By Dr. R. S. "Bart" Bartanowicz
Our numismatist was totally enthralled with the
number of high quality exhibits at the coin
show. The thoughtfulness and appearance of the
exhibits was terrific. This was a far cry from
exhibits of yesteryears. To often in the past he
had seen interesting numismatic items placed in
displays without much explanation as to what he
was looking at in terms of history and
The exhibits he was viewing featured common and
rare coins as well as other numismatic
materials. Yes, there were rare and costly items
but there were also inexpensive and impressive
exhibits featuring common coins with educational
and informative narratives.
Most exhibitors used computer programs/graphics
that made for easier reading and highlighted
aspects of the exhibits. This was easier than
deciphering notes from old typewriters or
Not every display was high tech or computer
assisted. A few exhibitors used calligraphy.
These were attractive and made the exhibits
stand out as different. So even in this new
world, something from the past was eye-catching
and perhaps even quaint.
The exhibits were grouped by category:
competitive, non-competitive and special
exhibits. The exhibits were defined as classes.
The classes including U.S. items such as coins,
paper money, medals, tokens etc. World items
were also broken down into classes. This
diversity provided the viewers a sampling of the
many branches of numismatics. Particularly
noteworthy was the goodly number of youngsters
and families taking it all in.
Leaving the exhibit, our numismatist mused that
it would have been nice to have a few "docents"
(a hoity-toity word for guides or educators) to
lead folks through the exhibits. This could be
fun for a docent. After all, telling people
about coins and numismatics is an important
point of the hobby.
So, should you exhibit your coins or other
numismatic items such as currency, medals,
tokens and such? Or, perhaps better asked, what
is the purpose of an exhibit? Plain and simple,
an exhibit educates and informs. You can be a
very specialized collector and exhibitor such as
my good friend Don who lives in Nashua, N.H. Don
is a dedicated numismatist and a collector of
all things Nashua.
Don is always at the ready to exhibit his
collection of Nashua bank notes. Don's exhibit
is a joy to behold and he has the stories behind
the bank notes that always captivates viewers.
Don loves to let people know about his town, and
he is considered to be one of Nashua's premier
Exhibits can run from the humble Lincoln cent
with just a few specimens to more elaborate
sets. The main thing is the story behind the
One exhibit I saw some years ago had a small
chart showing what a Lincoln cent would buy in
1909 (first year of issue) taking it up through
the decades. (As I recall, the last thing a
one-cent piece would buy was a piece of gum from
an old gumball machine around the 1960s. Now
gumball machines usually take quarters.) The
exhibit showed the changes to the Lincoln cent
in terms of design, materials and purchasing
power. It was informative beyond just the coin
So back to my question about whether or not you
should exhibit. If you are passionate or
dedicated to a particular coin or series then
you probably have a story to tell. Ask your
local coin club or coin show manager if they
have rules or guidelines for exhibiting. Some
are short and others, such as the American
Numismatic Association, are extensive. Don't be
afraid to ask. I have some suggestions if you
decide to "Take the plunge."
You need a statement of purpose or opening line
that accompanies your exhibit. You want to get
the viewer's attention in a few lines. An
example could be, "Prior to the state quarters,
the Lincoln cent was probably one of the most
collected coins in U.S. history. Most leading
numismatists will tell you this is how they
started out. This exhibit discusses the history
of the coin and the changes that have taken
place over the years&"
From there you can have note cards for selected
coins discussing their history and impact. A
good start is to view the exhibits at various
coin shows to see how others do it. Ask your
friends for critical input on your exhibit.
Work at being different or creative. The end
question is: "Did I put together an exhibit that
educated and informed the public?" Having an
attractive exhibit is helpful in drawing people
to your work - but an eye-catching exhibit in
itself that doesn't educate and inform misses
the mark. There are usually awards for the best
exhibits, but don't be driven by this - satisfy
yourself that you did a good job.
So there you are. Exhibits give you an
opportunity to do many things including being
creative. If you are creatively challenged, such
as myself, perhaps your spouse or significant
other can help you out. And if you have friends
like mine - there will be no shortage of advice.