by Louis Golino for CoinWeek
Every year in February the most important international coin fair of the year is held in Berlin, Germany. It is known as the World Money Fair . This year’s event, held from February 3-5, drew over 15,000 visitors and more than 300 exhibitors.
Unlike coin shows that mainly include a bourse plus educational events, the Berlin show is more than anything an opportunity for major world mints to showcase their latest and upcoming coins and to interact with dealers, distributors, collectors, and experts.
Prior to the start of the show a major auction was held whose highlights included the sale of a rare 1835 Russian rouble depicting Russian tsar Nicholas I that sold for 650,000 euros (plus a 100,000 euro buyer’s premium), or about $1 million total. That was the highest price ever paid for a coin sold in Germany. The auction was conducted by German auctioneer, Fritz Rudolph Kuenker .
The show included a media forum for specialized numismatic reporters, where world mint representatives discussed their current coin programs and future plans.
There was also a technical forum in which experts in coin production discussed the latest innovations in the technologies used to make coins. Many world mints are renowned for their cutting-edge coins which, for example, use different colors, or combine different types of metal in one coin, like the Canadian silver and niobium Native American coin series that started last year.
This year the U.S. Mint did not participate in the Berlin show, but in years past it has done so. Numismatic News editor David Harper, who attended the show, speculated that the reason may have been a desire to reduce expenses.
The American Numismatic Association in contrast did attend, and its president, Tom Hallenbeck, told Mr. Harper that the ANA is working more closely with world mints to make the summer ANA convention a real World’s Fair of Money, as it is billed.
The Berlin show is also a good gauge of the modern world coin market in Europe.
For this article I interviewed Alan Marks, the media representative of the leading Australian numismatic company, Downies, who attended the show, to get his impressions of the Berlin show and the world coin market.
Downies is the most well known Australian coin dealership and recently celebrated its 80th anniversary. It has a North American subsidiary called Euro Collections International and has been active in the U.S. market since 1995.
Downies was founded in July 1932 by Phil Downie. Today it is the largest coin dealer in the southern hemisphere.
LG: Did Downies have a booth at the show, or did you mainly meet with world mint representatives to discuss upcoming coin programs?
AM: We chose not to have a booth this year, and I was able to meet with representatives of mints and numismatic companies from around the world mostly to discuss their upcoming issues so that I can plan ahead for our various retail areas.
LG: What were your general impressions of the show? Would you say there was greater interest in modern than classic coins because of the nature of the Berlin show?
AM: My impression of the show was that it was very strong. Interest is certainly very high in that part of the world, and all three days saw a queue snaking through the hotel awaiting the doors to open. This was driven largely by a number of traditional dealers with deals to be had as well as many of the mints offering low limited edition Show Mint Sets. Among others, the Monnaie de Paris, the Spanish Mint and even our own Royal Australian Mint, issued Berlin World Money Fair Mint Sets.
LG: Based on what you learned about the plans of world mints, were there any particular coins or coins of a certain country that really caught your attention?
AM: From my own personal point of view, the two commonwealth Royal Mints (outside our own Australian Mint) – British Royal Mint and Royal Canadian Mint – have very strong schedules. The Canadians have a very full issuing schedule, and it looks to be some strong themes. The Brits on the other hand are very focussed on London 2012 and the Diamond Jubilee for much of this year. Both should prove very popular for them. As an aside, a Mint that Downies has had little to do with caught my eye this year – the Royal Dutch Mint has two very Dutch issues coming up, and I hope that collectors agree with me when they are released.
LG: Did the market for world coins appear strong in Berlin?
AM: As always, domestic coins in any country will prove strongest. However, I would agree that in Berlin there is an excellent market for world coins. Much of this would probably be modern commemoratives but there is always a generous number of international “traditional” dealers in attendance (both euro and further afield) gaining good custom.
LG: Was there a lot of interest in the Year of the Dragon Lunar coin program, such as the popular Perth Mint coins and others?
AM: While I expected a lot of Dragon issues to be on offer at the fair, I was surprised by just how much variation there is out there. Many, many companies have their version fo the Dragon, and I believe it has now come down to innovation and/or design in order for these coins to stand out among the crowd. And, I must say, there was plenty of innovation in this area at Berlin! The Perth Mint coins have proven very strong still. They were able to sell out of their Berlin show Dragon coin by middle of the second day, I believe!
LG: Was there a lot of interest in the new opal koala coins from Perth?
AM: While I did not hear of any specific interest at the show for this coin, I’m reasonably sure that it will have already sold out at Perth by now. Certainly our considerable allocation is already gone.
LG: Did you notice much interest in the 2 euro commemorative coins, including the new series marking the 10th anniversary of the euro?
AM: One of the real “queue-builders” at each Berlin show is the latest German 2 euro [coin]. Collectors will often queue up a long way for the chance to get their hands on this for little over face value. Aside from this – which I admit I was at the show too late each morning to see – the 10th anniversary 2 euro design should be a very successful range. While it will be a while before every coin is issued by every country, it looks a very strong 10th anniversary commemoration.
CoinWeek is grateful to Mr. Marks and Downies for providing interesting insights on the Berlin show and modern world coins to our readers.
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.