Archive for June, 2017

THE WAY WE WERE – 1973

Posted on June 9, 2017 by 1 Comment

This is the first in a series of blogs exploring the state of the coin market (and perhaps the world) in years past. I chose to start the series with the year 1973, not because anything earth-shattering occurred in that year, but because it was the first year in which I attended an ANA convention – the Big Kahuna of coin shows.

The world in 1973 was a much different place than it is today. Microwave ovens were just beginning to become popular in household kitchens. There was no such thing as a cell phone. Locked gas caps in cars were unheard of until the scarcity of gasoline following the OPEC oil embargo in October motivated widespread gas theft. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed out the year at 850. The Vietnam War was winding down, a cease-fire was signed in January, and the military draft ended shortly thereafter.  The World Trade Center opened in April in New York and the distinctive Sydney Opera House opened in October. The Watergate hearings began in May. The median price of a home in mid-1973 was $32,000, or roughly three-and-a-half times the median annual income of $9,265.

The coin market was also markedly different than it is today. The $100,000 price barrier had just been broken the previous year when World-Wide Coin purchased a 1913 Liberty Head Nickel from Abe Kosoff for $100,000. The coin prices of 1973 look incredibly cheap through the lens of 2017 but, of course, they seemed high for the time. Third-party grading was non-existent (PCGS would not come into being until thirteen years later). New Redbooks cost $2.50. Auction houses included New Netherlands, Stack’s, C.E. Bullowa, Jess Peters, Sotheby’s, French’s, Hollinbeck-Kagin, Harmer-Rooke, Mayflower, Paramount, RARCOA, Stack’s, C.E. Bullowa, Superior, and the American Auction Association (Q. David Bowers’ and Jim Ruddy’s first foray into the auction business). Few of these names exist today. The same is true of many of the big-name coin dealers of the day who have since passed.

The 1973 convention of the American Numismatic Association was held in Boston, Massachusetts from August 23rd to the 27th. Interestingly, these dates ran from Wednesday through Tuesday, spanning an entire week with the weekend smack-dab in the middle – a markedly different schedule than the conventions of today which run from the beginning of the week through the weekend. John Jay Pittman was President of the Association’s approximately 28,000 members. A full-page ad in The Numismatist cost $99.50. The official auctioneer at the 1973 ANA convention was Jess Peters, who offered a choice selection of important coins, including such rarities as a 1792 Disme in copper, a high-grade 1794 Half Cent, an 1879 Stella, a Mormon $10, a Templeton Reid $2.50, a Moffat $16 ingot, and over 100 additional Territorial gold coins.

Templeton1849 Mormon $10

My memories of the 1973 ANA Convention include striking a Washington Before Boston medal on a large screw press set up by the U.S. Mint. I considered myself a rather strapping twenty-year old at the time, but it took several swings of the weighted bars to get all the details to come up. Another recollection was of Chuck Furjanic and his row of multiple 1793 Chain Cents, plus many other exceptional copper coins. Abe Kosoff stood out from the crowd in his usual white suit; he was always such a distinguished presence. Superior was promoting an upcoming auction with an understated display of a single ancient coin and the accompanying catalog – I can’t recall the exact coin, but I remember being particularly impressed by the sheer power of the display. In 1973, silver art bars reached a sizzling peak. I saw the handwriting on the wall and when I returned home from the convention, I cashed out my entire collection of silver bars just before prices crashed.

If you attended the 1973 ANA Convention, please share your recollections below.

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