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60 Years in Numismatics

Last week’s World’s Fair of Money in Chicago, the summer show of the American Numismatic Association, was perhaps the best ever in my memory. Activity was intense from beginning to end, as thousands of collectors, dealers, and enthusiasts attended. Our auction sales set many records and covered just about every category from ancient coins to modern, plus paper money, tokens and medals. A particular highlight for me was the John J. Ford Collection, which I attended in part. The offering was absolutely amazing, with duplicates and triplicates of some tokens for which single pieces have not been on the market for years. I have never seen anything like it. I feel confident in saying that a generation hence the sale will be remembered as one of the greatest numismatic opportunities of the 21st century.

The bourse with many hundreds of dealers was active as well. I was busy with the auction, attending programs, giving several talks, and otherwise involved, and did not make the rounds of all the bourse dealers as I would have liked. I did, however, see a lot of activity and everyone seemed to be smiling.

Several weeks in advance of the convention, Chris Karstedt insisted that I save 1 pm to 3 pm on Thursday afternoon for an important meeting for the top management of the firm. Much to my surprise when I entered the room it was a celebration on my behalf — for 60 years as a rare coin dealer. A beautiful cake was on view and was soon mostly eaten, refreshments were provided, and all had a good time. I like to think that I am aware of my surroundings, but this caught me completely by surprise, especially since Chris enlisted the help of Mary Burleson and Charles Anderson of Whitman Publishing who played their roles to a tee!

It was in 1953, indeed 60 years ago, that I became a part-time dealer in rare coins while still in Junior High school. I had caught the coin-collecting fever a year earlier and was thrilled with the prospect of finding a 1909-S V.D.B. cent in circulation or some other rarity. This didn’t happen, but I did look through a lot of coins and filled out, or nearly so, several sets in blue Whitman folders. My budget was limited, and my dad said that if I had large expectations I should set about finding a way to afford them. So, I began dealing part time, spreading the word locally, visiting people who had coins for sale, and also attending the Wilkes-Barre (Pennsylvania) Coin Club. I enjoyed reading, and club members were delighted to provide me with back issues of The Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, The Numismatist, and other journals, plus auction catalogs and, occasionally, books. There was not much national interest in collecting such things and most had little or no value. Today, of course, the situation is vastly different. At the recent ANA convention I attended the Numismatic Bibliomania Society meeting — a gathering of collectors of out-of-print books and catalogs — where enthusiasm prevailed and comments reflected the great strength of the modern market for such things.

It was in 1955 that I attended my first American Numismatic Association convention, held that year in Omaha. I was not old enough to belong to the ANA, as one needed to be 18. However, I was allowed to have a table after my dad guaranteed my transactions would be covered if necessary, and Lee F. Hewitt, who published the Numismatic Scrapbook Magazine, wrote a letter stating that I had been a very reliable and well-respected advertiser. The rest is history, as they say, and the recent Chicago convention was the latest in a continuing long string.

I look forward to next year, also in Chicago, and having a nice time.

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