Patara. C. 400 BC.
AR Hemidrachm. the second known example.
Alexandria. Trajan, 98-117.
AE Drachm. Unicum.
Guglielmo Gonzaga, 1538-1587.
AR Grosso 1550.
Sberatel: The Place to Meet Czech Collectors
by Ursula Kampmann, translated by Maike Meßmann
Actually, all coin shows have become highly popular again after the Covid period. In-person encounters with a coin dealer, physically touching and viewing coveted coins – all these things seem to be appreciated again. This year, we experienced that at the New York International, the TICC in Tokyo, and I was curious to see whether there would be many more visitors at the Sberatel, too.
The Czech Collector Market
Every time I visit the Sberatel, I am overwhelmed by the sheer amount of collectors in front of the building, waiting for its doors to open. In the Czech Republic, collecting is still an integral part of daily culture, much more than it is the case in – let’s say – Germany, France or Spain. In Czechia, many people invest part of their money in coins, across all social classes.
Where do all the collectors come from? Well, as I said, mainly from Czechia and Slovakia. You will hardly hear anyone speak German in the halls, although Dresden is just a 1.5-hour drive away, Linz a 3-hour drive. Therefore, coin dealers from abroad need an interpreter at their booth. Well, at least if they want to make more conversation with potential clients than saying “this costs that much”.
Although there are international visitors, most of them were unfamiliar to me since the Sberatel is rather an important market place for coin dealers from eastern Europe to fill up their stock. They have much purchasing power and that means that – unlike a few years ago – sales are not limited to affordable pieces in the two-digit range. One dealer proudly told me that he sold several coins for sums in the middle four-figure range, and not only to dealers. A few collectors were also prepared to invest larger sums, he told me.
Customers are definitely eager to buy, especially contemporary issues. The Numismatic Office of the Vatican, offering Vatican coins, has recently returned to various coins shows. We saw them at the World Money Fair, the Numismata in Munich, the ANA’s World’s Fair of Money, but at no other fair have I seen such a long queue of customers that wanted to buy Vatican products!
Sberatel Means Collectors
The organisers, the brothers Petr and Jindřich Jirásek, have been organising the Sberatel for more than a decade now. They took over the event from their father. He came up with a concept that differs from most other coin shows. After all, there is a reason why the event is called “Sberatel”. Sberatel is the Czech word for collector – and the event is not aimed exclusively at coin collectors but at collectors in general. Although coins are the main attraction and take up most of the space, there is also a broad philatelic offer. Those who collect post cards, securities and antiques will also find interesting objects. And, by now, there is also a small separate room for fans of mineralogy and palaeontology. On Sunday, there is also a fair for records.
In the past, there was a similar fair in the German-speaking area. The wide-ranging concept was tested by a Stuttgart event. However, it did not work out. Perhaps this was due to poor timing as the demand for coins was at a low at the time. Or perhaps the concept did not work out because there are too many specialist events for every single field in Germany. Why would someone take a look at a small room with minerals if Europe’s largest mineral show takes place every October less than 200 kilometres from there? The Sberatel in Prague does not have as many competitors. It is the clear market leader.
By the way, this mixed concept also explains why there are quite a lot of women among the public. In addition to the fact that women do not have to pay entrance fees, there is no need for them to pass the time patiently waiting for their partners: there is so much to explore.
A Numismatic Show for a Broad Audience
And there is another important detail that makes the Sberatel different from traditional coin fairs. While the latter at best organise numismatic presentations, exhibitions or workshops, there are true events for the public in Prague.
For example, the 0-euro banknote issued in 2023 for the 75th anniversary of the Citroën 2CV. Of course, the sale of the popular banknote was an event in itself. Buyers waited for hours to get their hands on a specimen. Some of them brought camping stools for this very purpose.
In addition, fans could admire an actual Citroën 2CV in the exhibition room – the very car that racing driver Bára Holická and her colleague Lucie Engova, the sister of the only Czech Formula One driver Tomáš Enge, will soon drive at the Paris-Dakar Rallye. The two racing drivers were there in person. And the Sberatel issues sort of a sheet of stamps without denomination adorned with 2CV motifs. With events like these, the Sberatel reaches a far broader audience than traditional collectors. Those who are enthusiastic about the good old 2CV certainly enjoyed the activities.
In this context we also have to mention the appearance of Ondřej Moravec, Czechia’s most successful biathlete. He signed the collector’s post card that had been issued by Sberatel in collaboration with the Czech postal services.
Booth or Table? Which Dealers Will You Encounter at the Sberatel?
So, is the Sberatel primarily an event for small collectors who purchase contemporary collectibles for little money, hoping that they will eventually appreciate? Well, certainly not. In large booths at the entrance, you will find some major European auction houses that attract new customers with their auction catalogues and try to encourage them to consign pieces. Especially last year, business was brisk. This should not come as a surprise – after the long forced break, all the missed transactions of the Covid years took place at one single event. Now business has dropped to pre-Covid levels, a development that some participants seemed a little disappointed about.
The smaller dealers at the tables, on the other hand, were in high spirits. Many of them attend the fair every year and know exactly what goods to bring. This ensures good business. They also appreciate the wonderful framework of the event, held in Prague, the Golden City. And they love the family-like atmosphere at the Sberatel. Silvano Rossi, the experienced organiser of the Ludwigsburg coin fair, paid his colleagues a big compliment: “No matter how hectic it gets, they always take the time to personally welcome every single dealer. I feel very welcome here.”
And that is basically the essence of the Sberatel. You feel welcome there. Although the security regulations might not be completely up to date and the hall became uncomfortably hot at times, there was always a positive atmosphere, which makes many dealers and collectors return every single year.