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Back to Road Report Archive 2013

August 12-17, 2013: The ANA World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, IL


August 12th: Day 1

Greetings Road Report reader, and welcome to this the first installment of the ANA World’s Fair of Money RR Extravaganza (which will not include a detailed description of the Official ANA Pre-Show, since I did not set up at that. Why not? Because in prior years I’ve found these pre-shows marginal at best, because I value my time, and because enough is enough already).

Which explains why this RR begins now and describes our first official activities of the ANA: Dealer Set-Up.

Yes, that would be the relaxed 3 PM start of the show Monday afternoon during which your author carefully set up the five (5) display cases at corner Table #626 and artfully filled them with our usual full compliment of colonial, federal and world coins, plugged in all five (5) lamps and immediately sold a bunch of coins to the first few guys at the table.

Followed by an interesting experience where another dealer came by, asked to see a coin, rejected it for what he vociferously exclaimed was a too-high price, and then walked away just as another dealer walked up, asked to see the very same item and bought it instantly.  Which in my experience is not all that uncommon in a business in which there is certainly no shortage of opinions, or vociferousness.

And then I made a mad dash around a bourse floor so vast that it reminds your author very much of this famous scene:

Only the bourse floor here is slightly larger, and there were more boxes piled up. Including two giant black plastic ones in the aisle directly in front of the CRO table which are perfectly positioned to make sure no one can find us, and to block out the sun.  Here’s hoping they are gone by the time I get to the show on Tuesday.

Anyway, set-up was good overall, as I sold a slew of stuff, bought more than 30 coins, am still considering others, submitted some grading Part I, huddled up with a number of other dealers to discuss various projects and then looked up to discover it was already 6 PM and time to leave.

After which I headed out to dinner with some dealer friends where we spent a solid two hours discussing various coin deals before calling it a night in anticipation of what should be an extremely busy Tuesday that starts as early as 8 AM.

So I will now sign off so I can get up in time to be here right when the show opens.

More later –

August 13th:  Day 2

I did it again.

That would be that thing where you gather up all your belongings, head over to the show, get halfway there, realize you forgot something important (like my badge, for example), and then have to schlepp all the way back and start over again.

Which explains why I arrived at the table at 8:30 AM on Tuesday, and not the crisp 8 o’clock sharp I intended.

And that 30 minutes would come back to haunt me, as it pushed back everything I was doing, delayed my regular AM scouring of the bourse floor and ultimately cost me a chance to buy a fresh collection at another dealer’s table where I arrived just as another guy was already saying “Hey, can I take a look at those?!!”.  Leaving me to stand by helplessly hoping he was going to either pass, or at least only buy the ones I did not want. Alas, he did neither and I was shut out. Drat.

Still, I did manage to buy my fair share elsewhere (possibly the beneficiary of other would-be competitors who forgot things, overslept or otherwise arrived later than I did), allowing me to amass a not unimpressive 60 coins of all kinds in the back case so far, including one of the most famous early-days-of-CRO coins and a piece which I had been desperately hoping and trying to buy back for years.

And though I was only intermittently at the table and undoubtedly missed some people during the day, sales were strong and generally in clusters of 2, 3 and 4 coins at a time, which is good since I need to make some room for the NEWPs pile which I fully expect to keep growing during the week.

As usual, I also submitted some grading here and there as well, but not the mass quantities of some past shows. No results yet, though.

And of course I ate a Sloppy Joe, a specialty of this convention center and a surprisingly delicious lunch alternative to their greasy pizza or giant pretzel doused in yellow mustard. If you order one, however, I do strongly recommend eating it with a spoon.

Followed by some cool show and tell items brought by collectors to the table, more buying, a couple of pretty good sales late in the day and then a nice dinner with a good customer at Gibson’s, where the food is excellent, and they have shoe-horned extra tables into every available space (including ours, which was elegantly positioned directly in the middle of a doorway, making it an ideal spot to have a tuna steak during an earthquake if there was one, which of course there was not).  Still very nice though and highly recommended.

And then I called it a night, knowing Wednesday would be about as busy as it gets in the coin biz, with an AM CRO ad deadline, buying and selling activity which will ramp up further, and three (3!) auction sessions to prepare for and bid in.

Which means I need to sign off, finish this RR and start focusing on all of that right now.


August 14th:  Day 3

I casually strolled into the show on Wednesday at 8 AM, skirted past the throng of collector-attendees waiting in the lobby, burst onto the bourse floor and was surprised to see this well-positioned-if-not-beautifully-illustrated-ANA-provided Coin Rarities Online sign right by the door:

And when I did arrive at the indicated booth 626, I knew I was going to be extremely busy for the next, oh, 15 hours or so.  Starting with some wheeling and dealing at the table, a dash across the room to see a coin another dealer told me about, the purchase of said coin, follow-up discussions on some pending deals and then some high-speed auction prep for the Ford Canadian token auction which I then decided I would attend in person in order to buy one coin.

And though finding the auction room proved not all that easy, I made it in time, positioned myself Gibson’s-style (i.e. directly in the doorway) for some covert bidding, won my lot as I was sure I would, let all of my other bids ride on the internet and hightailed it back to the table.

Where I continued buying and selling at a pace similar to yesterday with other dealers, collectors I had seen earlier in the show and long-time customers who had arrived in Chicago earlier in the morning and had raced straight over from the airport.  With activity on this day nicely spread across all numismatic categories and price points, including the sale of some coins which had been on the site for a while, and new things I had literally just picked up.

But through it all I found a few minutes here and there to see how my other bids were doing, which in general was not very well in various sessions that were pretty darn strong.

Fortunately I continued finding a lot of nice things to buy on the floor, including some fantastic world coins and, to my surprise, some pretty nice colonials at non-specialist dealer tables. Sometimes those coins find me (via various middlemen or people wanting to partner on them), but it is a lot more fun to discover them on my own like some modern day treasure hunter (sort of).

By late afternoon my focused shifted to the evenings auctions, which would consist of the simultaneous selling of medals, colonials and federal coins in one room, and cool world coins in another.  And while I had momentary visions of timing everything just perfectly, moving effortlessly from room to room and bidding in person on all the coins I wanted, that was never going to happen. First, the rooms were not that close together, and second, at that point I did not feel like running around the convention center any more.

So I parked myself in the first room, spread everything out, entered a bunch of bids on the computer, and then settled in for a nice, relaxing 5 hours in an environment sufficiently cold that the people in front of me were dressed as stylishly as this:

Eventually, though, it warmed up, as did prices in an auction in which I bought some things I wanted, but watched as others raced past me to levels which ranged all the way from extremely aggressive to “Wow, that was expensive.” to “Am I on the correct lot #?“.

Alas I was, so I picked my spots, bought some nice things and eventually left at 11 PM at which time they were, by my calculation, less than HALFWAY through a session which started at 6 PM.  Which made me very glad that I do not specialize in error coins (since those were at the tail end of the auction and seemed like they were destined to be sold at about 4 AM).

A time at which I fully intended to be sleeping in anticipation of Thursday, which I predict will be just as busy as the previous days, though with, for me, less auction distractions and a less frenetic pace.

Whatever happens, it will be reported right here in just about 24 hours from now.

August 15th:  Day 4

Sure, I would have liked to get another, oh, four hours sleep on Wednesday night, but I made due with a good, solid two (2), leaped out of bed at 5 AM, went running, worked for a few hours and then headed over to the show arriving to an already busy bourse floor buzzing with activity.

Which I quickly joined in by symmetrically selling a coin for 8 grand about 8 minutes after getting there.

And while sometimes a very early sale like that ends up being your only one of the day, I am pleased to report that was not the case on Thursday as traffic at the table might have been the heaviest of the week (so far) and both buying and selling continued at a real good clip pretty much all day long.

But, as usual, not everything worked, as I also had more near misses in both directions that I can recall at any recent event, with some buyers pondering items for a while but not pulling the trigger, and your author almost buying a few coins that ultimately went to someone else – including a fantastic, screamingly original, old-holdered Bust Half which was priced to the moon, which I should have bought, thought about for a while, walked back to write the check and discovered was sold minutes earlier to someone else.

I was, however, not the only one so afflicted, as a customer related an eerily similar incident about a Bust Quarter he saw in a dealer’s case, thought about and went back to buy and to discover it too had been snapped up moments earlier.

And while I do not advocate haphazardly throwing money around and instantly buying anything you like at any price, there are in my experience three numismatic truisms continuously illustrated at all of these shows:

  1. If you see something so interesting / unusual / outside the norm that it stops you in your tracks, you are very unlikely to be the only would-be buyer so affected.
  2. A coin you agonize over and wonder if it is too expensive suddenly seems like a great deal after someone else (even if he is less knowledgeable about the item than you are) buys it.
  3. He who hesitates is either lost, or, if he is lucky, will end up buying the coin they wanted after it has changed hands 3 more times at the show and is now priced way higher.

Fortunately, there were plenty of other straightforward, uncomplicated transactions to be had around the room that the few failures were quickly (though not completely) forgotten.

Also forgotten: my grading, which hasn’t come back yet and is feeling like it might not ‘til the end of the show based on what must have been some enormous submission volumes at PCGS.

And then as things wound down, I locked up the table at about 5:45 to head to Stack’s-Bowers’ Rarities Night auction to bid on a few coins before leaving early to get a decent night’s sleep.

Which means that tomorrow I should be extremely well-rested and ready for what figures to be yet another active day here in Rosemont.

The End

August 16th:  Day 5

Friday certainly began inauspiciously, as I entered the bourse and noticed immediately that someone (A jealous competitor? A person who makes signs for a living? An ANA bigwig with neat handwriting?) had removed the handwritten Coin Rarities Online Booth 626 sign from its position on the doorway easel and chucked it sideways on the floor near the information counter.

And while I briefly considered putting it back up, I feared I would tackled by the PPI security guys if I did, so I kept walking, arriving at my table at about 8:50, and then proceeded to accomplish very little of significance until about midday.

When things turned around dramatically and coincidentally right after I had what numismatists call the “Lunch of Champions” (i.e. a thin, unappetizing, bun-less cheeseburger which I ate at the snack bar condiment counter, standing up, with a plastic spoon, in about 30 seconds).

Because it was on my way back from this feast that, after 4 days of trying unsuccessfully to find another dealer’s table (since it was listed under a different name in the directory), I accidentally bumped into it just in time to buy 4 cool coins. I do wonder what I might have missed there earlier in the week, though.

And then moments later walked by another table where a couple of other cool coins caught my eye, so I bought those too.

Finally arriving back at the table at which time sales absolutely exploded, starting with a real good turn around situation in which a collector came to the table, looked at a coin, loved it, announced that “Your price is too high”, changed his mind when I cited recent comps, and then bought it.

Followed by the straightforward sale of two colonials to a collector for around 5 figures.

And then some world coins, more federal and even a deal of a kind that typically doesn’t go through when a collector viewed a few coins, asked if he could show them to another dealer, and then that dealer came to the CRO table, checked out the coins, said they were nice and the customer bought them.  Now, that may not sound all that unusual, but in my experience at these shows, anytime anyone asks if they can show a coin to someone else, the odds of making the sale instantly drop 23% based on the 2nd person either not knowing what they are talking about, or, and I hate to say this, purposely trying to scuttle the deal.  But neither of those things happened in this case since the 2nd person was a knowledgeable dealer and true pro.

But just as that deal concluded, the real excitement began, as I rolled right into what will undoubtedly be the best deal of the show, a 6-figure buy and trade arrangement consummated at about 5:00 PM, which is pretty late in the week and pretty late in the day for a mega-deal.

Illustrating once again that you just never know, and in the immortal words of Woody Allen “80% of success is just showing up” (since by then some other dealers had already packed up their tables and left for the day).

Which I would do an hour later after checking once again, unsuccessfully, for some final grading submissions which I hope will finally be back on Saturday.

The results of which I will post, along with a recap of the show in its entirety, right here, from home, on Sunday AM.


August 17th:  Day 6

After being here in Chicagoland since last Saturday, I (and especially my aching feet from standing on the hard concrete floor of the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center all day, every day) are thrilled to be going home, but not before concisely recapping this year’s World’s Fair of Money starting right now:

  1. Is there ever really a need to conduct a “pre-show”? I am going to go on record now and say thanks, but no thanks.
  2. I have heard many people complain both about this Rosemont venue, and the fact that the ANA will be here for several years in a row. But I personally found it to be perfectly acceptable, and note that the surrounding area has been developed to include a number of new restaurants. No, it is not New Orleans, but it is waaay better than that debacle in downtown LA a few years ago.
  3. Sales were, in a word, rockin’, as there was consistent activity from dealer set-up up until the last minutes of the show on Saturday afternoon as I was packing up. From my vantage point, attendance seemed robust, nearly everyone I thought I’d see actually showed up, and of the collectors who visited the CRO table (and there were a lot of them), it seemed like darn near 50% bought at least one coin.
  4. The Sloppy Joes here continue to be at the very pinnacle of coin show cuisine.
  5. If there is a point at which coin auctions can be considered too big, I think we reached it, as Stack’s-Bowers sessions encompassed a grand total of 8 catalogs and 11 live sessions, a number of which were held simultaneously (not to mention the HA auctions held the weekend before) . And while there were undoubtedly some great coins in there, I personally did not have time to view everything, figure bids, enter them, attend the sessions I wanted to bid in live, and otherwise do them all justice. As a consignor (which I was), I’m not sure everyone who might have bid on my coins actually saw them. As a bidder, there were probably some good deals to be had if I had more time to find them. In any case, in this mergered and consolidated world, I think this is what we can expect going forward.
  6. Grading at the show proved utterly frustrating for me, as a number of coins submitted Tuesday and Wednesday which I hoped to get back and try to sell during the show were not returned until about noon or later on Saturday. I guess someone must have submitted an absolute ton of coins at the beginning of the show completely inundating the graders.
  7. The time I spent scouring the giant bourse was very productive, as I managed to buy a grand total of 121 coins and tokens on the floor, slabbed and raw, of all types, in grades from VG or so to über-gem, all individually (i.e. none coming in really big chunks or via intact collections of some kind), which by any measure is an extreeeemely good haul.

Some of which will appear on Tuesday’s edition of the Early Bird, which I am going to start working on just after I say that the ANA 2013 was, from my perspective and that of most everyone I spoke to during the week, a thoroughly excellent show which exceeded my frankly pretty high purchases, sales and schmoozing expectations by this much (hands held really far apart).

And that’s really all I have to say about that.