The first American Numismatic Association convention was held in 1891 to organize the group. The most recent was this past August. In recent years the typical attendance has been a bit below 10,000, with a significant percentage being dealers and their helpers.
In contrast, at the ANA convention, the World’s Fair of Money, in Philadelphia in 2000, all bets were off, and the room was up for grabs—as it turned out.
Dwight Manley and his California Gold Marketing Group mounted the Ship of Gold display that stretched across the front of the bourse area. It included a replica of the side of the S.S. Central America and a replica of the Kellogg & Humbert Assay Office. On view were selections from the gold coins and ingots recovered by Bob Evans and others from the wreck of the ship, which ever since it sank in a hurricane on the evening of September 12, 1857, had remained undisturbed 7,200 feet below the waves, about 200 miles off the coast of North Carolina.
No comparable gold treasure had ever been found. The items recovered were beyond marvelous—including over 5,500 mint-fresh 1857-S double eagles and over 400 gold ingots, including ingots weighing from several ounces up to nearly 80 pounds, of which not a single other had been known earlier!
Donn Pearlman had been signed as publicist for the Ship of Gold. What he did broke all records. The other day Donn wrote to me with this reminiscence:
Back in 2000, public relations folks usually could get access to newsrooms by arranging what were known as ‘deskside’ interviews/meetings with editors and reporters. About a month before the ANA 2000 Philadelphia World’s Fair of Money, I and ANA Public Relations Director Steve Bobbitt were able to meet with the features editor and coin columnist (yes, they had one at the time) at the offices of the Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper. In preparation for that meeting, I asked Dwight to send me a large SSCA gold coin that was NOT encapsulated. He loaned me a hefty $50 slug.
As the meeting began at the newspaper, I asked the editor to hold out her hand. I gently dropped the slug into it. ‘What’s this?’ she asked. ‘You are holding the California Gold Rush,’ I replied. That led into the discussion about the planned S.S. Central America Ship of Gold exhibit and other attractions at the upcoming convention.
The result was that the cover story of the newspaper’s weekly things-to-do/entertainment section the week before the start of the show was about the SSCA treasure display and the ANA convention. The exhibit became a media magnet for additional newspaper, TV, and radio coverage on opening day, attracting more than 20,000 visitors over the five-day show. Convention Director Ruthann Brettell and her staff ran out of registration cards within the first few days.
Yes, over 20,000 visitors! An unprecedented sensation!
I remember the event as if it were yesterday. In my opinion, the two most exciting, dynamic events in American numismatic history are the 1962-1964 Treasury release of thousands of 1,000-coin bags of long-stored silver dollars dating back to 1878 (including great rarities) and the publicity and distribution of the S.S. Central America coin treasure that began in 1999.