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The National Money Show
by Laura Oppenheimer

It's not all about the Benjamins at the rare money show in Portland this weekend as this picture of the largest denomination ever printed in the U.S. shows.

Fredrick D. Joe/The OregonianThe National Money Show will feature (from top) two of five famed 1913 Liberty Head nickels, insured at $3 million each; two dozen $100,000 bills, the largest denomination ever printed by the U.S. government; and a vintage, hand-turned money printing press demonstrated by Mike Beck of the Department of the Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
There aren't many places you'll find more than $1 billion in a single room, especially not during the recession.

One safe bet: this weekend's National Money Show at the Oregon Convention Center.

You can see very old, very famous coins -- including the penny flipped in 1845 to determine Portland's name. Meet hundreds of collectors, who give informal appraisals. And learn about the hosts -- the American Numismatic Association, a group devoted, naturally, to the study of money.

National Money Show

• Hours: Today and Saturday, 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
• Location: Oregon Convention Center, 777 N.E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Portland 
• Admission: Free
• More information: www.money.org

The rock stars of the show might be the U.S. Department of Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Christopher Madden, lead engraver, is taking a break from President Barack Obama's official engraved portrait to show off the money-making trade.

Though engravers are artists of sorts, Madden says, they ultimately make a product. "If I didn't like George Washington's hairstyle, I couldn't change it."

Children can try engraving and print their creations on a vintage press. In its heyday nearly 150 years ago, it produced 250 sheets of bills a day. Modern machines crank out more than 8,000 sheets per hour.

Mike Beck, lead plate printer, gladly demonstrates -- and shows off 100-year-old photos. "It's really cool when you get kids, and people who had no idea any of this happens," he says. "You're teaching history."

A single case contains $1 billion worth of treasury notes. Next display over, you can see piddly $100,000 bills printed for Federal Reserve bank transfers. The largest denomination ever issued to the general public: $10,000 bills, also on hand.

As curator of the Numismatic Association, Douglas Mudd cultivates a collection for the group's Colorado Springs, Colo., museum and traveling shows. For example, visitors can see a silver dollar made for President Andrew Jackson to give to an Asian head of state. It was stolen from a private collector in 1967 and recovered more than a quarter-century later.

"Coins of this type, if they're stolen -- people know what they look like," Mudd says. "They're like the Mona Lisa. You can't walk into a coin store and try to sell them."

But you can stroll into the convention center for a look.

 



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