After a three-year hiatus due to the worldwide pandemic, the World Money Fair returned to the coin world’s centre stage as a significant number of participants and collectors were able to attend in person. In what has been described as “World Money Fair Lite,” those who returned to Berlin were also able to mark the show’s fiftieth anniversary, which was finally celebrated, albeit a year delayed due to the pandemic and lockdown. For many, there was an especially optimistic and perhaps nostalgic feel for those who finalised their arrangements to take part in person — some waiting until the very last moment to do so. Up until late autumn, it wasn’t certain whether the WMF would (or could) be held as Germany presently, and Berlin, in particular, continues to struggle with a stubbornly high transmission rate of COVID. Under these circumstances, the fair was organised and held without a Guest of Honour Mint or Central Bank for this year. Aside from a lack of guest hosts, also absent from the line-up of activities for 2023 was the gala dinner attended by many representatives of central banks, mints, and eminent dealers. Another noticeable absence that was greatly missed was the presentation of Coin of the Year (COTY) awards, which could not be organised in time. However, these omissions did not damper the anticipation, enthusiasm, and attendance, which luckily coincided with the lifting of the requisite face masks being worn in some public spaces and on public transportation.
After the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was officiated over by the WMF’s founder and honourary president, Dr. Albert Beck, along with Ms. Barbara Balz, managing director, the fair got off to a rousing and eager start. Despite seeing fewer central banks and mints who opted not to have a stand or kiosk, the reduced list of participants did not diminish the eagerness of dealers and attendants over the three-day event. It was also commented on and acutely noticed by collectors of those mints and central banks who did participate; not all of them decided to bring a stock of items for retail this year. This was due to a variety of reasons, from smaller or depleted levels of stock from the previous year, or items for 2023 which have yet to be produced. Having spoken to the many European coin dealers who did attend, their reaction to the first two days of activities was very positive indeed.
The Technical Forum
Now in its nineteenth year, the very popular and well-attended Technical Forum offers participants and attendees the opportunity to become familiar with the latest minting technology and capabilities. As the forum is held one day before the WMF’s official opening, the live presentation is closed to the public, and attendance is only by invitation. In total, twelve speakers presented on topics such as commemorative coin production and digital solutions to sustainability, packaging, and utilising lasers for tool and die-cutting. After several presentations, there are always intermissions and pauses for questions from an inquisitive audience which usually results in greater explanations and additional detail of the techniques discussed and featured.
The World Money Fair Media Presentation
Open not only to the press and journalists, the live media forum presentation is scheduled immediately after the official opening. It is accessible to all attendants of the World Money Fair who want a sneak preview of what will be released during 2023 from the mints and central banks. All presentations were accompanied by very eye-catching videos describing individual upcoming releases and programmes. Introduced by the WMF’s managing director, Ms. Balz, she touched on the three-year-long absence of colleagues and took the opportunity to welcome back presenters and spectators. Dr. Beck also addressed the audience and reminisced about the first coin fair he had organised in 1972 in Basel, Switzerland. The Media forum’s first presenter was Ms. Ventris Gibson, newly appointed Director of the United States Mint, who introduced the Mint’s upcoming programme with a description of 2023-dated coins followed by a short video presentation. With Ms. Gibson having concluded, an award was then presented to Dr. Beck by Mr. Steven Ellsworth, president of the American Numismatic Association (ANA). He presented a plaque to Dr. Beck on behalf of the 25,000 ANA members with the Presidential Award, the highest honour within the ANA, for a lifetime of work and support of numismatics. Mr. Ellsworth spoke about meeting Dr. Beck at the first Money Fair in 1972 and how the annual event had since evolved into the premier numismatic venue with participants and collectors alike.
Also presenting was Caroline Webb, Chief Marketing Officer for the Royal Mint, who spoke about the upcoming collector coin programme, which will see a series of coins released on the occasion of the coronation of King Charles III. Another special presentation was the launch or unveiling of an effigy of HM King Charles III, which was approved by the King himself for use on forthcoming coinage issued by the Treasury of Gibraltar. Created by eminent sculptor Raphael Maklouf, he is mostly remembered for his effigy of the late Queen Elizabeth II, which was introduced onto British and Commonwealth coinage in 1985. Mr. Maklouf himself unveiled the new effigy of Charles III and described the finer points of the work and how this portrait differed in approach from that of the Queen he had sculpted nearly forty years previously. The overseas territory of Gibraltar was the first issuing authority to receive approval from Buckingham Palace for a definitive effigy since King Charles III ascended the throne in September 2022. A new Gibraltarian fifty-pence coin using the effigy was produced by Tower Mint, which is also owned and operated by Mr. Maklouf, especially for sale at the World Money Fair. In total, ten mints and central banks presented their programme for 2023. To watch the recorded presentation, please click here.
The Fair’s second day was reported by organisers to have exceeded any of their expectations in terms of visitors, which resulted in a noticeably busier bourse floor and level of commerce and trade. Visitors were also invited to a very special presentation and discussion by Charlotte Krüger, granddaughter of Bernhard Krüger, a sturmbannführer (rank of major) of the Third Reich who organised Operation Bernhard. The infamous plan, named after Krüger, was to forge sterling pound banknotes in great numbers and essentially render British currency worthless, thus undermining their economy. Krüger led the operation from a segregated factory at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, which was manned by 142 Jewish inmates. A hardcover book on the subject entitled Forging Secrets: Faces and Facts Inside the Nazi Operation Bernhard Scheme was also available for purchase which features invaluable information and images on the subject and an extraordinary chapter about the Second World War.
The concluding Sunday is, for many, an opportunity to wrap up business, meetings, buying and selling, and is also for making arrangements to attend the next year. This day was no different. Encouragingly, there was a noticeable level of collectors who stayed on until the last hour the fair was opened for business. Dates for the 2024 World Money Fair have not yet been announced, but, for additional information about this and next year’s fair, please click here.