VOL. XV No. 2
Phone Cards: A Direct Tie to Numismatics
By Lee Quast, World Paper & Numismatics
While phone cards have some of the usual elements of numismatic items – intrinsic value, colorful and beautiful, easy to carry and handle. There are some which have a direct tie to numismatics in that they are issued at and commemorate numismatic shows. The subject pictured on the card usually is an item which relates it to the show, the object of the show and often the location of the show. Phone cards are also individually numbered which give them a distinction and another collecting variety.
Commemorative show phone cards have been regularly issued since the first ones made their appearance at the Baltimore ANA show in 1993. A current listing of all known show cards has over 175 issues and varieties. Also included are errors, mistakes and a variety which adds to the complexity and fun of collecting as it does with coins, tokens, and paper money.
Show cards also have a variety of shapes and materials. While most are similar in size and shape to a plastic credit card, others do exist. One of the FUN ’97 card is actually made like a poker chip of similar material and size. It is called a Telechip. A very recent issue from the 1998 1st West Coast – Buena Park Coin & Collectible Show is a round card almost three inches in diameter. It pictures the 1913 Liberty Head Nickel and is packaged with a metal dollar-size replica of the 1913 Nickel. There are also several “Jumbo” cards which are two to three times the size of a regular card.
Some cards like the 1994 ANA cards issued by Ameritech are puzzle issues. Cards which must be put side-by-side to see the entire picture. That style is also used on the 1995 East Coast Expo cards. Other cards are made in a cut-out style 00 the shape of an object, structure or scene. These are very popular among collectors, but I am unaware of any show cards that are cut-outs. A show in Minnesota, the 63rd Annual Northwest Coin Show was the first to have an embedded item incorporated in the standard size card. It has an elongate cent from the Northwest Coin Club.
A very popular topic for cards is paper money. They are a natural due to the shape of the standard cards. The detail and color can be very well reproduced. I would say it is the single most popular subject for a numismatic phone card. An interesting variety was created for the 1997 ILNA-Central States Coin Show in Illinois. The card was ordered with the $5.00 Lincoln “porthole” note pictured. Five hundred cards were delivered with the note colored maroon. The promoter requested a correction, but sold both issues to make it a neat two-card set basically for the price of one!
One problem I see for the future of collecting these beautiful cards is that so few are issued for many of the show. The largest issue of a single card is 19,008 for the complimentary card issued by Ameritech at the 1994 ANA show in Detroit. Everyone who registered for the show received a free card. They were not all given away and these cards are relatively easy to obtain from numismatic card dealers. The next largest issue is the companion to the free card. It was on sale at the show and 6,000 were made. The quantity drops off dramatically from there. Today 500 cards is a large issue for a show. Sometimes 1,000 are issued for ANA or Long Beach shows, but very often only 100 cards are issued at other shows. The fewest of any known standard show card is 50 cards. Some shows will have a Jumbo card also issued with very limited printings. The 1998 FUN show has a Jumbo with only 35 made. The rarest card known is an error card from the February 1998 Collectorama Show at Lakeland, Florida. Six of the 100 printed have been discovered to have a spelling error in the town name. This is a very puzzling error and needs some research.
With some shows having few cards issued, it will be very difficult to obtain a full set. Many cards are still on the market and can be found, but not for long. But anyone can start now and easily obtain all show cards issued for future shows.
This article was written by Lee Quast of World Paper and Numismatics who catalogs numismatic show phone cards. He also offers a subscription service for his quarterly listing and future show cards.