In 1999, I attended the Central States Show in Milwaukee with my husband. It was my first coin show, and I was not impressed.
I remember seeing cases and cases of silver dollars. Silver dollars are beautiful coins so the first few cases were impressive, but after a few tables, I found the displays monotonous. I remember the people behind the table as being at best unfriendly and unreceptive to questions, and at worst downright rude. The best part of the show was the educational exhibit area which I found extremely interesting so that?s where I spent most of the show while my husband went through the bourse.
In the years since, I?ve gone to many smaller shows in the area and become interested in collecting primarily foreign coins and exonumia. Several area dealers now recognize me at shows, and a few of them will pull out coins or tokens they think I might be interested in adding to my collection. Most of them are happy to explain the origins or histories of items they?re selling. I?ve also joined several coin clubs and found a community of friendly folks who are willing to share their knowledge of coins.
In 2007, my husband and I went to two major shows: the FUN Show in Orlando and the ANA Show in Milwaukee. Both shows were great with lots to see and plenty of dealers selling a wide variety of coins, paper money, exonumia, and other numismatic merchandise in a range of prices to suit every collector including young numismatists. The majority of the dealers were friendly at both shows.
When we found out the Central States Show was coming to Chicago this year, we immediately made plans to go. I wondered if I would find it to be different this time since I?m now an active collector.
Unfortunately, the answer proved to be ?No.? Once again, I was greeted by cases and cases of silver dollars, this time interspersed with gold coins of all kinds. Both my husband and I found the majority of dealers in the first half of the hall to be unfriendly and rude. Many of them completely ignored us.
By the end of the day it was painfully obvious that these dealers were mainly interested in dealing with other dealers and had little interest in dealing with ordinary hobbyists.
As we got farther away from the door, the dealers got friendlier, and there were more moderately priced offerings. Highlights of the show for me included talking to Ray Dillard and browsing through his big bin of elongates and going through the educational exhibits and having the opportunity to talk to one of the exhibitors. Getting to meet people and learning more about how numismatic history relates to world history is important to me. I?m not an investor. I?m a hobbyist.
A week after the Central States Show, my husband and I were back in Chicago ? this time to attend the Chicago International Coin Fair. What a delightful contrast to the Central States Show! At almost every table, dealers greeted me and asked me what I was looking for, if I wanted to see something, etc. There were bargain bins full of inexpensive foreign coins and ancient coins worth thousands of dollars ? sometimes at the same tables! Every dealer I bought something from seemed to genuinely appreciate my business even if my purchase only amounted to a dollar or two. Dealers seemed pleased to talk to people about the histories of their coins, and I heard folks discussing long-dead emperors as though they were dearly departed relatives!
The CICF Show represents what I think is the best part of numismatics ? people with a true passion for what they collect and sell, not just people who are thinking about how much money they can make when they ?flip? a coin on to the next buyer.
The Central States Show had terrific exhibits and educational seminars. However, I think many of the dealers need to make an effort to recognize the average collector rather than simply catering to other dealers or folks seeking investment grade coins. Remember, this hobby is a pyramid, and the base is made up of the ?little guys.?
Tina M. Schneider is a numismatist who resides in Waukesha, Wis.
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