Berlin Event Shows Human Side of Hobby
By David C. Harper
Working our booth at the World Money Fair in
Berlin at the end of January was an interesting
experience. Despite the differences in language
and culture, collectors are collectors. The
human connections that we all have are something
to be shared. The traits of skepticism and
curiosity are also universal and obvious.
One of the most successful things we did at the
show was to have a fishbowl at the table filled
with coins. We filled it with odds and ends of
new issues that we have accumulated over the
past two decades. We also threw in U.S. cents
and nickels to bulk things up a bit.
While one Russian collector went by dismissing
the bowl as nothing but worthless American
coins, most collectors took the time to grab a
handful and enjoy their finds.
There were some early Slovenian coins from the
1990s that got at least one visitor excited.
Another collector decided on the spot to try to
get as many different dates of Lincoln cents as
he could find. It was interesting watching him
pore through the coins in his hand.
We thought we had brought plenty of coins along,
but by Saturday morning, we were pretty well at
the end of the supply. The show had only
officially opened the day before.
Another collector came by who had lived much of
his life in the former East Germany. Even though
he did not speak much English and I speak only a
little German, he was determined to share his
life story with me.
Between the two languages, the narrative was
clear. At the end of World War II, the
occupation zones put him under Russian rule. His
17-year-old cousin, whom he stressed was quite
pretty, was in the American zone.
As you might expect, the cousin caught the eye
of an American G.I. They fell in love. He took
her home to New Hampshire and built an American
life together that included five children.
The Berlin Wall divided the family for many
years. However, it did come down and in 1993 the
collector was able to go visit his cousin and
her husband in Phoenix, Ariz. He apparently
enjoyed the trip so much that he recounted to me
all of the many states he visited.
He also took me through the occupations of the
five children. All seem pretty successful. The
collector was obviously very proud of them.
Was the conversation numismatic? Not really, but
it was not an unusual conversation between two
collector acquaintances. Collectors share common
interests and have an instant bond from it that
makes it easy to share other life experiences.
I was reminded of a time when Krause hosted some
visitors from East Germany just as the wall was
coming down. Their remarks about their
experience didnít center on material things or
freedom. They simply observed that what struck
them most was that everybody here smiled.
Donít get me wrong. Collectors did not lose
sight of their main purpose at the show: to
acquire coins. There were lines at the Dutch
Mintís booth to purchase the special show set,
the fifth and final one for the Berlin show. New
2-euro commemoratives for Bremen were sought.
Dealers in the bourse area seemed to be doing a
brisk business. The show was an event that any
collector in the United States would instantly
feel at home in and that is what it is all