I recently had the great pleasure to present my book, South Korean Coins in the Era of Development (published by iAsure Group), to the numismatic community in the USA at the 2022 World's Fair of Money in Chicago in August. After years of attending coin shows as a collector and spectator, the experience of "standing on the other side of the dealer table" along with the release and promotion of my book was an insight into the advantages of cultivating expertise in an area of numismatics, and to the many opportunities that it can afford.
The American Numismatic Association (ANA) has been holding its annual "World's Fair of Money" at the same convention center location every year in a row for about the past five years in Rosemount, Illinois near Chicago. The large Donald E. Stephens Convention Center again housed over 450 dealer tables in mid-August 2022, with over 1,000 numismatic dealers and their employees for this six- day event. With its location near a major city, the "ANA Show" is a week-long hive of numismatic sale activity and educational opportunities in the United States. As I had a busy schedule promoting and selling my book, I needed to be present every day of the ANA Show this year, from Tuesday through Saturday.
I have attended the World's Fair of Money in each of those past five years that it has been held at this location. Therefore, I was familiar with this convention center…and the rather dangerous road that runs in front of it. True to form, the Chicago-area drivers racing down that thoroughfare almost ran me over in the crosswalk on two occasions this year as I headed on foot to my hotel on the other side of the street. I am certainly not the only person who has ever had this experience. This road in front of the Stephens Convention Center is one of the major downsides to this event location (in addition to the rather low-lighting conditions of the bourse floor), but according to an insider source, the ANA will not move the location of the World's Fair of Money to the much safer and overall better location of the Schaumburg Renaissance Convention Center, which is located nearby. The reason for this is rumored to be that certain attendees prefer a shorter drive to downtown Chicago to take advantage of the restaurants and bars for their parties and meetings.
Wednesday - Lunch Downtown
During the week I spent at the ANA show, I was invited to one such downtown meeting. The 20-minute drive from the Stephens Convention Center to downtown Chicago on that Wednesday morning was perhaps shorter by 10 minutes compared to the drive from Schaumburg. When I arrived, I had the honor of meeting with Michael Chou of JEAN and our hosts, J.C. Lee of Poongsan Hwadong and his staff at a well-known upscale restaurant. Also in attendance was Thomas Michael of Active Interest Media (AIM). Thanks to Mr. Chou's recommendation, J.C. Lee graciously agreed to have Hwadong market my book in Korea as its official distributor there. Mr. Lee therefore had generously arranged this lunch in order to reconnect with us after our last meeting in the summer of 2019.
Thomas Michael of Active Interest Media and I in downtown Chicago. Mr. Michael is Senior Editor of Numismaster.com.
As two of the most influential figures in the East Asian numismatics business were present, this lunch involved rather enlightening conversation. The most interesting highlight was learning of J.C. Lee's leadership of Golden dew Company in the late 1980s after the Korean government liberalized local gold trading, which had previously been quite restrictive in Korea. Golden dew Company started out as a dealer of gold coins in the United States in 1973 and, by 1989 when J.C. Lee was with the company, had started to retail jewelry to the nouveau riche of Korea who had begun to appreciate and buy jewelry as fashionable accessories. One notable item of jewelry that the company sold at this time took the form of a gold coin held in a bezel setting suspended on a necklace. Apparently, Mr. Lee was not only quite successful in selling this popular item, but his above-board business practices also allowed Golden dew to avoid running afoul of the local regulators and their changing rules; much unlike his less-fortunate business contemporaries who had also tried their hand at selling gold in Korea.
Mr. Lee's story confirmed much of what I had learned while researching the topic of the gold market in Korea during the time that the 1988 Seoul Olympics commemorative coin series first appeared. The 1988 Seoul Olympics series - about which the most comprehensive recounting to be found anywhere is Chapter 20 of my book - featured the very first Olympics coins to contain one full-ounce of gold. These were the first real fungible, investmentquality gold coins issued in Korea, and they were very popular upon release.
With Hwadong's great help in distributing my book in Korea, I am able to reach the main collector community for South Korean coins more effectively. Yet another incredible opportunity arose from this meeting, since I was able to connect with Tom Michael of AIM immediately afterwards. Mr. Michael sat down with me to ask me to help update the South Korea listings at Numismaster. com. In the coming months through email exchanges, I suggested what I thought were some helpful, yet modest edits to the Numismaster Catalog. With his years of work in the field, the Catalog is clearly in good hands with Tom Michael as senior editor. He is very conversant and experienced in the expansive subject of world coins and is keenly interested in meeting the needs of collectors and dealers when it comes to information on coins. As for my participation, it was quite exciting to have input into what is essentially the main source of information that collectors worldwide access when inquiring about South Korean coins.
In attendance at the ANA Money Talk on South Korean coins were (L to R) Michael Chou, Thomas Michael, and the author Mark Lovmo.
Thursday - The Presentation
Although enjoyable, these downtown meetings were not the primary reason I had come to Chicago. This year, I arrived at the ANA show as the author of a new book, and I was to use this occasion to announce its official release and sell copies to attendees at the show. In this regard, I was scheduled to promote my book the next day by talking about my research on South Korean coins in a presentation hosted by the ANA. The ANA sponsored eight other 30- to 45-minute presentations that day at the convention center. Rather encouraging was the fact that, along with my presentation, there were two other presentations, or "Money Talks" as the ANA calls them, on Asian numismatics: One by chopmark coin researcher Colin Gullberg and another by modern Chinese coin researcher Michael Corley of NGC.
Past ANA shows seemed not to have hosted three Asian coin-related presentations on one day let alone that many during one of these week-long events, so it was an encouraging sign that the ANA was choosing to widen its parameters of "acceptable topics" for these Money Talks. Although I had submitted the application well before the deadline, my Money Talk almost did not happen, as the ANA board that decides which presentations to accept or reject had almost rejected mine. However, I had a great advocate in the form of ANA volunteer Sam Gelberd, who was able to convince the board to stretch that day's schedule to accommodate my presentation. Mr. Gelberd also helpfully prepped the room where my Money Talk took place in his capacity of tech support - in addition to the many other duties he cheerfully performed at this year's ANA show.
When it came time to present, I was ready. In fact, I had spent the previous three months to create and revise my presentation, which I structured as a quick overview of South Korea's coins and coin production during that country's vital period of national growth that spanned the late 1950s to the 1980s. I believed that attendees would best enjoy a brief rundown on this almost completely unknown history of South Korea's coins, as well as a few PowerPoint slides on the prices of a few of the key date coins in today's numismatic market. Once I had my Money Talk prepared, I "field tested" it by giving a version of this presentation at my local coin club in Minnesota a week before I left for Chicago. It was well-received, and this first showing allowed me to revise it for an even better presentation at the ANA show.
Mark Lovmo presenting his Money Talk: "South Korean Coins in the Era of Development: An Overview" at the ANA World's Fair of Money on August 18, 2022.
Thanks to these efforts, and with a bit of luck, my Money Talk at the World's Fair of Money went off without a hitch. I was even lucky enough to have both Michael Chou and J.C. Lee in attendance as well as other noted audience members Colin Gullberg and Jim Moores of the Central States Numismatic Society also kindly taking some time from their evening to attend. With my Korean coin presentation now finely tuned, I was later asked to present a version of it at an online event the following month hosted by the coin forum site, World of Coins (worldofcoins.eu). And to my surprise, the Newman Numismatic Portal (NNP) of Washington University in St Louis accepted with alacrity my proposal to present a different version of this Korean coin talk at their online event in November. After these presentations, I was humbled by the many subsequent positive reviews, one of which was from the prolific writer and my favorite author in numismatics, Roger W. Burdette. All these opportunities were not only fun and encouraging, but they also allowed me greater exposure in the wider world of numismatics as a specialist on South Korean coins.
Shown here are (L to R) Michael Chou, Thomas Michael, and President of Poongsan Hwadong, JC Lee watching the Korean coin presentation.
Friday - Selling the Book at the Show
The second-to-last day of the ANA show was a whirlwind of book sales, as customers who had heard of my presentation began to appear at Michal Chou's Champion Auction table to purchase copies. Mr. Chou helpfully arranged space at his dealer table to allow sales of my book. It was difficult to balance being present at the table to sell copies while also walking the bourse floor in search of world coin dealers. Most of the dealers who I approached were quite interested in the book and purchased one or more copies. Their interest was especially piqued when they learned that the book also features recent Korean auction and retail pricing for South Korean coins. This pricing information, along with a full accounting of all the commemorative coins released up to 2021, appeared to be the main selling points for them. To my pleasant surprise, the major U.S. third-party grading companies and most of the big auction businesses present at the ANA Show also purchased copies to use as their main reference on the subject. Only ICG and ANACS took a pass on the book, citing insufficient business in grading South Korean coins.
Saturday - A Chance Meeting with David Lisot
As Saturday was the last day of the show, many dealers began leaving by midmorning. Before I left the show that day, I used this time to make the final rounds to those tables that I might have missed the day before. I was happy to find David Lisot's "Coin Television" booth near one of the last rows of tables at the convention center. Mr. Lisot is known in the U.S. numismatic community as the hobby's videographer, and he has captured on video thousands of numismatic meetings and presentations at coin shows around the country for decades. I've watched many of his videos the NNP archive, especially his interviews with authors and business owners in the hobby
As Mr. Lisot was present at his booth, I chatted him up and told him just how much I enjoy watching his interviews with the great numismatists from the past four decades. He had interviewed Clifford Mishler, Chester Krause, R.W. Julian, Walter Breen, and Anthony Swiatek, among many other giants in U.S. numismatics. I wanted to let Mr. Lisot know just how much his work has benefitted me through the knowledge and stories that he elicited from these people. He was obviously touched and told me that it was his great pleasure to have captured these interviews. I also detected from him a bit of sadness in that many of these good old friends of his in this field are now gone.
He then asked me about the book I was hawking, and then swung his camera around and turned on the square light above it and said, "How about an interview?" I had to think about it for a minute, but I agreed. Mr. Lisot was an expert at this short form interview, and he got me talking about the book on camera. Just from this short interaction with him, I found out that he was very well-spoken and showed strong evidence that he had an intellect on par with pretty much any of those big brains in numismatics he's interviewed!
I left the convention center that day with the feeling that I had accomplished what I had set out to do, and I was especially pleased to have met and talked with David Lisot. Therefore, I was very sad to have later learned of his passing so soon afterward on October 15th this year. Everyone who knew him regarded him as both a kind soul and as an important fixture in the U.S. numismatics scene who will not be easily replaced.
My new experiences at the ANA Show that I describe in this article are certainly not the end of my newfound journey. In the months immediately after the ANA Show, I was very busy with book sales and shipping copies to customers from all across the United States and Canada, and to coin enthusiasts as far away as Sweden and Australia. I was also busy with journalists interviewing me for press reviews of my book, with more reviews promising to take place in 2023 in publications such as CoinWeek and ONS. Writing my book on South Korean coins was not only an adventure in itself, but this later work to promote and sell the book also placed me in contact with some of the more important people in the numismatic scene, as well as the equally important individual collectors and dealers who have a keen interest in South Korean coins. I encourage those who are willing and able to do so to make more efforts to increase their competence that area of numismatics where their passion and interest lies.
David Lisot once asked a famous U.S. coin expert in an interview why he had gotten into coins in the first place, and the response was "… I found that numismatics is a field where a little expertise goes a long way."
I completely agree!