in Virginia Beach (next weekend), Colorado Springs, Baltimore, or Rosemont.

Numismatically yours,

John Brush

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