By William Shamhart, Jr. – Numismatic Americana ………..
The last time there was a gold rush in Georgia was over 150 years ago. And from that came the mints at Dahlonega and Charlotte, which produced some of the most desirable gold coins today. But you already knew that ‘cause you’re a coin nerd. But did you know that the word Dahlonega comes from the Cherokee language and literally means “yellow metal”?
History has a way of repeating itself, and last week in Atlanta was no different. People came from miles around to the latest “Gold Rush”. Not to pick up the metal laying on the ground, or to mine for it; but to see the fortune in gold that was recently found by a lucky couple in California. Unless you’ve been deep in the jungle for the last few weeks, cut off from civilization, by now you’ve heard of this once in a lifetime find. I won’t retell the story here (it’s all over the web!), but I will make a few observations about it from my viewpoint:
1) Some of the coins were on display in Atlanta last week at Kagin’s table. And man, are they cool! I saw before and after pictures of the coins and can say that the conservation methods really brought the coins back to life. Again, THEY ARE COOL!!
2) Virtually every news organization has picked up on the story and plastered it all over every form of media. When you do that it attracts alot of people; some who aren’t really qualified to speak intelligently about such a find but do. When you read the news flashes, whether in print or on the web, or see it on TV, keep in mind (and an open mind) that some of what is being said simply isn’t true. There are a lot of “instant” experts all of the sudden. When your neighbor asks you about this find do your best to get the facts straight. After all, we’re the Numismatists, not “Joe the Plumber”. Thanks.
3) The public really like stories like this. These coins were found by a couple through luck and nothing else. They weren’t treasure hunters, or a large salvage company with an agenda. Just a couple of people in the right place at the right time. As the tag line for the New York lottery says…”Hey, ya never know”. Chalk up one for the little guy. And let’s not forget that we’re talking about GOLD, not a winning lottery ticket.
As I said, the public really likes stories like this. As my table was right next to Kagin’s last week, I got to see firsthand how much. All day long there was a line of pedestrians (non collecting public) waiting to get a chance to see the coins. There was a constant barrage of flashes from smart phones as people took a photographic souvenir. Lots of excitement and enthusiasm. The electricity surrounding their table was great. At one point I actually thought I saw Andy Warhol standing in line to see them.
There is a lot of speculation with this find. Stories of bank and train robbery abound, but the most prominent is one supporting the theory that these are the ill-gotten gains from a theft at the San Francisco mint in 1901. There are a lot of similarities I admit, but most of what is being said is circumstantial. I for one hope that these have nothing to do with the mint theft, and that the couple get to keep the proceeds from their sale to collectors.
Enough about that…What about the rest of the show?
Well, actually that was the show.
I don’t know why, but the ANA’s National Money Show doesn’t have a very good track record for being a good one. I could come up with a list of reasons a mile long, and probably wouldn’t hit on the real reason. I don’t think anyone really knows. It’s just the way it is. But it’s a major show, put on by the ANA, so I went. As the saying goes “you can’t hit a single, let alone a home run, if you’re not in the game”.
As I said above, there were a lot of people in the show. But I really think most of them weren’t collectors. Yet. If only a small fraction of the “non-collectors” get the bug from coming to see the “Saddle Ridge Hoard” then I guess the ANA did their job. Let’s hope so…
From a sales stand point it appeared to me that many in attendance were looking for something different. A couple of the “different” things I sold were:
1) Encased postage stamp. A fellow dealer, who actually collects these, was there and immediately snatched this one up. Good for him.
2) A wonderful 1864 3c Feuchtwanger piece in PCGS MS64 from the famous Eliasberg collection. The gentleman who acquired this was like a kid in a candy shop upon buying it. This was his “home run” hit, which he’d never had done had he not been there. Gotta be in the game…(see above).
3) A great counterstamped Stone Mountain half dollar. This piece was struck in Philadelphia, PA for the Stone Mountain Monumental Association in Georgia, counterstamped ALA, sold at an auction in Alabama, brought back to the collecting fraternity by a Missouri boy living in New Jersey, and finally repatriated back to Alabama by a southern gentleman attending a show in Georgia. What a yarn this coin could spin if it could talk…
See a pattern here?
Think about it. All of the above have a direct connection to the American Civil War. We are after all celebrating its sesquicentennial until next year. I once heard that for every bullet fired during this era there have been a hundred words written about it. Have you read your fair share?
In addition to the above Americana, I did sell some neat, GEM quality coins to some new customers. As always it’s a pleasure getting to know a collector (and their spouses) in person. Thanks to all that stopped by my table (and braved the masses trying to look at the “Saddle Ridge” coins). I appreciate it.
Purchases? This is where I’d normally list a few but I think I’m going to make everyone come back in a day or so and look at them (I will tell you that there is a really neat piece having to do with one of the events mentioned above). As I write this Tom is busy photographing them and putting them up on my site.
When you do, if you see anything of interest send me an email or give me a call.
Remember…I love to talk coins.