What should you say to a coin dealer you encounter on the bourse floor of the International Paper Money Show June 15-18 in Memphis, Tenn.?
How about, "What took you so long?"
Though those words were not spoken, the sentiment is accurate. The show bourse was hotter than the temperatures outside the Cook Convention Center. A Lyn Knight auction realized nearly $10 million.
Those kind of market conditions and sales numbers are attracting more and more coin dealers to Memphis, the largest paper money show on the annual calendar.
Early American copper coin dealer Steven K. Ellsworth of Butternut in Clifton, Va., was sold on it. It was his first time there.
"Fabulous," he replied when asked how his results were. "This is an exciting form of the business. I'm definitely going to take a more active role in it."
Ellsworth explained that he goes to around 40 shows a year. "This is a whole different crowd. It is a different world. I will be back."
Coin show or paper, Ellsworth does not lose his sense of humor. He had a briefcase full of Funny Money (notes featuring humorous political satire). He was selling them two for a buck.
Humor has always been a characteristic of paper money events in Memphis thanks to the annual Society of Paper Money Collectors breakfast emceed June 16 by Wendell Wolka.
This year, the Tom Bain Raffle featured "Mystery Box" prizes ? as in the winner had a choice between a prize of known value and a box with contents unknown.
First-time attendee Larry Schuffman of Randolph, N.J., had a ball with the Mystery Box, even when it proved to contain a rubber snake and a note from Swaziland worth a few cents. He said he is definitely going to be back next year.
"Fantastic" was also the word used by veteran paper money dealer Alex Perakis, whose firm operates from Lima, Pa. "There are a lot of new coin dealer faces in Memphis that I've never seen before. A lot of them are realizing the potential of paper money," he said.
David Koble of Bartlesville, Okla., said, "One of my best Memphis shows in years," when asked how his business was.
He said it was "so busy, I sold notes yesterday that I don't remember selling today."
Vicki Koble observed, "It looks like a lot of public is here, too."
David concurred. "More public that I can remember in years," he said.
"I've had a great show," declared George Decker of Blaine, Tenn., as he came striding down a bourse floor aisle. "Very good, very active," he said. "Nationals have been extremely strong." He then went back to his task.
Allen Mincho of Heritage Auction Galleries, Dallas, Texas., said it was an "extremely active show, very well attended. More dealers than any previous Memphis show since 1980."
He said, "A lot of business was being done, both buying and selling." He concluded by saying, "There is still an optimistic tone to this market."
Austin Sheheen at the A&O Auctions table, Camden, S.C., who wrote in 1977 in Bank Note Reporter that all roads lead to Memphis just prior to the very first convention, has lost none of his enthusiasm for the show since then.
"The show was as usual fantastic because it's Memphis. It was a great show. We've done well. We've gotten to see everybody."
This was the 30th Memphis show and Sheheen commended a special exhibit of old photos compiled, identified and mounted by auctioneer Lyn Knight. The exhibit filled the back of the hall, running much of the width of the room. Even though time away from business was at a premium, many conventioneers spent some time looking at the images of themselves from years past.
"Lyn Knight's Memphis Memories brought back fond memories," Sheheen said. This statement was echoed by many other hobbyists.
Arthur Morowitz of Champion Stamp Co., Inc., New York, N.Y., said, "Very strong, a very good show for us." John Morowitz said, "People (are) buying, buying across the board."
Bob Azpiazu of First City Currency in St. Augustine, Fla., said, "It was great. It was wonderful. I sold a little bit of everything. The collector is still alive and well."
Azpiazu called the market well balanced because there was demand at both the lower price range and the upper levels.
Joe Hensley of Madison, Ind., said the show was very good. "This is the friendliest show. I would rather come to this one than any show I know. I've had one of my better shows. Business was brisk."
It was virtually impossible to find a dissenting opinion. Hobbyists left Memphis with renewed confidence in the paper money market and a wistfulness over having to leave such a familiar and profitable show location.