Blind Coin Collector

It's another kind of fun to collect coins if you can't see them.

World’s Fair of Money

| Filed under Travel

Last week I attended the World’s Fair of Money in Chicago. The primary reason why I went there was because I got an opportunity to make a presentation about collecting coins without sight. However, I thought I’d take the opportunity and spend three days at the show. Only one regret: I could have used more than three days, I was able to cover everything on the exhibit floor I was interested in, but there were way too many interesting presentations.

In this post I will give an overview of my impressions.

One of the greatest things was to meet some of the WINS club members, we took a picture together after my presentation.

group picture after presentation

When I refer to people, I am not going to use their full names, I have not checked with them, and I’m not sure how would they feel about being called out in this blog. If you recognize yourself, please let me know if you prefer to be further identified, or if you prefer that I make you more unrecognizable.

Also, you can download my presentation here that I’m not going to talk about now.

I have to admit I had no idea how I will be able to figure out the entire floor, there were approximately 2000 tables, on most of them nothing to touch, only glass boxes. I didn’t know any of the dealers, I only recognized the name of a few companies I wanted to meet with. I thought, in the worst case, I will attend the presentations and meet people. But I was so fortunate, I received so much more help I could have ever expected. People were ready to give me a hand all the time, to explain an exhibit, or to get from point a to point b.

The first thing I did was attending David Bowers’ presentation about great collectors. It was such a wonderful experience to hear him in person. I always liked his articles and videos, and it was always on the top of my list to read anything from him in the news. However, it was also a scary feeling to know that I will be presenting after him. What could I possibly say that makes it worthwhile to anybody to hear after listening to mr. Bowers?

After the first presentation I was anxious to check out the floor. I have received help from Jeff, who is a member of the Chicago Coin Club. Though he was very modest, slowly I found out that I couldn’t have had a better guide, he knows a lot about coins, numismatics, and appeared to know all the people. Thanks to Jeff’s help through the three days, I got to experience so many wonderful things I was never able to lay my hands on before. Thank you Jeff for making it a truly memorable experience.

The first thing we checked out was the ANA table, where they were creating elongated coins just for this year’s event, and I got to touch the press they were making the coins with on the spot.

ANA booth

There was quite a bit of gold and silver on the tables, and I tried my very best not to touch it accidentally. Jeff was a little more outgoing, and he specifically asked people if they have anything on their table they would let me touch. I think aside from one table, we didn’t hear no. For that matter, all people were excited to show me all kinds of things.

At one table there were silver bars and silver bullets. One of the bars looked like a huge pencil, it was 100 ounces.

At another table I got to touch a gold Dollar from the 1890’s. At that point, I said I couldn’t ask for more. I have never touched one before, and at this table I got to hold two of them. I always thought it wouldn’t be fair to get my fingerprints on them.

At another table there was a 32 ounce gold coin in a holder. The value of the coin is $78000. After I picked up, the coin dealer took it out of my hand, took it out of the holder, and let me feel the coin as it is. A price tag of $78000 in general does not impress me at all. Especially at this show, there are items at a much higher value. What fascinated me though was that he had no problems handing this coin to me and allowed me to experience it. I particularly told him that I would prefer not to touch it, because I understand its value and I don’t think it is fair for me to run my sticky fingers over it. Yet, he insisted that I hold it.

There was another table with stacks of silver coins, 20 in each stack, probably hundreds of them. Again, I was able to touch anything I wanted to.
coin stacks

There were seven mints from around the world exhibiting, it was interesting to meet with each one of them, they all had some coins to give away, and their representatives were great to chat with. We even took a picture with the people from the Canadian mint.

Canadian Mint

Interestingly, the one thing that left a big impression on me had nothing, or not too much to do with coins.

The volunteer coordinator, Karl is the president of the International Primitive Money Society. He told me a little bit about their group, and I already had their presentation on my schedule as a must see. I met one of the members, who wrote a book about primitive money, and I bought his book. This morning he emailed me an electronic version of the text from the book so I don’t have to scan it on my computer. Thank you Bob, it is a great help and time saver.

I have learned some about primitive money when I studied East African culture and history, though at this point I didn’t know that it was called primitive money. As I understand, the definition is objects used in primitive economies in place of money. They can be shells, beads, bracelets, knives, fur, anything that represented purchasing value.

When the exhibit was over, Karl took a long time to show me all the exhibit items. It was just fascinating. He showed me objects from all around the world, some of them were very recent, others hundreds of years old. I learned for example that a knife is more valuable when it is more decorated. Not necessarily because of the decoration, but because only good quality metal can be bent and shaped to make fine decoration.

I was so interested in primitive money that I even joined their club, and I’m really looking forward to reading much more about it. Before you ask, I have no idea if this is a new hobby, and I can’t possibly start collecting anything that sounds interesting, but this is something that would be worth reading a bunch of books and articles about.

Also on the floor I met an editor from the Coin World magazine. We had an interesting conversation about paper and online publications, and I just learned that most of their content is available online, which was very useful information for me. At the end of the conversation, I found out that Bill is hearing impaired, no wonder, he really meant that it is important to him to make sure that the web site is accessible. I offered that I will send him an accessibility overview when I return.

There were a number of fascinating finds, but just one last thing: I attended the presentation of the Smithsonian about their coin collection, and I learned that they can arrange special showings either for researchers or people with special needs. I definitely would like to take advantage of it next time I’m in DC.

If possible, I will definitely attend another event soon, I think I have the next presentation topic. It sparked quite a bit of interest what I thought was a side note in my presentation about how people can enjoy their collection when they start losing their vision. I have my ideas about it, but it could use much more research.

Leave a Reply