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Back to Road Report Archive 2018

August 12-18, 2018: The ANA World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia, PA

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With our usual off-the-charts level of enthusiasm, Team CRO has spent the last several days organizing, collating, stapling, filing, sorting, arranging, stacking, pricing and, of course, packing for what we expect to be an utterly epic ANA show held in what is always a great venue for numismatic activity.

And of course we’ll be ready for all of it, with a lot of cool new stuff, a massive appetite for cool fresh coins and a desire to do non-stop business from our deluxe table #932 in collector row, near some like-minded dealer friends and just down the aisle from our friends at PCGS.

With every single thing that happens at this show to be described in vivid detail right here in this space each and every morning of the show just before breakfast (which my wife tells me will not include very many of those delicious Amish doughnuts).

More later –

August 12th & 13th:  Days 1 & 2

It was a typically hectic first couple of days of our ANA experience here in Philadelphia as we contended with the biggest challenge we face at these mega-shows: Viewing, analyzing and drawing conclusions about the gazillion U.S. and World Coins to be auctioned here by our friends at Stack’s-Bowers and Heritage, and then (and this is the all-important Part 2 of the equation) deciphering their leapfrogging schedules so when we know exactly when all of the coins we plan to bid on are actually being sold.

With an important subset of this work being the viewing and summarizing in great detail the coins on which we are representing customers, though frankly most of that work here has been to identify hidden problems, describe PVC spots, old scratches, new scratches and lots of other reasons why the coins in questions aren’t good enough and are not worth buying. Which is sort of a drag, since of course we don’t actually make any money unless the customers actually buy the coins. But if they aren’t good enough, they aren’t good enough.

With our nearly 2 full days of auction work concluding late Monday afternoon just in time to make a couple of wholesale deals and then head back to the room to start to communicate all the information about the aforementioned lots to the various would-be bidders.

Then grab a delicious dinner at the Spanish restaurant up the street before returning to the hotel for Part 3 of our auction process, namely determining how much we actually want to bid on the few dozen coins we have ID’d as prime CRO targets.

Which of course can take hours as it did on this occasion, finishing up at about 1 AM.  And thus giving us a good 4 hours to sleep before we get up early for some intensive blog writing, gym visiting and breakfast eating before we explode onto the bourse at 8 AM for dealer set up on what figures to be a really, really long Tuesday.

All of the results of which will be described right here in just about 24 hours from now –

August 14th:  Day 3

Tuesday’s early morning schedule proceeded almost exactly as planned, culminating with Team CRO dragging a giant bag of show supplies down the airport-sized corridor from our hotel to Exhibit Hall D, retrieving our inventory from the security room 30 seconds before they were going to start charging people for leaving it there past the deadline and arriving on the show floor at precisely 8:03.

And then setting up our booth like crazy in what was a decidedly above average process for an ANA show, as we found the correct number of tables and cases and plenty of electric cables waiting for us, and needed to track down only one additional lamp to complete the process.

Thus allowing us to fill the cases and pronounce CRO open for business at about 8:30.  And then selling a bunch of cool stuff almost immediately, some of which was pre-planned, with coins set aside for specific buyers, but most was just random with people strolling up to the table and saying “I’ll take that” or “Write me up for these”.

In and around which your author peered in other cases looking for cool and interesting coins, found a lot but so far bought only the ones that definitively had CRO written all over them.

A buying and selling pattern which would repeat itself about 65 times during the day, as a steady stream of old and new friends came to the table and your author eventually ventured down nearly every aisle in the typically enormous room trying to get the lay of the land.  Interrupted only by periodic checks of the auction schedule, and, of course, lunch from the Hatville Deli at Reading Market which we knew we’d visit at least once during this week.

Before buying some cool stuff in the world section, pondering some high-end colonials on the floor and evaluating two big old-holder deals that people brought to us during the afternoon.

With the last acts of the day being to price a couple more coins offered by a collector, and then to book dinner for 6 at a cool seafood restaurant a few blocks away.  Where we discussed a wide range of topics ranging from numismatics (of course), to politics (never a good idea), briefly touching on fantasy football (innocuous), my near death in a freak golf cart accident on the Big Island 25 years ago (true) and, in what I think was a first for coin show dinner conversation, details of avian biology (don’t ask).

Finally returning to the hotel just in time to disappointingly get outbid on a couple of coins in the Heritage auction before collapsing at about 11.

With more of just about all of this likely to happen on Wednesday, as we’ll get there just as early, stay just as late and hope to buy and sell as many cool coins as possible in between.

And then describe all of it right here on Thursday AM.


August 15th:  Day 4

Positively positive things that happened on Wednesday here in Philadelphia:

We did eventually receive our mediocre breakfast order from Starbucks after standing in a massive queue for half an hour.

It was sunny outside, so we were able to take the much shorter and spirit-soaring outdoor route from the hotel to the convention center in the AM.

We sold our first coin about 4 minutes after getting to the show to an earlier-arriving dealer who had been waiting for us to get there. Hey, blame Starbucks.

Found some wicked old-holdered NGC coins in the case of a dealer who never has stuff like that and snapped them up like one of those new Dyson vacuum cleaners.

Completed a massive trade involving 23 colonial coins and cash for one rare colonial variety.  One of several trades involving various degrees of difficulty we were working on here on Wednesday.

Received an unexpected show and tell of this extra-ordinarily rare and seldom seen Athenian Gold Diobol from a long-time collector friend who was thrilled to have acquired it here:


For those scoring at home, this is one of six (6) known, only two (2) of which are in private hands.  Making this the sort of feel-good story we always enjoy where a collector acquires a coin he desperately wanted and never expected to own.  Even better when it was way less than he was willing to pay.

Finally submitted some of our show grading.

Saw lots more old and new customers at the table, many of whom bought a coin or sold us one (or two, or in one case 6).

Snagged a cool, Doily-holdered example of a type coin we had never before seen in one minutes before packing up at 6 PM.

Headed out for dinner at a Cuban restaurant with my old college roommate and his wife who live near here and had a blast, one of the neat perks of the coin business traveling around the country where we got to see so many friends and relatives.

Occasionally and discreetly bid with my Stack’s-Bowers app there, since of course we’re never really not working at these shows even when drinking Caipirinhas or eating Vaca Frita.

Got to the all-important and Vaca Frita offsetting Fit-Bit 15,000 step plateau as we strolled back to the hotel around 10 and collapsed after another loooooong and tiring (in a good way) day here at the show.

And now will be totally rested and ready for action and the plethora of auctions here on Thursday, the results of all of which will be described here on Friday AM.

Until then, then –

August 16th:  Day 5

Let’s be clear about a few broad topics on Thursday at the ANA:

Earliest Early Bird
No, not the kind we send out on Tuesdays after every show (and sometimes between shows), this refers instead to the fact that, for the second day in a row, we got off to a strong start with another nearly instantaneous transaction with a dealer who was already parked at the CRO booth when we arrived. Even though we were there bright and early having eschewed the Starbuck’s line on this day.

Coin Dealers Helping Coin Dealers
No, not the popular online coin dealer group, this would be the extremely helpful, high-altitude assistance we received from Anthony Terranova, Jr. and Heritage’s Sarah Miller to finally hang the CRO banner at booth #932 on Thursday morning.  Hey, we’d have done it earlier if we had found the time, but things have been pretty active around here since Day 1.

Representative.  REPRESENTATIVE.  R-E-P-R-E-S-E-N-T-A-T-I-V-E!!!!
No, not screaming at a recording while trying to get a real person on the line with American Airlines customer service, here we are referring to auction representation, namely CRO helping a collector snag a wicked and strongly contested coin during one of Thursday’s sessions. And this one was a bit of a challenge, since we had no less than 4 people interested in the same coin but of course could only represent one of them: The first one to request our assistance. Including viewing, assessing, advising, estimating what it would take to win, executing the bid and, ultimately winning it for about 15% less than our max number. Which is what numismatists refer to as “a real good outcome”.

Finding coins on the Floor, Part 1
No, not the kind you see in dealer cases as you zip around the bourse floor, this was the literal find of an apparently dropped coin that was literally lying on the floor.  As shown to us by the finder who was trying to ID what he thought might be a rare and valuable item in hopes of returning it to the rightful owner.

Finding Coins on the Floor, Part 2
No, not the kind where you find something just lying on the ground, this was the kind where we find something cool in another dealer’s case as we are walking around the bourse floor, often at high speed, typically blasting past some guys table, catching something in the corner of your eye, stopping in your tracks, going back for a closer look and buying it right then and there. Which happened a number of times on Thursday, including US and World coins ranging from a couple of hundred dollars to north of 5-figures.

Opera, Man
No, not the SNL character popularized by Adam Sandler in 2001, here we refer to our consecutive opera-themed dinners here in Philadelphia.  First our fun night out on Wednesday with my opera-singer ex-college roommate and his opera-singer wife, then doubling down on Thursday when we went out with a different crowd to the highly-recommended Victor Café, a fantastic Italian restaurant on the other side of town where all of the waiters are opera singers and let loose with a performance every 20 minutes.

With more clarity sure to come here at the show on Friday, as we hit the home stretch of the Philadelphia ANA and then write all about it on Saturday AM.

August 17th:  Donut Day

On each and every trip we make to Philadelphia (and there have been many in recent years) we allow ourselves one (1) decadent donut from the epic Amish Beiler’s Bakery in Reading Market.  And that day was Friday, and the variety was something they call a Bismark. And while I am sure it had somewhere around 55 million calories in it, at least it would be less than the ones consumed by other people in line, including the young couple behind us who ordered a half dozen and then proceeded to mow them down like a Lawnboy right there on site.  Wow, that was impressive.

Anyway, now energized, we headed straight to the show for what we hoped would be another action-packed day of buying and selling, maybe trading, hopefully grade-receiving and generally successful coin dealering.

And for the most part it was, with more sales, more neat NEWPs snagged off the bourse floor, some top secret auction lot retrieval, another person coming to the table with one of those “Hey, I brought these coins for you since they seem like CRO kinda stuff” deals and overall about as much business at the table as on preceding days.

Until about 1 PM, when things started to wind down, traffic thinned and many of our coin dealer colleagues started to make the mad dash to the airport to get home for what I assume was some very important Saturday morning golfing or fishing.

But we were there for the duration, working away, making some late sales of the colonial and world coin variety and buying another medium-sized pile of cool things, including one colonial coin we had been trying to track down for the last couple of weeks.

All while repeatedly hitting refresh on our show grading results in hopes of getting everything back in time to image and list it on our next Early Bird scheduled for Tuesday.

And while a few results have posted, we haven’t actually received any of the coins back yet and so it’s looking like it is going to be very tight timing on Saturday.

To find out how we make out on this and other issues, check back here tomorrow for the final installment of the Philadelphia ANA RR which will be penned from the comfort of home on Sunday morning and will contain a plethora of hard hitting numismatic content.

August 18th:  And In Conclusion

Now back from Philadelphia and almost (but not quite) fully recovered from the looooong, action-packed, sleep deprivation experiment known as the ANA World’s Fair of Money, it’s time to recap the show through one of our patented series of random CRObservations presented in no particular order:

From our perspective the auctions here were a wild ride of mixed results, with some high-falutin 6 and 7-figure items selling for much more than we expected, others for about half.  While the CRO-style colonial, U.S. and world auction coins that we chased seemed uniformly strong. That’s really not surprising, since the mega-coins tend to be chased by a fickle combination of speculators, investors, trophy hunters and some collectors, while the areas we deal in are populated nearly exclusively with serious committed collectors consistently seeking really nice coins.

Based on the view from our Table #932, the show was well-attended, uniformly busy and upbeat from Tuesday morning until Friday noon, with a brief revival of action Saturday morning.  So kudos to the ANA for putting together another excellent event about which we would change only a few things:

  • I firmly believe these shows should be 1 or 2 days shorter.
  • Whatever purpose they once served (if any), the looooong pre-show VIP speeches delivered to the collectors impatiently waiting at the entrance on Tuesday morning really need to be eradicated and replaced with something brief like: “OK, we’re open!” or “Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines!
  • Exactly as I said last year, next time I really need to study the show map better and find a hotel as close as possible to the action, since the few block schlepp to this year’s show hotel was really a pain in the neck when you’re hauling luggage and supplies.

We ended up selling over 110 coins here, while buying 49, which is a bit of a reversal of formula for us and frankly surprising at an event where we would have expected to find many more cool coins in the CRO wheelhouse.  And not for lack of trying, as we pored through boxes, scoured the bourse floor, worked the auctions and were offered many groups of coins privately that people brought specifically for us. But only a small percentage of those made the cut.

On a related note, during the course of the show we were offered many coins in all categories which had been consigned to other dealers whose primary marketing plan seems to have been to try to unload them on a wholesale basis.  I have to say I’ve never understood that. It would seem to me that if you are a collector with coins to sell you would want to give them to someone who will maximize their marketability, offer them directly to other collectors and ultimately get you the largest possible percentage of your coins’ real value – not add unnecessary marketing layers that siphon off some of your margin.  Doesn’t that make sense?  But of course if someone offers us nice things at wholesale prices, we’re going to buy them.

If you lived near the Reading Market year-round, I think you would soon weigh just over 815 pounds.

We got to check out the exhibits here sporadically, enjoying what was a neat variety of cool things scattered about the room.  Our personal favorites: The epic assortment of finest known New York colonial coins at the PCGS table, and the Anti-Slavery items shown in the exhibit area (shameless plug: Including examples of some of the very pieces which will be included on our next Early Bird).

We only did some limited grading at this show, but had some perfectly fine results, including on the last two totally cool coins which we picked up literally moments before we had to head to the airport on Saturday and thus just barely in time for us to include them on Tuesday’s EB.

Of course, that was before we knew our flight home was delayed 5 hours, an all-too common occurrence whenever we travel and one that had us thinking we might just get to enjoy that delightful Philadelphia hospitality one more evening at an airport hotel.

But alas that did not happen, and we are now fully engaged and ready to start work on Tuesday’s Early Bird which will include many cool coins acquired here and in the weeks preceding the show which have all been held back specifically for this list.

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