R * E * V * I * E * W of the 6th Wall Street Collectors Bourse
The 6th annual Wall Street Collectors Bourse was a 3-day ‘pop-up’ expo, lectures and a “digital exhibit” in the main galleries of the Museum of American Finance, whose permanent exhibitions document the career of Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury, and the history of American financial markets.
As in previous Bourse shows, the fun is in viewing and trading coins, paper money, stock certificates, photographs and ephemera. This year two New York print dealers joined dealers and collectors who specialize in financial history. The crossover of images from coins to certificates to ‘fine art’ prints added to the excitement of discovering history through art. In addition to viewing and handling objects up close, digital images filled the “Big Screens” above the museum gallery, a live auction offered collectibles to the assembled and Internet audience, and four speakers gave special illustrated talks related to Alexander Hamilton and financial history.
Twenty-seven dealers and organizations participated in the 6th annual Wall Street Collectors Bourse. Many more attended the events as members of the general public. Any one of them can tell you the story of how collecting became a preoccupation that replaced a ‘day job.’ He or she might start the hobby assembling groups of coins or stamps. As you train your eye over time you encounter connections in other media: stock certificates, autographs, paper money, prints or commemorative medals. Sometimes it is the image itself that is the lure. Or the object might fill in a historical gap in your collection. Some collections are deep (Roman coins or U.S. coins only) and some are wide (anything relating to the Confederacy.) When you run out of space, a collector often morphs into a dealer.
A ‘TED” talk on Friday by Leonard Zax, President, Hamilton Partnership for Paterson, New Jersey, is a good example of a deep and wide interest in the life and career of the first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. On July 10, 1778, during the American Revolution the Great Falls on the Passaic River (77 feet high) were a natural curiosity that drew General George Washington, with his assistant Alexander Hamilton, and General Lafayette to pause there for a picnic. After the war Hamilton helped create the Society for the Establishment of Useful Manufactures to use the waterfall as a power source for American industry.
Over 80 Bourse participants and invited guests retired after the first day of the Bourse to the Down Town Associationfor a special dinner. The club’s four story building dating from 1877 features one of the finest print collections in a New York City club, primarily views of New York and shipping in the harbor in the nineteenth century. There Bourse founder John Herzog led the festivities and introduced Rand Scholet, founder in 2011 of the Alexander Hamilton Awareness Society (AHA) and Mariana Oller, Chair and AHA New England Chapter President, who presented the mission of the AHA Society. Mark Anderson, President, New York Numismatic Club, presented the Sixth ‘Friends in the Hobby’ Award to Mark Tomasko, researcher, collector and author of The Feel of Steel: The Art and History of Bank-Note Engraving in the United States.
Each day of the Bourse started with a continental breakfast. Tulis McCall led the Bourse team to set up tables, orchestrate complimentary breakfasts, snacks and lunches, and oversee the operation of the three-day event, which opened the Museum of American Finance and all Bourse activities to the general public compliments of the Bourse. This is the educational goal of the Bourse – to bring historical documents and expertise in financial markets and American history to the public. Numerous groups of high school students took advantage of the invitation.
Saturday, October 22, was a full day of the Bourse expo with a live auction also open to bidders via the Internet, organized by Archives International, Dr. Robert Schwartz, auctioneer. There were 372 lots in all categories of financial collectables from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. Of special interest was the visual connection between an 1849 stock certificate in the auction and the same New York waterfront scene depicted on prints on view by Bourse dealers Arader GalleriesandThe Old Print Shop. Thematically this is not a surprise – all the images refer to financial investments. The Ocean Steam Navigation Company was the first United States flag steamship company to offer regularly scheduled transatlantic service. Their first ship was named after George Washington. The U.S. government subsidized the line by awarding it mail contracts to be competitive with British companies. Above the ships and waterfront buildings we see the flagpole on the top of the U.S. Custom House, the site of Washington’s inauguration, now Federal Hall National Memorial. Today Federal Hall, 62 Wall Street, is one block from the Museum of American Finance at 68 Wall Street.
Joel Iskowitz, Coins and Medal Designer, talked from the contemporary artist’s point of view on “US Presidents on American Coins.” In his recent book, Keep the Change (Princeton Architectural Press April 2015), Spiller explains “why greenbacks are green, what happens to worn-out bills, how artists navigate the fine line between art and mutilation and whether it’s ever acceptable to burn money. This highly selective tour through currency legends and lore inspires readers to look with a new sense of wonder at the bills that pass through their hands every day.”
Also on October 22, Harley Spiller, author and the Museum of American Finance’s ‘Inspector Collector’ presented “Fun Facts for Kids” to the delight of future numismatists and kids of all ages.