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Back to Road Report Archive 2010

April 27-May 1, 2010: The Central States Numismatic Society Convention in Milwaukee, WI



While much of the rest of the numismatic world was almost certainly sleeping, your author was busily preparing for this week’s exciting CSNS show in exciting Milwaukee, WI by sorting inventory, updating computer files, and packing just enough socks to carry me through Sunday in style.

All of which I completed before 4 AM, just in time to whisk myself to the airport from where I am typing this blog at my gate in which, for some reason, every other male present is wearing a hat (with a wide variety of styles represented, several of them hideous).

Anyway, it figures to be a fairly long day, flying, schlepping heavy luggage through the airport, checking into the hotel and then rushing to the convention center for lot viewing, followed by PNG dealer set up at 4 o’clock this afternoon.

During which we have no idea what to expect, but are heartened by the fact that last year Central States was our best show of the year, and it is not impossible that lightning could strike twice here.  Of course, it could also be an unmitigated dud.

Whatever it is, we will describe it here in the days to follow in what we hope is an entertaining fashion, telling it like it is, without hype or hyperbole, and, if I can manage it, with large color photos where appropriate.

Also, I have it on good authority that Dave will be Tweeting from this show (when the mood strikes him), so you might want to keep an eye out for that at Twitter:  CRORoadReport.

Day 1:

So I arrive at our hotel in Milwaukee and immediately had a creepy sense of déjà vu; I know we have stayed here before, but I don’t remember exactly when.  Either that or it looks exactly like a hotel we once stayed at in Cincinnati.  Or Philadelphia.  Or maybe it was Denver.

Same with the convention center itself.

And I was not the only one to feel this way, as I heard several other dealers make similar comments, which makes you feel like you might be traveling too much.

In any case, the accommodations were just fine, other than the fact that the closet door in my hotel room does not open – seriously, it’s bolted shut.  Which makes you wonder 1) If there might be something really awful hidden in there, and 2) Where the heck are you supposed to put your clothes?

Anyway, we eventually rolled into PNG Day dealer set up with no other serious problems or inconveniences, locating our table against the wall sort of in-between PCGS and NGC, and then started setting up like crazy.

And while I finished that, Dave began searching for NEWPs in earnest, buying one coin literally seconds after we got there and then Tweeting about it (even though I have subsequently been told by one of our customers that “Twitter is so last year”, and Facebook is where it as it now).  That’s good to know.

Overall, set up was quiet for the most part, with a couple of smaller sales, a few purchases, discussions of some bigger deals but nothing finalized before we headed out to dinner with some dealer friends at some place called Umami Moto which was way cooler and much better than I would have expected in a city known better for bratwurst than high end dining:

After which I collapsed after what had been another long day with another really early start.

Tomorrow we get a full does of PNG Day-ing starting at 8 AM (I think), from where Dave will be Tweeting unless he sets up a Facebook account in the meantime, which I do not think he will.

Until tomorrow –

Day 2:

Wednesday began with an extremely early and sort of contentious meeting here at the hotel with another dealer, then some frantic blog writing, followed by a mad dash over to the show for the start of PNG Day, not to be confused with PNG set-up (which was held on Tuesday), or regular dealer set-up day (which will be held on Thursday).

Which when all combined, make this a very, very (some might say unnecessarily) long show for dealers, but not so much for collectors, since the only ones allowed in prior to Friday are those with PNG Invitations (on Wednesday), or the guys willing to pay the hefty ‘Professional Preview’ fee (Wednesday, and then again on Thursday, but only after noon).  Got it?  Me neither.

Anyway, once we were there and set up on Wednesday, we found enough activities to keep us busy even with very few collectors around (see above), selling a few coins and buying a few others, working on a significant deal (which seems like it is a 50/50 shot at best at this point), submitting a pile of stuff for grading, and receiving the first wave of bids on our sealed bid auction of ‘25 Coins Off the Market for 50 Years’, which is on display at our table (and which closes at 6 PM on Friday).

Nothing much doing elsewhere, and at 5 PM many of us headed across the street to the PNG Reception held at the Miller Time Pub for some drinks, fine food, stimulating conversation and more déjà vu, since I am positive I have been there before, but can’t remember when.

Then it was back to the Heritage auction where we watched the colonials and early copper sell, then headed to dinner with several dealer friends at the hotel.

After which I performed my customary collapse on the bed, since it was another long and tiring day.

Just like tomorrow will be, I hope, with the added benefit of many additional dealers set up and a whole new crop of coins to see and possibly snarf up if we like them.

And whatever is snarfed up, if anything, will be reported right here on Friday AM.

Day 3:

Thursday began almost exactly like Wednesday:  same early start, another contentious 6 AM meeting with that same other dealer in the same fancy lounge here at the hotel, same frantic running around getting ready, and then, for the third consecutive day, arriving at the same convention center for a full day of activity in which the same public still has not been allowed into the room. 

What did you say?  I said that even though we have now been here since Tuesday, and have set up at the show Tuesday afternoon, all day Wednesday AND all day Thursday, the public STILL has not been allowed into the room.

While you are again pondering that schedule, I will simply say that it was another fairly quiet day on the bourse with, not surprisingly, predominantly wholesale activity (wonderful for people who bring boxes of coins to offer other dealers, though after 2 and a half days one has to wonder if even they have had just about enough of that), and a small number of serious collectors who had paid the “Professional Preview” fee of $75(!) to attend.

And the day on the bourse floor began with an interesting transaction (or non-transaction, as the case may be), in which another dealer walked up to the table, and offered me an ugly overgraded coin at an unbelievably cheap price.  So what did we do?  Well, first let’s consider that in our experience there is almost no price low enough to buy a crummy coin like this and still be able to sell it.  And, of course, we would never want to put such a coin on the site, and would instead have to wholesale it to someone else (who would make the same awful face when they saw it that we did), or, alternatively (and even more offensive), chuck it in an auction and count on some unknowledgeable person paying too much for it (which is not something we want any part of).  So of course we passed, which might mean we are not offered as many crappy coins in the future, which would be wonderful.

After that, we did conduct some business at the table with the aforementioned Professional Previewers, and with some other dealers, bought a few more coins from the now expanded roster of dealers present (since the non-PNG people were now all set up), got our first wave of grading back with absolutely no eventful results at all, and schmoozed a bit at the table.

And really that was about it, until the HA auction started at 6 PM, and we watched a few colonials sell reasonably well, got outbid on some early copper, and then went to dinner at the same restaurant we went to the night before and had a blast until about 10.

Friday should (I hope) feel quite different as the public rolls in, though my fear is that they will arrive just as a bunch of the dealers who have been here since Tuesday start leaving.  But not us, since CRO will be here for the duration.

Day 4:

Let the record reflect that at 10 AM Friday they (i.e. the coin collecting public) were actually allowed to enter the bourse floor, and I am pleased to report that they did so in reasonably decent numbers.  And, fortunately, they found a room still mostly full of dealers, since I counted only a half dozen tables that had already been vacated.  So that was good.

Activity was pretty brisk, too, with some nice sales for us in all categories at a variety of price points, including, as almost always, a few of our coolest NEWPs.

We also sold a medal which had been the most looked-at item in our case for the last several days, as no less than 6 people asked to see it, studied it from every angle and seemed like they were just about to buy it, but never did.  Until Friday, when it sold, and within minutes (and totally predictably) one of the earlier lookers came back, scanned the case for a few minutes and asked in dismay “You SOLD it?”.  Um, yes, we did.

We also managed to buy some pretty cool stuff, too, though not as many colonials as we hoped.  Of course none of us knows what will walk up to the table tomorrow . . .

We also spent much of the day taking bids for our sealed bid sale which ended at 6 PM and seemed to have done pretty well, leaving Dave to reconcile everything after dinner.

And what a dinner it was, starting out as a normal meal with a dealer friend at the Capital Grill and eventually degenerating into abject silliness and including several of the most ridiculous stories I’ve ever heard (which I think is what happens after you are at a show in Milwaukee for too long).  Which might be a real problem, since we are back here again tomorrow for what we hope is another productive day.

Day 5:

Saturday started off quite well, thank you, with the sun streaming into my hotel room window (after a violent rain storm the night before), and an email saying that our offer on a cool coin (which we had been trying to buy for weeks) had been accepted.  So, feeling good, it didn’t take me very long to pack up everything and check out before heading over to the bourse at 9 AM.

And I timed it perfectly, arriving just as they flung the doors open (as opposed to getting there at 8:50 and having to stand around the lobby with all the other dealers checking our watches repeatedly until they finally let us all in), and then heading straight to the table for what we hoped would be another pretty good day.

And it was, with a better crowd than you might have guessed despite the fact that, by now, a lot of dealers had left, including the one at the giant table near entrance with a “Convention Sponsor” sign hanging above the now empty space.  That really didn’t look good.

Clearly the partially vacated bourse didn’t thrill the collector attendees, one of whom I overheard telling his friend that he would “Never, ever attend a show on the last day again”.  Hard to argue with that, I think.

On the other hand, the dealers who did remain (including team CRO) got that much more attention, and we ended up having a pretty good sales day.

Dave also spent much of the morning finishing the reconciliation of our “25 Coins off the Market for 50 Years” Sealed Bid Deal, an offering presented on that basis at request of the owner,  Overall, it went well, indicating that cool, old fresh coins are always in demand (even if they are raw, and hard to grade).

Somewhere during that period we also spent some time with a YN and his father, and were interviewed as part of a school project.  Which I always think is fun, and also interesting to hear how differently Dave and I answer the same questions (since we have totally different backgrounds and perspectives about this business, yet have managed to work together for many years now without killing each other).

We also bought several more things in all categories from collectors and dealers alike, including a couple of pretty cool and expensive colonials that we had not seen earlier in the show, affordable type coins in mid grades and some cool esoteric items.

Many of which will be appearing in our next EB this coming Tuesday, which is shaping up as a list you will not want to miss.

In the meantime, your author will be officially off duty for the next 24 hours (starting right now).