It is a date that is oft circled in the calendar – tickets booked; hotels researched; catalogues attained; spouses placated with promises of shopping and fine dining – the International Coin Convention.
An event highly anticipated by professional numismatists, dealers and casual collectors alike. We attend in our hundreds (often thousands), hoping to bag that missing item in our collection, or perhaps discover that elusive bargain for a price you just know is less than the coin is worth…
But what really goes on at these conventions? How does the whole thing, well, work? Just what happens behind the scenes?
The iconic Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, the spectacular venue for this year’s International Coin Convention held in January.
Venue is important for many reasons, and not just for the obvious requirements of space and accessibility. There is also the prestige that accompanies this timeless avocation. Ma’s Bed and Breakfast next to the Post Office is not really going to cut it. Displaying multi-million dollar/pound collections in a basement is unlikely to appeal to those with a fine eye and an expertise in spotting die variations in a Charles I Triple Unite.
Once the venue has been suitably found, booked and secured, the real hard work begins. Preparations for a show such as the New York International Coin Convention start more than a year in advance – at this year’s show, for example, standholders were encouraged to book their place ready for 2017 due to demand.
The Starlight Lounge on the 18th Floor of the Waldorf Astoria in New York certainly fitted the bill as far as prestige was concerned, but it wasn’t just a matter of ‘turn up and go’.
Before the show – the Starlight Lounge the day before the standholders arrive.
The room is prepared well in advance by a skilled team, ensuring that space is maximised for both standholders and attendees.
The stands are often prepared the night before the show opens to the public, and readied the next morning. It is a matter of course that there is a tangible sense of excitement throughout the room as the queues start to build up outside.
When the doors do open, the work behind the scenes continues, often unseen by those browsing, buying or selling. With such a large amount of people (not to mention the value of the coins and other numismatic material on display), safety is paramount, and a full team of security is always on duty.
For those who attend, the show generally finishes around five/six pm. Then, routes are planned towards nearby bars and restaurants to further discuss collections before rescuing spouses from their shopping expeditions and arguing about who has spent the most money.
For the standholders and the behind-the-scenes team, it doesn’t quite end there. The displays are carefully dismantled and items secured ready for the next day before we make our way to join those who remain in the bars and restaurants (as well as those who have already lost the aforementioned arguments) to talk about the one thing we all have in common.
On the final day of the show, as the last of the attendees slowly filter through the exit, the hard work continues. At this stage, the room, so meticulously kempt by the expert team throughout the show starts to look a little different, as the standholders begin to disassemble the stalls.
After the show, as the last of the attendees leave, the dismantling process begins…
Cash is reconciled; coins, medals, banknotes and more is carefully catalogued, stored and readied for the journey home. Items are packed into crates for transatlantic flights, strongboxes are securely fastened and the room buzzes with the unmistakable sound of people removing tablecloths and checking under tables to ensure that nothing (or anyone) is left behind.
When the doors finally close, we make our way to the awaiting planes, trains and automobiles. Tired but happy that we’ve reignited old acquaintances and made some new friends on the way, secure in the knowledge that we’ll do it all again next year. And you know what? We wouldn’t have it any other way……