El Exigente at the NY International Coin Show

The New York International Coin Show is the premier event. It used to be each December; until 2001 when there was a little problem with the location — the World Trade Center. Organizers managed to scramble a new venue for January, so it’s been January ever since. It started in 1972, was cancelled in 2021 due to Covid, but went ahead this year — the fiftieth. I’ve attended every one.

It’s truly international, many dealers from overseas, which is what makes it great. Though fewer than usual this time, with Covid still inhibiting travel.

The show goes several days; Thursday is “Early Bird” day, with $125 admission. I do that on the theory that “the early bird catches the worm” — some good buy that would soon have been snapped up. Also, “Early Bird” day is less crowded, making things more efficient. And more prudent this time with omicron peaking (January 13). Entrance required vaccination proof, and masking, which everyone scrupulously observed. It worked; I eluded infection.

Setting out, it felt as though the previous show (pre-pandemic) had been a century ago. But once immersed in the familiar ambiance, it was like yesterday. The cast of characters doesn’t change much year to year; many old friends to nod to. Like BCD, the greatest Greek coin collector ever (whom I visited in Athens in 1992). It’s sobering to see the aging, once young guys morphing into old guys. (It’s nearly all guys.) Reminding me of the party in the final chapter of Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.

And of course there’s another step after the progression from young to old. One I missed seeing there was Lucien Birkler. Still living, but over 80 I think, long in poor health, having lost both legs to diabetes. Yet he’d nevertheless work coin show after coin show. A tribute to human indomitability. But nothing goes on forever.

I go to buy; wasn’t expecting to find much. Several dealers were remarking on how, in particular, it’s getting impossible to buy from auctions, someone will always outbid you. Yet I came away with a good haul of worthwhile material. Even surprisingly a coin from one of the auctions connected with the show, a lovely Lucius Verus sestertius, for $480.* Looking much better in hand than the catalog photo; from the “New York Sale” run by a consortium of dealers. And Goldberg’s cheerful Glenn Onishi delivered it to me personally, saving the shipping fee.

I spent a couple of hours with Robin Danziger of Educational Coin Company. Another guy I’ve known forever. I once visited their amazing Ulster County premises — imagine a Home Depot but filled with coins. Robin is someone who really loves them and their history. He had bags and bags I searched through, typically picking out a coin here and a coin there. Yes, I’m a careful, fussy buyer, very quality conscious.

Robin remarked that it was like selling to “El Exigente.” Referring to an old TV coffee commercial. White-hatted, El Exigente (“the demanding one”) is the buying agent, coming to a Colombian village. Frowning, he carefully inspects their coffee beans. Finally, a smile — and the villagers are joyful their harvest meets his exacting approval.

Examining some of my picks, Robin also commented, “You have terrific taste in coins.” Well, flattering the customer never hurts. One bag was all posthumous small bronzes of Constantine I. Common — but not at all if well centered and struck, with complete legends.

When I chose just one, Robin picked out another, saying surely it too should qualify. I agreed it was lovely in all respects — save the mintmark being missing. But then he did point out one other I accepted.

I wound up with a goodly pile of purchases that pleased both of us.

Afterwards, another tradition, dinner with an old friend (a woman I’d dated in the early ’70s). Then caught the train back to Albany, picked up at the station by my wife — my best acquisition ever — and once again was in bed by midnight. Life is good.

* Really a bargain. The catalog notes it was bought in 1989 from Claude Amsellem — a dealer I remember from the New York show’s old days. And it originated in the Mazzini collection — the most famous ever for Roman bronzes. A nice bonus!

3 Responses to “El Exigente at the NY International Coin Show”

  1. Don Bronkema Says:

    Si, El Exigente–yo lo recuerdo bien…coins interesting; hope some are destined for the Museum of Mars: Elon could take Tranche-I in his capsule…wonder what a Lydian Denarius would bring at auction….Life is good, you say [indeed, it could be in a century or two], but since judgment is mercurial, what defines the benison of a given hour? How does the unconscious arrive at any axial desideratum? The shadow-less kliegs of Trumpismo can blind the moment.

  2. ryan71 Says:

    It would be nice to be that close to large shows. Chicago is the closest for me.
    Glad to see you acquired some high-quality coins. It’s getting tough..and yes even the auctions are getting a bit stupid on pricing! I’m sure I am part of your problem, but I only bid on 3-4 coins max.

  3. Don Bronkema Says:

    Coinage will be even more rewardingly antequarian as money [an abstraction of value] is digitalized world-wide.

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