The Berlin Money Fair

Posted on January 31, 2011 by

I’m writing this while on a jet plane returning from the Berlin Money Fair in Germany’s capital city.  The Money Fair is really two shows in one: first, a place for mints from all over the world to showcase their current and future projects and second, a place for coin dealers, big and small, to buy, sell, and trade.  Just as the cultures of Germany and America are different, so are coin shows.  Here are some observations to prepare you if you ever get the chance to go:

Tables: in Germany, table space is sold by the meter, so you’ll see smaller dealers with as little as a meter wide display area tucked in between dealers with spaces up to five meters (roughly fifteen feet or more) or more.  The most expensive tables are enclosed booths which are also sold “by the meter.”

Displays: most dealers and collectors in Europe use plastic trays with spaces for individual coins.  The coins are usually loose, with slips of paper underneath them that bear relevant descriptive information.  The trays are covered with a thick piece of clear plastic that can be removed easily in order to handle the coins.  Locked display cases are rare.

Lighting: usually ambient or indirect lighting, though some areas are bathed in sunlight (more properly called daylight because the sun is not always shining in January in Berlin).  Hardly any dealers use the lamps and lighting that are mainstays of American coin shows, thus making it difficult to grade coins.

Food: the main lobby of the Estrel Hotel offers several restaurant choices, but vendors wheeling carts of food around the bourse floor are very popular.

Grading: all over the board, ranging from ultra-tight to ultra-loose.  That’s why PCGS is there.

Fun level: high.  At the opening bell, there are usually scores to hundreds of people waiting to get in.  Floor activity is brisk and the aisles are often quite crowded.  Often, there are long lines of people at some of the mint displays.

The Berlin Money Fair has something for everyone.  I’ve often said that one can build an entire minting operation just by visiting this show.  Vendors offer everything from planchet preparation to coin designing to actual minting presses to packaging for the final product, and everything in-between.  And, you’ll be able to see (and buy) some great coins from all over the world.

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