TICC: The Best Organised Coin Show in the World
by Ursula Kampmann, translated by Maike Meßmann
Sometimes it takes a look outside the box to get some inspiration for how the coin show of the future might look like. The TICC in Japan certainly has some fresh ideas to offer. Ursula Kampmann reports on what she experienced in Tokyo.
I admit it, I was nervous before I set out to attend the Tokyo International Coin Convention (TICC). I had watched many documentaries about Japan, read numerous books and all of them emphasised that Japan is still very different from the multicultural mix we encounter in most countries around the world today.
The Location: The Royal Park Hotel
The Royal Park Hotel is located next to a bus station, connecting the hotel with the Narita International Airport every half hour. Those who arrive by plane cannot miss the big ticket counter with its friendly staff. You get onto your bus right outside the door of the airport and, after a ride of about one hour, you will arrive in Tokyo, 50 meters from the hotel. The Royal Park Hotel is a typical Japanese hotel complex with 20 floors and many different restaurants, a Japanese garden, some stores in the basement, direct access to one of the numerous metro lines, and a small Shinto shrine that is carried through the city during the annual festivities. By Japanese standards, the hotel offers rather large rooms.
The Royal Park Hotel is located in the middle of a somewhat traditional neighbourhood. Those who want to go out for a quick walk in the evening can still see how typical Japanese cakes filled with sweet red bean paste are made. In small side streets, you can find tiny restaurants that offer local specialties (no, I did not eat poisonous pufferfish; there are much better options). Stationer’s offer handmade miniature sculptures like those set up on Children’s Day for boys, Tango no Sekku. Beautifully filled bento boxes are for sale everywhere and you will regret not being hungry enough to try everything. And right next door is an earthquake-safe shrine, which is mainly visited by young families to ask the gods to protect their children.
A Result of Exemplary Cooperation
But you are probably be rather interested in Japan’s numismatic life than in my fascination with traditional Japan. And the TICC is something very special – after all, it represents the entire numismatic world of Japan. The Japanese Coin Dealers Association is the official organiser. However, during the opening ceremony in Japanese and English, the chairman of this association was not the only one to welcome the guests. He was joined by the new director of the Mint of Japan and the chairman of the Japanese paper money production. Just like the World Money Fair, the TICC also features one country as its guest of honour. This year it was Singapore, in 2024 it will be France with the Monnaie de Paris.
Coin collectors’ associations – and there are quite a lot of them in Japan – also help to make the TICC unique. They contribute to the major exhibitions supported by the museum of the Japan Mint, which bring together objects of outstanding importance. Moreover, their members give two well-attended lectures, after which some collectors present the top pieces of their collections and personally discuss them with visitors. And this brings us to the crucial element: the public.
The Visitors: Japanese Collectors
If you have never been to the TICC, you will not believe that there are still such interested visitors out there. Conversations did not focus on value or grades but rather on the history behind the coins, especially when it comes to world issues. Many Japanese collectors told me that they used coin images to learn about European history. They ask themselves: why is this very image depicted on this coin? One question leads to another until they understand the exact historical background of a coin.
Collectors with highly varied financial means visit the show. They are attracted by all the beautiful coins on the dealers’ trays. There are both low-priced offers for beginners and extremely rare pieces for top-notch collectors.
What surprised me most were all the children and families that came into the hall to take a look and make some purchases. A grandfather with his grandson, two girlfriends pushing their offspring into the hall in a stroller – they all examined the exhibitions with interest, bought something in the adjacent coin dealers’ hall and proved that coin collecting has a great future in Japan.
Gekkancoins Special Issue – a Great Success
We at CoinsWeekly had prepared a printed special issue of our Japanese website Gekkancoins for this event. When I first saw the huge boxes with the 2,500 booklets piled up behind our table, I was a bit shocked. However, by the first day we had already distributed 1,200 copies – and that with about 1,500 visitors, according to the organisers. In fact, we saw how much visitors enjoyed taking a copy with them. In Japan, people are still highly interested in printed information. Therefore, some collectors came back to us later to take home a second or third copy for fellow collectors that could not attend the coin fair. And some told me that they are already avid readers of our Japanese newsletters. In the end, we had about 200 copies left. Most of them will go to the upcoming coin fair in Osaka to be distributed among collectors.
Coin Dealers and Mints
Thanks to the organisers, the CoinsWeekly booth was right at the entrance to the dealers’ hall, an ideal position for our purposes. To give you an overview, the TICC is roughly divided into three areas: In the entrance area, in addition to the reception desk, there is a large hall where lectures are held. From there, a door leads to the hall where mints and exhibitions are located. You then have to cross this hall to get into the largest room where coin dealers go about their business.
This hall was always extremely crowded except for the few hours just before the event closed! And this despite the fact that the organisers had actually planned with pleasantly wide aisled between the various exhibitors. In addition to Japanese local players, who are primarily found here, many international auction houses have been attending the fair for many years. By now, some of them even have Japanese staff or a small branch office in Tokyo. Furthermore, of course, the most important dealers from Asia can be found. And we have to stress it once again: the quality of the material they bring is impressive, which might be due to the low theft rate in the city.
It should be mentioned that the security issue, which is of increasing concern in Europe and the US, does not yet play a role here. On the contrary! These two examples speak for themselves: While I keep a tight grip on my purse at all times during the World Money Fair in Berlin and panic if I lose sight of it for a moment, in Tokyo, I left it unguarded at my table while I helped myself to the breakfast buffet, for example. And every other hotel guest did the same. Here the second example: A colleague told me that he forgot to empty his hotel safe when he left. He had not even set foot in the event hall when the hotel staff contacted him about it. This mere feeling of security, of being surrounded by friendly and honest people is worth a trip. (By the way, this honesty has its limits when it comes to umbrellas! Therefore, you will find lockable wardrobes for umbrellas in Tokyo.)
Anyway, if you want to try what business is like and book a table at the TICC, you have to wait for a long time. There is a waiting list. So it might be a good idea to first come as a visitor without your own table to meet the most important players. In Japanese society, personal connections are of utmost importance. And to build personal connections, you need to be there in person.
Lottery and Special Issue
The TICC cooperates with the Japanese Red Cross, which receives donations from the event. For this purpose, there is a very popular lottery in aid of the Red Cross, with attractive prizes donated by coin dealers. It is highly appreciated and the tickets sell out quickly. Every day, all prizes had been given out long before the event ended.
Moreover, a special issue dedicated to the Red Cross was sold at the TICC, which brings us to the last section of my report: the exemplary organisation.
The Best Organised Coin Show in the World!
The sale of the special issues took place on Saturday, and there was a huge crowd. The organisers rose to the challenge: When I went to my table shortly after 9 a.m., the first people were already waiting. But they did not wait in the lobby or in the dealers’ hall where they would block the way of other collectors. Instead, the organisers set up an area in the lecture room for interested people to wait and buy the issue. As you know it from airports around the world, there was a cordoned-off lane where one or two hundred collectors lined up before the sale started, some of them quietly standing in line, others sitting on the floor reading.
A Hub in the Asian Network
The TICC impressed me for various reasons. One of them is that it is a crucial event to maintain a network with the most important Asian players. Therefore, I certainly recommend attending the TICC – with or without a table – to all those who are interested in expanding their network in Asia.
Oh yes, we at CoinsWeekly already registered for the TICC 2024. And we will obviously publish another Gekkancoins Special Issue.