Let’s admit it: Florida has a huge advantage in January. The weather is a pleasure! Instead of wrapping yourself up in a puffy coat and a thick scarf, you can spend your time by the pool in a T-shirt, enjoying a cup of tea or a cocktail depending on the time of day. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many coin dealers from all over the world love to travel to Florida for the FUN show in January, especially because it has much more to offer than great weather.
FUN is short for Florida United Numismatists. It’s an association of about 3,700 coin enthusiasts whose board organises two coin shows a year under the auspices of Cindy Wibker: one in January and one in the summer. These non-commercial events have established themselves as a major institution in the US. Whereas the location of the FUN show used to change every year, Orlando has now become its permanent venue. With about 620 exhibitors in 2023, the FUN show is likely to be the largest numismatic dealers fair in the United States. Dealers appreciate the excellent organisation and all the customers who are eager to spend their money. Visitors are pleased with the rich offer, especially regarding US coinage. After all, the FUN show’s forte is US coinage, North and Central American coinage as well as shipwreck coins. However, the participation of dealers in ancient coins and world coins would probably increase year by year if the organisers hadn’t limited the number of available booths. In fact, FUN can particularly be proud of one thing: the show is sold out to the last booth.
Florida Is Different
Those who travel to the FUN show from Europe have to adjust first – because Florida is Florida and presents its visitors with completely unexpected problems. This already starts at the airport. Those who expect to find a cab (or some sort of public transportation) will be disappointed. Florida is dominated by Uber, cabs practically don’t exist. Uber pushed them completely out of the picture. And that poses a problem to all those who – like me – haven’t used the Uber app yet. Let’s face the truth: if you try to set it up after a 10-hour flight, completely overtired, you’re predestined for failure.
I got lucky. Christoph von Mosch and his wife, who represented the Munich auction house Gorny & Mosch at the FUN show, saved me. (And barely a day and a half later, my phone and Uber finally had settled their issues.)
By the way, the FUN show is not held in down town Orlando but in the South where the big Disney and Universal theme parks are located. This means that visitors can choose from an impressive selection of gigantic hotels that come with any luxury an American family would want for their vacation. So don’t forget your swimsuit when you visit the FUN show. And perhaps, like me, you’ll meet a lot of beautiful young women there who wear sashes because they compete in a pageant. Yes, that’s Florida.
Hotels with hundreds of rooms and a convention centre that – with 650,000(!) square meters – is the second-largest in North America. All this requires visitors to be prepared to walk long distances, and to occasionally get lost. Those who expect a neatly organised convention centre, like I did, will take long detours and discover that the venue simultaneously houses a surfing trade fair, a packaging convention and the largest numismatic dealer show of the US. Fortunately, the janitors who are whizzing around on their scooters are happy to help lost journalists and tell them the way.
But even if you don’t get lost, your feet will definitely hurt by the evening. The halls are so incredibly big. But the US wouldn’t be the US if the organisers hadn’t thought of those who can’t walk that much. You can rent a wheelchair at the Convention Center and comfortably drive instead of walking.
Great Ideas and a Clear Concept
What can you expect from the FUN show? Well, first and foremost: US coins offered by hundreds of dealers from the whole of the United States. In addition, there’s a bargain section where collectors can find affordable coins. A great idea! Especially collectors think so. The bargain section is by far the busiest part of the show.
About two aisles are reserved for those who deal in what is called USA World Coins: coins from all epochs and areas, except the US. Here you can find a few familiar faces from Europe, and many more American dealers who simply did not specialise in US coinage.
Be it buyers or sellers, a lot of good things are said about the event by coin dealers. This is also due to the fact that Cindy Wibker systematically attracts an audience that is eager to buy. She has come up with numerous ideas for this purpose. One of them is particularly remarkable and worthy of emulation. The FUN show financially supports coin associations that organise trips to the event. An ingenious idea! Especially older (and often more solvent) coin collectors highly appreciate it if they don’t have to drive all the way to the FUN show themselves.
And younger generations are taken care of, too. FUN offers all sorts of activities. Besides a quiz, you can try your hand at gold panning – an activity that older generations were also happy to give a try. Benjamin Franklin and Abe Lincoln are also back and happy to be photographed with visitors.
There is an extensive exhibition area, which unfortunately isn’t as well attended as the coins on display would deserve. In addition, there’s a packed accompanying program with lectures and presentations.
Handing Over the Baton
One reason why the FUN show is so enjoyable is that everyone who helps make the event a unique experience doesn’t see it as a job but as a vocation. They don’t work for money but for honour and the pleasure of meeting coin enthusiasts from all over the world. Only their expenses are covered.
Cindy Wibker, the coordinator who has been mainly responsible for the show for years, says that all the volunteers are the reason for the great atmosphere at FUN. She’s the one who established the FUN show as an institution over the past 30 years. Now she thinks of retiring. With Katie Williams she has found a wonderful successor, and she’s currently introducing her to the task step by step. This year, Katie assists Cindy. Next time, Katie will be the one responsible while Cindy will assist her – an ideal form of cooperation that is facilitated by the fact that the two live close to each other.
By the way, Katie Williams isn’t an unknown figure in the numismatic world. She’s been a coin enthusiast since her youth and co-organised the Tennessee State Numismatic Society Coin and Currency convention.
Orlando Is More Than Disney, Universal Studios and Gatorland
Do you think that travelling to Orlando just to visit a coin fair is a bit of an overstretch? Well, Orlando is considered the most popular holiday destination in the USA and hosts 20 theme parks. For all those who –like me – are fed up with the matter after visiting just one of the parks: neighbouring Winter Garden offers some excellent museums and a city centre that is perfect for strolling. And I highly recommend visiting the Morse Museum to Art Nouveau aficionados. It houses the world’s largest collection of objects by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Its donors succeeded in purchasing the remains of Tiffany’s burned-down estate, which is why visitors can admire entire room ensembles that Tiffany had designed for himself. Particularly spectacular is the Tiffany Chapel, with which the famous glass manufacturer won many prizes at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.
Those who visit Winter Garden with the Scenic Boats from the water will understand why so many people choose this place as their second residence. The landscape is just beautiful.
So, a trip to Florida to visit the FUN show is definitely worth it. And what’s best: as stated above, you can leave your coat and scarf at home.
We created an event website for the FUN and the NYINC. There we shared pictures every day during the event as well as CoinsWeekly travel podcasts.
If you’d like to visit the FUN, why don’t you start by taking a look at their website.
By the way, we already visited the FUN show in 2018 and shared our experiences.