Archive for August, 2016


Posted on August 18, 2016 by 1 Comment

One of the most eagerly-anticipated coin shows of the year is the annual convention of the American Numismatic Association. This year (August 2016), the show was held at the Anaheim Convention Center, literally just across the street from Disneyland in Anaheim,. California. Everyone’s experience at this major show differs – this is my take on this major show.

Tuesday, August 9
I live in San Diego, about 90 miles south of Anaheim, so I left mid-morning, drove up to PCGS headquarters in Irvine, ran through some job-related tasks, then had lunch with Jaime Hernandez, a fellow PCGS colleague and the guy who knows as much about modern coins and their pricing as anyone. After lunch, I headed up to the Anaheim Hilton, parked the car, checked in, then headed over to the show, where setup was well under way. Most of the afternoon was spent glad-handing and talking about PCGS CoinFacts. It was great to reconnect with many old friends. After the show, I pretty much went into hermit mode and spent much of the evening reading “Mindset,” a great book by Carol Dweck that I recommend highly.

Wednesday, August 10
This was the first day of a series of annual meetings held by specialized collector clubs. First up was the John Reich Collectors Society at 8 a.m. David Finkelstein, a phenomenal researcher of early U.S. Mint history gave a terrific presentation where he tied the first deposit of silver coins at the Philadelphia Mint to the French government and a local French merchant. I suspect that more will come of this as David digs deeper. At 10:15 a.m., R. Lee Barrett gave a great talk about the history of female sculptors in America, including Laura Gardin Fraser, one of my favorites. At 11:30 a.m. Oliver Hoover presented a detailed overview of the portraits of Cleopatra on ancient coins (did you know there were more than seven Egyptian queens named Cleopatra?). After lunch, I spent some time at the PCGS table working on narratives for PCGS CoinFacts and talking with people who walked up to the table with questions. At 3 p.m., the Society of Beard Numismatists (S.O.B.’s) held their annual meeting in a designated area on the bourse floor. There I met up with P. Scott Rubin, who has written many CoinFacts narratives for us in the past. As the show wound down, I headed to the Heritage Platinum Night session, where they were auctioning off some really cool Colonial rarities. Back in the day, the auction room would have been filled; nowadays attendance is sparse because many bidders from all over the world participate in the auction over the Internet.

Thursday, August 11
Thursday started off at 9 a.m. with a presentation by Rick Snow of a new way to describe coins and to recognize and reward above-average quality coins. Rick was one of the first dealers to sticker coins; his Eagle Eye stickers are often seen on Flying Eagle and Indian Head Cents.

At 10 a.m. I participated as a panelist in the Numismatic Literary Guild symposium with Scott Travers, Donn Pearlman, Charles Morgan, and surprise guest David Ganz (former ANA president). We discussed collector education and consumer protection in the coin industry. The audience was sparse, but we had some great questions and conversations. At 11 a.m., I hustled over to the Whitman Publishing table to sign copies of “The 100 Greatest Women” book. Unfortunately, few people showed up and no one purchased a book. Around noontime, I had lunch with Steve Sloan, Director of Marketing for Collectors Universe, at one of the food trucks parked outside of the convention center. Beginning in the late afternoon, the activities were non-stop. At 4:00 p.m., my wife and I attended the ANA Awards banquet, where I received the Heath Literary Award (Second Place) for my article, “The 100 Greatest Women on Coins” in the ANA’s publication, “The Numismatist.” At 5:30 p.m., the Smithsonian Institution hosted a cocktail reception, where curator Ellen Feingold laid out some visions for the future. Jennifer Gloede, one of Ellen’s assistants, presented a “Spot The Counterfeit” game in which participants were asked to categorize fakes, copies, and real coins. This is a proposed, hands-on experience that will be rolled out in the future at the museum. It’s a fun, educational experience, and I’m happy to report that yours truly got it right on the first try. At 6:30 p.m., my wife and I dashed over to Ruth’s Chris for the annual meeting of the U.S. Rare Gold Coin Collectors Club. This is a group of collectors and dealers who play with the crème-de-la-crème of American numismatics. Unfortunately, we had to leave before the keynote speaker, Greg Rohan of Heritage, gave his talk, but we’re looking forward to seeing it on video. The reason for our early departure was the annual meeting of the Numismatic Literary Guild, an event known more popularly as the NLG Bash. This is the equivalent of the movie industry’s Oscar night, where hundreds of awards are given out to authors and researchers. Our own Don Willis received the Best Software award to PCGS’s mobile apps, and I won an Extraordinary Merit award for “The 100 Greatest Women on Coins” and the Best Internet Blog award for a series of posts entitled “The Lord St. Oswald Coins – Where Are They Now?” on the PCGS Blog. The NLG Bash is a raucous, somewhat irreverent affair, always a lot of fun, and always offering good food and camaraderie.

1844 DollarOne of the highlights of the Bruce Morelan Collection of Seated Liberty Silver Dollars

Friday, August 12
My wife and I started the day at the hotel breakfast buffet. The line at the Starbucks in the hotel lobby was out the door and around the corner. Waiting in line for 30 minutes for a cup of coffee is not my cup of tea (hey, that’s funny). At 9:00 a.m., I attended the annual meeting of the Early American Copper Club, an association of Half Cent and Large Cent collectors. I’ve been a member of this club since the mid-1970’s, and it was great to see some old friends. We had a lively discussion of PCGS versus EAC grading. Regardless of which side you’re on, it’s interesting to note that most collectors have their coins slabbed just before they sell them. Just sayin’. At 10 a.m. it was time for the first Meet The Expert session, where people can bring their coins up to the PCGS table for grading opinions and questions. We meet some great people this way, and we get to see some nice (and not-so-nice) coins. At 11:30 a.m., it was time for the PCGS Set Registry Luncheon. For many years, BJ Searls and her staff have done a tremendous job of running this event, which is a highlight of the show for many collectors. Mark Stephenson did a great job of emceeing the luncheon for the first time. Kevin Lipton inducted John Albanese into the PCGS CoinFacts Dealer Hall of Fame, and Q. David Bowers did the same for Augustus B. Sage, one of the first coin dealers in America and a founder of the American Numismatic Society. After the luncheon, it was back to the PCGS table for more customer and dealer interactions, and a pleasant hour or so poring over Bruce Morelan’s fabulous collection of Seated Liberty Silver Dollars. The big event of Friday evening was the ANA banquet, where friend John Kraljevich received the Numismatist of the Year honors and exhibitors received a spate of awards. This night is always the capstone of the show and a great way to end on a positive note.

Chi HoChi Ho, a former Collectors Universe employee, came by with his Boy Scout troop to say hello

Saturday, August 13
Final day of the show. Every Saturday at the ANA convention, the Rittenhouse Society meets for their annual breakfast. This group is comprised of authors, researchers, and numismatists who have made their mark in some significant fashion. I’ve been a member for many years and, for me, this breakfast is one of the high points of the convention. Whitman Publishing kindly funds the breakfast, Q. David Bowers emcees, and the meeting is an opportunity to catch up on each member’s accomplishments over the previous year and any projects they might have in the works. This year, we inducted Ray Williams, a well-known colonial collector and past president of the Colonial Coin Collectors Club. Welcome Ray!

After breakfast, I wandered the floor and said goodbyes to several dealer friends. Many dealers, who had already been at the show for a week or more, had departed, leaving empty tables scattered about on the floor. The show was definitely winding down.

Charles Morgan of CoinWeek came by to take the PCGS grading test and review the results. I won’t reveal his score (he’s planning to do that in his own video), but to his credit, he was fairly “close to the line” – in other words, he was either right on and, when he was off, he was neither too high nor too low.

At 11:30 a.m., I sat down for the final Meet The Expert session. Only a few people showed up this time, but in one of those rare, surreal moments, a man walked up to the table with two coins: a $20 gold piece and a silver dollar which his father had bequeathed to him. The $20 was a common date worth around $1,300; the silver dollar was the rare 1893-S. Initially, the owner thought the large gold piece was the more valuable of the two coins, but when I explained that the 1893-S $1 was a nice AU55, possibly an AU58, and worth $40,000+, he was taken aback. He immediately submitted the coin and I am pleased to report that it came back as a PCGS AU58. Discoveries as significant as this are rare, but this is why we hold these events. One never knows what treasures are out there waiting to be uncovered.

Final note
The ANA is a blur of activity. Writing this post reminded me of the many wonderful experiences one can have throughout the week. If you love coins, make sure to add the annual ANA convention to your bucket list.

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