Strongest Memphis Show in a Few Years!

A flurry of activity marked our preparation for the International Paper Money Show in Memphis Tenn. this year (2014).  This was my first year as President of the Society of Paper Money Collectors (SPMC) going into Memphis. Several activities needed to be planned and I thank the board for their enthusiastic support and efforts. Additionally, a string of very successful shows in the spring precluded the Memphis show which forced me to spend quite a lot of time catching up working up all of the new purchases. I had acquired two collections of train and hoer (T-39-40-41 1862 $100) military issues, a run of common and mid-level type, and a smattering of rare Confederate money varieties. Additionally, I had a lot of under $200 large cents to work up. I sold a lot of choice and higher end Confederate type note as well as major rare varieties and really need to refill my coffers with that material too, but with the strong Confederate market, it is a challenge to do.

The trip to Memphis turned out to be the only negative highlight of the show – and a big one it was.  It took us 26 hours to travel by air (mostly) from Boston, MA to Memphis, TN.  To net it out, we stayed overnight in DC due to weather, experience a harrowing crowd trying to get on their American Airlines flights when their ticketing systems went down, delays in Dallas-Ft Worth (which saved us), got to Little Rock, AR ok, rented a car, got stuck in a 2 hour traffic jam on I-40 50 miles west of Memphis, and luckily, got to the show in time to still set up!  It could have been worse we told ourselves.

We immediately got to setting up our table with good progress within 30 minutes.  Given that we allocated 3 cases to paper money and only 1 to our better large cents, it went quickly.  Paper Money is much faster to put out than coins!  We kept our under $200 large and half cents in boxes for people to view if interested in the back. Leaving Joyce at the table to finish up and watch, I went to set up my exhibit – a two case display describing the Confederate Trans-Mississippi setting (west of the Miss River) and the types of notes that were reissued out there and why. I had written an article on this a few years ago for the SPMC Paper Money magazine and included it or subsets in books, including the latest standard catalog and price guide – Collecting Confederate Paper Money – Field Edition 2014. Setting up the exhibit did not take too long either and we completed all of our tasks in time to do some business.

1864 Confederate notes were hot at this show… T-64 pink notes are going for more than the 2014 book prices, actually approaching the red T-64 values in some cases.  I sold three T-64 notes within 15 minutes of being setup on Thursday. Other 1864 notes are in strong demand too, and the Thursday night Lyn Knight auction demonstrated that.  Lyn had a run of typical common to mid-level 1861-1863 type notes.  But he also had some interesting dealer 1864 group lots.  All of these went for retail money or more!  Perhaps someone was hunting for New 63 or better slabbable notes, not sure. Unfortunately, one thing our 26 hour trip cost us was the ability to view the lots – so I had to stay on the sidelines for the most part or bid conservatively, figuring many of the lots with Unc notes to have XF-AU notes.  I do not know what was actually in there; perhaps someone will hit the jackpot?  Or have overpriced 1864 notes?  I don’t know.

Thursday night found Joyce and I shopping for replacement to our lost clothes and toiletries – our luggage would not show up until Saturday – most of the way through the show.  The good news is that I had almost everything I needed to run the table; we improvised where we needed – such as using Styrofoam togo boxes for the large cent bins! 

Friday morning sees the SPMC people head over across the street to the Crowne Plaza for our annual breakfast.  Approximately 80-90 people attended with Bob Moon, Wendell Wolka, John Wilson, Mark Anderson and others helping with tickets to get in as well as raffle tickets. Unfortunately, my luggage had not arrived with the fancy tickets I had printed - $1000 Montgomery note – the example that was in my type set.  Some of these were passed out late Saturday and I hope to remember to bring them in 2015 along with new tickets for the breakfast attendees. These events are a lot of fun with a great breakfast, a lot of super people, and then the awards followed by the raffle which are so much fun.  The award winners will be announced in Paper Money magazine, but I’d like to mention three here. Fred Reed’s Civil War Envelopes, The Issuers and Their Times won the Wismer Best Book of the Year award.  Benny Bolin received the Nathan Gold Memorial Award for lifetime achievement – certainly Benny has earned this one with SPMC board service, past-President, and now both Secretary and Editor. Dennis Tucker received the Forrest Daniel award for ongoing literary contributions as editor at Whitman Publishing – the new obsolete book marks just the latest in a long string of excellent books promoting collecting paper money.  I will also mention the rollout of the new SPMC “Hall of Fame” which was inaugurated with a robust “class of 2014” many legends from our past – but included three living persons – Gene Hessler, Peter Huntoon, and Eric Newman. Congratulations to all in this class! Look for more news on this and the breakfast on the SPMC web site (www.spmc.org ) and in Paper Money. 

I returned to the bourse floor as it was opening after the SPMC breakfast. Activity began to pick up quickly. Friday proved to be a strong day.  We sold a lot of common and mid-range Confederate type notes and some significant rare varieties. A few obsolete notes left the case as well. We also had interest in our large cents for sale including the $10, $15, and $20 buckets which always pique interest and offer nice deals for those who just want a souvenir or a gift for a child to those who are building date sets. I had little time to get away from the table – many came by – and some sizable Confederate and obsolete deals for purchase by me also showed up.  Friday wound down and Joyce and I went to rendezvous to enjoy a great BBQ dinner.

Saturday saw the SPMC board meeting from 8AM till 10AM, keeping me away from the bourse floor for more than 1 hour. Joyce covered the table and said people were looking for me. Things picked up as the morning progressed with more purchases and sales of Confederate money along with a major rare Fugio Copper variety – N 12-LL – and some large cents too. Saturday afternoon saw me finally getting a little time to check with a few dealers looking for some scarce types and 1864 material. Also, my luggage arrived which I proceeded to bring down to the floor and unpack the table materials we needed as well as the SPMC tickets. At 4PM CDT, Lyn Knight and Mark Anderson kicked off the exhibits awards ceremony where I had the pleasure of announcing the SPMC exhibit awards.  Mack Martin won overall top exhibit from SPMC – congrats to him and the other winners as well.  Other organizations also present awards such as the International Bank Note Society.  See Paper Money and Bank Note Reporter for more news on this as well.

We planned a “Hall of Fame” celebration dinner Saturday night at Felicia Suzanne’s, a great steak and seafood place nearby.  Fourteen people attended including one of the three Hall of Famers alive – Peter Huntoon.  Significant others were invited as well and we had a great time catching up on new and old items in paper money and personally. 

Sunday saw a slower day as usual, but not dead.  I transacted several significant deals Sunday including more sales of a wide range of CSA type notes mostly under $200.  We began the breakdown process starting with the exhibit and moving to the table.  Mid-afternoon saw us at the Memphis airport. Luckily, we only had a one hour delay on the 2nd leg of the trip home.

We found this Memphis show to be stronger than the last 3 or so.  These shows are always good to us and always are fun.  We were glad to see some strength in terms of crowd, attendance at events, exhibits, and people buying and selling.  It’s always great to catch up with friends we don’t usually see at many other shows if any.  We look forward to 2015!

Pierre Fricke