Come to Brum! [Stamp & Coin Mart, April 2009, Page 94,95]
Brett Hammond of TimeLine Originals explains why readers of Stamp & Coin would benefit from a Sunday drive out to the Midland Coin Fair in Birmingham
In some respects today’s coin and antiquities collectors - experienced and newcomers alike - find themselves overloaded with information and images on every aspect of the hobby. A brief second glance at the illustrations that have accompanied my articles during the past few months confirms the standard of photography you have come to expect in your favourite magazine. And when you switch on your broadband internet service and type coin or antiquity into a Google search you’ll find a plethora of pictures leaping onto your computer screens accompanied by so much information you can scarcely take it all in.
Dealers lay on most of the internet show (TimeLine Originals is no exception); filling their sales pages with sharply focused high resolution images and fascinating text to describe what you see; hoping to persuade you to purchase, and, as a by-product of their sales pitches, providing you with free lessons in numismatics and history.
You enjoy similar experiences when you visit modern museums: mouth-watering displays of coins and antiquities of the very highest standard, each piece carefully positioned under perfect lighting conditions, and displayed in clear glass cabinets to ensure you miss nothing as you gaze in admiration. And you’ll probably find that there’s a museum bookshop somewhere near the entrance with up-to-the-minute books written by curators, or archaeologists, eager to fill in the details that would not fit on the cards in the display cabinets.
What a difference you’d discover if you could return for a brief visit to the world your father, or grandfather, entered when they took up the hobby back in the Sixties. Coin collectors’ magazines in those days carried scarcely any colour photography. As for the internet, it was no more than a figment of Arthur C Clarke’s vivid imagination. The illustrations in coin catalogues in those days obscured more than they revealed. Dealer’s printed catalogues - only available for the cost of postage stamps - probably had no illustrations at all. And down at the local museum heavy mahogany cabinets, poor lighting and no more than a few words written about any exhibit, ensured that most people left the museum none-the-wiser.
But wait .... what’s this establishment your father or grandfather strolls towards on his homeward journey? A coin shop! On a busy street in a provincial town; and a friendly local dealer within, who will do more than impart the knowledge his customers seek. He will invite them to hold coins between finger and thumb, to get up-close and intimate with their potential purchases, to bring their own magnifiers so they can examine them in forensic detail, to smell them if they feel that way inclined.
That whole local dealer service is almost totally lost to us now. In the 21st century only one venue can still capture the intimacy of the experience - a coin fair. If you’d like a generous helping of what collectors of yesteryear enjoyed so much, here’s my recommendation. Drop those plans you had to spend the whole of next Sunday surfing the internet for images and information on coins and antiquities. Go instead to the Midland Coin Fair and I can guarantee that you’ll enjoy every minute of the day; and - especially if you are a comparative newcomer - that you will go home knowing far more about the hobby and its many branches than you might glean from a day with google.
The Midland Coin Fair, affectionately and more simply known to its many supporters as 'Birmingham'- has been pulling in coin, banknote, medal and antiquities dealers ( not to mention hordes of collectors) for more than a couple of decades. It takes place every second Sunday at the National Motorcycle Museum, Bickenhill, which is an easy-to-reach venue at the centre of a web of motorways and rail networks. Stamp & Coin Mart’s overseas readers will also enjoy the convenience of a short two-mile journey to the fair from Birmingham Airport.
And here are three smile moments for this magazine’s many London readers: At Birmingham you get free parking! No Congestion Charge! And entry to the fair for just £1.50. That’s great value no matter which second Sunday in the month you decide on for your trip. You’ll always discover more than 40 dealers displaying their wares and more than willing to help you find that bargain, that elusive item, that very special purchase. And if you are one of Stamp &Coin Mart’s increasing number of metal detector owners who may have unwanted finds to sell, or who would like an opinion about a particular find, where better than a venue that puts you in touch with so many ancient coins and antiquities dealers under one roof?
The enthusiasm and interest felt by visitors on your side of the tables will also brush off and make your day more enjoyable as you rub shoulders, or strike up conversations, with fellow collectors from across the world. Some, perhaps like you, will be taking their first steps in the hobby; others will be ready to spend thousands if they spot a piece they know they must buy. I’ve been to Birmingham many times and I always feel that buzz as I wander from table to table.Why not experience the fun of the fair for yourself?
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