I am just back from the International Paper Money Show in Memphis.
My visit there was the first one I have made since 2008, so as you might guess, I noticed a number of differences in the nature of our business.
The presence of world paper money collectors and dealers continues to grow. On balance, they seemed to have had a better show than U.S. paper money dealers.
Both sets of dealers observed that this year’s business was a bit off from the pace set last year. Economic uncertainty generally was cited as the reason.
Lyn Knight’s auction formed the heart of business activity and as is the case with coins, the best way to sell paper money is in an auction.
I talked to Mauricio Soto of Costa Rica on both Friday and Saturday. On Friday, he said it was slow. On Saturday, after the Costa Rican notes in the auction had sold for prices that were higher than he was asking, it was a different story.
Alex Perakis, a longtime U.S. dealer, was working a table with his son, Steve. He mentioned that they were getting into the world note business as well.
Another dealer, who did not want to be identified, said that over the past 15 years Memphis has been transformed from a retail paper money show where dealers do a lot of business with collectors to a show where dealer-to-dealer business dominates.
The ease and convenience of buying online was one reason. The farm-team of smaller dealers and collectors, who used to bring their new finds to Memphis, no longer have to wait to sell their material. Some have stopped coming. There are fewer fresh notes on the floor.
Rapidly escalating cost of travel also was causing longtime Memphis attendees to question their habits. I talked to a couple of collectors who mentioned the higher cost of airfares.
The part of Memphis that I am familiar with seems to be attracting more tourists than ever and they are competing with paper money hobbyists for resources. In some years it seemed we were the only game in town during the show, but that definitely was not the case this year.
In their comments to me, many individuals I talked to congratulated Knight, who owns the show, and his crew for staging a first-class event.
Memphis is the premier paper money show on the annual calendar, though what that means is changing.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”