American Numismatic Association Show – Chicago; August 2013

Pierre Fricke's picture
Joyce and I set up at the World’s Fair of Money ANA show in Chicago, Ill. This is the largest show of the year and, while focused on coins, has become quite a significant currency show as well. There would be a lot to do at this show with having a corner table, various club meetings including a significant Society of Paper Money Collectors (SPMC) meeting, and a major auction of Fugio coppers, as well as CSA and obsolete paper money. We flew in on Saturday to get situated, view auction lots, and visit friends at the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) show. The ANA convention last most of a week which enables one to deeply dive into whatever areas of numismatics one fancies. For me, its catching up with many long time friends and making new ones, sharing paper money finds, swapping, buying and selling notes, attending what events I can and the SPMC meeting.
Auction lot viewing took a long time.  There was a major collection of Fugio Coppers (Ayers’) including two very rare varieties I needed, the Newman 5-F and 18-X. There was a major collection of half cents. Stack’s dug out some more material from the John Ford holdings. Most of this was obsolete currency from the New Netherlands inventory. As such, there were numerous large group lots along with better proofs and individual lots of obsolete currency.  The Confederate paper money section featured the Big 6 and other better notes, including some nice Montgomery notes and a lower end T-35 and decent T-27. There also were a few lots in the Ford section including a curios lot of 4 T-16s. This lot was an 1880s altered lot to the rare T-16 PF-6 number plen set – all four notes were present with the right serial numbers and red fiber paper!  I would bid in all of these arenas and spent quite a lot of money acquiring some nice Fugios for resale, large cents, CSA money. I also bought the rare T-16 altered plen set which was not catalogued as such. I also bought many large group lots of obsolete notes, mainly from the northeast and Midwest as I expand further into this area. Unfortunately, I did not get either the Fugio Newman 5-F nor 18-X, but did get a very rare 13-KK on the floor which seemed expensive the day before the auction, but cheap the next day!  This acquisition put me into the rarified 50 different Fugio variety collection club! 
I set up an exhibit in the US coins section. I displayed my 49 (soon to be 50) 1787 Fugio copper collection. The motif/design described below also appears on some Continental and colonial currency Here is some of what I documented in the display:
The first coin issued by emerging United States of America was the Fugio copper coin in April 1787. These coins were to be made from 300 tons of copper and contracted to James Jarvis of New Haven Connecticut who won the valuable contract competing with four other proposals. The final design for the Fugio Coppers was approved on July 6, 1787. Benjamin Franklin’s motifs were featured:
  1. Obverse:  FUGIO (which means “I fly”) on the left with the date 1787 to the right. A sun dial graced the center of the coin with the sun at zenith. “Mind Your Business” completed the design at the  bottom with a meaning somewhat different than today; it referred to taking care of your affairs since “time flies”, a supporting phrase to the Fugio + sun dial motif.
  2. Reverse:  Thirteen circles linked together to show unity. United States in various configurations in a circle in the center which surrounded “We Are One”.
A rich description of the history of Fugio Coopers is described in United States Fugio Copper Coinage of 1787 by Eric P. Newman. I encourage you to purchase this book!
There are several ways to collect Fugio coppers. These include:
  1. Three basic types – Obverse Cross After Date, Cinquefoil After Date with Pointed Rays, Cinquefoil after Date with Club Rays
  2. Red Book listings – 15 coins; 2 of which are “Non-Collectible”.
  3. Newman varieties – 61 varieties; 8 of which are R8 and “Non-Collectible”. 50 varieties being a challenging goal.
The show itself started off strong.  We had a great setup time on Tuesday and a lot of traffic on Wednesday. We sold a good mix of CSA notes and large cents, including a lot of $10-$20 coins out of the u-pick’em boxes. We were very busy.  Since we were buying so much at auction, we did not focus buying on the floor, though I had several deals walk up to the table.  I also picked up a great large cent deal at the show. The best deal of the show for us was a very rare event.  I had the privilege of handing one of the best CSA Montgomery sets assembled in a private transaction at the show. Represented were a T-1 in Choice XF-AU, T-2 Choice XF-AU, T-3 Choice AU and a T-4 in Choice Uncirculated (possible PMS/PCGS 64 or 65 PPQ note and a candidate for finest or near finest known!). While the serial numbers are known in the census, these notes have not been photographed, scanned nor have appeared publicly (that we know of – it is possible some or all appeared in old auctions from 100 +/- years ago where the cataloguers did not document the serial numbers). This made the show.
As the show progressed, however, it slowed down.  We found ourselves with more time on Friday and Saturday than we had hoped. We took advantage of this to visit with friends and had time to fully enjoy the SPMC and Early American Coppers meetings.  The EAC meeting had a large attendance with some interesting discussion of upcoming auctions as well as the age of most collectors and how the hobby is shifting towards an older gentlemen’s hobby (as it was in the pre-1930s). There still are young people involved and we had a good number come by, but many young people are busy in college and starting out in a difficult economic environment. I believe we will see at least some of these in the hobby in future years after their families are grown.
This year, we held the Society of Paper Money Collectors meeting before the bourse opens to allow people maximum time for other events. We had good attendance with more than a dozen present. It is great to get to these early to share stories from the event and to catch up in general. At the SPMC meeting, Wendell Wolka was the featured speaker and did a great job taking us through Civil War (aka War for Southern Independence) financial history and the money for both sides. This is a very interesting perspective. Rather than collect a series, collect the War time money on both sides, which can be done in many different ways ranging from affordable examples of each category all the way to landmark collections across the spectrum. The Union produced demand and legal tender large size notes, obsolete and national currency, fractional currency, encased postage, tokens and other things. The Confederacy produced Confederate Treasury notes, state issued notes, obsolete notes, other financial instruments such as depository receipts and local script. Despite being a collector of almost all Confederate items and some Union money, I learned some interesting things about how some of this diversity came about and why. This is what makes attending these SPMC meetings at local, regional and national shows when present such a good time and a learning experience. I encourage all to take an hour out during the day or morning to stop in at future events!
On Saturday, we picked up the exhibit and our table. This usually takes a couple of hours and we had to plan to get to the Chicago O’Hare airport with plenty of time to get through security and such. We do like Chicago shows as they are easy to get to and usually well attended as this ANA was. It was a great show all the way around – friends, meetings, auction, buying and selling, collecting and exhibiting!  I encourage you to attend next year in the same location.
Pierre Fricke