By Karl Hinds
My son-in-law Del and I attended the American Numismatic Association convention in Chicago last month with our main focus on buying a couple of gold Kennedy half dollars.
We left my house 300 miles southwest of Chicago at 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, Aug. 5. We arrived in front of the convention center at 6 a.m. From the information we had at the time the line would not start until about 10 a.m. I turned to Del, who was driving and said, we are not getting gold today. We had a room reserved at a local hotel just in case.
We had attended the 2011 release of the 2010 5-ounce silver coins in Springfield, Ill., which was a total nightmare. There we each were able to buy one set. I was just not sure what to expect in Chicago.
We spent several hours in line talking with fellow collectors and just listening and trying to figure out how to get a coin. Around 8 a.m. we went inside and joined ANA for $18, a very good price that included a pass for the ANA show good all week.
We wandered the floor just looking at all the coins. It was the largest show either of us had ever been to before. Del purchased a couple Austrian Philharmonic silver dollars for his twin sons.
Around 5 p.m. we went to our hotel to get some much needed sleep. We set the alarm for 11 p.m. Tuesday and arrived back at convention at about midnight. Approximately 200 people were already waiting across the street from the center. We hurried and parked the car and got in “line.” Right after that a large charter bus pulled up and about 60 people got in line behind us, several of them asking if this was the back of the “line.”
After standing there for about an hour a police car with a loud speaker starting saying something that was totally garbled and we had no idea what they were saying. Then we saw everybody starting running across the street to the front of the convention center. We ran as fast as we could and were all of a sudden in the middle of a rather large mob of people. We finally made it too the front wall of the convention center.
The police slowly got the mob of people to get in a single file line, which was no small undertaking considering most everybody had to back up for this to be done and nobody was going to let anybody get in front of them.
I later walked up the line to see approximately where we were in line. I counted us as numbers 75 and 76. The line was nice and orderly for awhile, until the sprinklers went off directly next to the line at about 3 a.m. There was some screams of surprise; some people had already settled in and were sleeping. As the system went down the line at about 15-minute intervals the scene played out, repeating the scenario.
After the sprinkler ordeal the line started to get very unorganized as most people were forced away from the wall. It was quiet for about the next two to t hree hours. About 7 am the line was starting to swell in front of us. I would guess from hearing conversations around us that about 90 percent of the people in line were paid by dealers to be there. The police were trying to keep cutters out of the line, but it was very hard for them to know who was cutting.Many of the dealers’ employees were going up and down the line providing doughnuts, coffee, juice or McDonald’s food for the people who were in line for them.
At about 7:30 a.m. I did another line count. We were now numbers 105 and 106. At 8 a.m. the line started moving with 25 at a time let into the convention center under the watchful eye of police and ANA security. They were also checking to see if you had all the correct credentials (picture ID and ANA show badge). Other security entities may have been present, but we were not sure if they were Treasury Department security.
We finally made it inside the door to the “gold room” where they handed you a ticket and said don’t lose it because you will not get a coin without it! We entered the gold room number as numbers 109 and 110. Then they lined everybody up through a back and forth maze like line, where we finally were able to relax and use the facilities (it had been a long night). About noon they started escorting groups of 25 onto the floor where you were again asked to show credentials before entering, again under the watchful eyes of security. We did notice at least six people were asked to leave the line, actually I was quite happy as I had identified several of them who I believed had cut into line. We entered the floor as numbers 104 and 105.
We were escorted around the side of the floor and into the U.S. Mint line again under the watchful eyes of several security personnel. You gave the Mint worker your gold ticket and $1,240. They in turn gave you a receipt and directed you to another line where another Mint employee gave you a U.S. Mint plastic bag with a blue Mint box inside the bag. I really hoped at this time it would include a gold Kennedy half dollar. I opened up the blue box, inside was the nice wooden box, opened the wooden box, with a small sheet of velvet type material, which I slowly raised to see a very nice gold Kennedy half dollar inside. We then proceeded over to PCGS where we had our coins slabbed and graded to include the ANA show label. They came back MS-69 and MS-70. Depending on the price, we may have to sell these coins. We did order a few more online the first day.
It was an experience neither one of us will forget whether we keep the coins or sell them.
This “Viewpoint” was written by Karl Hinds.
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