By Louis Golino for CoinWeek ….
Each year the largest and most important coin show in Europe is held the first week of February in Berlin, Germany. From February 5 to 7, the 45th Annual World Money Fair was held in the eastern portion of Berlin, where it has been held for most of the past decade, in the part of the city that used to be behind the Berlin Wall.
Though attendance at this year’s show was down a little, it is estimated that about 10,000 collectors, dealers, and representatives of world and private mints were there. The Berlin fair is used by the mints to showcase their forthcoming and latest releases, and in what is called the technical forum, they present information about their specialized minting techniques that has not been made available previously. There is also a media forum at the show and many meetings.
Slower Show Overall
Commerce at the show was strong for certain kinds of material, such as medieval and ancient coins and the enormously popular 2-euro bi-metal commemoratives that are all the rage among European collectors. In fact, as happens every year the longest lines were of people waiting to obtain the newest 2-euro coins at face value–which in this case included the new French issue for the UEFA soccer tournament–and there was also a lot of interest in other circulating coins from around the world.
In addition, the German Mint plans to release a 5-euro coin about Planet Earth that will feature a translucent blue polymer ring, which garnered a lot of attention too. According to Ola Borgejordet, founder and owner of the Royal Scandinavian Mint in Salt Lake City, who always attends the Berlin show, “On Friday [Feb. 7] — the first day of the show – this had been featured on German breakfast TV, and everybody – cab drivers included – were buzzing about it and asking questions.”
Mr. Borgejordet, who has commented in past years to CoinWeek about the Berlin show, also said that it is “a big deal” that the face value of German commemorative coins is being increased from 10 to 20 euros.
However, a number of dealers reported that business and overall activity was slower than last year, and the main drag in that regard is believed to have been the absence of Russian and Chinese collectors as a result of current economic problems in both countries, including sharp declines in the Chinese stock market and in the price of oil and Western sanctions against Russia.
For example, Russia’s Sber Bank, which usually has a large exhibit at the show, did not have a stand this year, as Mr. Borgejordet pointed out.
Each year there is a major auction at the show that is organized by the prominent German coin auction firm Kuenker, and this year’s auction reached total sales of more than $7.2 million. The highlight of the sale was an 1813 Australian Holey dollar struck on a 1777 Mexico City Mint 8-reale silver coin; it sold for 230,000 euros, or more than a quarter of a million dollars.
Collectors at the mid-range, who purchase silver commemorative coins that are the bread and butter of today’s modern world coin market, were rather selective this year.
Some of the popular issues at the show included the Perth Mint’s special Berlin show colored 1-ounce silver Kookaburra with a mintage of just 2,000 coins, as well as a new antique silver, high relief Kangaroo coin done in a rimless format similar to its Gods and Goddesses of Olympus series.
Coins with high reliefs and antique finishes have, in many ways, come to dominate the higher-end of the world commemorative coin market in recent years, so it is not surprising that this a key area for technological development in numismatics.
Several dealers, including Brian Tully, President and CEO of Choice Bullion and its new minting company, Choice Mint–as well as Jack Sakarian, owner of The Coin Shoppe, a major Canadian firm that distributes coins for several world mints, and Mr. Borgejordet–all emphasized that the most interesting development at this year’s show by far was the unveiling of a new coin production technology called smartminting by Coin Invest Trust, a highly-regarded private mint based in Lichtenstein that produces coins for various countries and coin companies.
Smartminting “is a game changer to the modern numismatic world,” according to Mr. Sakarian, who added that “I see technology playing a big part with new coins being released, and mints will try to compete with each other to create new and exciting innovative coins.” As he and the other dealers explained, it allows coins to be struck in high relief while using much less metal than was required in the past. Typically, higher relief coins are thicker than normal relief coins and have smaller diameters, but this new technology changes all that. Because the metal does not have to flow as far across the coin with this approach, the metal can be pressed into high reliefs in designated areas, allowing the coins to be much thinner and to have larger diameters.
As Coin Invest Trust notes: there are also other benefits to smartminting, including:
- strikingly higher relief on standard weight coins
- extraordinarily high relief on coins with slightly increased weight
- considerably larger diameter on standard weight coins while maintaining relief height
- standard relief height on coins with greatly reduced weight
At the show CIT unveiled its newest projects for the Mongolian Wildlife Protection and Natures series and the remarkable Tiffany series of 2-ounce and 1-kilo silver coins that depict different styles of art and architecture from around the world.
In terms of bullion coins perhaps the biggest news from the show was from the Royal Canadian Mint, which unveiled its latest security and anti-counterfeiting technology, a device that can be used to determine the authenticity of RCM bullion products and the release of the first coin in its new 4-coin 1-ounce silver series called Predators, which features a cougar on the attack. Collectors have greeted the new design by Emily Damstra (View Designer’s Profile) with a lot of enthusiasm. A new gold Roaring Grizzly coin was also unveiled.
In addition, the Austrian Mint announced the expansion of its popular Philharmonic silver and gold coins into a new metal with the release of a 100-euro platinum coin. This will be a game change for platinum bullion coins since there are not nearly as many coins of that metal as there are of gold and silver.
The other big news in Berlin was from the annual presentation of the Coin of the Year Awards, an initiative of Krause Publications, and the awards ceremony is a partnership between Krause and the World Money Fair.
The United States Mint won two major awards, including the top award for Coin of the Year that went to its 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative clad half dollar, which also received an award for the most innovative coin. And the gold version of this coin received an award for best gold coin. With these achievements the U.S. Mint has now set a record for five COTY awards, which is more than any other world mint.
But while representatives of the U.S. Mint (such as Rhett Jeppson, Principal Deputy Director) were on hand to receive these awards, the Mint did not have an exhibit at the show, as has been the case previously. The Berlin show would seem to be an ideal venue for introducing non-American collectors to the U.S. Mint’s products and interacting with foreign collectors, many of whom do collect U.S. coins.