By Steve Carr
We exhibit our collection every time we show someone a coin or piece of currency from our collection. There are also more formal places to show what you have. These more formal exhibits can be as simple as a single coin, a complete set, or a smattering of interesting coins. These more formal exhibits might be shown at a bank, a mall, a museum, a local coin club meeting, or a coin show. This type of exhibit usually has a theme and demonstrates this theme using numismatic material.
Exhibits at coin shows are usually competitive. In most national and regional shows, judges read the exhibits and rank them according to established rules. This is also done at many state and some local shows. In some local shows, show attendees vote for their favorite exhibit. In others, exhibits are not judged at all. Exhibit cases are usually supplied and, in some cases, must be used. In other cases, you may use your own case, if you desire.
The rewards for exhibiting are great! I just love to show and share my coins and currency.
Exhibiting is a neat means of doing this. Exhibiting allows me to "show-off' my collection and I get to "show off' for people who can appreciate them. Exhibiting also forces me to study my coins~ and become a more knowledgeable numismatist. Other rewards include ribbons or plaques, medals (ANA gives each exhibitor a nice medal), gold and silver coins (Central States presents gold coins to the top 3 places in each class) and money (the Kansas Numismatic Association offers $50 for 1st place and $25 for 2nd place). But the best reward is getting comments from people who have read my exhibit and liked it.
Preparing a successful exhibit is not difficult. In fact, the process can be broken down into easy-to-follow steps Putting together a successful exhibit can be as easy as a-b-c. Well, almost....
1) Choose a theme for your exhibit. The theme is the story of the exhibit. This can be the most fun - and most frustrating - part. What do you have to show? How is your display significant? Your theme might be a Sheldon set of Classic Head cents, a series of coins demonstrating die state progressions, the pedigree of a coin (or coins), or a collection of mint errors. It might also be a collection love tokens, a "color" collection, or a coinr that is significant in any way. The theme can be anything that interests you.
2) Gather information on your theme. This can be as simple as telling a story about the coin(s). Usually, however, it involves finding information about the coins in numismatic literature. There is a lot of information available about any coin or piece of currency and, if you look hard enough, it is amazing what you can discover. You probably will uncover more information than you can use in the display, but that unused knowledge is not lost. You have gotten smarter through your research and this knowledge will help guide what you do in the exhibit.
3) Sort out your information and write your story. If your story is more than a paragraph long (and it should be!), make sure you can break it up into smaller segments. Lots of continuous text in an exhibit is not good! Try different fonts and text sizes. Size 12 font is usually as small as you should go. Smaller font sizes make it difficult to read the display. Print out a copy your story, preferably on photo paper. It looks nicer than regular paper and does not curl at the edges when it gets warm (which can happen in a display case).. Now make a border (or two) for your text. Any complimentary color will work. Next, determine how your coins will be displayed with this information. A pencil sketch of text and coin locations works fine. Make sure you have a good mix of numismatic material and information. Finally, choose a title. Make sure the title tells a viewer what the exhibit displays. Since you have already written the exhibit, the title should be easy to determine.
4) Make the exhibit components. Cut a piece of cardboard, plywood, or plastic to make a display board (32 1/2" X 20 '/2"). This size board will fit snugly inside a standard display case (see picture at the end of this blog). Choose a background color for your display. Complimentary color(s) will be used to highlight the coins and text. Make sure the colors do not clash with each other or your display will look like a bizarre color fest (for example, a copper display with an orange background complimented with dark brown highlights - do not do this!). Buy a piece of material (36" X 24") in the background color Wrap it around your display board and tape it in place. You can. also use poster board, thin plastic, or another type of cover. Congratulations, you just completed the background for your display. Use the complimentary color(s) as a border for your text, title, and anything else that may need highlighted. Coins can be displayed flat on the background board or can be raised, using a wide variety of components to make the base. Raising a coin makes it more visible and attractive. If coins are being displayed with a paper background, use only acid free paper. Feel free to use contemporary items to make your display more attractive. An antique loupe or book can make your exhibit more appealing, but do not go overboard. Photographs can also be used.
5) Assemble the exhibit. Put your printed text and numismatic material on the background board. Does it all fit? The display should not be too crowded or have too much open space. Can you cut out material if it is too crowded? Add material if it is too open? Do you need a second exhibit case? When assembling the exhibit, try to draw attention to the coins themselves. Arrange the text and numismatic material until you are satisfied with the exhibit. Let the exhibit sit for a couple of days, then look at it again. Should anything be rearranged? Is material repeated? Are any words misspelled? Does it meet the rules for exhibiting? Have a friend look at your exhibit. Listen to any comments. Make changes. Try putting the exhibit together in a display case. Make modifications and changes as needed.
6) Enter your exhibit in a show. Shows require advance registration for exhibits. Be sure you register in time. There are also usually established "set up" and tear down" times. As a bonus, these usually let the exhibitor get into the bourse early. If these times are not convenient for you, be sure to make alternate arrangements with the Exhibit Chairperson. An exhibitor who is late may not be allowed to set up their exhibit.
7) Look at the other exhibits at the show. How do they compare with yours? Can you incorporate any ideas from the other exhibits into yours? Remember, an exhibit is a work in process. It can always be improved. Often, I will enter an exhibit in a small local show, listen to comments, improve the exhibit, and then show it at another, larger show. It is poor taste, however, to enter the same exhibit more than once at the same show. You can show the same coins and tell the same story, but at least change the look of the exhibit.
Three final points. First, be sure to list your sources. This is usually done with a stand-alone text sheet at the end of the display. Second, do not identify yourself in the exhibit. Exhibits are supposed to be anonymous. While judges and viewers may already know who you are, do not break the rules of etiquette by announcing yourself. Third, You can assemble an exhibit in a couple of hours. The majority of the time spent making an exhibit is done researching, organizing information, and writing your story. I usually spend at least 20 hours preparing an exhibit, sometimes as many as 40. Plan your time accordingly.
Show the world what you collect. Be proud of your coins. Your display represents a goal you have completed, are reaching toward, or it may just tell an interesting story. These coins are significant to you. Make them significant for others.