The ANA World’s Fair Of Money Convention, 51 Years Of Change

Harvey G. Stack, the senior member of the Stack family that served collectors since 1933, is once again back in the hobby. After 62 years of active numismatics, Harvey, with his son Larry, rejoined the Stack’s Bowers organization in June of 2011 as senior consultants and advisers. The first major show the Stacks attended on behalf of Stack’s Bowers Galleries was this year’s Chicago ANA World’s Fair of Money.

Reminiscing about the old days, Harvey noted that this year’s ANA show could not have been more different than the one held in Boston in 1960. He graciously shared with us with the following stories about both the 1960 Boston ANA and the 2011 Chicago ANA to illustrate how coin shows have changed over the past 50 years. (Click here to see Harvey post about the 1960 Boston ANA)

The 1960 Boston ANA show was held in the Sheraton hotel in the large ballroom on the top floor of the building. If I remember correctly, the bourse room could accommodate about 100 bourse tables in very tight quarters. The general rule of thumb was only one table per dealer, and usually one employee per table. Today it is very common for a few dealers per firm to attend the table.

The dealer tables were squeezed together and they were available on a first come first served basis. Often dealers would group together and reserve early to receive adjacent tables to ensure friendly neighbors and to be able to leave their table when they needed to use the restroom or to get something to eat or drink.

In Boston, it was the hottest part of the summer, the ballroom had no air conditioning and the only breeze came from the windows; it was a sweltering show for all. Though the dealers showed up, the collectors and shoppers were just not there. Forced to endure tight quarters in a very hot and poorly ventilated room, dealers did virtually no business.

Some dealers considering leaving the show, but the ANA officials were desperately trying to keep the room full and threatened them by telling them that they would not be able to get a table at the next year’s show. Back then there was only one ANA show per year, so like it or not, the dealers needed to stick it out if they wanted the exposure for the future. The show had the lowest attendance on record, and the dealers who were there had the worst show they ever attended. It wasn’t easy to be a dealer in 1960.

They kept themselves busy trying to trade with each other, watching each other’s tables and sometimes playing harmless tricks on each other in an attempt to distract themselves from their miserable situation. At the Boston show in 1960 they permitted collector-dealers to have tables, as they were not too successful in selling tables strictly to dealers. The one collector who showed up and had a table next to me was Amon Carter, Jr., of Fort Worth, Texas who had a major collection as well as many, many duplicates. He brought to the show a tremendous group of paper money, mostly early large size notes, in high denominations $100, $500 and $1000, some in piles of 100 notes each!

Not only did he have quantity, but quality as well. And instead of using the glass showcases to hold his notes, he had them piled on the tops of the cases so anyone could look them over. When he got tired at his table, or wanted a drink or a smoke he would throw his keys for the cases that held the rarer notes at me, and said, "Mind if you watch my case a little while I take care of some matters." Off he went, leaving me to watch his cases and leaving me not watching mine! That was the trust we had in each other. Since the room was already hot because of the weather, we only sweated a bit more from the favor for a friend!

Now let us consider the 2011 Chicago ANA show. The convention was held in the gigantic convention center located in the outskirts of Chicago, in Rosemont, Illinois. The best thing is its location, just a few minutes away from O’Hare airport, but rather far from downtown Chicago, where a taxi ride to get there runs about $40 or $50 one way!

Upon entering the convention center you find a large reception hall, which could easily hold 1000 people, waiting for directions or registration for events. Next to the reception area is a large hall used for the dealer bourse, as well as exhibits and displays from the great numismatic collections of the ANS, the ANA and the Smithsonian Institution, as well as the major publications.

The dealers were well-spaced in large tables, with wide aisles where chairs from the tables have some 8 to 10 feet clearance from each other, fantastic lighting and air conditioning, and good signage. The Stack’s Bowers tables were set up in a large square, with nearly 2,000 square feet, a far cry from my single table! The displays were easily seen, and staff could greet and shake hands with old friends, collectors and dealers. Some 400 or more tables were set up in the huge hall, and the only difficulty was that the room was so big that it was hard to see everything that was on display.

Stack’s did not conduct an auction at the 1960 Boston ANA, but at this year’s convention, Stack’s Bowers Galleries put on one of the best and most exciting sales that I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of. The viewing room was large and the auction room was a pleasure to be in. Over 250 people were seated in the room during each session, and because of the vast array of offerings there was standing room only during many of the sessions. The Rarities Night session was particularly lively, as the material drew a huge number of participants, creating an enthusiastic and competitive atmosphere. Spontaneous applause interrupted the sale as records were being shattered. The auctioneers conducted the sale with friendliness and courtesy for the bidders in the room, and the bidding was supported by a large group of phone bidders, internet bidders, and mail bidders that made the sale a historic event for all. The Stack’s Bowers auction realized over 40 million dollars, and was a great success, with many record-making prices throughout the sale.

Whereas the 1960 Boston ANA was cramped, poorly attended by the public, and miserably hot, this year’s Chicago ANA couldn’t have been more different. Over 9,000 visitors attended the World’s Fair of Money, there was ample room for people to do business comfortably, the air conditioning and lighting was great, there were a number of dealers from each company at their tables and overall the event was pleasantly received.

It was a good feeling, returning to the hobby. We were warmly welcomed and greeted with emotion by those we met and talked to and we are thrilled to be among all our numismatic friends once again!

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