August 13-20, 2011: The ANA World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, IL
Good morning coin collector, coin dealer, industry professional or someone who has just found us accidentally while doing a Google search for “Coin Operated Laundry in Rosemont, IL” but is now systematically reading each and every Road Report which has appeared on this site since 2005 –
And, in our humble opinion, this one figures to be as entertaining as any of them, since we anticipate no shortage of numismatic activity to write about.
Certainly this RR will be as long as any we’ve ever written, too, since this show continues on all the way through August 20th, an 8 day odyssey which for us begins today, as both Dave and I will be at the deluxe CRO table #911 putting the finishing touches on our extensive inventory display, hanging banners like crazy, and preparing for the anticipated onslaught of activity to follow as almost everybody who is anybody in the coin world should be here this week buying, selling, schmoozing, displaying, grading and doing almost everything else that people do when they are coin shows.
And whatever those things turn out to be, you can read about them first, right here, in this space, every single day of this show.
Until tomorrow –
August 13th: Day 1
At 8:30 AM on Saturday your author stormed into the Donald E. Stephen’s Convention Center, casually approached the information booth, like lightning obtained my deluxe show badge, passed through the secure bourse room door with ease and immediately bumped into the CRO table literally inches from the main entrance.
“Yes, this will be acceptable.” I said to myself, noting that not only did we have an excellent and very prominent corner spot with acres of room, but also one with a hanging rod perfectly suited for the CRO banner (which has not been the case at the last several ANA shows, where there has been only a tiny hanging rod large enough to hold one shirt, size medium), and a large column behind the table on which we could either lean, or paste other things of marketing value.
But rather than reveling in our grade A location, we began the important work of filling six (6) bourse cases with coins, tokens, medals and one unidentified object, arranging them in some kind of coherent order, making sure each one had a price sticker on it, labeling the case keys, attaching them to a massive chain just slightly larger than my high school janitor Mr. Pentinininin used to tote around and then sitting back and waiting for the crush of show visitors to descend upon us.
Um, one problem: There really weren’t very many people here.
Just a smattering of dealers, including the industry’s largest auction houses and major players, a number of the people on the national circuit, and maybe a couple of dozen others. And while a bunch of us were clustered near the door, others were waaaaay out in the numismatic suburbs, 6 or 7 aisles away, isolated, and mostly looking forlorn way over there.
Still, they seemed densely crowded compared to the attendees, who I believe numbered somewhere in the 30’s.
Dave later explained to me that what I was experiencing was PNG Day, which included dealers who had paid for the privilege of being here this weekend (as opposed to golfing, for example), and their invited guests. That’s it. No walk-ins, or early arrivers, or guys sprinting around the floor to buy up the cool stuff before anyone else could get it.
What there was instead was some lowly murmered consternation from some of the dealers (who always seem to gravitate to us) suggesting that this Pre-Show was not sufficiently advertised or promoted to get the word out or get people to come here.
So then Dave and I just sat around doing nothing, right?
Actually, we did more wholesale business than we might have expected, selling a bunch of coins ranging in price from about $300 to $30,000, and buying at least as much on the floor from dealers who had arrived here with some pretty cool new stuff. Total haul: 27 coins, including one of the coolest pieces of early gold we have had in a looooong time.
Anyway, with most of that activity finished up by about 3 PM, we started to focus our attention on the Bowers auction starting at 5, on grading submissions, and on figuring out the plan for the next couple of days, which as far as we know is likely to look a lot like today, though with, we hope, more people.
But not the people we ran into as we were walking out on Saturday, as most of them were in the building for Comic Con, a massive comic book convention taking place in an adjacent room, and one where half the attendees looked like that guy in my college dorm who was an expert at Rubik’s Cube and had a pet tarantula, and the other half were dressed as their favorite animated hero. Some of which (like Wonder Woman) I recognized, while others (such as the gentleman in the lobby with two heads), I did not.
Per their schedule, these fine folks will be here through Sunday the 14th, so if you want to see them, or plan to show up in costume, best you get here by then.
And that was it.
We’ll be back at it on Sunday, scouring the floor for more cool coins to buy, selling some of the neat new stuff we brought, viewing all of the upcoming auction lots, picking up our grading submissions and, importantly, trying to figure out which character that giant Amazon woman in the bikini is supposed to be, and then writing all about it on Monday AM.
August 14th: Day 2
Breaking news everyone: I have now been informed by an experienced numismatist (and one with evidently widely varied interests) that the giant Amazon woman in a bikini seen yesterday entering Comic Con is, most likely, the character from “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman”, a circa 1958 cult film that I am somewhat embarrassed to admit I have never seen (yet). So everyone can please stop emailing me about this now.
And with that important issue resolved, we can now devote our attention to the actual coin show, which started on what seemed like a low note, since I entered the convention center at about 8:30 Sunday morning and encountered almost no one.
Gradually, though, the bourse got busier (though never busy), and I would say that by 10 AM it looked a little more crowded than Saturday, and there was actually some noise (not a buzz mind you, but at least sounds of activity) in the room.
But for us, it was again pretty productive, as we had 2 more retail customers visit than we might have expected (since we did not expect any), selling a surprising 8 coins in the process. And for a Sunday at any show, with the sort of material we carry, 8 is nothing to numismatically sneeze at in your author’s humble opinion.
We also bought 2 colonials, 2 grandiose federal coins and 1 world coin from several different sources, and tried in vain to track down something cool that was rumored to be on the floor, but that we never found. We also pondered something new to the market and very expensive from another dealer, and, even though it was probably well worth what he was asking, we did not buy it (yet).
After that we walked around the floor 63 times, but nothing much else happened, so while Dave went lot viewing at Stack’s, your author left early to attend an important numismatic off-site meeting during which he hit the 7th hole in two, burned the edge on a 25 foot putt and continued my 40-year streak of never having eagled a par 5 (yet).
And while I was finishing up that significant piece of business, Dave was out at dinner with a dealer friend, then figuring auction bids for the upcoming session, and dreaming about Monday, during which all of the other dealers will start setting up at 3 PM (not a moment too soon from our perspective), and the actual show-show will get started.
An ancillary benefit of which will be the rich numismatic fodder it provides for tomorrow’s Road Report, to be posted right here in just about 24 hours from now.
August 15th: Day 3
Upon arriving at the show on Monday morning, I noticed 6 things:
- It seemed more crowded, and it was definitely louder than the previous days, with a bunch of guys yelling to each other across the room like you might expect to encounter at a college fraternity party.
- Dave was already here working, making this the third consecutive day he beat me to the table, something that I don’t think that has ever happened before.
- Even though all-dealer set up was scheduled from 3 to 6 PM, it seemed like an awful lot of the guys were getting an early start, some bringing in massive piles of display cases, coins and paraphernalia on large wheeled carts that looked extremely awkward and cumbersome to handle.
- The environment was nearly perfect for acquiring a massive headache, as, in the middle of it all, the elaborate ANA exhibits were being assembled by people using the loudest tools possible.
- There were a lot of convention center staff people hauling tables and display cases around on forklifts and golf carts, all driving like maniacs, weaving in and out, never beeping a horn or warning anyone, with several narrowly missing your author as he performed important numismatic tasks. If this continues, I honestly believe that some poor dealer pushing an awkward and cumbersome wheeled cart is going to get run over in the next couple of days.
- The vast size of this room became more apparent as it began to fill up, to the point that I believed it when another dealer informed me that this will be, and I quote, “The largest coin show ever held”.
And in this more active and more crowded environment, we did pretty well thank you, selling some nice (but not new) RB federal copper, a high end 55 Double Die we just acquired last week, a stone cold gem Peace Dollar, a few colonials of the mid grade, mid price variety, and then, all of a sudden, a superb world crown which had been, to that point, the most looked at item in our case.
We then began the systematic process of walking up and down every aisle, checking out every table and trying to find interesting material – an exercise which I would describe as inefficient (since not everyone was set up or had their coins out yet), but necessary (since something great would inevitably be snapped up by someone else if they got there first).
And while that can be frustrating (since we will need to keep doing it again and again until everyone is here), we did OK, buying a few scattered pieces here and there, some which will be graded, but others that went straight into the case and which will, I predict, be sold here before they ever see our Early Bird list or the website. We’ll probably go back and pick up a couple of the others after pondering them overnight.
Things progressed well until about 5 PM or so, when a lot of the PNG dealers started migrating out for the evening’s banquet and the crowd thinned noticeably, at which time Dave and I began to pack up for dinner at Gibsons down the street where we saw almost every other dealer, and your author ordered the Cajun Ribeye “as spicy as possible”, which it was.
Tuesday should be considerably busier, as everyone will be here, all the coins will be out, the ribbon will be cut (in what will undoubtedly be a very, very long and boring ceremony) and the public will come pouring in at 9 AM.
So I will now need to stop writing this and get some rest in order to be ready for them.
August 16th: Day 4
First, I would like to apologize for an error in yesterday’s RR in which I stated that the ribbon cutting ceremony to open to the show to the public on Tuesday morning “will undoubtedly be very, very long and boring”.
In actuality, it was astonishingly longer and significantly more boring than I could have possibly imagined, as the ANA, keeping with tradition, had a number of different people at a podium speaking into a microphone that, based on my assessment of the sound quality, had been purchased in 1971. Apparently (since I could only hear about 25% of what was being said despite standing not more than 20 feet away) they were congratulating each other and some local politicians on the great job they had done putting on this show and announcing the winner(s) of some award while being serenaded with occasional insults and rude gestures by some of the less couth dealers in the far reaches of the room.
Now, I certainly don’t condone the insults and rude gestures, but I think whatever purpose this ceremony used to serve, it is time to retire it, and possibly replace it with something brief like “Gentlemen, start your engines”, or possibly just with a gate flinging open like at the beginning of a horse race.
On a more positive note, there were an awful lot of people waiting to get in, and when that ribbon was finally cut, the collectors (at least the ones who had not fallen asleep) exploded onto the bourse floor and immediately scattered all over the place, including to our table, where a number of different people all bought something at approximately 125 mph.
And it remained steady if not overwhelmingly busy for us (since even a huge crowd was easily swallowed up by the vast room and almost endless supply of dealers) for the entire day, during which we bought some great stuff that wandered up to the table, sold some nice NEWPs and older inventory as well, made a number of trades of different kinds and generally did about as much business as we had hoped to do in this venue.
Highlights included our acquisition of a deluxe Central American Republic 8 Reales in the afternoon to replace (sort of) the superb MS65 example we sold on Monday, the sale of our lovely Continental Dollar to a serious collector, and, unusual for us, a high dollar value sale of gold bullion.
We also experienced some near misses, as we were offered but passed on some cool but aggressively priced coins, almost sold a large group of colonial type coins to a collector who wanted more time to ponder, and tried to buy a coin out of the case of another dealer who was never there despite your author walking over to check 62 times (hyperbole) during the day, until I went back on the 63rd time (hyberole), to find that, of course, it had been sold to someone else 30 seconds earlier. That’s annoying.
We were more successful socially, though, seeing lots of collector friends who had come from far and wide to be here, many sharing the same sentiment that they were not really sure what days would be best to attend in this new and universally unpopular ‘long version’ of the ANA. The consensus from many was to come early and stay as long as possible, which sounded like a good idea to me if you can swing it.
Late in the day we crammed in some last minute lot viewing and then left some podium bids with Stack’s Bowers for their evening session, and headed out to dinner with a collector friend who regaled us with one of the more bizarre and intriguing coin-deal-gone-wrong stories we have heard lately, and one in which we were delighted to be non-participants.
And then we headed out since it was time to write the next CRO ad and this installment of the RR before getting up early and doing it all again tomorrow.
August 17th: Day 5
We could fill up today’s report with more stories of fast paced action and purchases and sales taking place from early in the day until late afternoon (since that’s what happened), but today I thought we’d focus on a some of my favorite coins that I have seen here, since that is part of the fun of an ANA:
The Tom Turrisini collection of 1794 Large Cents
We’ve known Tom for years and we have seen his concise collection of gem 1794 Large Cents before – though for all that time the coins were raw and housed in plastic Kointains holders. Lo and behold, Tom bit the bullet and had these slabbed by PCGS in the last month or so and they seemed to like them as much as everyone else, grading them as follows: 66 BN, 66 BN, 64+ BN, 65+ RB, 66 RB, 66+ BN, 65 RB, and 65+ RB. So when he casually walked up to our table this AM with a PCGS box we were delighted to see them again, concluding that, if anything, a bunch of them looked undergraded and the whole group frankly blows away most of the high grade early cents we see at auction or described by others as “finest known”.
The 1732 Pillar Dollar in the NGC display
This is my favorite world coin at the show, the classic first year of issue of the Pillar series, presented with a group of other gem world coins at the NGC table, but standing out above the others IMO for its incredible, original, stone cold gem condition and perfect color.
The Albany Church Penny with D in the case of Julian Leidman
I became aware of this coin a few weeks ago when it suddenly and unexpectedly appeared on the pop report as an XF45+, though to be honest when I saw the listing I thought it might just be a typo. Of course, I did not realize at the time that Julian had it, or that it would be at the table next door to us at this show, so I can now report with certainty that it is definitely not a typo, and is easily one of the finest of only about 10 of these known.
The 1799 Eagle at O’Connor Numismatics
We’ve always loved this issue, but the sad fact is that is that most of the pieces are dipped, stripped or otherwise unoriginal and not so attractive. But this piece is absolutely original, having come fresh from a family holding where it was stored in an envelope, straight to PCGS where it was graded a very appropriate MS64+, and then direct to the bourse all the while avoiding an evil conservator who might well have upgraded it (and ruined it) in one fell swoop
The 1793 Liberty Cap Cent in MS64 BN ex Eliasberg
Of all the coins on the floor (or any floor, anywhere, for that matter) this is my single favorite piece and the one that I (and many, many other people I know) would most like to own. Being presented as part of the fantastic High Desert type set at the PCGS table, and surrounded by other superb gems, this coin stands out as one of the most famous and recognizable pieces in all of numismatics. This coin last traded in the 1996 Eliasberg sale where it was described to the hilt (including Max Mehl’s long ago description of this coin which featured this memorable line: “I do not recall during my 45 years of numismatic experience, during which I have handled a very goodly portion of the finest collections of American coins offered, of having passed through my hands such a thrilling coin!”). But frankly, in person, it is better than I expected, especially in the context of an issue which so seldom comes nice, and for which the next best coin ain’t even close.
Tomorrow we will be back to describing the action, and there should be no shortage of it, including a full day on the bourse floor, and the start of the Stack’s-Bowers colonial and federal auctions, during which we anticipate bidding wildly on our target coins, and witnessing a lot of entertaining antics in the auction room.
August 18th: Day 6
In a giant coin show filled with activity, we figured Thursday would be what numismatists call “an extremely big day”.
You see, it would be on this day that the auctions would kick into extra high gear, with Stack’s-Bowers’ significant offerings in US coins starting at noon and continuing into the wee hours with the deluxe Rarities Night session.
Because of this, we knew a number of collectors would not even be arriving at the show until today so as to take part in it.
And they did, and they did, creating a not-untropical-depression like downpour of activity at our table starting early (where we sold that cool gold coin referenced earlier in this loooong RR), continuing through the afternoon (where we sold more coins than on any other day at this show, in all categories, including tons of federal coins, at least one ‘smoker’ token, a Captain Cook Medal and a slew of colonials), interrupted only by the sound of your author raising his bidder paddle and buying just about everything we wanted in the auctions held on the other side of the lobby.
Speaking of which, the auctions seemed to us to be a pretty big success, with large and active crowds and bidding all over the room in the afternoon session, and an absolute mob in the evening (including lots and lots of people I have never seen before) in what was among the loudest, most active auctions I have ever personally attended (on par with some of the best Ford sales, which is amazing when you think about it), with every seat filled, and the back wall of the room lined with people craning their necks in unison to see over the other people who were milling about, oblivious, and occasionally standing directly in front of me eating cake.
We also bought a few things on the floor, including a killer colonial, a choice early US coin pedigreed to some guy named Louis Eliasberg, and some lovely choice and gem proof federal coins for a set we are building for a new client.
But do not worry, we also carved out some time for important schmoozing throughout the day, and at dinner, where team CRO met up with a dealer friend and 3 serious collectors at Gibsons, which was every bit as loud and crowded as the auction room had been. Better food though.
And that was it.
We will be back at it on Friday, picking up auction lots, sorting NEWPs, getting late show grading and gazing at the horizon where we may catch a glimpse of the end of this 8-day odyssey being in sight. Certainly, though, there will be considerably more buying, selling, trading, grading, schmoozing and Road Report writing to be done before we get to that point.
August 19th: Day 7
It is said that a marathon runner will ‘hit the wall’ at the 18 to 20 mile mark, suddenly feeling the cumulative effects of thousands of steps and wondering if he or she can summon the strength to make it to the finish line.
And while I have never personally run a marathon (though I was once forced to watch a Lord of the Rings trilogy at a child’s birthday party), I can now firmly relate to this feeling, since at about 2:30 on Friday I suddenly found myself totally exhausted just after the snack bar closed and there was no more coffee available. And while there is no doubt part of this feeling is due to previous 6 days of getting up early and running around all day, a lot of it was caused by the incredible level of activity on Friday alone, with seemingly more buying, selling and coin dealering activity than on any of the previous days at this show.
During which we sold all sorts of things ranging from a lovely and reasonably price English Sixpence, to a superb early quarter we had purchased earlier at the show to most everything in between, and bought about 20 new coins from many sources, both around the room or that had just walked up to the table.
And somewhere in there we picked up our Stack’s-Bowers auction lot winnings which can best be described as an absolute and utter haul, some of which will be coming to an EB near you shortly.
Amazingly (since this was the 7th day for cryin’ out loud), we also saw a number of our collector friends for the very first time, as they had just arrived here and were touring the floor at high speed. And while one might wonder in these circumstances if all the good stuff would have already been snapped up by then, I don’t think that was the case (at least at our table), since several of them bought cool coins which we had received back from grading and which had not been on display until today.
Other notable events for us on Friday included seeing a very low grade but absolutely lovely and smooth Continental Dollar, showing off an extra-spectacular Shield Nickel proof, discussing some of the bizarre auction results with collector attendees who knew the even more bizarre and interesting back story on some of the coins, and having lunch delivered to us unexpectedly by one of the major dealers (for the second time at this show), which was most appreciated.
It also gave us the strength to make it to the late afternoon, at which time we began to sort out which NEWPs we’d be shipping out for photography, which ones we’d be Brinksing home, collating paperwork, picking up checks and generally starting to plan our departure on Saturday afternoon.
Before which I am positive there will yet be a lot of activity, as I have heard from a few of our customers that they will be attending the show tomorrow morning for the first time, looking to buy or sell.
And we will be as alert and awake as possible when they do.
Note that our next RR (the exciting final chapter) will be posted from home on Sunday. So don’t miss it!
August 20th: Day 8
After a thoroughly exciting week+ at the ANA Convention in delightful Rosemont, Illinois, we thought it would be great to begin this final recap by whining and complaining:
- I sure hope they change the schedule next year and kill the pre-show idea, since it didn’t seem to us that it accomplished anything other than forcing an extra and not very exciting auction, exhausting all of the dealers and confusing collectors (at least the ones who could not take an entire week off of work to be here for the duration) about when it made sense to show up. I would imagine, however, that the incremental revenue generated by the ANA for this made it a “success”, and just about assured it will happen again next time.
- I like a casual stroll as much as anyone, but I have officially had enough of the hamster Habitrail-style unbelievably long walkways from the various hotels and parking lots to the convention center (which I got to thoroughly test this week, often while lugging heavy bags to one meeting or other).
- Grading mostly sucked.
- There was a very nice selection of excellent restaurants within walking distance of the show offering almost any option you could want, provided that you only wanted to eat a massive steak every night, which I do not.
But really, those few minor issues were absolutely swamped by all the good stuff in what was the best, busiest, most exciting, most entertaining and, possibly (since we have not added everything up yet), most commercially successful show we have ever had.
- Sales (on the floor and in the auctions) were, overall, nothing short of fantastic.
- After seeing two guys (or possibly girls) dressed as Darth Vader and an Imperial Storm Trooper inexplicably wandering around the show all week, I was thrilled to finally figure out on Saturday that they were promoting some hokey commemorative coin series being produced by the New Zealand Mint. Still, I did not buy any.
- Despite mostly packed auction rooms and bidding which ranged from enthusiastic to totally-over-the-top (which I am sure will be well documented elsewhere and which I will not list here), we were able to buy almost everything we wanted and at less than our max bids. I have no idea how that happened, and I am not complaining.
- I continue to believe that the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center Sloppy Joes here are the most delicious lunch on the coin circuit (though I recommend you eat them with a spoon).
- On four different occasions at this show, involving four different coins in our inventory, we had people fighting over who would get to buy it. That doesn’t happen very often and is not fun when it does, but I think we can safely say that it is at least indicative of a strong market.
- In a last minute deal, we were able to acquire two exceptional coins from a collector who in previous months (and despite our begging) had steadfastly refused to sell them to us.
- Overall we leave here with about 200 NEWPs in all categories (a slew of which will be on our EB on Tuesday) which is quite amazing considering that we sold a bunch of newly acquired coins right at the show, and yet it still appears that we were net sellers (in $) at the ANA in total, which was not the plan and frankly blows my mind (it also means that we will be aggressive buyers leading up to the LB show, looking for cool fresh coins to offer, so if you have any, now would be a good time to call our 800 number).
But now, after 8 long days of numismatic fun, your author is going to be officially off duty for the next 24 hours.