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The ANA Convention 1960 – Dealers Sometimes Get Playful!

Originally Posted November 2, 2007

During the summer of 1960 the American Numismatic Convention took place in Boston, Massachusetts at the Statler Hilton Hotel. The hotel overlooked the harbor. At the convention, dealers were set up in a bourse in the penthouse ballroom, as were the exhibits. A wonderful view, plenty of lights, and a warm atmosphere set the scene for a memorable show.

In contrast to today’s policy under which dealers are assigned tables in the bourse by a point system and lottery, in 1960 the tables were set up and it was virtually a “first come – first get” his bourse location. While it is common today that many companies have staff that they could send several representatives to man the bourse tables, most companies in 1960 had only one representative. The business was on a very personal level.

It therefore became practical for a group of friendly dealers and certain collector-dealers to take tables next to each other. If the dealer had to leave his table to get some food, look at some coins across the room or take care of a nature call, he would give to a friendly adjacent dealer his keys. I remember selling some coins for my competitors when they were away, and sometimes when I was away I would return to find some sales had been made for me. Dealers closely relied on each other for security, advice, market information, and more.

In Stack’s case, I attended the convention as our firm’s single representative, and helped assemble bourse tables for a group of good friends. I remember Abner Kreisberg, Jerry Cohen, Lester Merkin, Amon Carter, Jr. (the dealer-collector in our group) Earl A. Parker, Dan Brown, and Mike Kolman as being among the group that formed our “table line” at that show.

We each had our displays out, and at the Boston show the arrangements were Abner Kreisberg, E.A. Parker, Stack’s Amon Carter Jr. and the others mentioned above on either side of this central group.
Although we were all set to take care of business, a heat wave struck Boston that week. As a result, collectors stayed at home until late in the afternoon. The ballroom was warm as well, and we were all tired, despite the lack of customers. The show was open until 10 in the evening, requiring marathon endurance.

On the second day, Earl Parker, the popular San Francisco dealer and friend, who was well known for having little or no patience, virtually threw his keys to Abner Kreisberg. “I ain’t doing anything here. I’m hungry and I am going out to eat. I hope you can give my table some life.” Apparently, he had no sales at all to this point.

Abner accepted the keys, and Earl left the floor. Abner was a great guy and also a prankster. He gathered the rest of us together and said, “Let’s see if we can make a sale for Earl.” After about 45 minutes Earl didn’t return. Abner got an idea. He opened Earl’s cases and picked up about 10 coins valued from $500 to $5,000 each, and left the empty places in the case. He put the group in an envelope and hid it in his case.
To make the incident climactic he asked me to make two signs, one for each case, stating “50% OFF ANY COIN IN THIS CASE.” When we saw Earl coming back we quickly placed one sign in each case, and then sat back looking at the ceiling.

As Earl approached his case he quickly noticed the empty spaces. He cried out “Abner, you’re a super salesman. How did you do it? What did you sell?”

Before Abner could respond, because he began to laugh as hard as we all did, Earl saw the two signs.
Earl screamed out –“Abner are you crazy? Did you loose your mind? I paid within 15-20% below what I priced the coins for. I’m going to lose a fortune.”

By this time all of us were laughing so hard, enjoying watching Earl’s face turn bright red, that no one could answer him.

Abner played along with the prank for at least another 5 minutes and finally took the coins out of his case and gave them to Earl. Earl fell into a chair and after calming down, turned to Abner and said, “Abner, I know it had to be you, this is the best prank ever! My only regret is I didn’t do it to you!”

I tell this story to prove that dealers are just as human as collectors and can have fun together. Many other pranks occurred. But we all made sure no one suffered from it.

The numismatic lesson of this story is, if you go by a dealer behind his bourse table and he is alone, stop by and make him smile and feel welcome. He’ll really appreciate it! Especially if things are slow and there are few customers in sight.

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