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August 12-17, 2019: The ANA World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, IL

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August 12:  Day 1

Eschewing the opportunity to come here over the weekend to conduct some wholesale operations and view lots in a leisurely fashion, Team CRO decided that 6 full days in Rosemont would be sufficient, hopped on the very first flight out on Monday morning and arrived here at the hotel before 9.

Dumping everything unceremoniously in our room and having an extreeeeemely quick breakfast before heading straight to the convention center via the hamster Habitrail-like elevated passageway that seems to go on forever, makes a dozen 90 degree turns and contains (by my count) 121 radiators, nearly all of which are leaking into plastic beer cups someone has placed under each of them.

Finally arriving at the Stack’s-Bowers lot viewing room where your author proceeded to pore through about 11,000 U.S. and world coins, medals and tokens in 3 hours, quickly eliminating some from contention, carefully studying others of potential interest and ultimately circling about 50 lots in total that we’d be participating on.  Knowing that, for the loftiest of them, or anything we weren’t 100% sure about, we’d have time to come back for a second (or third) look before the actual auctions take place later in the week.

Then moved straight to Heritage to do it all again, finally finishing there at about 2:30 before returning to the hotel for an eye rest and a coffee before heading back to view some more cool coins being offered by another dealer back at the convention center.

In and around which we saw lots of coin friends, caught up on all of the latest scuttlebut before finally walking over to the Embassy Suites for a drink before going to dinner with a bunch of dealer friends down the street.

From where we returned at about 8, just in time to start entering all of those lots of interest on the auction websites, review current bids and figure out what we wanted to pay since the first session will be as soon as Tuesday morning right smack in the middle of dealer set up when we expect to be juuuust a little busy with non-auction activities.

Wow, I’m exhausted just typing all of this and the show has not even started yet.  But of course we’ll be rested and ready by tomorrow and fully prepared to sell, buy, trade, grade, schmooze and bid at what we expect to be an extremely active ANA show here in Chicagoland.

From where we will be blogging each and every day, with our next installment to be posted here in just about 24 hours from now.

Until then, then –

August 13:  Day 2

With a profound sense of excitement (for the cool coin activity to come) and dread (for all of the schlepping, queueing, clamping and sprawling on the floor plugging in we were about to do), Team CRO left the hotel at about 7:30 AM on Tuesday, walked briskly to the convention center, retrieved our bags from security and then stood in the loooong, winding, Disneyland-style line with all of the other dealers waiting to enter the bourse floor when they would finally fling the doors open at 8.

And when they did, we proceeded directly to our deluxe corner table #1525, skirting the high speed forklifts and palettes of display materials that are always strewn about the floor at an ANA show (but curiously not at any others shows we attend on the circuit).

Arriving to find our booth in mostly good order, with the correct number of tables, and cases, but short a couple lamps and (to my immense, swear-inducing frustration) including lamp clamps that were not actually large enough to affix said lamps to the aforementioned booth tables. Imagining a scenario where we end up standing in another queue for 45 minutes for different clamps before being told there aren’t any, I was delighted (and shocked) when MaryAnn came back from the supply booth 5 minutes later with more lamps, correct clamps and no excuses why we could not get fully set up in short order.

Which we then did, displaying our wares, hanging the CRO banner, clicking on those new shiny lights and pronouncing ourselves totally ready for business at about 8:25.

And then almost immediately writing what would turn out to be the first of some 20 invoices on this day, starting with the sale of some cool Civil War tokens, followed by pretty much continuous action in all categories, in a wide range of price points to collectors and dealers alike, including coins we had owned for several months and brand new ones which had never, ever before seen the light of day (or the website).

Curiously (to me, anyway) we ended up selling a number of coins to people I never imagined were candidates for some items.  Like cool, old holders to dealers who came to the table with Greysheets in hand, or wacko world coins to collectors who had heretofore only bought US material from us. Hey, you never know.

Also unexpected: Pretty much getting skunked in the Stack’s-Bowers auctions which were going on during the day in which your author had placed a slew of bids on interesting material, 95% of which ran away from us to levels that we just did not want to pay. We snagged a few though, including one for way less than our max which probably makes up for the rest of them.

With our last bourse floor deal of the day a sale of some world gold before your author looked at his watch and was shocked to see that it was already 5:45, and thus about time to start packing up so we could race across town to dinner with some local relatives.

Getting back to the hotel real late, where we could once again dive into some auction prep, the first part of which was to figure out which coins of interest were actually going to be sold on Wednesday (since we have 9 catalogs of material here, being auctioned in dozens of sometimes overlapping sessions). But we sorted it all out, entered our bids online and will let the chips fall where they may while we focus our attention appropriately on bourse floor activities.

And then blog about all of it right here on Thursday AM.


August 14:  Day 3

Based on the ANA’s somewhat flexible schedule (with the show opening to dealers at 8 AM, but not to the public until 10) we aimed for something in the middle on Wednesday, giving us just enough time to review the day’s auction lots of interest, enter bids, write the blog and conceive, create and submit the September 2 edition of the CRO ad, the deadline for which was right then.

So having completed all of that we felt super-productive as we headed over to the convention center at about 9, passed the Expoteria Restaurant (in which we have never actually seen anyone eating) and arrived at our table minutes later.

Where things started with a relative bang in the form of the purchase and sale of a mega-world coin long sought by a good client, immediately followed by the sale of a new NGC black slab we acquired recently and introduced here for the first time.  To be accurate, we actually introduced it late Tuesday afternoon, producing it from the back case where it had been sequestered to show to a client who had expressed interest in one. Alas, he wanted to ponder it overnight and asked us not to hold it, returning to the table in the AM mere minutes after the other collector bought it. An outcome that some might file under the “you snooze you lose” heading, but we really don’t see it that way – best to be sure before buying anything expensive, and if you are not we’d say don’t do it. On the other hand, if you are pretty sure, might be best to ask the dealer to hold the coin for you for some limited amount of time lest you risk losing out.

Followed by a bunch of other US and world sales during another extreeeeemely productive day in Rosemont. Where we also bought well in all categories, including some wholesome colonials with choice chocolate brown color, some neat tokens, a couple of high end world coins and of course our requisite wicked US coins in old holders. Some of which we snagged on the furthest reaches of the bourse floor, others which walked up to the table carried by collectors and dealers who thought we would like them. And in most cases we did.

Interrupted with frequent trips around the bourse peering in cases, looking for interesting material, finding some, pondering others, hauling any new purchases back to the table and then, when we had the time, repeating the entire process again. And again. And again.

Until about 5:30, when we needed to begin our preparation for the evening Heritage auction in earnest, and then sit through the first part of the session after struggling to actually find the room. Alas we did, though it wasn’t much help, as we bid on some, got shut out on all and then headed off to dinner with some dealer friends at an Italian restaurant down the street during which a bunch of other dealers (including some I don’t actually know) walked by, said hello and patted me on the shoulder.  After the first half dozen times, it became something of a joke at our table, with my dining companions starting to wager on how many total pats I would receive before dessert. The answer: 10.

After which we headed back to the hotel, called a few customers about auction coins, or items of potential interest we had seen on the bourse floor, reviewed our own bids, and then finally called it a night after a good but long day in Rosemont.

More later –

August 15:  Day 4

Let’s talk about competition. Because there is plenty of it at these ANA shows, in many different forms:

Competition for the Best Tables
Of course we want a good spot, and at most shows that would mean close to the door in the busiest areas. Though at these ANA shows with their irregularly shaped bourse floors, amorphous mix of dealer category sections, so-large-they-block-the-sun world mint booth displays and unpredictable traffic patterns, deciding which locations will be best isn’t always obvious. And even if they were, we still have to contend with the ANA Table Draw, where the sequence of selections is based on a point system that we still have not mastered. So we opt for the best tables we can get near like-minded, collector-focused dealers where we hope to create some critical mass. So far at this show that seems to be working.

Competition in the Auctions
As has been discussed here ad nasueum, we view virtually every coin, make our notes, do our research, figure out what’s being sold when, enter our bids and (with a few exceptions) seem to get nipped by one increment on a large percentage of them, while snagging others at our max. Which suggests we are choosing popular items, and our estimates are pretty good. It also suggests that if you really want to win you need to be very aggressive, and ideally participate live (as opposed to leaving bids in advance). That’s not exactly new news, but if we needed a refresher course we got it this week.

Competition for Coins on the Bourse Floor
We always write about scouring the bourse floor and seeking out cool coins, hoping to find them before someone else. But in a room this big that’s not easy, and with new coins being placed in cases throughout the show, a single scouring is never sufficient. But when you do get there, and find something cool, you have to act fast. As we ourselves were reminded yesterday after finding a neat 5-figure coin in a far off display case just before closing on Wednesday, calling a customer about it, trying to make a deal, seemingly arriving at one overnight and then learning that said coin had been sold to someone else before the show opened on Thursday, with a third potential buyer also in the fray. Hey, you gotta be quick.

Competition for the Coins Being Walked Around by Various Secret Stealth Sales Teams
We know there are coins in these boxes that we’d probably want to buy, so of course getting an early shot at them is key. But those early shots come at a cost – namely buying enough coins to justify your position in the viewing queue. And that’s not something we’re good at, since it would not be unusual for us to look through 200 (or 2,000) such ‘walked’ coins and find only a few that we like enough for the website. Which means this is a competition we’d prefer not to win, and buying from these guys has never been a major source of supply for us.

Competition to Attract Customers to the Table
Finding cool coins is great, and having the best location we can get helps too, but ultimately every attendee here has thousands of other coins to choose from. So we always endeavor not just to have cool coins, but ideally cool coins that are sufficiently different from what most others are offering to stand out and get noticed. That’s not so easy, and it requires constantly updating the stock and moving into new areas, since we can’t just repeat the same offerings in perpetuity before others catch on and we aren’t standing out anymore. Which is why we do all that scouring to begin with.

With all of this competition sure to manifest itself on Friday, and then be described by us in detail right here on Saturday AM.

August 16:  Day 5

After a wild ride here in Rosemont with excellent sales and great buying from Tuesday morning until Thursday night, the worm turned on Friday morning and the show quieted considerably is something we CANNOT say.

In fact, Friday was another f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c day, with the action starting just minutes after we arrived at the convention center as highlighted thusly:

Had a customer who was pondering a nice type coin Tuesday afternoon unexpectedly return and buy it, looooong after we assumed he had decided to pass.

Had a nice chat with a long-time customer friend and then said our goodbyes when he off-handedly mentioned going to look at a specific coin being displayed in some future auction highlights.  At which point I casually mentioned that we had one of those in the case. A serendipitous exchange which would result mere minutes later in the sale of a 5-figure item we frankly did not see coming.

Followed quickly by the sale of two other better colonials in a cash and trade deal.

Just before we got word that another elephantine potential transaction we started yesterday in a dealer triumvirate was a ‘done deal’.

With checks flying back and forth, coins being picked up and delivered and your author alternating between deep coin-dealering satisfaction and stunned disbelief.

Which would quickly be topped by further shock at another XL deal just after lunch, frosted with one more epic purchase, some extremely good but well deserved grading results and pretty much everything going about as good as it could have at what has turned out to the best ANA show we’ve had in a while (and a glimpse for MaryAnn into what we used to experience at shows on a regular basis in the go-go earlier 2000s).

With the action eventually winding down in the later afternoon which at that point was probably for the best, since by then we were pretty much spent (literally and figuratively).

Coasting from then until a late dinner with some good dealer friends at Gibson’s for the first time this week, then returning to the hotel real late for one last auction lot prep session.

We have no idea what Saturday will bring, but based on what’s transpired here so far we would not be totally shocked to see another flurry of activity before we head home on a late flight.

With whatever happens to be described here in vivid deal in a final ANA RR installment to be posted from the comfort of home on Sunday, AM.


August 17:  Day 6

Now back home, it is of course time to recap the ANA show via another series of random observations presented in no particular order:

We had a great time and did some good business with our like-minded table neighbors David Kahn Rare Coins on one side and Eye Appealing Coins just across the aisle, and I think the traffic we attracted to our area benefitted all of us. So we hope we can create another one of these collector-focused table clusters at the next ANA in Atlanta in February.

Sure, schlepping a bunch of supply bags to these shows is a pain in the neck, but at least we were not also hauling a bicycle in a giant box like this guy we saw in the Hyatt lobby:

No complaints about the grades we received at this show, including one excellent result on a coin we submitted on behalf of a customer friend. Always fun delivering that news.

As those in attendance may have observed, a generous dealer friend had gifted us some of those checkerboard Vans sneakers made famous by Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, the first time I can recall receiving free shoes at any coin show. So of course I wore them and instantly felt 25% cooler:

MaryAnn, as a relative newcomer to the circuit, always has a stated goal of learning 5 new things about coins each day at a coin show, which was not too difficult at this event. A couple examples of which were the definition of a brockage (a coin gets stuck in the striking chamber and impacts a blank planchet, leaving a mirror image impression) and the fact that an MS68 Lincoln Penny of some dates can be worth 30x more than a nearly indistinguishable MS67 example, while an MS65 of the same date is worth only a little more than a dramatically inferior AU (hoo boy that’s hard to explain – though it is easier to explain than the value of a 68+).

The auction results here in our areas of focus were more or less what we expected. In the colonial area, for example, die varieity collecting is clearly out of favor in some series, so those issues as well as coins which had been on the market recently or were not in our view top quality were quite soft, while the freshest and best type coins continued to set new price records for the grade like they always seem to.  And of course nearly anything which is reserved (unless it is at a silly low level) seems to be DOA before the auction even starts.

This Rosemont venue isn’t exactly the most exciting for restaurant selections or interesting scenery or other ancillary stuff, but it works very well as a coin show venue, it sure is convenient for most attendees to travel to from most anywhere and the results here simply speak for themselves.

Without exception, every dealer I spoke to said they had a good show, including one who referred to this event as (and I quote) “One of the all time great ANAs“.

Even when we try to eat right at these shows, it’s like the universe is conspiring against us.  Such as when we order edamame at a sushi restraurant, they forget to bring it until we are almost done with our entrees and they apoligize by giving us free ice cream.  Or at the Mexican restaurant the next night when they gifted us a Piña Colada because the waiter “wanted us to try it”.  Or the Starbuck’s that apologized for running out of sausage breakfast sandwiches by giving the two of us 3 bacon ones.  Of course we could have refused all of that, but we did not want to be rude.

After waking up at 3 AM to fly to Chicago last Monday, working pretty much from 6 AM to midnight every single day we were there and then having our flight home delayed so that we finally arrived home at 2:30 AM on Sunday, we are officially just a little bit tired.

But not too tired to assemble a wicked Early Bird for Tuesday, which we are going to start working on right now, and which will contain a lot of cool coins you won’t see anywhere else.  Like these, for example:

So you might want to keep an eye out for that . . .