Six Takeaways from the First Two Major Coin Shows of the Year: FUN & WMF
The show calendar for 2023 has opened with a bang this year. FUN and Berlin World Money Fair boasted record attendance from dealers and collectors!
Six weeks into the new year, we have a strong indication of the mood of 2023 market. The year starts with the two of the largest coin shows in the world -- Florida United Numismatists Show, or FUN (Orlando, FL in January), and the World Money Fair (Berlin). Both of these events are huge by numismatic standards with major auctions tied to them, as well as many hundreds of dealers in attendance. I have been to over 35 annual FUN shows since 1976, and half a dozen of the Berlin events, and I can tell this year felt different (in a good way) for both of them.
These shows are so significant that they represent bellwether events which give us a glimpse into the current state of the market, and short-term expectations for the industry. Here are my take-aways based on these two shows:
Coin collecting is a global enterprise
This may sound obvious, as coin collecting has always been an international pursuit. However, the business of numismatics has traditionally held an American-centric perspective. Third-party grading was invented here. The leading auction companies launched internet platforms here first, and so on. What is extremely obvious now is that the rest of the world has caught up, and improving on the American model in many ways. World minting firms (government and private) are miles ahead of the U.S. Mint, and our piddly private minting firms. Check out CIT, Perth Mint, Monnaie de Paris, and others to catch a glimpse of the amazing offerings from these firms. Huge dollar volume is generated by these companies with marketing budgets to match. There's no equal in the USA.
Collectors are heading to shows in droves
It was amazing to see collectors and dealers alike queuing up in the convention hall lobbies anxiously awaiting entrance to the show. The Berlin show was so busy with two-way traffic that I felt like I was getting on/off the Metro during rush hour. One is told that all the "real deals" at Berlin are done in private rooms, which says a lot because there was a ton of commerce happening on the bourse floor. The Emporium Hamburg booth was close to ours at the show and it was normal to see people 3-deep waiting to talk to a numismatist.
Prices on more common items are settling a bit
Despite the frenetic energy at the shows, we are starting to see prices come down to earth, especially for the readily available U.S. material that frequently trades on the bourse floor and at auction. I am referring to items under $5000, including Morgan dollars, Walking Liberty half dollars, better date gold, mint state type coins, and so on. These series typically saw big gains over the past 2 years.
Two observations: 1) I think most of these coins will bottom out higher than they started prior to the pandemic period; 2) series that didn't jump as much in this time frame are now starting to perform well (Lincoln cents, for example),
Everyone is feeling positive energy
The vibe at both FUN and WMF was off the chart. Rarely have I been to the end of a show feeling more energetic than when I started. You can just feel the energy coming off the floor as everyone from collectors to dealers, to Mint representatives are glowing with enthusiasm. Why not? Everyone is doing business and feeding off each other.
Crime and theft are rising
Sadly, the thieves are getting more brazen and smarter at the same time. As reported by Doug Davis of Numismatic Crime Information Center, thefts at the trade shows are increasing and worrisome. World Numismatics, a dealer specializing in Mexican and South American coinage had items stolen after they were closed for the day at the NYINC show in late January. A similar theft occurred at the ANA show last Summer in Rosemont, IL.
The moral to the story is that, with increased attention and popularity, coin shows are going to have to increase security to meet the challenge. The Berlin show offered something new in this regard: every entrant to the show was required to scan the barcode on their badge every time they entered or left the bourse floor. The security on the floor was palpable with many exhibitors also having their own private security at the booth.
Young people are the fastest growing demographic at shows
Saving, perhaps, the best for last, it is truly exciting to see so many new and young faces at these coin shows. The average age of exhibitor (and support staff) in Berlin was easily below 40 years old, by my anecdotal observations. In Orlando, the average age was a little higher, but we are finally seeing next-gen coin dealers and very engaged new staffers who are truly excited about this hobby. They're not just here for the paycheck. They think "coins are cool" -- which blows my mind. Of course coin collecting is cool. What's better than history, money, and profit, and while running around with your good friends hustling all day? I remember feeling this way at shows in the 1980s, but as the millennials like to say, "it's been a minute."
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Author: John Feigenbaum
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