By John Thomassen for American Numismatic Society (ANS) ……
Most of us have a favorite day of the year. For many, it’s their birthday. For others, it’s a particular holiday that is close to their heart, perhaps because of the fond memories it evokes.
For me? It’s the annual New York International Numismatic Convention.
It’s no contest, either. My birthday? Sure, it’s nice to receive gifts and cheerful rounds of “Happy birthday!” and other such accolades for making it once more around the sun. Christmas? Yes, I like gathering with family, exchanging gifts (including numismatic ones, if I’m lucky), and feeling that special “something” in the air that can’t be replicated any other time of the year. But being on the bourse floor of the NYINC, surrounded by countless coins, tokens, and medals both old and new, catching up with friends in the numismatic community, and making new ones along the way . . . that can’t be beat, in my opinion, and I’m betting there’s a numismatist or two in your life who feel the same way about their favorite numismatic convention.
For over 10 years, I have attended the NYINC show every January without fail–with the lone exception of 2021, as there was no convention that year due to COVID-19. By attending this show, one really gets a sense for the strength of the numismatic market that year – how active buyers are, how dealers are faring, what material is hot and actively trading, and what inventory is sluggish and slow to move. Moreover, the New York International Numismatic Convention historically coincides with the ANS Annual Gala, our keystone fundraising event for the year and a fabulous event to attend. This year’s Gala was no exception, as many pillars of the numismatic community descended upon the Harvard Club in New York City to support the American Numismatic Society and our many endeavors, and also to honor Heritage Auctions, who were presented with the 2023 ANS Trustee’s Award for their many decades of work and numerous contributions to the field of numismatics.
So how did this year’s show fare? In short, the sense I got from dealers and buyers alike was that it was an all-around positive and successful convention, and more specifically, that the numismatic market remains strong, and in-person attendance is bouncing back. To be sure, the show was more bustling this year compared to the 2022 convention, at least from a visual assessment of the bourse floor on the days I was there (Friday, January 13 and Saturday, January 14) and the material on view at dealers’ booths as well as in the auction rooms was plentiful and diverse, with offerings for many different budgets. A common thread was that finding enough coins of a certain caliber to present to buyers (at least at fixed prices) has remained difficult for dealers, owing to fewer large collections of high-quality material coming into the marketplace, but this has been the case for at least a few years now, and many buyers are well aware that certain types in particularly spectacular condition (rare or otherwise) are almost always destined for auctions first, although many hidden gems can still be found amongst dealer stock. Of course, there were the expected high points, such as new auction records, as well as more sobering news, reminding both dealers and collectors alike to remain vigilant against would-be criminals.
For the ANS’ part, our table was situated in a prime area between both major bourse rooms, ensuring that participants passing from room to room were destined to pass by the American Numismatic Society. This allowed the rotating cast of ANS employees—from both the curatorial and administrative sides of the organization—to speak with potential new members, renew existing members, and generally “talk shop” with anybody wanting to drop by, whether to discuss our latest publications (including those that are now available via print-on-demand), review the catalog of material consigned by ANS stalwart and Life Fellow David Hendin to Classical Numismatic Group, LLC (the proceeds of which will be donated to the American Numismatic Society to assist with our eventual relocation), or to simply chat about their numismatic interests and collecting endeavors.
Two conversations in particular really stuck with me while speaking with fellow numismatic devotees.
The first was with Caleb Noel, current Editor-in-Chief of The Numismatist published by the American Numismatic Association (ANA). While admiring a token recently struck by the ANA (and designed by ANS Life Fellow Alex Shagin), Caleb explained to me the current setup of their in-house minting operations, including their screw press, their process for obtaining new dies, and other interesting details. This really got my mind churning, as I’ve wanted to do something similar at the American Numismatic Society for some time now, and thanks to Caleb, I now have much more information to explore if a similar small-scale striking operation is something that we can make a reality at the ANS as well, as I believe this would be particularly instructive (and entertaining) for guests and visitors. More information about the ANA’s minting equipment can be found here.
The second conversation was with Katie Bishop, owner of Principles GI Coffee House in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn. Katie became an ANS member at last year’s NYINC show, and in that time, she not only dove deeper into the world of numismatics but opened the aforementioned coffee shop. As proprietor of a Brooklyn coffee shop myself, I was more than happy to talk at length (and also commiserate) about the journey that is small business ownership. But what really fascinated me was Katie’s idea and implementation of both copper and silver merchant tokens advertising Principles GI Coffee House, which can also be redeemed for actual goods. These tokens were just one of several ideas Katie had come up with to bridge the seemingly disparate worlds of numismatics and coffee, and I can’t wait to see what else she implements down the road.
Until next year’s New York International Numismatic Convention . . . have a happy, healthy, and numismatic 2023!
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