On Friday March 28th, 2014, I set aside the afternoon for numismatics and attended the Whitman Baltimore Spring Expo. On the drive there I spoke by phone (hands-free) with my old Pittsburgh friends Don Carlucci and Pat McBride. Pat and I have been working to settle the estate of the late numismatic book dealer John Burns.
I parked at the Pier V public garage and started walking toward the convention center. I was early enough that I could grab lunch at Chipotle without having to wait in the usual long line. After passing the National Aquarium and walking through Harborplace, I entered the convention center and made it to my first event right on time.
My first order of business was to meet Harvey Stack in person. He's a longtime email pen pal, but we'd crossed like ships in the night at multiple coin shows, and I didn't want to pass up the chance to finally meet him. Harvey and Larry Stack were to be on a panel with Dave Bowers. I entered the room and went straight to see David Lisot, who was getting his camera equipment set up to record the event. I gave him my condolences on the recent loss of his father. He thanked me for publishing his remembrance of his dad last week, and I told him more was on the way with this week's issue.
David walked me over to introduce me to Charles Morgan, a writer at CoinWeek whom I hadn't met yet in person either. The three of us made plans to talk later - David wanted to interview me in my role as editor of The E-Sylum.
I enjoyed the panel session. While others buttonholed Harvey afterwards, I spoke with Chris Karstadt and she arranged the new Stacks Bower's ad for tonight's issue. Dave Bowers introduced me to Mary Counts of Whitman Publications, another numismatic personality I hadn't met before. It was a busy day and I'd only just arrived. At last I was able to speak with Harvey Stack and afterwards we took a group photo. Dave Bowers emailed it to me Saturday. Thanks!
Harvey and Me
Before exiting the room I spoke with Dave, Chris and Mary. Dave had bought some of the new baseball commemorative coins and offered me one at cost. I bought an uncirculated silver example. As we walked out Mary and I talked about the Nobel prize medal that had just sold in the auction. In turn I had to tell her my story of how I bought Gen. Matthew Ridgeway's Congressional Gold Medal for John Ford,
After signing in I entered the bourse area and walked over to the Whitman booth. Mary had warned me that Dennis Tucker was under the weather and probably wouldn't be on duty. I missed him, but was glad to see another friend - former Mint Director Ed Moy was signing copies of his new book on the gold and platinum eagle bullion coins. When he got a break we chatted a while. He favorably remembered his visit to Nummis Nova, my Northern Virginia numismatic social group, and we made plans to have him join us again soon when he completes his planned move back to the D.C. area from Seattle.
Next I hit the nearby CoinWeek booth to chat some more with writer Charles Morgan. We talked about The E-Sylum and recent articles in both of our publications. The weekly link to The E-Sylum from CoinWeek is likely responsible for several of our recent new subscribers. Welcome, everyone!
I had a number of other people I wanted to see, as well as the task of getting help and advice for disposing of John Burns' coins. Luckily one of the first people I ran into was Al Boulanger from Indiana. I'd known him for years since he'd been a regular dealer at the PAN shows in Pittsburgh. It turned out Al sold John a large collection of German Porcelain notgeld several years ago, so he was perfect for appraising John's extensive personal collection of porcelain. We talked about John for several minutes, and made plans to get together in May at PAN.
The rest of the day was a blur. I think my next stop was the NGC booth to see David Lange. After that was Charlie Davis' table. He and I talked about the Burns estate. Browsing at Charlie's table was David Sundman of Littleton Coin Company. We talked about his 1870 Carson City coin die. I'd missed his presentation at the Liberty Seated Collector's Club at 9am, but luckily the die was still on exhibit in a case at his table. I checked it out later, and it was great to see it in person. Dave's exhibit was very nicely done and I hope he brings it to future shows.
Others I visited with included Julian Leidman and Wayne Herndon. I also saw Blaine, Ted and Nancy Shiff at the Cybercoins booth. After trekking to the lobby to grab a beverage I settled in at John Kraljevich's table. He filled me in on his new married life, and I gave him an update on the Burns estate. Let's just say Burns was a packrat. He didn't like throwing things away. Pat McBride and his crew of volunteers had their work cut out for them. John's townhouse and five storage units were crammed with stuff. I was up there helping to sort through the numismatic literature the other weekend.
Tom Fort and Ed Krivoniak were elsewhere in the house when I took a break to use the upstairs bathroom. Somehow, the door got locked. And guess what - it wouldn't open no matter how much I jiggled and turned the knob. I told Kraljevich I began imagining the screeching violins from the Psycho soundtrack. I searched for a nail file or something to use to pry the bolts out of the hinges. Tom and Ed worked on the lock from the outside, but no luck. Ed went to get some tools. I jiggled the knob again, and this time it opened. Whew. Is John haunting us?
The most dramatic development occurred earlier this week, while I was back in Virginia. Pat had hired a locksmith to open the safe in John's basement. No combination had been found. The locksmith needed to study some schematics before drilling. But Ed wanted to try his hand at it, and Pat gave him free reign. "Here's a chair - have all the fun you want."
Ed was becoming obsessed. He hadn't slept much the night before, and had been dreaming of numbers. He had been fiddling with the lock for a couple hours by the time Pat got on the phone with me. Pat heard screaming in the basement and thought someone had gotten hurt. He ran downstairs. Turns out, Ed had managed to pop the safe open! Pat's phone was still on and I could hear him repeating "Holy Crap!" a half dozen times.
The helpers photographed the contents and Pat drove everything to a safe location for detailed inventorying. There'd been a running bet among the crew about what would be found in the safe. Would it be a Geraldo Moment? But Pat was certain we'd find coins, and he was right. The safe was stuffed to the gills, including boxes and boxes of coins.
John's safe, with "The Cracker", Ed Krivoniak
I asked John Kraljevich and his bourse neighbor Tony Terranova about movie posters, another hobby of John Burns'. Both directed me to Heritage, even though we don't think there are any high-end items in the collection.
After parting with John K. I stopped to chat with Tony. I told him about a web site project I'm working on. Before I could even finish telling him about it he'd written a generous check to help with expenses. Thanks! I want to pick up where Harry Bass left off with his Numismatic Indexes Project (NIP), and Tony's contribution was in honor of Harry.
Next I found my way back to the CoinWeek table and before I knew what was happening David Lisot had me wired for sound and standing in front of his camera. He'd been wanting for years to interview me about The E-Sylum, so we finally did it. We thought it went well, and I'm curious to see the end product. Stay tuned!
Nearby their booth was the exhibit of gold coins from the 'Saddle Ridge' hoard. Included in the display were a couple of the cans in which the coins were found. Very neat!
I eventually made my way back to Charlie Davis' table. David Lisot came by and interviewed me again about John Burns. He did the same with Charlie and Del Parker. David will meld these into a tribute video for John.
Last time at the show I had made dinner plans and ended up being invited to two additional dinners. This time I didn't make prior plans and no other dinners materialized. Go figure. But that was OK - I was still stuffed from lunch, so I walked back to my car and headed home, giving Pat McBride an update along the drive. My wife was out to dinner with the rest of the family, and she brought home some take-out for me. I worked a bit on The E-Sylum before bedtime, but I was tired from a long day. It sure was fun to see and meet so many great numismatic friends. 'Til next time!
Wayne Homren, Editor
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