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Back to Road Report Archive 2012

August 4-11, 2012: The ANA World’s Fair of Money in Phladelphia, PA


August 3rd:  Prologue

After months of anticipation, weeks of preparation, hours of sorting inventory and 7 minutes of shoving clothes indiscriminately into a suitcase, I officially declare myself prepared and ready for the 2012 World’s Fair of Money.  And that’s good, since my flight to Philadelphia leaves in a couple of hours.

Once on the ground, I will remain for 8 consecutive and likely veeeery long days utterly immersed in all things numismatic.  Starting with the Pre-Show on Saturday, followed by the actual World’s Fair of Money on Tuesday, both interrupted repeatedly by auction lot viewing, sporadic bidding, a bunch of speeches, submitting coins for grading, world class schmoozing with collector and dealer friends from all over the world, fine dining, and, I hope, the buying and selling of fantastic coins of all shapes and sizes.

And I must say so far, so good in the buying department, as I bid on a bunch of coins in the Heritage auction sessions on Thursday and Friday and bought some extremely cool ones.  But I am guessing that level of activity will pale in comparison to what we see over the next week.

Whatever happens it will be reported right here, every morning, as always, in numismatic’s only daily show report.

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

August 4th:  Day 1

Saturday began with some strong feelings of déjà vu, as I again headed to the airport to catch the exact same flight to Philadelphia I had taken as recently as last Tuesday (as vividly described in our July 31st RR).

But while the airport was empty on my previous trip allowing me to skate straight through security to the gate in a matter of minutes, Saturday was a madhouse, with long lines of vacationers snaking through the terminal and very nearly, but not quite, causing me to miss my early flight.

Eventually I would make it though, arriving at my hotel in Philadelphia at 7 AM where I was surprised and delighted to find out that my room was ready, and I could thus drop off my suitcase and head over to the show.

Seeing as it was already pretty hot and humid, and I was carrying a few bags of supplies, and I didn’t know exactly where I was headed, I figured I’d offer one of the waiting cabbies 10 bucks to drive me the few hundred years to the A/B Convention Center entrance.

An offer the first driver seemed to think was a real good deal, at least before we drove off with his breakfast on the roof. I know it was there, because at least $10 worth of coffee and donuts dumped all over the windshield as soon as he hit the gas. I really felt bad about that and ended up paying for that too.

Anyway, he dropped me at the loading dock entrance, and, in a move that was not especially confidence inspiring from a security perspective, I strolled onto the bourse floor for the first time walking straight past everyone despite not having a current badge or credentials.

A situation I rectified by walking out the front door and standing in a disgruntled registration line for 40 minutes to get my shiny new ANA badge, and then walking back onto the bourse to officially start the show at a little after 8.

First observation: It’s a pretty darn big room.

Second observation: They had cordoned off a section of tables for the “Pre-Show”, the seemingly totally extraneous extra few day event that we had signed up for ages ago specifically to ensure that we could be in Philadelphia for 8 days, and to exhaust us before the actual ANA show begins on Tuesday. So there I was, finally ready for business, in a sub-section of the bourse floor which contained not more than 15% of the dealers who will eventually fill the room. A lot of the big national players are here though, despite many of them complaining that this pre-event was neither necessary nor desirable.

Third observation: The CRO Table is larger than I figured, allowing me to put out 5 full cases (as opposed to 3 at a regular event).

Fourth observation: If you need a lamp, or an extra case, or possibly another chair for your booth, you need to request it from the ANA Floor Manager, who then relays this information to the union members responsible for delivery. Which is a fine system if you like waiting 8 hours to get 3 lamps.

Fifth observation: It was more than a little disconcerting to try to walk down an aisle or possibly stop to look in another dealer’s case when guys in wide fork lifts carrying giant safes kept driving by at about 25 miles an hour.

Sixth observation: Despite low expectations, it seemed to me that business was being done. Which would explain the small pile of invoices I accumulated on the back table and the sale of a decent number of coins, 4 of which were gold.

Seventh observation: I found a few cool things on the floor too, most of which were also (coincidentally, and not as part of a specific plan) gold.

And then, late in the afternoon, I submitted a bunch of coins for grading, locked up, packed up and headed off to dinner with some collector and dealer friends at a fantastic restaurant which was a long, hot 10 block walk away.  It was worth it though, as this was one of the better meals I can recall in a while.  Though it did necesitate another hot, long 10 block walk back.

So by the time we got back to the hotel, I had been up for about 20 hours and was flat out exhausted, which I celebrated by collapsing on the bed and falling asleep immediately.

Sunday I’ll be back at it bright and early at 8 AM and will look to buy more, sell more and do some lot viewing at Stack’s-Bowers sometime during the day.


August 5th:  Day 2

I believe I mentioned yesterday that Sunday would begin bright and early at 8 AM.  Which is partly true, in that I was at the convention center ready to go at precisely that time.

Unfortunately, I soon realized that both Stack’s-Bowers lot viewing and the actual bourse opened only at 9, allowing me to answer email and update the site (using the convenient free and totally appreciated WiFi at the convention center) for a bonus hour before zipping down to lot viewing just as they officially opened the doors.

And then wasting about 20 minutes of valuable ANA time waiting for them to actually be ready to show me any coins.

Eventually they did, though, and I was able to efficiently crank through some but not all of the 9 catalogs for this session. Did you say 9 catalogs? Yes – including Rarities Night, the regular session, the Battle Born Collection, Currency, the World Sale, etc. In which I found plenty of widely scattered cool things to bid on.

And then I headed over to the bourse floor expecting a quiet day in which I would figure bids, do some organizing and maybe wander back to lot viewing. But my expectation, as it often is, was dead wrong.

Amazingly, and most welcome, I sold waaaay more than I expected, including a very nice new 1803 Cent in XF45, a choice 1821 Cent, a couple of Indian Cents, a PF Buffalo, 2 world coins, a wicked Vermont Landscape and a couple of raw colonials I was not actually planning to sell here. Which is of course all good from a commercial perspective, though I did regret selling a few coins that I was excited to present at the show this coming week.

Possibly related to the ANA buzz but maybe not all, the website has been oddly busy too, with orders coming in during the day for coins that I had brought with me and which are now in the ship-this-out-later queue in the back case.

Buying was less exciting but still pretty decent I must say, though I really need to find more cool coins of all types and series, which is why I did go back for a 2nd round of S-B lot viewing before rushing to a dinner date at the Capital Grill with a dealer friend.

Monday should be just as busy, with a chance to check out new coins in new dealer cases, the likelihood of more sales, the certainty of some additional lot viewing all followed by a banquet in the evening in which I have been told I definitely cannot wear shorts (but might anyway).

More later –

August 6th:  Day 3

As the rest of the working world woke up, ate large bowls of Corn Flakes, got dressed, piled into their cars, squeezed into subways or hoofed it down the sidewalk in uncomfortable shoes to their places of business, I did too, a most unusual feeling for a coin dealer (since we never attend coin shows on Mondays).

But here I was in Philadelphia heading over to the convention center for a ‘transitional day’ as the pre-show wound down (at noon) and the actual ANA started up (with all-dealer set-up at 3 PM).

An event characterized by guys wheeling in large carts filled with inelegant plastic tubs, and convention center workers assembling displays and hanging signs using significantly heavier machinery than you might have expected.  Like this for example:

It bears noting that while I was snapping that photo, I was very nearly run over by the guy in this photo:

Which made me think that hanging around at this time by the Austrian Mint booth (the most beautiful one at the show IMO with its Julie Andrews “The Hills are Alive” backdrop) was a bad and dangerous idea.

Amidst this chaos, however, business wasn’t bad, as I sold a nice 1796 Liberty Cap Cent (first one handled by CRO in as long as I can remember) and assorted other type coins to a variety of collectors and dealers.

Buying was even better, as I found a number of lovely coins at some of the just-set-up dealer tables, including some abjectly original Latin American gold, interesting tokens and main stream choice federal coins.

I also picked up my Heritage winnings from last week and then artfully arranged them in my display cases where another dealer came and numismatically groped one of them for not less than 13 minutes.

And then went back to Stack’s-Bowers for what I would describe as a ‘verification round’ of lot viewing where I looked at my short list of coins a second time just to be sure.

And then, late in the day, I packed up and headed to dinner with some guy named Dave Wnuck, where we ate sensibly and had just one drink each (unlike most nights at these shows where someone invariably orders 2 bottles of wine for 3 people).

So I felt considerably better than usual when I got back to the hotel just in time to watch some obscure Olympic events in which I had no interest whatsoever, and then got to bed at a reasonable hour.

Tuesday the fun begins in earnest, as the show itself kicks off, almost certainly with a bunch of speeches that, if history is our guide, no one will be able hear no matter how close they are to the speaker. So that should be good.

But whatever happens, I will describe it with great enthusiasm in tomorrow’s RR.

August 7th:  Day 4

Fantastically I leapt out of bed on Tuesday, dashed off yesterday’s RR, enjoyed the free hotel breakfast options of slightly plastic eggs or lightly toasted bread with artificial cream cheese and then headed off the convention where I arrived at precisely 7:58 AM.

Which meant hardly any waiting at all before the 300 other dealers in the lobby and I spilled into the bourse and quickly scattered to our respective tables.

And then, once situated, I made an extremely concerted effort to scour the bourse floor for 2 hours looking for NEWPs during dealer set-up (since I knew that later in the day, with the public in our midst, I would be too busy).  And this would prove to be a good strategy, as I bought quite a few coins of the federal, world and esoteric variety from a lot of different people and then hauled them back to CRO Table #1004 where I would remain until 6 PM EDT.

That worked out pretty well, too, as collectors and dealers (and some hybrids of same) came by the table, checked out everything and bought all sorts of things, among them a spectacular PF67 Washington Colonial piece, a nice unc. SLQ, a couple of Capped Bust Halves, a vividly toned Seated Dime and, of interest to holder specialists, a 20c Piece in a PCGS Regency holder and a 2c Piece in a PCGS Doily holder, which I have to believe is the first time in the history of numismatics two such items have ever appeared at one show table.

Buying at the table was decent too, including an expensive colonial, cool commems, some lovely Latin American silver coins and a minor deal of really fresh type in ancient NGC holders.

I got some grades back too and the initial results have been quite acceptable, thank you, including crossing a proof Shield Nickel and TrueViewing it at the same time, since the picture on our site (shot through thick NGC plastic) doesn’t do justice to the cool multi-colored toning that I promise you is actually there.

And then, eventually, it was time for the auction to start at 6 PM, where your author sat comfortably bidding on and buying some of the really nice PF Indian Cents from the Philip Winston Pillsbury Collection (nearly every single one a totally original coin in an untouched old PCGS holder), but then getting shut out on my favorite Capped Bust Dimes from the David J. Davis Collection (an impressively long run of nice circs. and an occasional unc. assembled lovingly by die variety).

After which I headed to dinner with a collector friend at Sampan, where we ate some surprisingly good Korean barbecue.

I think Wednesday should be just as good, as more collectors arrive and activity at the table and on the bourse floor continues at what I hope is a good clip, and then gets described right here tomorrow.


August 8th:  Day 5

In the week leading up to this event I was wondering what it was going to be like to handle a typically busy ANA show as a soloist behind the CRO table.

Now, I have done many shows in the past by myself, including the recent EAC show in Buffalo, several in Vegas, a few Long Beaches, Bay State, etc., but none of those are remotely like an ANA in duration, traffic and activity level, and at none of those did I have a corner table with 5 full cases to manage. Would I be struggling to talk to more than one customer at a time?  Stuck behind the table all day unable to buy coins on the floor, view auction lots, pick up grading or even get a drink?  Overwhelmed with activity sort of like in the climactic scene in the fine film “Trading Places”?

5 days in I think I have my answers:

I would say that activity at the table has been typically robust for an ANA, and I have had two and three people at the table on many occasions, but it has never been unmanageable.

While I have not had the freedom to roam around or take breaks like I did with Dave at the table, I have been able to make a few quick forays here and there during a lull.  And I am glad I made an elegant and neatly framed sign with my cell phone number telling people to call me if I am not at the table, since it has worked and I have been called back within a few minutes almost every time I have stepped away.

Most of my serious searching for NEWPs has been relegated to the dealer set-up period, which is not a perfect solution, but has yielded plenty of cool coins. I have also had a lot of deals walk up to the table, which is of course very handy too.  I am sure I have missed some good stuff, though.

PCGS has called me when submissions have come back, so I have not had to waste time walking over there to see if coins are ready and then leave disappointed.

Unlike other shows, I did the majority of my lot viewing in advance or during off hours so I have not missed any busy table time doing that. And while I would like to attend some of the live auction sessions during show hours, I’ve entered all my bids online so it is not mandatory.

And the fine folks at HLRC have been kind enough to include me on their lunch orders from the Reading Market, so I have not gone hungry or had to step away to do that.

In fact, the biggest procedural difference for me here has been security related, where I have kept all the cases locked up tight even while I’m at the table, as opposed to previous events where Dave or I was always present and could keep an eye on things. Yes, constantly fumbling with the keys is a pain in the neck, but seems prudent.

So, I guess the conclusion is that even this largest of shows is doable for one person (at least so far), but not easy, and frankly exhausting, which is why I have been crashing early after dinner and sleeping all the way through until 6 AM (instead of my usual 4).

Still, in the future I probably will bring a table assistant to large events primarily to give me more time to walk the floor during show hours and find interesting coins.

Tomorrow’s RR will be back to our usual format, and will include a recap of Thursday’s Stack’s-Bowers sessions.

August 9th:  Day 6

I might have spoken slightly too soon in yesterday’s RR when I said that the traffic at the table was not “unmanageable”, since the first couple of hours on Thursday were the busiest and most hectic at the show so far, with multiple collectors all wanting to look at coins at once, and in 4 of the 5 different show cases, requiring me to run around like crazy even before I got any coffee.

And while I was strained to the limits for a while there, it all worked out just fine, with some very good sales of all kinds during the day, including our Honolulu blue-toned Hangman token, a nice unc. Fugio, a choice AU Mass Cent, a nice Washington piece, two lovely Pillars Dollars, a short stack of federal gold, a mid 4-figure Large Cent, some quarters and, finally, the expensive colonial furtively mentioned two days ago (which the buyer asked me not to mention here, and so I won’t).

I was also pleased to do some more wholesale business, which is always important at any show, but more so this time, since I brought some 30 coins with me that were decent enough, generally eye appealing and mostly CAC’ed, but which just don’t fit the CRO model going forward.

As of Thursday morning that group had been already whittled down to about a dozen pieces which a collector-dealer friend then volunteered to walk around the floor for me, selling 4 more in a several hour period. Anything leftover after Friday I’ll end up consigning, or possibly trading if I am creative enough.

And while sales were good, I bought some great things too, running the gamut from a colonial deal off the market for 50+ years to a very handsome 1928 Peace Dollar in the unlikely combination of a brand new PCGS MS62 holder with an extremely appropriate gold CAC sticker on it. To say nothing of the very high-end Libertas Americana Medal I added late in the day.

I should also mention that I picked up my Stack’s lot winnings so far and then simultaneously patted myself on the back for selecting cool coins and beat myself up for not buying more of them. Seriously, I really wish I had stretched for a few others.

So I tried very hard to do just that in the Stack’s-Bowers auctions on Thursday, both in the afternoon ‘regular’ session (during which I placed my bids on the internet) and in the highfalutin Rarities Night sale afterward (in which I sat through the entire session from 6 PM to 1 AM, starting with the electric, standing room only crowd fighting over coins in the Battle Born Collection of Carson City coinage):

And then through a bunch of obscure medals, past the spectacular set of 1796 issues, through colonials and copper, into the awesome “Just Having Fun” Standing Liberty Quarter set, to dollars, and then finally into gold while trying to buy some widely scattered lots of interest along the way.

It wasn’t easy though, as prices were very strong on the kinds of coins I was chasing. Like lot #11303, for example, an attractive 1803 Draped Bust Dime graded AU55 [PCGS green label-CAC] ex-Eliasberg which sold for $25,850. That exact same coin sold exactly 1 year ago at Heritage for $18,400, so I admit I was not expecting a 40% jump.  And while not everything did as well, the good stuff mostly did.

Still, I managed to find a dozen or so cool coins at levels that made sense to me and was happy to buy them.

After which I dragged myself back to the hotel in the middle of the night and then worked on the computer for a while, finally falling asleep at about 4 AM.

But I promise I will be back in form on Friday morning and ready for another exciting day at the more than a week-long endurance test known as the ANA.

August 10th:  Day 7

I have to say that Friday was somewhat of a surprise, as business continued unabated and I bought and sold at a pretty steady clip all day and in all numismatic categories and price points:

  1. Did a partial cash and trade deal to acquire a Grade A, very choice, totally original (and priced accordingly) early half dime.
  2. Sold that neat stack of 5 coins in ancient NGC holders that I bought earlier in the week and had planned to take home with me.
  3. In two separate deals I bought three beautifully toned and relatively affordable AU silver type coins of the sort that will numismatically sing on the website, and which are representative of the sorts of coins I always endeavor to find and offer.
  4. Sold 3 Fugios to a collector who not 6 minutes earlier had told me that he was not going to be buying anything today.  I really like when that happens, though it rarely does.
  5. Bought a new Fugio of a type CRO last handled waaaaay back in 2006.
  6. Was compelled to sell the prettiest Trade Dollar I have ever personally handled by someone who steadfastly refused to leave the table until I gave in.
  7. Found a likely buyer for two wicked things I have acquired on Ebay in the last couple of weeks.
  8. Received phone orders for 3 coins off the site and removed them from the case to ship out when I get home.
  9. While not definite yet, it looks like the wholesale box I had been working on is all going to be sold here which means that I do not need to consign it, and, even better, I do not need to schlepp it home.
  10. Did buy every lot I bid on in Friday’s Stack’s-Bowers sessions, which sounds less impressive when you find out it was only four coins. They were four pretty darn nice coins though, and all gold.

Which I will need to pick up and pay for, the first of a veritable ton of paperwork and reconciliations I will need to start doing the minute I get to the show on Saturday AM (so it is a good thing that I went to bed early and got a good night’s sleep on Friday).

The final installment of this Road Report will be written from home on Sunday morning while I am sitting in my favorite chair probably being attacked by my dog (a piece of furniture and trusted pet I have not seen since August 3rd).

So we can all look forward to that.

August 11th:  Day 8

Let the record reflect that the very last CRO sale at this show was made at 3:47 PM on Saturday.

Interestingly, it was while I was packing up, and was, quite literally, the only item left in any of the cases at that time, sold to a customer who seemingly just wanted to buy something – anything – before heading home.

Which, when added to all previous invoices here, took us over the 125 coin mark – a quite respectable total in my view, including coins in all categories, ranging in price from about $50 to just over $31,000.

But even though sales were very good here, I have to say that buying was even better, as I managed to find a lot of the unusual, interesting, striking, eye-appealing and often older holder coins I was looking for, both on the bourse floor and in the auctions. Including one that walked up to the table at about 2 PM Saturday that might just be my favorite piece acquired at the show.

Saturday was also notable in that I had a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich for the first time, having skillfully managed not to eat one on any previous day (or on any previous trip here) through the years. And now I know why, since I felt ill for the next 22 hours (up to and including right now, as a matter of fact, which partially explains why this RR is a little later than planned).

But that minor inconvenience aside, I have to say this was an excellent show overall, commercially and socially, in a nice venue which seemed to me to bring out the collector traffic necessary for a top notch event.

My only complaint (other than the aforementioned sandwich), is that the length of this event, including the pre-show, was ridiculous, and could have easily been paired down to a perfectly acceptable Tuesday to Saturday event, which is what I will hope to do next year.

In any case, it is now time to organize the mountain of paperwork I hauled home, sort out all the new coins and figure out which ones will be appearing on the Early Bird list which will go out on Tuesday at noon.

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