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NYINC convention full of activity

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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The 39th annual New York International Coin Convention was an event blessed by great timing and activity. From the timing standpoint, not only was the market hot, the weather gods blessed it as well. The auctions were lively, the meetings plentiful and well attended as usual, and the bourse was packed and bustling as one has come to expect.

The NYINC first sprung to life at the Americana Hotel, now the New York Sheraton on 7th Avenue, with an event hosted on Dec. 8-10, 1972, under the direction of world coin dealer enthusiasts Richard Margolis, Fritz Weber and Bill Selfridge. In the early 1990’s the venue was moved to the World Trade Center site down in the financial district. The 9-11 terrorist attack required another move, this time to the Waldorf-Astoria on Park Avenue, with the timing being set back one month from early December to early January annually.

While it is not infrequently that I’ve witnessed snowfall in attending the event over the years, as was the case this year as well, I don’t recall of it having ever been of significant magnitude, certainly nothing approaching what the city experienced both a week earlier and later this time around. As it was, travels there and return for me and most others involved were without incident, and the weather conditions while there were relatively pleasant, aside from some heavy snow squalls through the day on Friday.

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My outbound travels required rolling out of bed at about 3 o’clock on Wednesday morning and get on the road to the Appleton airport about an hour later to catch a 6:05 a.m. United Express departure to O’Hare. My connection was an 8 o’clock United departure that arrived at LaGuardia at about 10:45 a.m., nearly a half hour ahead of schedule. I was in my 13th floor room at the Waldorf by shortly after 11:30 a.m. That’s pretty smooth sailing, plus I’d traded central Wisconsin’s -6 degree morning temperatures for a balmy mid-day 39 degrees.

Immediately after unpacking I headed down to the Peacock Alley lobby lounge dining area for lunch, following which I headed up to the Starlight Roof area on the 18th floor where convention activities would be centered. There I found chairman Kevin Foley, registration assistant Nancy Wilson and Gust Wing relaxing in the event office area, briefly engaging them in conversation before heading to the security room area to obtain my photo ID for the weekend.

Having returned to my room for a relaxing nap, at about 4 p.m. I headed out for a walk up Park Avenue to explore the midtown area, passing the new Heritage Gallery storefront at the corner of 57th Street before heading west past the venerable Stack’s storefront on West 57th, soon to be flagged Stack’s-Bowers as a consequence of the recently announced sale transaction. Continuing on I turned the corner at Carnegie Hall to head down 7th Avenue, opting for an early dinner at the Stage Delicatessen about four blocks south, just catty-corner from the original NYINC venue.

Continuing my walk after leaving the Stage, I headed over to the Rockefeller Center area, past Radio City on 6th Avenue, then past Rockefeller Plaza, where I watched skaters on the ice below, back dropped by the colorfully decorated Christmas tree so frequently represented in NBC television shots during the season. From there it was down 5th Avenue to 42nd Street, then east to Grand Central Terminal, where I paused to marvel at the rush of commuters hustling to homeward bound trains, before heading up Park, returning to the Waldorf at about 6 p.m.

While one of 16 auction sessions scheduled in conjunction with the NYINC would be getting under way at 7, the third of three for the day, I headed straight to my room to call it a day. Awaking well rested on Thursday morning, I headed out for my daily constitutional at about 6 o’clock. Walking about 30 blocks up Lexington Avenue to 79th Street, I then headed west to Madison Avenue, then south to 50th Street, arriving back to the Waldorf area about an hour later.

Before returning to the hotel, however, I headed to the New York Luncheonette for breakfast, located catty-corner from the Waldorf. Upon arriving at the hotel elevator bank, I exchanged brief pleasantries with dealers Wing, Mark Teller and Karl Stephens before heading to my room to prepare for the day. It was about 9 a.m. when I headed up to the NYINC bourse area, where I initially enjoyed extended conversations with Kerry Wetterstrom, publisher of The Celator, which serves ancient and medieval collecting interests, California dealer Steve Album and Scott Cordry from the Heritage organization.

The six-hour long tabled dealer setup session witnessed little evident rush of activity. When the five-hour professional preview session got under way at 2 p.m., however, the tempo became one of a buzz of activity. It was about 7 p.m. when I headed to the annual ANS Gala outside the Empire Room off the Park Avenue lobby of the Waldorf. I shared a banquet table with former ANS librarian Frank Campbell and his wife, Arthur and Prue Fitts from New England, former ANS trustee John Adams and his wife from Boston, and fellow ANA board members Joe Boling and J.P. Martin.

The ANS Gala provided a salute to Californians Larry and Ira Goldberg for their lifelong contributions in support of the organization and the hobby community. With the formal program, including a benefit auction, concluding at about 10 p.m., I headed up to my room rather than sticking around for the music and dancing that closed out the evening.

Friday morning again found me heading out onto the sidewalks of the city at about 6 o’clock to get my day started with an hour long constitutional, this time with light snow flurries in the air. Again walking up to 79th Street, this time along Park Avenue, then over to 5th Avenue, which I walked down paralleling the east side of Central Park to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and back to the Waldorf on 50th Street. After showering and dressing for the day I headed down to Oscar’s restaurant to meet up with ANA executive director Larry Shepherd for discussions over breakfast before heading to the NYINC bourse.

It was about 11 a.m. by the time I reached the 18th floor, there finding the aisles packed to overflowing in the main Starlight and four small auxiliary bourse room areas, with the event having opened to public attendance at 10. The tempo of activity seemed to be in keeping with what I was informed were 11 very lively record setting auction sessions that had already gone under the hammer, with five more still to come. During the course of the day I enjoyed numerous conversations with long time hobby acquaintances, whom I seldom encounter except when attending the NYINC, including Canadians John Deyell and Bill Barrett, who were pioneering contributors to the Krause world coin and paper money Standard Catalog titles.

I took leave of the convention for an early afternoon lunch, joining Shepherd and ANS executive director Ute Wartenberg Kagan for discussions of some matters of mutual interest between the two organizations, having walked to the Brasserie Rhulmann in Rockefeller Center. By the time we returned to the convention around 3 o’clock, activity around the bourse had moderated significantly.

In the evening, at about 6:30, I headed off to attend an informal dinner of perhaps 30 members and guests of the New York Numismatic Club at the Turkish restaurant A La Turka. Along with Shepherd and fellow ANA board member Wendell Wolka, we were invited guests of member Mark Anderson. Those in attendance enjoyed casual conversation, tasty Turkish and Mediterranean cuisine selections and the entertainment of a Turkish dancer, with the gathering breaking up at about 10 p.m.

The NYNC recently celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding, its first gathering having been on Dec. 11, 1908. It meets monthly, generally on the second Friday, but occasionally on the second Thursday, with membership being by invitation only. Through the years its membership has included most of the most prominent numismatic names in the greater New York area. Current membership is about 90, with the monthly meetings typically attracting attendances in the 25-30 range. The  regular meetings include a meal and typically feature a planned program and speaker, which this informal gathering did not.

Yet another hour long walking regimen got my Saturday under way, as I again headed out at about 6 o’clock. This time my route of exploration was down Park to 42nd Street, then east to 2nd Avenue and north to 72nd Street, then back down Park to the Waldorf. At 8 I met up with Larry and ANA board member Joe Boling for some discussions over breakfast at Oscar’s. Then it was off to brief informal discussions with Peter Tompa and Wayne Sayles of the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild, prior to their scheduled 10 o’clock meeting, exploring way in which ANA might further assist the organization in fighting against the imposition of unreasonable cultural property import restrictions on ancient coins.

Following our discussions I stuck around for the beginning of the ACCG meeting, my purpose being to recognize Tompa with an ANA Presidential Award for his extraordinary commitment to the cultural property issue on behalf of the hobby community over the past several years. This presentation was followed in the afternoon by a second recognizing dealer Dick Margolis for his dedicated and unassuming ongoing commitment to the growth and development of the world coin community. Nearly 40 years ago he was the driving force behind the establishment of the NYINC, and as a long time active member of the International Association of Professional Numismatists, focusing as a collector, scholar and dealer on French coins and medals.

At 11 o’clock I convened a meeting of the ANA board that extended through the balance of the morning and the afternoon. Initially meeting in executive session, with a break for lunch at Oscar’s, the meeting adjourned at about 4:30 p.m., with the last hour or so conducted with open attendance, but with only a handful of members in attendance. Much of the time was taken up, in both the closed and open sessions, with explorations of upcoming convention planning and long range site selection objectives. Issues voted on during the executive sessions, which included my first vote to break a tie as president, have been reported out to the press.

Shortly after 5 o’clock I joined up with fellow ANA board members, officers and staff in attendance, assembling at the Waldorf’s Park Avenue entrance to commandeer a small string of cabs to convey us down to Wall Street, where we were to spend about three hours as guests of founder John Herzog, chairman Dick Sylla and president David Cowen of the Museum of American Finance for a special tour, an evening repast and interaction. The museum is a truly impressive presentation; if the opportunity should present itself, you should make it a point to visit. Open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., located at 48 Wall St., the Museum occupies the former banking floor of the Bank of New York, the bank having been founded by Alexander Hamilton in the late 18th century, occupying this site from 1796 to 1988.

Like the previous three mornings, Sunday for me commenced at about 6 a.m. with another walking constitutional, this time down Park to 42nd Street, then west to Times Square and up 7th Avenue to Columbus Circle and Central Park South. Heading east from there, I then walked down Lexington to 50th, dropping off at the New York Luncheonette before returning to the Waldorf at about 7:30. Heading up to the bourse about an hour later, I spent much of the next four hours mixing about the bourse, where activity had largely wound down, but nary a table had been abandoned based on my observations.

At 2 o’clock I caught a taxi to LaGuardia by way of the Queensboro Bridge, arriving there within half an hour. There I enjoyed a late lunch and some closing conversation with Barrett and his wife at the Figs restaurant, situated in the lower level of the terminal adjacent to the food court, before heading out to the United gate area on the C concourse. My 5 o’clock departure to O’Hare, with a complimentary first class upgrade thrown in, enabled me to partake of a turkey sandwich for dinner that accompanied the move. With both this originating and the connecting flight departing on time, along with early destination arrivals, I was ready to slip into bed at home by 10 p.m.

While this NYINC outing ended up being minimally productive from the standpoint of providing items of appeal for my collecting accumulations, it was certainly very enjoyable from both the standpoint of a destination and hobby community interactions.

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