Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How many CTs can be found at a Big Coin Expo?

I am back from the Big Coin Expo. While there, I decided to ask everyone who looked the part: Do you have any Communion Tokens? How do you look the part? Tokens and foreign coins fill the case (and no slabbed Morgan dollars). The task was to determine just how many CTs can be found by traveling to the big city of old ships and crab cakes.
     The short answer: I found 350 Scottish CTs (plus or minus two or three) and nine (maybe 10) more from the USA. I also met two dealers who claimed to have a few at home ("I have them somewhere, but I'm not sure where").
A double-box of CTs is hard to find!
Just about all of them are from Burzinski.
     The analysis: one exonumia dealer had 330 SCTs + 8 USA CTs, another had 20 SCTs, whereas two foreign coin dealers showed up with 8 and 2 SCTs respectively, and finally a generalist had 1 (maybe 1 more) USA CTs. There you have it. Out of 200+ dealers, five of them had CTs. You could get more bugs (I think they call them scarabs) than you could CTs from all the dealers there, but for one!
     Clearly, the CT marketplace is thin. Few CTs are available for sale in comparison to all other stuff, with silver rounds and Morgan dollars leading the charge. In the past month, there have been more SCTs on ebay at any one time than at this three-day show -- which, by the way, is one of the best USA coin shows you can attend.
     I only brought one book to sell -- good thing, as there was no one to buy it. Nonetheless, a few of us exonumia fans did meet for lunch on Saturday (one of them, other than me, is a CT devotee). One of my accomplices also collects game counters, so he understands the peculiar nature of a thin marketplace: a smattering of pieces, few collectors, and values defined by two folks coveting the same piece.
     So here is what was found. Steve Hayden had brought a double-row box of CTs from the Burzinski collection. They were obtained from Steve Tanenbaum, and they were enclosed in 2x2 holders with his attributions squeezed in the corners with Burzinski boldly written in red ink. These are the remnants of Lester's collection, having passed through several dealers before here. I have been mining these boxes for two years now, but I always go back for one or two more. I got 10 this time, and my friend purchased about 20. Steve has many SCTs on his website too. He is an easy-going guy and fun to buy from.
     Steve had a few USA tokens. I will profile them in other posts, but for now I will mention that most came from PA and NY. Three of them were Buena Vista squares -- not common by any measure, but not bordering on unique as is the case for many USA tokens (Bason-201).
This primitive lead square
from PA reads: AR/C for
Associate Reformed Church.
     Paul Cunningham, a well-known exonumia dealer and TAMS board member, had about 20 SCTs. He had many double-row boxes full of every token imaginable: from Arcades and Circuses to Trollies and Telephones. I think my friend cleaned him out of gaming tokens. Of particular interest, Paul had three USA Trade Dollars that had been shaped into "potty dollars" -- this is when a carver shapes a johnny beneath Ms. Liberty. But here is the best part: They came from Lester Burzinski's collection. I was told that he had a whole box of these!
     Foreign coin dealer Allen Berman brought eight SCTs for me to look at. They were common pieces (three of them Port of Monteith squares, albeit rough), but still the grouping ranked him third in the CT count. Allen is a really nice guy -- full of stories with lots of medieval coins to go with the tales.
     Two more SCTs were spotted in the case of an absent dealer from the Mid-West: a pair of 1699/DBK pieces (Dunblane). They both were dusty with a thin layer of salt on the surfaces.
     Finally, I discovered a single USA CT held for a decade or more by a Virginia dealer. The piece came with an interesting story. It was a rectangular piece attributed to Argyle, New York. According to the story, this token was passed down in a NY family. It was described as unique; however, it is listed as Bason-74. It was a beautiful molded rectangle with bold letters (A M), no wear and unblemished ashen surfaces. It was priced at a firm $750. He had another piece (the maybe piece) that appeared to be completely engraved with a chalice in the center. It may have been a one-off token -- it was not for sale.

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