In the more than 12 years of writing this blog, I never thought I would be writing about the pending death of one the great east coast shows. However, given the what I saw this past weekend and having discussions with what few dealers I could have, it is now time for Whitman to either fix the Baltimore Expo or get out of the coin show business.
First and foremost, if you are going to have a three-day show and open to the public on Sunday, then you should have more than 22 dealers across three convention center halls. After being stunned by the number of empty tables when I arrived at 12:30pm on Sunday, I counted the number of dealers that were still selling. There were 22 tables with dealers still selling while another six were packing, including one across from the entrance.
The view standing between Halls B and C at 12:30pm in the Baltimore Convention Center for the March 25, 2018 Whitman Expo
These numbers do not count the Whitman and U.S. Mint booths.
A dealer near the entrance is someone I know and have bought from in the past. When I complained about the lack of dealers he said, unapologetically, that I should have been there earlier. While this dealer is not known for having a warm-and-fuzzy personality, he does carry an interesting inventory and can be an interesting person to talk with on occasion. However, how dare he question my ability to attend? According to Whitman, the show is open 10am until 3pm on Sunday. At 12:30pm I expected more than 22 dealers!
But wait, you might exclaim. Whitman has “**Limited Dealers**” on their website.
There is a difference between “limited” and 22 dealers!
The view standing in the middle of Hall A at about 1:15pm in the Baltimore Convention Center for the March 25, 2018 Whitman Expo.
That is only part of the story. According to one dealer and one attendee who was there on Saturday, the number of empty tables exceeded the number of dealers before most of the dealers started to pack on Saturday afternoon. When I asked the attendee why he showed up on Sunday knowing it would be empty, he said he was looking for bargains but was disappointed with the number of dealers left.
Usually, I look forward to attending the show in Baltimore. I can always find something interesting and talk with a lot of interesting people. It makes the hour-long shlep worth the trouble. But when there was nothing available that I wanted and I spent more on parking and gas than I did at the show, then it was a waste of my time.
When Whitman bought the show it looked like they would work to build it up and keep it a first-class show. Unfortunately, it seems as if Whitman has abandoned their mission and may be on the verge of dying because of its neglect. It is clear that the competence they had before is not there now.
Unless Whitman can fix the problems and make it something that even a late attendee can get something out of, they may have lost this proponent and customer.
I did buy something
I cannot leave a show without buying something. There was one dealer with tokens who was really eager to sell. Since I cannot pass up a chance to search for tokens related to New York, here are the more interesting items I purchase:
125th Street Ferry Good for One Passage (NY630AG; 17mm)
1940 New York World’s Fair Metropolitan Life Medal (32mm)
Rockefeller Center Observation Guided Tour with Roof Access (18mm)
“Lucky Lindbergh Coin” by Whitehead-Hoag (32mm)
1986 Statue of Liberty Centennial Medal (28mm)
I did find one item that I bought because it was intriguing and I want to learn more about the backstory. The next image is a button with the portrait of the late Theodore Roosevelt and the legend that says “Women’s Roosevelt Memorial Association.” As a fan of our 26th President (and fellow New Yorker), I did not know this group existed or what they do. When I find out more I will post what I learn. In the meantime, it is an interesting button!
Women’s Roosevelt Memory Association Service Button (19mm)
Whitman Expo came to Baltimore this weekend to fill up three large halls in the Baltimore Convention Center. Like every Whitman Expo, dealers come from all over making it a must-attend east coast destination.
I was able to attend on Friday afternoon. It was not for long because I had to work half of the day. But it is always worth the trip.
Travelling to Baltimore on Friday is different than going on Saturday. First, the traffic between the Washington metro area and Baltimore is heavier. The traffic in Baltimore is also heavier especially on I-95 going through the city. And parking is a little more expensive because you compete with the business parking of downtown Baltimore. Someday, I will take the light rail that stops between the Convention Center and Camden Yards.
During a short visit to a show like Baltimore you either have to have a concise strategy or whatever objectives there are will not be fulfilled. This time I had no objectives and spent a lot of time talking with people.
Over the years I have met a lot of dealers and others while walking around I wanted to visit with some of these people. I also got to meet with one of the long-time readers of the blog. Bob is a frequent correspondent who came down from New Jersey on Amtrak to also visit the show. It was good to meet Bob and put a face on the real person behind the emails.
During the short time I spent on the bourse floor I learned a few things about the market:
- Sales are moderate but steady. Dealers are selling more online than in shows but see the shows as a valuable marketing tool. None of the dealers I spoke with are seeing the end of coin shows but can envision a reduction in the number of shows.
- Some dealers are diversifying their inventory from their core interests to other areas. One dealer noted that he was seeing more junk box searching than in the past. Although he thought that his sales were below average, he thought that the low-end sales would pick up on Saturday when younger people will attend.
- I thought there was a lot more silver than gold. One dealer that sells modern bullion coin such as American Eagles, Canadian Maple Leafs, and Chinese Pandas said that silver bullion was selling better than their gold counterparts. With silver trading under $17 per troy ounce, those interested in bullion are buying silver. He also attributed the interest in silver with some of the better silver issues like the Pandas and other non-circulating legal tender (NCLT) coins.
- Speaking of NCLT coins, I did not see a big selection. A dealer whose case included a few older issues said that the current NCLT issues may be too expensive for the market. It is one thing to issue themed coins that may be of interest but selling them has been a problem. Some people find it difficult to justify the selling of a one-ounce silver coin for more than four-times bullion value. This dealer thought that the licensing fees being paid for these images were probably driving up the price and driving their potential market away.
Another interesting aspect of the show is the number of non-numismatic items for sale. There were two dealers whose cases contained only jewelry. Most of the jewelry were quality items and estate pieces but I was surprised there were two dealers whose inventory was exclusively jewelry. A few dealers I have seen in the past also had cases of jewelry. One said that the rings he was selling were an accumulation of many years and found that the market was more receptive to the jewelry.
In addition to the jewelry, a dealer was selling used music compact discs (CD) and another had African artifacts including a beautiful silver necklace. Some of the currency dealers also had historical papers, letters, ledgers, and other ephemera that only has a tangential tie to numismatics.
Last week I asked how dealers would respond to the market. It looks like some dealers have turned to inventory diversity and including non-numismatic collectibles. If it helps bring in more collectors, it might be a good move.
Last April, the Baltimore Green Currency Association, sponsor of the BNote, initiated an Indiegogo campaign to fund their next issue that would feature significant women in Baltimore history. Although the campaign fell a little short, an anonymous donor funded more than $10,000 of the balance to print the currency.
Notes are a local currency that can be used at participating businesses in and around Baltimore. Currently, there are over 230 businesses accepting the BNote for goods and services. Consumers can receive BNotes as change for a transaction or may visit one of the official cambios (money exchange locations) to exchange dollars for BNotes. For every $10 that is exchanged for BNotes, you will receive a 10-percent bonus, which means if you exchange $10 you will receive BN11. You can also exchange BNotes for dollars at a reverse rate (receive $10 for every BN11 in BNotes).
The first BNotes were issued in April 2011 featuring the designs of Fredrick Douglas on the BN1 note and Edgar Allan Poe on the BN5 note. The reverse of the notes features a Baltimore oriole (the bird, not a ball player) on the $1 BNote and a raven on the reverse of the $5 BNote. For this new issue, Douglass and Poe remain on the note but the design changed to incorporate the vertical bars of the Calvert coat of arms that is incorporated in the Maryland flag.
Baltimore BN1 BNote with portrait of Frederick Douglass
Back of Baltimore BN1 BNote featuring a Baltimore Oriole (batting leadoff)
Baltimore BN5 BNote with portrait of Edgar Allan Poe
Back of Baltimore BN5 BNote with image of a Common Raven (Nevermore!)
The new BN10 and BN20 notes are similar in design with new colors on the background. Bea Gaddy is featured on the front of the BN10 and the Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, the official Maryland State Insect, on the reverse. Lillie May Carroll Jackson appears on the front of the BN20 note and a Blue Crab, the official Maryland State Crustacean, on the reverse.
Bea Gaddy was known as the Mother Teresa of Baltimore. A single mother of five who ended up in baltimore in 1964, she was discovered by a Baltimore attorney who encouraged her to go to college. Gaddy earned her bachelor’s degree in human services from Antioch University in 1977.
Baltimore BN10 BNote with portrait of Bea Gaddy
Back of Baltimore BN10 BNote with image of a Baltimore Checkerspot Butterfly, the Maryland State Insect
Gaddy saw the need to help others and joined the East Baltimore Children’s fund where she used her own home as a distribution point for clothing and food for the poor. She founded a homeless shelter which eventually became the Bea Gaddy Family Center, which is still in operation today.
In 1981, using the $290 she won on a 50-cents lottery ticket, she bought enough food to feed 39 neighbors and eventually opened a community kitchen for the needy. From Thanksgiving dinners to opening furniture bank refurbishing used furniture and rehabbing abandoned row houses, Gaddy was a catalyst to help the poor in Baltimore. Eventually, she became an ordained minister to perform marriages and hold funerals at no cost to the families.
Gaddy was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998. With the cancer in remission, Gaddy ran for Baltimore City Council in 1999 and won. Unfortunately, the cancer returned and she died in October 2001 at the age of 68. Even though Bea Gaddy is gone, her family and friends continue to help the poor in Baltimore using the same love and compassion Bea showed throughout her life.
Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson was born in Baltimore in 1889 and is consider the mother of the civil rights movement. From 1935 through 1970, Jackson was the president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP and at the forefront of nearly every fight to end Maryland’s Jim Crow laws. Through her leadership, the Baltimore NAACP sued to remove the color barrier from admissions to the University of Maryland Law School, won cases to force Baltimore public schools to grant equal pay to white and black teachers, and was fundamental to having Baltimore to be the first school system south of the Mason-Dixon line to integrate their schools following the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.
Baltimore BN20 BNote with portrait of Lillie May Carroll Jackson
Back of Baltimore BN20 BNote with image of a Blue Crab, the Maryland State Crustacean
Jackson fought for equal pay and fair employment practices even though Maryland Governor Theodore McKeldin (R) was once quoted as saying, “I’d rather have the devil after me than Mrs. Jackson. Give her what she wants.” In the end, Jackson won most of the fights.
She is also credited with playing critical roles in the passage of federal civil rights legislation in the 1960s.
Jackson died from a heard attack in 1975. After she died, her will called for her Baltimore home to be turned into a civil rights museum. The museum opened in 1978 with memorabilia from Jackson’s life and documents chronicling her life’s work. It was the only museum named after a woman and the only civil rights museum in Maryland. The museum closed in the 1990s because it was too difficult to maintain as a private facility. The museum was transferred to Morgan University who refurbished the building and reopened it on June 11, 2016.
As part of the Indigogo campaign, I selected the option to receive the a full set of the second series BNotes with matching serial numbers. The notes I received, which feels like they were printed on heavy stock paper, a type of paper my wife said was “resumé” paper. All four notes feature serial number BN00055. For all you liar’s poker players, I call a full house.
What do you mean I can’t call a full house?!
It has been over a week since I attended the Whitman Baltimore Expo Spring show at the Baltimore Convention Center and finally found time to write about my visit.
Whitman Spring 2016 Expo looking into Hall C
Those who followed me on Twitter knows that I had a late start. We working stiffs do have weekend responsibilities that have to be taken care of before we can go out to play. Once I was able to complete my errands, I was able to travel north to Baltimore.
I may be one of the few people who are not from Baltimore who likes Baltimore. But going to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor area can be a lot of fun, even if it is frustrating trying to find parking. Then again, show me any city that does not have a parking problem and I will show you a city that is not as fun.
Once I was able to find parking I walked to the convention center. After entering in the early afternoon on Saturday I was struck by the number of empty tables that could be seen from the entry door. In all areas of the three convention center halls, the number of empty tables was surprising. I was also surprised to see a number of shared tables being half used.
As I walked around the convention center floor I was struck by the number of tables that were either never occupied or the dealer did not show up at all on Saturday. You can tell these tables from the others by the number of fliers left on the table. Some tables had rental cases with the keys in them showing that these tables were either unused or the dealer left early.
Dealer attendance inside Hall B
Another view of the dealer attendance on Saturday
I recently learned that a table for the Baltimore show costs $750. Add the cost of travel, food, lodging, and the inventory, does the costs justify leaving and not trying to make money? When I discussed this with a regular dealer, I was told that some that are not having a good show will leave early to cut their losses.
Of the dealers that were left, there was a nice mix of items. For once, I did not get the impression that one type of coin was more popular than the other. In fact, I think this is the first show where bullion and bullion-related coins were not the focus. I was able to find American Silver Eagles without problem but finding some of the foreign bullion coins was a little more challenging.
Obverse of the to be released 2016 Mercury Dime Centennial Tribute
Reverse of the to be released 2016 Mercury Dime Centennial Tribute
Medals on display at the U.S. Mint booth
Shawnee National Forest 5 ounce silver coin
Whitman, the sponsor of the show, had their own booth and was actually selling discounted items. In prior years, Whitman would sell their own products at full price but this time offered some discount. And they had a clearance table. I did not buy from the clearance table because they did not have anything I wanted but there were some nice and current items that were worth the value.
Sale at the Whitman Booth!
There were good collectors guide books on the sale table
One thing Whitman did was to give away hardcover copies of the 70th Edition of the Red Book autographed by Ken Bressett and Jeff Garrett. All I had to do was fill out a ticket at the Whitman booth, return to the booth at the time of the drawing, and wait for them to give away the eight books being offered on Saturday. I think I was the fourth book given away.
Drawing for the autographed Red Book
I WON! It looks like I received lucky #7.
Previously, I noted that the choices of numismatic literature has diminished. While the death of numismatic book dealer John Burns is a tragic story in and of itself, what has not happened is that someone has not stepped into that market. Aside from being intelligent and a character with a sharp wit, his inventory was so varied that I was always able to find something a little off-beat or out of the ordinary that was intriguing. If someone wants to move into numismatics but wants to occupy a different space, this might be something for you to get into.
The most fun thing I found was the dealer that used kiddie pools as their junk box. Rather than going through boxes or bins, they set up three kiddie pools and threw in a lot of low value slabs and some other items. They had a lot of slabs and it was interesting diving into the pools looking for something fun. Although I did not buy anything from the pools, I did buy some other coins and a non-numismatic related book from their discount table.
Swimming in the pools of inexpensive slabs.
Every show I try to find one neat item that is out of the ordinary. As I approached one table I noticed there were a few large brass medals on the table. I am intrigued by brass medals both for their size and a lot of the artwork. I have seen many brass medals with art that rival anything produced on canvas for their beauty. But this one was different in that it bore the local of Carnegie Mellon University, where I went to graduate school.
Carnegie Mellon was formed in 1967 when the Carnegie Institute of Technology (Carnegie Tech, founded in 1900) merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research (founded in 1913). I earned a masters degree in one calendar year 1999-2000. Although I was an older student, it was a great experience for me and my (late) first wife.
The reverse of the medal is an image of Hamerschlag Hall, the first permanent building of Carnegie Tech and the home of the current College of Engineering. Around the rim celebrates the 50 Year Reunion with a space for the college which is having the reunion and the year being celebrated. Since the date engraved on the reverse is 1938, it was given to its previous owner in 1988. But that does not bother me. The front has the Carnegie Mellon logo and a great reminder of my good year in Pittsburgh.
Obverse of the Carnegie Mellon University medal features the school’s logo
Reverse of the Carnegie Mellon University medal features Hamerschlag Hall and proclaims the 50th Anniversary reunion Class of 1938.
The next Whitman Expo will be July 14-17. I hope the dealers that show up will be there if I have to spend the morning running errands.
Gallery of images
In the Spring of 2010 during the recent recession, a group representing business interests in Baltimore formed the Baltimore Green Currency Association. As part of their efforts to support local business, the BCGA created BNotes, a local currency that can be used at participating businesses in and around Baltimore. Currently, there are over 230 businesses accepting the BNote for goods and services.
Legally, the BNote is coupon representing the amount of money on its face and are redeemable at participating merchants. Consumers can receive BNotes as change for a transaction or may visit one of the official cambios (money exchange) locations to exchange dollars for BNotes. For every $10 that is exchanged for BNotes, you will receive a 10-percent bonus, which means if you exchange $10 you will receive BN11. You can also exchange BNotes for dollars at a reverse rate (receive $10 for every BN11 in BNotes).
The first BNotes were issued in April 2011 featuring the designs of Fredrick Douglas on the BN1 note and Edgar Allan Poe on the BN5 note. The reverse of the notes features a Baltimore oriole (the bird, not a ball player) on the $1 BNote and a raven on the reverse of the $5 BNote.
One Dollar Baltimore B-Note featuring Frederick Douglas and a Baltimore oriole.
Five Dollar Baltimore B-Note featuring Edgar Allan Poe and a raven.
After five years, BCGA wants to create a new series of BNotes adding BN10 and BN20 notes to feature images of two notable Baltimore women. Douglas and Poe will remain on the current two notes. It is being advertised as the first time that women will appear on currency in the United States. Currency collectors know that Martha Washington on the front of the Series 1886 and 1891 $1 silver certificates. She also appeared on the back of the Series 1896 $1 silver certificate.
In order to raise the $15,000 needed to print a new series of BNotes, BGCA has started an Indiegogo campaign. To receive the new notes, you have to give $30 to receive a new BN1, BN5, and BN10 with the same serial numbers. For $50 you can get all four notes with the same serial number. There are other perks like a special tote, invitation to a cocktail party, framed notes, etc.
Although BGCA will announce the women to be featured on the notes later this month, it may be a good bet that Sen. Barbara Mikulski. Senator Barb, 79, is a Baltimore native who will retire after this session. Before serving five terms as senator, she served 5 terms representing Maryland’s Third District in the House of Representatives. Mikulski started her political career in 1971 as a member of the Baltimore City Council.
There have been previous attempts to create tokens using a crowd funding campaign, but this appears to be the first attempt to create a community currency in this manner. If this is a success, it could inspire other business communities to do something similar. For collectors, it is a unique, inexpensive collectible.
Images courtesy of the Baltimore Green Currency Association.
At some point, after running some early errands, I will drive to Baltimore for the Whitman Baltimore Expo. If you want to follow along, I will be on Twitter using the hashtag #WBSE16 from my @CoinsBlog account. If you are just interested in the images and not my commentary, you can follow the board I set up under my Pinterest account I named “Whitman Baltimore Expo 2016-04-02” (for its originality, of course).
If you are not into trying to watch the live updates or social media, here are widgets to both accounts and you can follow along here:
There should be two images on the Pinterest board from testing my workflow.
GEEKY BACKGROUND for those who wants to know what I did, otherwise, you can skip this: I created an ifttt recipe that searches for my tweets with hashtag #WBSE16 then posts the image to my specified board on Pinterest.
I will post a more comprehensive report after the show.
No matter how busy I get, I have to take some time for myself. This is why I will be planning the business I need to do this Saturday so that I can go to Baltimore for the Whitman Baltimore Expo!
Bourse floor from Whitman Spring 2015 Show
It has been a while since I have been to the Whitman Show. I am sure that some of the dealers have changed—I know a few have unfortunately passed on—but I think it is time for me to have some hobby time.
Since starting my business, there has not been a lot of time to work on a new collection even though I did start a Vickie Cent collection (Canadian Large Cents from the Queen Victoria era) a few months ago. Aside from the collectable bullion (Maple Leafs, Pandas, and Britannia), I think this would be a good opportunity to add to my Vickie Cent collection.
Of course it will give me a chance to look for something for my New York City collection. I am not sure what I have or need, but it is all about the hunt.
I will likely be Tweeting from the convention center so follow me on Twitter @coinsblog. I invite others to contribute by using the hashtag #WBSE16 (Whitman Baltimore Spring Expo ’16). More info on the social media following will be published here on Saturday morning. Stay tuned!
As it does three times per year, Whitman rolls into the Baltimore Convention Center for the Whitman Baltimore Expo. This time, rather than the showing being in Halls A and B it was held in E and F. The new location within the building was not as intuitive to find as walking to the end and Whitman did not do as good of a job as they could have in placing their signs. But for general access, which is was off of South Sharp Street, it provided a little better access than off of West Pratt Street, which is a main artery as it passes in front of the Inner Harbor.
Although there were the same number of booths, the space felt smaller. Lights were brighter since these halls seem to have been converted to using LED lighting—the brighter space made the convention center seem less cavernous. Aisles were not as wide and some of the layout changed, but it seemed to have the same number of dealers. Some of the dealers who had larger spaces did downsize and the one vendor of supplies that is not Whitman did not set up at the show. It is not known if they decided not to attend or were not invited to attend. Since Whitman does not carry all books and supplies, it would be nice if they had another supplier.
On thing I have noticed is that since the death of numismatic book dealer John Burns in early 2014 there seems to be fewer numismatic book offerings at some of the east coast shows. Aside from missing his sharp wit, I was always able to find something a little off-beat or out of the ordinary amongst the books he had for sale. While there was a book dealer at this show, the items were more toward what I would consider ordinary. I hope someone steps in with some interesting items.
As I walked the floor and spoke to many of the dealers (late Friday afternoon), they all said that they were doing well. With the area still a bit chilly and no sports to take over the downtown Baltimore area (home opener for the Baltimore Orioles is on Friday, April 10), visitors to downtown Baltimore had plenty of time to visit. For those of us who like access to a major coin show, it is good to hear. If the dealers are doing well then they will keep coming back. If the dealers come back, the show goes on.
Both the U.S. Mint and Bureau of Engraving and Printing had booths at the show. While the U.S. Mint was showing current products, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing had some historical information. Although it is good to see the U.S. Mint at the show, it might be nice to see some historical artifacts. Since most of the U.S. Mint’s collection was given to the Smithsonian Institute, maybe they can be convinced to bring an exhibit to the show. Having the Smithsonian there would be very different than other shows since they have a different type of collection than the American Numismatic Association, for example.
The U.S. Mint was showing off the March of Dimes Commemorative set that will go on sale later this year. The set features a proof 2015 March of Dimes Commemorative dollar, a proof Roosevelt dime from San Francisco, and a reverse proof Roosevelt time from Philadelphia. The reverse proof dime is beautiful. It seems that the reverse proofs are really attractive coins. Seeing this set only enforces my desire to buy it when it becomes available.
2015 March of Dimes Commemorative Proof set will cost $61.95 when released
Another interesting find was the First Edition of the Red Book Deluxe Edition. While flipping through it at the show, it looks like the Red Book on steroids. There is more information, more detail on pricing, and some other features. A first impression is that it extends the Red Book franchise a bit beyond what they called their Professional Edition. While there is a lot of information, my first impression is that I wish it was more of a cross between the Professional Edition and the Coin World Almanac. Both books have their places, but to combine the pricing and information that is updated yearly (the Coin World Almanac is updated every 10 years) would be a great resource. Hopefully, I will get my hands on one to review.
Finally, no show would be complete with out my one cool find. After walking the floor for a few hours I finally stat at the table of Cunningham Exonumia and had a nice chat with Paul Cunningham while searching for something New York. While I have not given up coins or Maryland Colonial Currency, I seem to be having more fun trying to find tokens and other exonumia from New York City and my hometown of Brooklyn. I have seen Paul at many other shows and have purchased from him. He always has a great selection. For me, I may have exhausted some of his inventory. This time, the pieces he was offering this weekend I already have in my collection.
But it did not stop me from looking. Tokens are very interesting. They are alternatives to money and are more tied to the culture of the community than money. For me, a New York Subway token not only represented a ride on the subway, but it also represents a different part of my life. It makes collecting very person. Although I have a collection of subway tokens I continue to look because you never know what you can find—especially an error.
What I found was a large token with an error. It was sold as the “Large Y” token where the “Y” was supposed to be cutout. Those tokens were used from 1970-1978 and two fare increases starting out at 30-cents in 1970, 35-cents in 1972, then 50-cents in 1975. But what I found is not that token. After examine the token carefully and some others I have, this is an error to the “Solid Brass NYC” Token. Introduced with the 60-cent fare in 1980, the “Y” was part of the raised design and not cutout. The clue as came when examine the obverse (the side that says “New York City Transit Authroity”). Between the “N” and the “C” is the tail of the “Y” but without its top. That tail would not have existed on the earlier tokens because they would have been cut out. Instead, the is a die issue where only the tail of the “Y” on one side was struck.
Large Brass “NYC Token” used from 1980-1985 with partial “Y” (obverse)
Large Brass “NYC Token” used from 1980-1985 with missing “Y” (reverse)
It might not be the error I expected, but it is an error nonetheless! It also does not make it any less fun or valuable because it will fit nicely in my collection.
If you were not able to make it Baltimore, here are some of the pictures I had taken at the show:
The Whitman Coin and Currency Expo began yesterday at the Baltimore Convention Center. One of the largest shows, the Whitman Expo covers three large conference halls at the Baltimore Convention Center. There is never enough time to get through it in a day while also talking to everyone.
Dave Schenkman is the sixth lecturer in the MSNA Distinguished Lecture Series.
This year, as president of the Maryland State Numismatic Association, I get to preside over the Sixth Annual MSNA Distinguished Lecture. Our speaker is Dave Schenkman, a highly respected numismatic researcher and a recognized authority on United States tokens. Dave’s lecture is titled “Collecting by the Numbers: A Look at Trade Token Denominations.” His lecture begins at 1 PM on Friday, June 27, 2014 (today) at the Baltimore Convention Center. If you are in the area, please come hear what Dave has to say.
Otherwise, watch my Twitter and Pinterest feeds for information and images from Baltimore. I will have a report about the show over the weekend.
The U.S. Mint reports that the $5 gold National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Coin has sold out. It may be the fastest sell out of any gold commemorative coin in the modern commemorative era lasting only through the first weekend.
2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Proof $5 gold coin obverse
It has been speculated that the U.S. Mint will strike more coins than the law (Public Law 108–291 [PDF]) allows on order from the Secretary of the Treasury. No official decision has been announced by either the U.S. Mint or the Department of the Treasury. However, it is questioned whether it is legal for the Secretary to make this decision unilaterally or requires an act of congress. There seems to be evidence that someone had previously approved an increase for the 2005 Marine Corps Commemorative dollar, but there is no authoritative source for proof.
Collectors who have contacted me are not happy with the U.S. Mint. Many believe that the high limit (50 coins per “household”) was too high. When I posted images of the graded baseball coins, several commented that they felt that dealers “abused” their access to the immediate supply of coins that were available in the U.S. Mint booth at the Whitman Baltimore Expo that many collectors did not have a fair chance.
None of my correspondents would bemoan a dealer’s ability to make money on the secondary market. But to do so by taking advantage of the U.S. Mint’s inability to manage its market as the lone producer of U.S. commemorative coins was considered excessive by many. Although I sympathized with their point of view since I could not purchase one for my collection, I questioned whether the U.S. Mint has an obligation to just sell the coins or satisfy market forces. But as many pointed out, the U.S. Mint is a government agency and has a responsibility to the people of the United States and not just the corporations.
While at the Whitman show I spoke with one of the U.S. Mint employees who said that they should have limited the number of coins someone can purchase at one time. Although they did enforce lower limits on the supply of coins sold on Saturday, the damage had been done leaving collectors to scramble to buy the coins on the secondary market or order them online. Those of us who order the coins from the U.S. Mint online catalog will have to wait until June 21, according to the notice sent to me. However, the website is saying that the proof dollar is backordered until July 7 while the clad proof half-dollar is will be available on April 10.
Like many of my correspondents, it is difficult to believe that anyone at the U.S. Mint would be afraid that this commemorative would not sell. A simple search using your favorite search engine would have shown that the coverage of the striking of the first curved coin in U.S. Mint history was seen world wide. Even the image of Cassie McFarland, the artist whose design was selected for the obverse of the coin, holding one of the first strikes in her gloved hand was reproduced on news outlets throughout the world. You cannot buy that kind of publicity.
Cassie McFarland holds up Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative Dollar with her design
We are talking about baseball, America’s pastime. America’s game. Regardless of the accepted story of its founding, it is generally accepted that Major League Baseball was founded in 1869 making it the oldest organized league in North America. Not only was the coin released just before Opening Day for 2014, but the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Major League Baseball have been promoting this coin since the bill was signed.
To even hint that this was going to be a situation like the failure of the 2013 Girl Scout Commemorative would be very short sighted and foolish.
Maybe the U.S. Mint should review its sales processes than chase after pattern coins.
In the mean time, the U.S. Mint published a B-Roll for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Commemorative.
Coin image and B-Roll footage courtesy of the U.S. Mint.
Image of Cassie McFarland courtesy of the San Francisco Examiner