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The E-Sylum:  Volume 11, Number 3, January 20, 2008, Article 10

ALAN WEINBERG AND THE JANUARY 2008 FUN SHOW

Alan V. Weinberg writes: "I've just returned from the
annual Orlando January FUN show and continue, after all
these years, to be impressed with the entire production by
an attentive show staff of orange-jacketed FUN officials.
For me, this has always been the 2nd "best" show in the USA
to the summer ANA conventions and, in some respects, like
bourse table fees, surpasses the ANA. Third now are the
Baltimore shows where once stood the Long Beach shows.

"Although the FUN January show continues to be isolated
to the North Side Hall B - a long walk from the hotels and
seemingly out in the middle of nowhere, whereas until three
years ago shows were in the more accessible halls facing
International Drive - this has not noticeably impacted
dealer, public and collector attendance. And this despite
this year's simultaneous NYC International Show with
attendant multiple auctions.

"The bourse room was full, apparently sold out and the
aisles crowded with attendees. The Heritage Platinum Night
auction was something to behold, the attendance overflowing.
A newly re-discovered Harold Bareford-pedigreed 1793 S-11c
Mint State large cent sold for $240K hammer. The 1792 fusible
alloy cent, not at all aesthetically attractive with
unremovable black hard crust still adhering, sold for $525K
plus the 15% commission or $603,750. The special one night
session of premium coins lasted 'til 1:30 AM, exhausting
some dealers who went through the previous setup day and
the first open bourse day.

"I roomed with Sequim, Wash collector/researcher Steve
Tompkins, long an early draped and capped bust quarter
connoisseur. He allowed me to read his manuscript with
plates of his forthcoming 400+ page tome on the varieties
of early quarters 1796-1838. The book is in its final form
with just a few additions, plates and editing to be done.
I was very much impressed by the quality, coverage and
"readability" of the manuscript and the extensive enlarged
plates, which often sell a book, were magnificent.

"This book will have the same effect on the series as
large cents' Penny Whimsy and Overton's half dollar book
had on their respective series.  Although my interest in
this series is quite marginal, after seeing the manuscript
I fully intend to order a copy.

"Steve will have his book printed in the U.S., bypassing
China (where Whitman Publishing's books are printed at much
lower cost but with high quality), as Steve wants hands-on
control and the printing will not be nearly as massive as
Whitman's books. Thus, the 1796-1838 quarter book will
retail for approx $89.50, pre-publication orders projected
for $75 instead of the presumed China publication cost of
perhaps $35. Publication will be probably mid-summer 2008
as Steve adds the last touches with extensive cooperation
among collectors and dealers. At FUN alone, Steve (who
brought his photography equipment and set up at 'Babe'
Binette's bourse table) photographed several 1827 original
quarters and an 1827 copper restrike brought to the show
especially for his project. Definitely a reference to be
anticipated!

"I exhibited non-competitively in two FUN cases my 1792
patterns and 1793 chain and wreath cents and a superb
silver Libertas Americana medal. It was the first time
these coins have left the bank. Previously I'd exhibited
rare medals and tokens at FUN but never before coins. I
was a bit wary of hand-carrying these coins to and from
the show - what if the plane crashed?

"By exhibiting non-competitively I could exhibit the coins
and accompanying commentary the way I wanted to, not having
to abide by the strict labeling rules for competitive exhibits.
And that also allowed me to disassemble the exhibit late
Saturday for flying home rather than be compelled to exhibit
'til mid-Sunday. I have found that it is extremely rewarding
to exhibit at a major show. So many "jaded" longtime dealers
and collectors were in seeming awe of these seldom -seen
rarities and thanked me profusely. I'd tired of keeping these
in a dark bank vault and wanted to share with others in the
hobby what can be accomplished in 50 years of serious collecting.

"The exhibit also had an "odd twist" - two superb electrotypes
of the 1792 Wright quarter and the 1792 Birch cent (the only
two copies exhibited and so-labeled), both of which have eluded
me all these years. The commentary on these two electrotypes
reflected that there are certain rare coins that are
"opportunity-only" rarities - regardless of the decades
collecting, the money and the contacts you may have, you
literally have to wait through generations before the coin
becomes available. That is true rarity.

"Exhibit chairman Dick Wells told me of an advanced collector
sauntering over to the exhibit area, leaning over to look at
my exhibit, leaning more closely in disbelief, removing his
glasses and placing his nose tip on the case glass, incredulous
at what he was seeing. It was a genuinely funny story as Dick
re-enacted what he saw. Throughout the show, I saw groups of
experienced collectors gathering and talking at my exhibit as
if that was "Mecca". I have to admit that as I set up the
display, I couldn't believe I owned such coins."

[I sure wish I could have been there to see Alan's exhibit.
I told him how it reminded me of the time I was setting up
an exhibit at an ANA summer convention.  John Pittman had
an exhibit nearby.  I told "Big John" Burns – “you'd better
not look at that exhibit over there”, pointing to Pittman’s.
He couldn't resist the temptation and came back drooling and
hyperventilating over the ultra rarities he saw in the case.
Not coincidentally, Alan replied that it was John J. Pittman's
legendary exhibits that inspired him to show his coins,
tokens and medals over the past few years.

I also wish I could have been a fly on the wall the year I
set up an exhibit of rare numismatic ephemera from my collection.
Ken Lowe of The Money Tree later told me how he accompanied John
J. Ford to look at the exhibit, and at every turn Ford said
things like - "I've never seen THAT" - "Never seen THAT either!"
"Now where in the hell did he get THAT?"   When you can stump
someone like Ford, you know you've got something.

What good is having a great collection if you don't show it
off?   More collectors should follow Alan's example - c'mon,
share once in a while, and show off your stuff!   If you find
it difficult to comply with the official show rules, like Alan
you can display your prize possessions at most major shows
Non-Competitively and have more freedom, setting up late or
tearing down early for travel reasons.

Non-competitive exhibits also needn't follow the exhibit
judging guidelines, although I would encourage non-competitive
exhibitors to at least keep them in mind, for the guidelines
are geared toward making exhibits a better experience for the
viewer.  -Editor]

Jim Halperin writes: "Anyone who didn’t check out Alan
Weinberg’s pre-1793 U.S. Mint exhibit at FUN missed the
highlight of the show - at least it was for me. The 1792
Fusible Alloy cent (J-2) is the finest in private hands,
and his Half Disme is a screaming gem. The Silver Center
cent (J-1) and copper disme are no slouches either, and his
Libertas Americana medals are gorgeous.

"Alas, Alan’s Birch cent is an electro, but there’s no
visible edge seam so it might well have fooled me had it
not been noted as such. The best part was that Alan, who
is a walking numismatic encyclopedia, was there to answer
all my questions, and tell me the history of each coin and
just about everything else about them that any numismatist
would want to know. What a treat!  Now if only I could’ve
talked him into showing me his Massachusetts silver..."

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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