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August 10-15, 2015: The ANA World’s Fair of Money in Chicago, IL



Well, it’s here, the year’s largest and best attended coin show, the one that always seems to have the coolest displays, largest number of auctions, most interesting stuff for sale and biggest variety of U.S. and world coins.

Which explains why we have been taking vitamins, performing deep breathing exercises and doing some serious stretching for the last week so that we can hit the floor running at dealer set up early on Monday afternoon and not stop until they click off the lights and throw us all out at the end of day on Saturday.

In between which we will be, as always, blogging like crazy, the first installment of which will appear right here very early on Tuesday AM.
More later –

August 10th:  Day 1

I believe it is common knowledge that your author looooves the American Numismatic Association.

And not just for the good things they do, but also for how much they make me appreciate how well the shows work in Long Beach and Baltimore, where I always get my show information and credentials in a timely manner, and my show booth is always set up exactly the way I want when I arrive.

Which is not exactly what happened here, starting with my information and ribbon having been mailed not to me, but to my former business partner at an address even he does not use anymore. Curiously, all other mailings from the ANA for at least the last several years have come to our correct address, so why the sudden reversion I have no idea.

Which required that I stand in the show credentials queue upon arrival which was not terrible, but not exactly the way I wanted to be spending that particular 25 minutes of my life.

And then entering the show to discover that our vast corner booth requiring 6 display cases and 5 lamps was stocked with 2 and 3 respectively. Again not the end of the world, but a pain in the neck requiring a bunch more scouting around and queue standing and waiting to get sorted.

Not to mention the booth sign which proudly displayed our business location as Wallingford, CT, which of course we have not used since the Spring ANA of 2012.

Fortunately we were also able to trade one of our too-small booth tables to another dealer down the aisle who had one that was too big for his space.

All of which took us about an hour and a half to get sorted before we could set up, which was time I would have much preferred to use running around looking for coins to buy, or making sales at the table. Alas, it could have been worse, I guess.

And as soon as we ready, action commenced in the form of some quick sales to a few other dealers situated near us at the show. Followed by a handful of purchases in the mid range price points. Nothing super exciting though.

Allowing us a few minutes to submit show grading right before the bourse closed at 6, at which time I dashed off to Heritage for some concentrated lot viewing in the hour I had available before meeting some industry bigwigs for dinner at Gibsons (not the last team we hear the name of this restaurant this week, I suspect).

After which I worked on auction lot planning until late into the night, but not so late that I could not be up bright and early for more lot viewing at Stack’s-Bowers on Tuesday before the show opens with what I expect will be an absolute avalanche of activity erupting at our now perfectly set-up table #1316.

More later –

August 11th:  Day 2

After Monday’s extreeeeemely well documented logistical stumbles out of the gate, it was smooth sailing on Tuesday AM for Team CRO as we arrived bright and early with a clear course of action:

  1. Finish lot viewing at Stack’s-Bowers for the U.S and World sessions: Check
  2. Go the table, fill out the rest of our PCGS grading forms and submit them. Check.
  3. Verify the S-B and HA auction schedules so we know when to have all of our bids in. Check.

All of which we completed as planned just before 10 AM, which was good timing since the public then streamed in and it proceeded to get very busy at the table for, oh, the next 7 hours.

During which sales were robust, U.S. coin-centric, focused on the more expensive stuff and including new acquisitions like some neat early gold we bought as recently as last Thursday:

But also some old friends (such as that cool 1880 Eliasberg Proof Quarter we have had on the site), to many different customers.

In between which your author tried to slip out and check out other coins on the floor whenever possible, finding some neat world and colonial issues here and there.

Some of them also found us, including a very cool 23 coin collection assembled by a specialist over about 15 years that he offered at about 11 AM and which we consummated with a crisp CRO check at about 1 PM.

Followed later by some of our requisite old-holdered type, more lovely toned world coins and one high 5-figure item that I did not think would be for sale. I was wrong.

Capped off with one last nice sale at about 5:30, after which I packed up and headed over to Gibsons (again) for dinner with some collector and dealer friends which ran pretty late, but not so late that I could not stay up another 4 hours working on even more auction bidding in preparation for what is likely to be an even busier Wednesday.

The exciting results of which will be posted right here on Thursday AM.

August 12th:  Day 3

Aaah the relaxation of a major coin show, where dealers (like your author, for example) can work until midnight, get up at 4 AM, answer emails, write blogs, work on auction stuff and plan bids for the 9 AM first Heritage session, head to the show, get stuck in traffic, have to pull off at a rest stop to bid in the car since we weren’t going to make it in time to participate live, arrive at the convention center at 9:40, get a coffee at Starbuck’s and then spill it all over the booth and directly into our show supply bag.

I guess that was worth it, though, since we ended up getting a bunch of coins in that auction including the one we HAD to have.

And, after getting 133 napkins from the snack bar, we cleaned up that mess and proceeded to have another quite good day on the bourse during which sales remained robust in the federal, world and esoteric areas, with a couple of colonials thrown in too.

Even so, I’d say we did better buying on Wednesday, cruising the floor repeatedly and amassing a neat stack of cool federal issues like this:

And a bunch more world coins too, pausing just long enough to dive into one the classic Donald Stephens Convention Center Sloppy Joe’s, without a doubt the best bourse food we’ve encountered anywhere on the circuit.

Followed by more visitors to the table, more buying and more selling until we realized it was nearly 5 PM and time to bolt out of the room so we could participate in the Heritage evening auction and still make it to dinner with relatives in the suburbs before flat running out of gas and getting to bed at a decent hour so that we can make it though the last 3 days of this event without collapsing. We hope.

Starting with Thursday, where the first order of business will be to make sure that Starbuck’s lid is on extra tight.


August 13th:  Day 4

Good news everyone – Thursday started off a LOT better, with no drama, no mishaps and your well-rested author sitting at our booth at 8:30 AM carefully entering bids for the various S-B and Heritage auctions on this day.

And honestly there were not many of them, since a lot of the coins that I thought would be targets and seemed to be in the CRO wheelhouse based on the catalog and online images and descriptions proved to be quite disappointing in hand, including a lot of the Mexican gold being offered in the Rudman Collection.

So we bid on the few items we liked enough to buy, typed in semi-aggressive (we thought) numbers and then went about our business, letting the auction chips fall where they may while we focused on the bourse floor.

Where it was again an interesting and active day, with one of our offerings (the St. Peter & St. Paul Cathedral Medal) suddenly becoming über-popular, with at least 10 people asking to see it, three seemingly ready to buy it and finally someone pulling the trigger just before one of the other guys came back and, in a panic, scoured the case wondering where it had gone.

Proving once again that we never have any idea what will sell and in what sequence, since I thought that piece would fly out the door when we first got it.

Kind of like the proof quarter we bought Wednesday and sold first thing Thursday to a customer who had already bought from us on Monday and again on Tuesday.

Making him one of three repeat buyers we had on this day, which must suggest something good about what we are selling, as there is absolutely no shortage of competition on the floor and many cool coins being offered around the room.

I know that because we continued to walk around and check, admiring a bunch, and buying another half dozen coins in a show that has become as U.S. coin focused as any we’ve had recently.  Which is just fine, since we can only buy what is being offered, whatever category that may be in.

And then, late in the afternoon, our first grades trickled back in truly uninspiring fashion, which surprised me only because another dealer was raving about positive results earlier in the week. Though I never saw any of his coins and it’s certainly possible I’d have disagreed with that assessment.  All I know is that I really liked the ones we sent it, apparently more than the graders did.

A short-lasting disappointment which would quickly fade away during a late flurry of sales activity which brought the day’s total to our highest of the show so far. Who knew?

And then we headed out for an early dinner during which your author was crummy company, watching the S-B auction on my phone and seeing one purchase live, and then noticing that none of the other bids left earlier in the day were successful.

Which was not really surprising, since you really have to like these coins in order to outbid everyone else on earth, and we didn’t, and we didn’t.

But tomorrow may be completely different, and we are excited to come back and find out.

August 14th:  Day 5

Sure, we like to sell the high profile coins on the website and then type SOLD in plain view where the price used to be, but the reality at these shows is that we sometimes sell things that never make it that far, that we just bought, or which were in the back case or otherwise ‘off the grid’.

Such as the highfalutin world coin we weren’t planning to offer but then sold in a cash and trade deal first thing Friday morning.

Followed by a couple more smaller ones in short order.

After which I made my daily rounds, buying another 5 or 6 coins scattered around the room, some in plain view, one found in the corner of a case of a guy I’ve never bought anything from before and one cool one in another dealer’s sealed bid sale which ended Friday afternoon.

But then, over the next several hours, things sort of quieted down and I began to think that this show was “over” (coin dealer parlance for that moment when traffic drops off precipitously and it seems like not much else is going to happen).

Until everything suddenly and unexpectedly picked up again, with some late afternoon action at the table and 3 U.S. coin sales in rapid succession including one coin which was admired, studied, fondled and almost bought by one collector who subsequently passed, only to be snapped up by someone else literally 3 minutes later. I admit it – I like when that happens.

Things I don’t like: Still nothing much doing on the grading front, with a few coins trickling back, but others which I planned to include on Tuesday’s Early Bird still MIA, meaning I now don’t know if we’ll get them back in time to photograph. Heck, we may not get them back here at all.

But, even if that happens, I still believe we’ll have a list that can rival most any other dealer’s offerings in quantity, quality and variety.

And that doesn’t include anything we might yet find on Saturday, and I’d be very surprised if we don’t come up with at least a few more interesting items here.

And if we do, or even if we don’t, you can read about it here in our last RR from this show to be posted bright and early on Sunday AM.

August 15th:  Day 6

Well after about a week of concentrated coin dealering, late nights and early mornings, we pulled into the convention center parking garage on Saturday morning hoping to end the show on a high note.

Which would begin with, mercifully, our last round of lot viewing, this for the Heritage ‘non floor’ session scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Then returning to the table to prepare for whatever sales opportunities presented themselves. Historically, as we know, that wouldn’t be much, and this time would ultimately and unfortunately not be that different, with most visitors attending these shows on the weekends in the ‘beginner’, ‘tire-kicker’ or ‘out for a casual stroll’ category as evidenced by this exchange at the table during the late morning:

Visitor: Hi. I have been studying coins for a while, but now I am ready to buy!
Me: Wonderful. What is it that you are looking for?
Visitor: I am seeking world coins with artistic motifs, like this and this and I really like this (pointing to a bunch of coins in the case).
Me: (Pulling coins out as I lay them on the glass) This one is really interesting, and this is one of my favorities.
Vistor: Now, what are the prices of these coins?
Me: This one is on my site at $295, this is $750 and this one is about $9,000.
Visitor: WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?! I am NOT spending $200 for a coin! (Leaves abruptly stage left).

With others casually peering into the cases, strolling around wide-eyed and occasionally showing me a circulated Morgan or Kennedy Half or $2 bill and asking me for an appraisal.

I did however meet a couple of more serious collectors too, and perhaps one or two of them will ultimately become customers one day. Maybe.

On a more positive note, there was some more serious wholesale activity during the day, the most exciting of which would come from a dealer who told me he had a coin I might like at his table.

So I trekked to the far reaches of the room to check that out, didn’t care for it, but found something much better in that same case and snapped that up right quick.

Returning to our table just as another dealer sat down to look at our new, neatly toned Seated Dollar and bought it almost instantaneously:

Which would be one of just a handful of sales Saturday on what was by far the leanest day at the show for us.

Leaving us just enough time to get our last minute photos done and then start packing up and heading out at about 4:30, satisfied but exhausted by a show that, despite an ‘end with a whimper’, was really excellent overall on the buying and selling side, but certainly at least one day too long in this author’s view.

With the next order of business our Early Bird which will be launched on Tuesday at noon, but not before your author takes a few hours off to rest and recharge before diving back in later today.

The End