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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 about.


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