When Friday rolled around, I needed a break. I needed something to take my mind off the daily grind of trying to guide the government to do right with technology. I needed coins. Lots of coins. More coins than can be experienced even when contained under one roof. I needed the Whitman Baltimore Coin and Currency Convention.
After sleeping in, I woke to kiss my wife goodbye and started to pack my backpack. Into the bag went the current editions of the Coin Dealer Newsletter, my Palm T|X that stores my inventory list, my iPod for the trip to Baltimore, and a loupe. I finished my morning constitutional before feeding and walking the dog. After a bite to eat and throwing two bottles of water in my backpack, I was off to Charm City.
The trip to Baltimore is a little more than an hour from home. It is a trip down I-270, across the top of the Capital Beltway, then north on I-95. The trip down I-395 into Baltimore passes M&T Bank Stadium, home of the Baltimore Ravens, to the warehouse beyond right field at Camden Yards home of the Baltimore Orioles. I parked in my usual lot at the Sheraton and walked through the hotel to the walkway to the Baltimore Convention Center.
This is Whitman’s second time running this show and their mark was seen riding down the escalator when I noticed that the food court was moved. Rather than being outside the door, the service area was moved to the front lobby at the foot of the escalator. The tables were moved out closer to the lobby and Whitman placed convention-style booths for registration. Also, the entrance had a new canopy announcing the show. It looked more professional than in the past.
It is still an awe inspiring experience to walk into the hall and see wall-to-wall dealer tables. Adding to the depth of vision was the framing that Whitman used during the last show behind the tables to allow dealers to hang banners. As I began to walk to the left side of Hall A, I noticed that Whitman placed stickers on the floor to mark the row numbers. Looking up, on the columns, they also placed numbered signs showing row numbers and the table number group. The best way I can describe this is that the numbers resemble address numbers on street signs. It is a small touch, but when looking for a specific dealer it really helps.
I saw a number of dealers I have bought from and spoken with in the past. Of note I was able to speak with Wayne Herndon, author of the last-page article in July’s Numismatist. The article is really good dry, tongue-in-cheek humor that I found fit Wayne’s personality when you talk with him. Wayne is a good guy and a very fair dealer. From Wayne, I was able to find some 1976 coins that I want to submit to NGC for the registry set. Finding really nice Eisenhower Dollars is very difficult, but Wayne had this 1976-D Type 1 Dollar that I could not pass up. Amongst the other coins I bought was a 1976-S Proof JFK Half Dollar is beautiful.
Watch out NGC, these coins (and other coins) will be sent this week!
One thing I noticed was that there was a lot of table sharing. While this is a common practice with small dealers, there were some higher volume dealers sharing tables, especially on the corners. For the buyer, this meant that there were more options. I was able to pickup some nice items while junk box diving for resale that I will be posting on eBay soon. Yes, there were some nice items in many of the junk boxes which was surprising.
I also had taken the opportunity to try to complete my set of Silver Maple Leaf coins. I was able to find a 1989, 1992, 1996, and 1998. All I am missing from the set is 1990 and 2007. I forgot about the 2007 and did not buy one at the show. All are beautiful coins, but the 1998 is the best. Images of these coins are difficult, but I tried so I can show off their beauty.
As I complete many of my United States sets, I am looking for other areas to explore. One area of interest is the currency of Israel. Coins are interesting, but the Israeli paper is beautiful with nice historical images. But first, I wanted the 2005 Theory of Relativity Commemorative Proof. I purchased a beautiful proof coin from noted dealer in Israeli Numismatics, J.J. van Grover. Van Grover is also the Vice President of the American Israel Numismatic Association, an organization which I recently joined, and we had a chance to talk about AINA and other Israeli issues. But the coin is beautiful whose image cannot do it justice.
I did buy some Israeli paper money. These two notes are from the Fourth Series Pounds dated 1973 but issued in 1975. These notes were demonetized in 1983.
Before going through the rest of the show floor, it was time to take a pause to do something non-numismatic. Appearing at the show was Baltimore Orioles Great and Member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, Brooks Robinson. Robinson is a very gracious gentleman whose current wrist injury he blames on old age. At 70, he may not be able to defend the hot corner but he is not ready for the home either. I did stand on line for his autograph and have my picture taken. Even though my Mets beat his Orioles in 1969, I cannot deny that he was a great player and a classy person. It was a joy to meet him.
Before returning to the bourse floor, I stopped at the nearby Whitman booth. During registration, we were given a coupon for a free copy to The Expert’s Guide to Collecting & Investing in Rare Coins, the latest tome from Q. David Bowers, with a $25 purchase. I almost walked away from the booth before noticing Whitman was selling something that was not numismatic or philatelic related. Whitman now creates something called Football Vault Books. With the publisher from the south, it is not surprising that the series started to cover the Southeastern Conference. When I found the University of Georgia Vault Book I decided to use my coupon after buying the book. The Vault Book is fantastic! It has the history and reproduction of memorabilia from the era being discussed. Ok… back to the coins.
This time, the foreign section was smaller than usual. I was looking for some Canadian coins but was a little disappointed at the selection and the lack of dealers with good Canadian inventory. Rather than walk away empty handed, I bought a 1967 Centennial of the Confederation One Dollar note. It is a crisp, uncirculated note that has a look very reminiscent of the formal aspects of the 1960’s.
As the day was winding down, I needed to buy something old. Somebody had to have something not that expensive but old and fun. I happened upon the table for The Butternut Company out of Clifton, Virginia. Butternut has a nice business of Civil War memorabilia along with the coins. But the had a junk box of well worn large and half cents. Ah ha! Something old! So I searched the small box looking for something with a readable date. In the box I found an 1803 Large Cent that satisfied my old and fun criteria. It is 204 years old and is just loaded with history.
As I left with ten minutes to closing, dealers were already closing down and vacating. I walked through the Sheraton, purchased a beverage and candy bar from the hotel shop, and retrieved my car from their lot. I left driving around traffic on their way to an Orioles game and found my way to I-395 to head back to the Washington, DC area. During the trip I called my wife to discuss dinner plans and made good time going south on I-95 to the Capital Beltway. I picked up something for dinner and headed home. After being happily greeted by Boomer, I cleaned up and served dinner while telling my wife about the fun I had. Show-and-tell occurred before desert.
In all, it was a wonderful day and a wonderful show.
Click on any image to enlarge. Vault Book cover from Whitman Publishing.