A Visit to the MIF International Money Fair

by Sebastian Wieschowski

Valkenburg Aan de Geul is not only an idyllic small town in the Dutch province of Limburg, the name itself has been used synonymously for one of the most important banknote fairs in the world since 1986.

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Shortly before the opening, numerous collectors, dealers and interested parties were eagerly and patiently awaiting admittance. Photo: Sebastian Wieschowski.

Shortly before the opening, numerous collectors, dealers and interested parties were eagerly and patiently awaiting admittance. Photo: Sebastian Wieschowski.

MIF, On an Upward Path

For dedicated collectors, it wasn’t just the name of Valkenburg, but also the name of the former venue (“Polfermolen-Halle”) which had a quaint provincial and memorable sound. This was just some of the reasons why the “Paper Money Show” in the Netherlands has developed over the past decades from just an insiders tip to a globally relevant must-attend show for dealers and serious collectors alike. With a recent move to the modern “Maastricht Expositie en congres centrum” and a re-branding to “MIF International Money Fair”, organizer Dimitri Waltmans has made his aim clear. He has confidently made it clear the MIF is now without a doubt in the same league as the “World Money Fair” in Berlin or the “World’s Fair of Money” in the USA.

The inviting atmosphere of the exhibition hall created a pleasant and comfortable venue for collectors. Photo: Sebastian Wieschowski.

The inviting atmosphere of the exhibition hall created a pleasant and comfortable venue for collectors. Photo: Sebastian Wieschowski.

Fans From All Over the World

From all accounts, Waltmans seems to have succeeded in his quest. At the most recent MIF which takes place twice a year, over 220 dealers arrived in Maastricht to participate in the autumn show from the 23rd – 24th September. Many of them taking advantage of the “Pre Show” entrance ticket the days before and for alot of those dealers, the show was spread over a duration of six days. “Collectors in attendance used to be very local, now the audience is very international,” says Waltmans looking back on the development of the show. Whether in the exhibition hall, in the parking lot in front of the venue or during the evening spent in the old town – it became very clear in Maastricht that the exchange of banknotes was the main attraction and activity for people from all over the world during that week. This year, an impressive 64 nationalities were represented, including dealers far afield as Asia, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand and with one exhibitor from New Caledonia. He is now the record-holder in terms of distance travelled to the MIF.

Banknotes on offer were widely varied. Shown here are Graded specimens and banknote bundles which were particularly popular. Photo: Sebastian Wieschowski.

Banknotes on offer were widely varied. Shown here are Graded specimens and banknote bundles which were particularly popular. Photo: Sebastian Wieschowski.

What Every Banknote Collector’s Heart Desires

At this year’s MIF autumn show, just about everything was on display that any banknote collector’s heart could desire. Magnificent banknotes from the West African colonies, perfectly displayed in sealed graded holders of leading US certification services and appropriately priced in five-figures upward. Also on display were originally packaged banknote bundles in brick form (appropriately referred to as “Bricks”) and French assignats from the years before the revolution (which were available from a reasonable 7.50 euros) From the very expensive to the ever-present junk boxes full of coins and banknotes from around the world (some of these items were sold on the last day of the fair by the kilo). There was also the widely popular zero-euro souvenir bank notes. A visit to the trade fair was certainly an entertaining experience for beginner to dedicated collectors alike. Speaking of beginners, for many years, trade fair organizer Dimitri Waltmans has had an open invitation for school classes from the surrounding area to visit. This makes perfect sense because the beautifully designed notes with magnificent colours and unique security & special effects would certainly be of interest to younger generations. Banknotes also cover an array of many topics such as animals, the environment or the latest technology which many youngsters are always interested in.

During the autumn show of the MIF, everything was on display that any banknote collector's heart could desire. Here for example, euro banknotes...

During the autumn show of the MIF, everything was on display that any banknote collector’s heart could desire. Here for example, euro banknotes…

…and older notes of the Ivory Coast: Photos: Sebastian Wieschowski.

…and older notes of the Ivory Coast: Photos: Sebastian Wieschowski.

A Fair With a Family Feel

Despite the international relevance of the MIF and it’s significant level of expansion (220 exhibitors corresponded to an increase of 30 percent compared to the previous year) as well as demonstrating a high degree of dealer and collector expertise, the event has managed to keep a family feel to the organisation. That might have been due to the fact many of the assistants are old school friends of Dimitri’s and who also grew up in Maastricht. The design of the hall also contributed to the cozy and collector-friendly mood with wide isles, open-space arrangements of the tables, plus carpeting and ceiling lighting with subtle violet tones of colour. This combination of ambience was not only well received by dealers and visitors alike, but also by other trade fair organizers such as Götz- Ulf Jungmichel, recently appointed director of the World Money Fair earlier this year. He was an invited special guest of the Dutch trade fair organizers in Maastricht and took the opportunity during his visit to offer high praise of the work and effort of Dimitri Waltmans and his team.

Historical banknotes and assignats were especially in great demand. Photo: Sebastian Wieschowski.

Historical banknotes and assignats were especially in great demand. Photo: Sebastian Wieschowski.

Anyone attending the MIF purely as a collector or non-dealer to Maastricht will soon discover that the show is primarily a B2B fair. However, and despite the rush of tens of thousands of visitors filing past the doors similar to that of the World Money Fair in Berlin, collectors at every level will feel at ease and not out of place – which is quite a good thing. The reason for this is because attendants soon discover the ability to talk shop calmly with dealers and other collectors alike for hours while strolling through the isles in an endless loop, repeatedly finding something new and interesting. There were popular collector areas such as the zero euro banknotes which were almost a marginal phenomenon. Instead, the focus for this year’s show was on classic banknotes from past centuries. The event was rounded off by lectures from specialists Royal Dutch Joh. Enschedé, the security printing company who produce official documents, stamps and banknotes. Also popular was the on-site grading service offered by the certification experts “PMG” and afterward, an auction conducted by “Stacks Bowers” in conjunction with the show.