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Back to Road Report Archive 2012

April 17-21, 2012: The Central States Numismatic Society Convention in Schaumburg, IL


April 17th:  Prologue

This week’s blog will be a departure in several ways from our typical CRO Road Report.

First off, it will not be written by John Agre, since he is in Arizona at this moment traveling with his family during school vacation week.

Which means that I (Dave W.) will have the honor of writing for you this week. Actually, that is not entirely true. While it is a great honor to write the Road Report for you, gentle reader, that honor is going to be shared for a day with a friend and customer of ours. So you will have the benefit of seeing the CSNS show through the eyes of an experienced, active collector.

Another change from our normal routine came about just yesterday when a dealer friend told me he was in need of additional manpower at his table this week. Naturally, I volunteered my teenage daughter (who was also enjoying her school vacation this week) to help him out. Much to my surprise, both my daughter and my dealer friend went for the idea. So my daughter will now see first-hand the glamour and excitement of the coin business from the inside looking out.

And glamour I expect, since CSNS is always a great show and the venue here in Shaumburg is tailor made for a coin show of this size. The facility is self contained, with plenty of free parking, and it is in the heartland of the US – where they grow collectors 10 deep in the rich farmland of the Midwest.

Add to this a top notch auction put on by the nice folks at Heritage, and you have the recipe for one great coin-filled week that will be described here everyday in “real time” for your reading pleasure.

April 18th:  Day 1

After having the usual fun during set-up (two partially full cups of coffee spilled; lights that didn’t work; dealers descending on the table to look at coins while I was still getting set up, etc.), I was ready for action just a few minutes after the PNG Day opened to “Invited Guests Only”.

On the plus side, John and I have always disagreed as to how many lights should be focused on our display cases. He always opts for the traditional “one light per case” approach, while I, on the other hand, prefer so many lights that viewers can actually see into the souls of our coins.

So with John not here to object, I set up so many lights that I heard that the streetlights in neighboring Chicago dimmed ever so slightly when I plugged them all in.

Through poor planning on my part, I missed the PNG set-up, which occurred last night while I was in transit. To find out what I had missed, I asked a neighboring table how the PNG set-up day was for business. The response I received was: “Dead”.  I cannot swear to the veracity of that succinct analysis, but it did make me feel a little better.

PNG Day has always been hit-or-miss for us in the past. I’m pleased to report that this year’s event was “a hit”. Sales were quite good, and I made some excellent purchases from fellow dealers as well. Sales likely exceeded purchases in total, though to be honest I didn’t yet add them up. There was also serious interest expressed by several parties in the most expensive coin we have on display, though no one has pulled the trigger as of this moment.

After the bourse, I headed back to my room to wait for the auction to begin, but on the way I noticed a large group of dealers in the lobby bar eating hors d’oeuvres, drinking cocktails and generally carrying on in a loud and festive way. That’s when I remembered the cocktail reception hosted by NGC for all PNG dealers (thank you Numismatic Guaranty Corporation!).

I did my part in support of those activities, then headed straight to the auction. There I bought several of the lots we had targeted in Session One, and noted that the bidding and the prices realized were slightly ahead of my expectations. Also, the successful bids were spread around to many different bidders, which is also a change from many of the auctions we’ve attended recently.  Not sure what that means exactly, but it seems to be a sign of a healthy market.

With a good first day under my belt, I anxiously await tomorrow’s big adventure.

April 19th:  Day 2

In the category of “And now for something completely different“, today’s Road Report has been written by experienced collector, PCGS chatroom fixture and long-time friend of the firm Robert Kanterman, whose contribution begins right now:

Your guest author woke up, like on any other weekday, worked out at 5:30 AM, showered, dressed, ate breakfast with his children and drove his son to school.  But unlike any other weekday, I did not proceed west and go to the office, but instead, turned back in the other direction and headed to the airport to fly to Chicago for a whirlwind one day (if that) visit to the 2012 CSNS coin show.

One might ask what would compel someone to attend an out of town coin show for such a short time, and I had several reasons to do so:  there were coins to sell, others to view to potentially purchase, 20 coins from my collection that I wished to have professionally photographed, friends to meet and greet, and contacts to establish and reconnect.

Even more important, I learned that with John A. not in attendance and Dave W. working overtime to fill the void, there was an opening in the author line-up for the CSNS 2012 Road Report.  Being the good friend that I am (and with the expectations of substantial future discounts), I volunteered for this vital assignment.

Along the way, I have taken great pain to seek out the unusual extra-numismatic experiences and observations that JA always seems to have and make. Bizarre cab drivers, unusual interior design, extraordinary interactions with civilians, travel foul-ups, and I sadly am going to report that there were none. I can draw three possible conclusions for this:

  1. JA is a magnet for this stuff.
  2. My powers of observation are not nearly keen enough.
  3. This stuff never happens to me.

At any rate, I arrived at the destination in lovely Schaumburg(no h) around 1 PM, anticipating time to drop coins off for photography and lot viewing at Heritage prior to the show’s official opening at 2PM.

From the collectors’ perspective lot viewing is an entirely different experience than what JA and DW have described in this space. There is no reason to look at boxes and boxes and boxes of coins that I have no interest in owning. The fact that I do not collect copper, nickels, Morgans or anything post-1900 or so means that about three-fourths of the boxes are immediately excluded. I can view everything I need to, with time to go back and double check a few, in an hour or less.  Rather than every coin being a possible opportunity, as it may be for a dealer, most coins are in the way of the ones that I really want to see. In a typical auction, I will have serious bidding interest in 0-3 coins, not scores or even hundreds like some dealers.  As usual, I quickly breezed through the boxes, focusing only on the coins of interest in my favorite series. I found two coins to be worthy of my efforts in this sale.

After lot viewing, and a LLOONNGG lunch with two coin friends, I eventually arrived at the bourse and made a beeline for the CRO table, which for the first time ever at a coin show, I found to be unattended, albeit extremely well lit. JA is probably having chest pain as he reads this, but suffice to say, DW was undoubtedly on a coin buying or selling mission of great importance.

Later, I again visited the table and met with DW and sold him some coins that were previously purchased from CRO. I really appreciate it when dealers are enthusiastic buyers of coins that they have sold to me, and CRO ranks very high in this regard.

At the CRO table, I saw multiple CAC gold sticker coins, a PCGS Regency holdered seated half, a handful of pine trees, lots of colonials, some really nice Morgans (and I do not generally like Morgans), a Type I $20, and lots of attractive type coins. I did not see any coins with bears on them, but I forgot to ask for them. My favorite coin was a very original and attractive, low-mid grade 1795 1/2 cent, one that I am still contemplating.

For a collector like myself, attending a large coin show is like going to a high school reunion. (No, I did not bump into the girl that refused my prom invitation in 1983 only to learn that she was now a guy.)  There are many coin acquaintances and friends to catch up with and new connections and relationships to establish.

As it turned out, I spent far more time socializing and gossiping with folks (collectors and dealers alike) than I did looking for coins to buy. I learned that a very good dealer friend is now engaged (congrats!) and another dealer friend was dealing with an urgent health issue in his immediate family (my thoughts are with them).

I observed very few collectors on the floor buying coins, but one friend was branching into a new area, territorials, and had a new purchase to share. There seemed to be a reasonable amount of wholesale activity, and many dealers will be coming home with newps for their clients.

Though there was little buzz on the floor, I was able to sell three groups of coins to three dealers, all of whom I had previously done substantial buying and selling business.

Another lesson for the uninitiated – learn who are the best buyers for what you have to sell and go straight to them. No reason to mess around trying to sell First Spouses to the copper guy or early copper to the rare gold guy.

Another related lesson – better to accept a little less from the rock solid seller than to accept the check for a tiny bit more from the guy you have never before met.

This leads me to another of the great benefits of developing relationships with guys like the principals of CRO. Late in the day, I visited the table of a dealer whom I have come to know fairly well over the years, and when she saw me, she said that she had something for me that she planned to email me about. Sure enough, she pulled out a coin from a box on the fabled “back table” that was perfect for my collection, and I bought it without much ado.

As a collector, it is advantageous to get to know dealers who buy coins that you like, make sure they know what you like and also know that you are (presumably) easy to work with. When this happens, trust me, the coins will come to you.

After the show, my friend and I grabbed a taxi to the airport. The driver insisted on driving at high speeds in a traffic jam and slamming on the breaks inches from the car ahead, time and again. He pegged the speedometer at 70 mph in the internal airport road (speed limit 25 mph) and nearly clipped an unsuspecting woman walking from her car to the curb.

We were both so thrilled to get out of the cab alive that neither of us could, over dinner, remember who paid the driver how much. Maybe I did have a JA travel experience after all!

Tomorrow, the pros will once again take over this space, and a real live coin dealer will tell you what actually happened at the coin show. This wannabe coin blogger will be thinking to himself that even a so-so day at a coin show is better than a good day at the office.

Over and out.

April 20th:  Day 3

Before I begin, I’d like to express my gratitude to our guest Road Reporter, Robert Kanterman. Yesterday’s Road Report was breezy, detailed, enjoyable to read, and well written and thus easily distinguishable from John’s & my efforts. Kudos, RYK! And now back to our regularly scheduled blog . . .

After a great breakfast with my daughter at the hotel restaurant buffet, I viewed auction lots for an hour or so until the convention center opened to dealers with tables.

I set up the bourse table up for the day, then went to pick up the auction purchases I made over the last 2 days. Bourse floor traffic seemed light for most of the day, and dealer-to-dealer activity seemed modest at best.

Still, I sold some coins, including several of our auction purchases from the night before even though JA hadn’t seen them yet and we weren’t really planning to market them here.  Our standard operating procedure at CRO is to bring NEWPs home, discuss them and make sure we are in agreement as to how to market them, but in this case another dealer was sufficiently enthusiastic that I figured it was the right move (though I am pretty sure JA will remind me of the time we sold a coin under these circumstances only to see it instantly sell again for way more than we got for it).

There was also some minor buzz on the floor with the million dollar price paid for the 1792 Silver Center Cent ($1.15 million including the buyer’s fee). It was purchased by a dealer either for his inventory, or on behalf of a client (I heard two versions of the story). Are we really at the point in our market where a coin sells for $1MM+ and it is not that newsworthy? Maybe so – especially in a case like this were some thought it would bring a bit (or a lot) more.  Most of the higher guesses seem to have been based on the private sale last year of a higher grade specimen for much more money, but I personally thought that was the “outlier” result.  Is this sale more or less newsworthy than the 1962-D quarter that sold for close to $20,000? That happened as well, to the surprise of yours truly who will be the first to admit he is not an authority on prices for coins like these.

For me personally, the highlight for today was an impromptu talk I had with one of the greats of the coin hobby – dealer Larry Hanks. Larry has handled many of the top rarities over his career, and along the way has built some magnificent collections with advanced collectors. Over the course of our discussion, Larry gave me some astonishing (and confidential – sorry!) insights into some of the best ways to run a high-end coin firm for the long term. He encouraged me to think in terms of very specific planning for the decades ahead, not just the months or the years ahead. Such thinking is not common practice among most small business people. Larry’s ideas and suggestions were great food for thought. He has been there & done that at the highest levels of the coin business. I felt honored that he chose to share those insights with me.

A final, serious note to today’s Road Report. A well known currency dealer had a stroke at his table yesterday. He was transported to the hospital, and is still in the hospital today, though I understand that he is expected to be OK. In the combination “Class Act” and “Good Deed” department, Heritage arranged to have his inventory securely packed and transported via Brink’s Armored Car back home from his booth here at the show, giving him one less thing to worry about.

We’ll be here on Saturday, of course, though my guess is that it will not be an especially busy or active day at the show – but if something really good does happen you’ll be able to read about it right here in the Road Report.

April 21st:  Day 4

Sleepy time.  That is how I would describe Saturday at the CSNS show this year.

Now, I did get a lot of useful things accomplished today. I picked up our auction winnings from last night. I delivered checks. I collected checks. I wrote invoices for coins that we will ship out from the office on Monday. And so on. But serving customers (the primary reason we traveled about a thousand miles to be here, paid thousands of dollars in expenses and toiled for many hours before and during this show), well, not so much.

Truth be told, we sold a grand total of exactly zero coins at the show today.  Attendees asked to see a coin in our cases precisely three times over the course of the entire day. That comes to one “coin showing event” every 2.67 hours (I had plenty of time to do the math).

Days like these can and do happen occasionally on the coin show circuit.  And while this was one of them, it doesn’t mean anything in the grand scheme of things.

However, knowing that our table location at next year’s event could suffer if we left early, I stayed until the absolute bitter end (i.e. the deadline imposed by the CSNS organization on this day).

And it was probably good that I did, since a lot of the shows have become quite strict in this regard.  As evidenced by the fact that, late in the day, I saw show officials driving up and down the aisles in an electric cart filming each booth with a video camera. They were documenting who left their table early, and who did not.  One can argue the fairness of this system, but their rules are clear.

So, like an umbrella salesman on a sunny day, CRO was there to serve a public that, for the most part, did not show up. Such is this coin business of ours. Sometimes, but not too often. Which is fortunate for us.

But while today was a downer, the overall event here was pretty decent for us, with some nice sales and neat new acquisitions, some of which will soon be appearing in an Early Bird near you (such as the one we will be sending out this Tuesday).

And with that we close the book on the 2012 CSNS Show.