Tales Of The Kennedy Madness
By now the entire numismatic world has heard of The Kennedy Madness that gripped thousands of people at the ANA’s World’s Fair Of Money, 2014.
I’m not going to talk about the Kennedy coins; there have been volumes said already, and my personal experience with them was limited to marveling at the hordes and once walking up and down the line of 750 people looking for friends in the line around 11pm.
That being said, the spectacle of the lines themselves were something to behold, and I enlisted the aid of two friends and fellow CoinTalkers, Joe Ceravone aka Jaceravone Ryan aka TravIntiques to tell the story. Each wrote a piece about their experiences sleeping on the sidewalk for a chance to get the gold, and all I can say is I’m glad it wasn’t me!
Joseph Ceravone: My Adventure (jaceravone)
My 2014 World’s Fair of Money Adventure
The 2014 ANA World’s Fair of Money will not be a show that I forget for a very long time. I had been looking forward to this show, not because of the release of the Kennedy coins, but rather this would be my very first show that I would be setting up as a dealer. We arrived at the show early Tuesday morning because we were afraid that long lines from the coin sales would prevent us from getting to our table in a timely manner. When we arrived at 6AM, a line had already formed around the south side of the convention center. We were told that it was already 500 people long. We had decided to stand on the other side of the line to avoid the madness, but this caused several confrontations within itself as many people thought we were trying to create our own line and create problems. A slight confrontation ensued and a dealer who I thought of as an acquaintance no longer will speak to me on a personal or professional level. I later heard that many friendships were ruined by this event.
This was the beginning of a week filled with madness.
That evening, my two buddies had decided that they were going to camp out and left for the convention center at midnight. I, on the other hand, enjoyed a nice peaceful nights rest in a comfy bed.
Wednesday morning was booming. Word had begun to spread about the big money that was being paid out for the Kennedy coins and the madness was only continuing to grow. My two buddies who spent the night outside reaped the rewards for their sacrifice and cashed in on their purchases. They had spent the night sleeping outside on the concrete and dealing with the crowds. It was so crazy that we weren’t sure whether or not any of us would do it again the following night. The decision was made for us as were walking out of the Heritage’s Auction at 7pm and we saw that the line was already 100 long. We had to do it! I needed to do it sort of as a badge of honor. This became my battle story. It will be told for generations to come.
One of my buddies who was already back at the hotel ran down and got in line before us. My other buddy and I ran back to the hotel to change and pack some “overnight” belongings. He was smart enough to grab a pillow, but we both snagged some of the blankets in the hotel which ended up being a smart decision. Another thing that was super helpful was that he was able to snag a discarded camping chair from the night before which allowed us to at least sit on something other than concrete.
We arrived in line around 8pm and found out that we were about 280-290 back. We knew this because for the first few hours of the evening, people were walking up and down the line taking count. The police were out in full force which helped with crowd control. In fact, the crowd did a really good job controlling itself. Everyone in line worked with the police to help eliminate line jumpers and trouble makers.
From 8pm to 12am it was one big social meeting. Everyone was having a good time chatting and drinking. We all got to know everyone within our part of the line. It was actually quite fun. We found our friend Amanda Varner walking up and down the line making fun of people she knew. We tried to recruit her to stay with us, but I think a comfy bed was calling her name. Once the 12am mark passed, the shit got real. This is when we saw who was a trooper and who wasn’t. People who weren’t in line started to make their way back to the hotels and those that didn’t know what they signed up for got a quick taste of reality. Then came the first phase of the line buy outs. From 12-2am people were selling their spaces in line for $400-500 cash. Two guys in front of us sold their spots for $400 cash each. It was around this time that my buddy Kevin decided to turn in for the evening and crashed. I was amazed the he could even sleep with all the stuff going on around him. I tried, but I just couldn’t get comfortable on the concrete. After 2am things really got quiet.
The convention center lights went out things started to slow down. The night really started to drag on. I was hoping to catch even a few hours sleep but just couldn’t make it happen. About 4am, my eyes couldn’t take it anymore. I must have dozed off because about 5am, I was awoken to the sounds of a few Muslim men praying behind us. The leader of the group was saying the prayers, but he was singing it. I have never heard something like this before. It was interesting to say the least.
About 6am, the line started moving again. People started to walk up and down the street trying to shake off the morning dew. The next few hours seemed to drag on but the fun was only starting to begin. We knew as people would start making their way from the hotels and try jumping in line. It was time to be on guard again. Throughout the night, we had this young couple behind us who flew up from Miami to be apart of the craziness. They were a cute couple and made a good team. He was the brains and she was the brawn. If anyone looked like they were up to no good, she was right there to call them out. We all had a good laugh about that. She kept everyone honest. As the line started to move, line jumpers were a constant problem. Fortunately with the group we had, no one was safe if they tried to cut.
Then came the second phase of the line buy outs. People had upped their price from $400 the night before to $700 that morning if you wanted to buy their space. Most people had no problem if you wanted to sell your space, but we did hear a few stories where after the transaction had occurred, the people in line ganged up on the line space buyers and got them kicked out. Fortunately, we heard everything worked out.
By this point everything was quite a blur. I believe it was around 9am that the line started moving steadily as we made our way into the convention center. Then we waited again. The original plans had the US Mint booth opening at 11, but given the circumstances of the long waits, I believe they opened around 10am. We slowly snaked our way around the maze that was set up, slowly making our way towards the convention’s bourse floor. It was now around 12:30 before our turn was up. As a last ditch effort, a few people were trying to buy spaces right at the door to the convention floor. Prices were up to around $800-900, but there were no takers in our group. By the time our time had come to purchase the coin, I had been standing in line over 16 hours. But it was not over….not by a long shot.
The US Mint decided, in an attempt to help facilitate the line for the gold Kennedy halves, to start selling the clad halves at 2PM each day. Not wanting to be shut out for the third day in a row, I ran back to my table, dropped off my loot and headed back to join the line, which by this time was already 50 back. With a limited release of 200 sets each day, and 2 per person, the line moved quickly. When it was all said and done, I had spent 17 hours standing in line for 3 coins which I sold in a matter of minutes after owning them. It was definitely something that I will never forgot but not something that I ever look forward to seeing again!
Ryan Stephenson: There And Back Again (TravIntiques)
Another ANA Chicago World’s Fair of Money report?!
Yes! Normally I wouldn’t write, but this was my first major show aside from Long Beach and the atrocities endured were far too many to not discuss! I knew it would be a tremendous pleasure and the chance to have the flight and lodging paid for with 1 or 2 gold Kennedy’s made it justifiable.
I booked a flight that landed at 5:30 AM on the 5th, which seemed like a perfect time to grab a cab and get in line for my credentials and then pop into the Gold line! We drove past the Convention Center on the way to Motel 6 and the cab driver couldn’t believe all the crazy people lined up; he laughed and said it’s never, ever been this bad before. My stomach churned a little as my chances diminished….but it would still be fun!
I walked back from the Motel to get in line just as a few people were doing headcounts, I was around #660. No gold today, but still needed the “creds”. The people in front of me were very nice and mentioned that they were being paid $300 for this, but didn’t know anything about coins. I told them they had sold their soul and to throw away that contract ASAP! They were still great company, told me a few things (like how the first folks in line had time stamps written on their hands) and let me have the last doughnut that was being passed around by their employer.
After a few hours I finally jumped into the line for ANA credentials and received a free magnifier and AMOS half dollar slab. Freebies!!! I decided to wander the bourse floor and traded a Baseball HOF Clad that I had brought with me for a nice (but cleaned) EF+ 1864 2 Cent Piece, lightly toned EF 1906 Indian Cent and a 1945 AU War Nickel. Great trade and the dealer was happy to have the Baseball for his table too. Having slept only 2 or 3 hours on the red-eye, I started back to the motel, but stopped to sit for a while and remembered the Mint booth was going to be selling the Kennedy Clads! Time to recoup some expenses.
The lines were tricky; 1 to view products and place your order, another to pay for it. I was in front of some annoying dealer/profiteers that made me realize how big this had become. They were bribing others to get in line and trying to buy some “jade” tickets from the people in the gold Kennedy line. The ones I saw were green tickets on day 1 and were called “jade” instead of “green” or “emerald” because of the nationality of the people that were bused in to get so many of them. Not my words. I went through the line twice before sell out, bought 4 Clad sets for $40 and ran them over to SilverTowne for $160.
Time for bed, there were already a few people lining up for tomorrow, but I couldn’t hack it! Before leaving, I asked a police officer what the protocol was going to be for tomorrow; he said the line would start no earlier than 6AM. At 10:00 PM, I heard a bunch of commotion outside of my motel room and saw the people had ANA credentials!!! I threw on my clothes and ran out the door just as some other folks were returning. They were going back to bed and told me “the guy” was numbering people and writing out time stamps. No need to stand in line! They received their stamps and “the guy” was around person #300, so I started running as fast as I could to get in line before #500!
I found a fellow getting into his car and feeling out of breath, I gave him $20 to get me to the Convention Center. I could have been a crazy ax murderer for all he knew, but he said yes…..guess he could have been the crazy ax murderer for all I knew too. A nice group of ladies saw me wandering around frantically and pointed me in the direction of the “time stamp guy” who had been moved across the street by the police. He and his friends debated if I should be stamped. “The COPS aren’t looking, give him one” said a member of the gaggle. “Ok”, as he pulled out a Sharpie; “10:30 #350, now you can go back to bed”. I asked if this was official and if he worked for the Mint. “We’re going to all come back in the morning and join the line in this order” he said…..but something smelled fishy.
Pacing around I saw one of my line-mates from earlier that day, they tried to get a stamp too and see what was going on. We heard that the “guy” wrote #1 on his hand and so we figured it was most likely bogus! They gave me a wet-nap to wipe the ink off in case the Mint would call me out on it. Can you imagine all of those people who went to bed that night thinking they were SET, 300+! And the first line was forcibly removed! The line still couldn’t form in front of the convention center legally until 6AM, so we sat in front of the Hilton and told stories.
The line was starting to grow at both ends and complaints arose, we wanted the police to know where the front was, but around 2:30am the police just said “OK, everyone cross now”. The worst thing you could say to a crazy crowd!!! Everyone RAN and I fell and skinned my knees, but didn’t get trampled thank goodness. I went from #8 in the unofficial line to #300(+/-) which wasn’t fun, but under 500 means….. GOLD!!!!!! The line was pretty rowdy and the police had to shout “Out of the street or back of the line”, they even threatened to cuff a few of the complainers.
After a little sleep and staring blankly for a few hours, the sun came up and we were herded into the cattle line for our gold. I was between a commune of yoga people and a former trader from the Chicago MERC. We all did some Buddhist chants to get our chakras in order or some such thing. After some free sandwiches from the yoga folk’s employer and more cattle prodding, by 1:00PM we had GOLD. I sold mine and went straight to the motel. By 7:00PM it was back to the line, this time my line-mates were former ANA President Gary Lewis & his Son who flew in from Florida!
We were in “the #300 club” and guaranteed gold. It was a blast talking coins with him during our 13 hour odyssey and @Amanda Varner came by at dusk to check the front lines, it was great! But around 2:30AM they turned the sprinklers on and everyone was hit, our sidewalk was soaked and the ground was mud, so most elected to sleep in the street at this point. We were joking that this is what our lives in Numismatics had come to! We were honestly deciding whether we wanted to sleep in the mud and freeze or sleep in the street and risk getting run-over.
One of our new friends slept in the street with a white blanket, which his brothers quickly pulled over his face whenever a video camera came past. It looked like a refugee camp and we were throwing our dead that had succumb to the elements into the street. Many plans were made to flash-mob and dance “gangnam style” when cameras came by.
As dawn broke, Mr. Lewis and I went up the street collecting trash in the black garbage sack I had slept on, but 1 bag was not enough. The line began to move, I told another line-mate that if you felt dead inside, that meant we were almost at the end of our journey and we survived as a band of brothers and sisters together. A small glimmer of hope shined in our life-less stares, our bodies were there, but our spirits were not. A 2nd Gold Kennedy brought back some hope, but after selling it, exhaustion had set in, I needed real sleep and walked back even though I saw a line starting to form already for tomorrow. After a couple hours I struggled with the idea of dragging my corpse back to the line. It was too good to pass up, but upon my arrival, the line was gone!
A joyous message was posted, we were free:
I took a cab this time back to the motel. The driver said she heard a guy was robbed at gunpoint in the bathroom (likely false), and a kid had turned purple in the line and needed to be taken to the hospital! I finally ate some real food that night and couldn’t wait to actually SEE the show in the morning!
And ran into my new friend, former ANA President Gary Lewis:
Took a 2 person “selfie” with @Amanda Varner on her phone…
At the airport I found Gary Lewis and his son again! Small world, it turns out we’re going to Dallas together! He told me that after a few back room meetings, the ANA decided that these new releases at shows should never happen again.