This is the story of Leo, a 7-year-old collector I met at the Chicago International Coin Fair April 23.
As I was driving to Chicago, I wondered who I would meet and what conversations I might have. I think about this before every show. Much of the delight of a show is to treat it like a river, jump in and let the current take you where it will.
Leo came to the Krause Publications table on the bourse floor with his mother. She was trying to interest him in the magazines and papers that were there for the taking.
She was half succeeding as Leo grabbed a Coins magazine and was paging through it.
Leo’s mother explained to colleague Maggie Stigsell and me that Leo had already had a disappointment. He had come to the show for an Indian Head $5 gold piece for his collection and been told by a dealer that he had had four of them but had sold them the day before.
“Why do they do that?” Leo interjected. He was already one step ahead of me. I was thinking he was referring to the sale itself, but that wasn’t it.
Leo knew that the public had not been allowed in the day before on Professional Preview Day, so Leo did not have access to the coins he wanted because other professionals had beaten him to the punch.
This is a question worthy of American Numismatic Association Executive Director Larry Shepherd. I don’t expect it from a 7-year-old.
The mother tried to soothe Leo. She pointed out that the show was primarily a world event, so U.S. coins were fairly scarce on the bourse floor.
I offered an idea. Because Leo had said the word “bullion” in conversation more times than any 7-year-old should, I said, “You know what? There is a bullion coin made of silver that has a 1780 date on it.”
I was talking as much to the mother as to Leo. “It has eight-tenths of an ounce of silver in it and silver is about $18 an ounce, so you should be able to buy it for about 20 bucks.” I suggested a dealer’s name.
Leo brightened at the prospect of owning bullion.
Later I saw him happily holding up a coin as he exited the bourse floor. I was fortunate to be there to see the triumph.
He showed me the coin. His mother said she had had to go to four dealers to find one. But find one she did and Leo was happy.
I went back to Iola thinking that the kid really has potential. I didn’t know the half of it.
Two days later on the final day of the show, Leo returned. Colleagues Tom Michael and Debbie Bradley told me the rest of the story.
Leo came back with his mother and dad. He was still looking for gold. He found a 1914-D Indian Head $5.
Leo’s mother told Tom that it was Leo’s money that bought it. He had been saving it. He prefers coins to toys.
Whoa. I am glad that when the numismatic team drafted me at the age of 8 that I didn’t have to make that choice. I’d have picked toys.