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Back to Road Report Archive 2010

August 5-14, 2010: The ANA World’s Fair of Money in Boston, MA


August 5th – Day 1:

After what seemed like about a 6 month hiatus from coin shows (but which really was just about 6 weeks since we were last on the road in Baltimore), we were extremely excited to being the 10-day long ANA adventure here in Boston starting with the Pre-Show this morning.

Actually, there were two pre-shows going on in Boston today – one run by the same outfit that puts on the Bay State show and held in the usual venue for that event at the Radisson Hotel, and the one we attended at a huge and ancient looking edifice aptly named “The Castle” about 1 block down the road.

Can a city support two pre-shows, you ask? Well, not really in my opinion, but since they were both on the smallish side and held so close together, most attendees (both dealers and collectors alike, and including us) seemed to spend some time at both.  Which would have been easier if it had not been unbelievably hot and humid on this day, which made the simple act of walking down the block (or hauling our show supplies into a building, for example) especially unpleasant.

Still, that was better than later in the afternoon, when a medium-sized monsoon erupted and thoroughly soaked anyone unfortunate enough to be standing on the sidewalk. Or in the men’s room in the basement of The Castle, which flooded impressively.

Fortunately, your author was upstairs manning the table at that point, which meant that he stayed completely dry throughout surrounded by coins and other dealers. Not too may collectors though, with the result that scant little action took place other than dealers looking through other dealers’ boxes. Which we did a little of too, finding a couple of coins we liked, selling a couple of inexpensive pieces, submitting a slew of cool things for grading and then calling it a day to go have dinner with a dealer friend and discuss, for the umpteenth time, a big deal we’ve been working on for ages.  Which concluded fairly late in the evening, at which time your author was ready to collapse.

Tomorrow we hope for some retail traffic and some more interesting coins to show up, both of which are quite likely from our upbeat perspective.

August 6th – Day 2:

The first thing I noticed on Friday was that it was cooler and less humid then Thursday, which was a positive thing, allowing me to roll into the show for the 10 AM start refreshed and ready for action.

And that was good, since there was a bit more of it, including some decent sales in the AM to several different dealers and collectors, and the purchase of a cool Continental Dollar (the first one we’ve handled in a while).  We had a few more transactions up to midday in a room with a few more visitors than yesterday, but it was still hardly crowded in there.

So we took a small fieldtrip at about 1 PM, heading over to the Boston Public Library to see the unique Washington Before Boston Medal struck in gold. The piece has been in the library’s holdings since 1875 or so, and today it was on display in a small glass case in the Rare Book Room, along with some assorted medals and a superb 1855 mint set which had been in the building’s original corner stone when it was built in that year, but was removed during renovations some 40 years later.  And it was remarkably pristine.  Plus there were (not surprisingly) some rare books in there, including the personal library of President John Adams.  In all, that was pretty nice and well worth the 15 minute walk from the show to check out.

The rest of the afternoon proved mostly uneventful, with the acquisition of just 3 moderate coins, a smattering of collectors checking out a coin or two here and there, but just a couple of sales actually taking place.  Then later in the afternoon Dave went to view lots for the Bowers and stack’s auctions across the street at the Park Plaza Hotel, while your author tried in vain to find other cool things to buy on the floor.

Which led us to dinner with a dealer friend next door at Smith & Wollensky’s which was delicious, but dangerous, and included your author smashing his forearm on a heavy, ornate doorknob, and the coin dealer at the next table gouging his leg on an elegant leather backed chair (the first time your author has ever seen or heard of anything like this in fine dining establishment, though once while eating lunch in a restaurant in Brazil I did see a decorative plate fall off of a high shelf and hit a guy at the table next to me directly on the head).

Anyway, Saturday we hope again for a few more visitors, some more interesting things to walk up to the table, and another field trip, this to the Massachusetts Historical Society to see their superb early American collection for which I frankly cannot wait.

Until tomorrow –

August 7th – Day 3:

Saturday turned out to be about as crowded as the previous days, which is to say not very.  There were just a few visitors in the room, including some local collectors and dealers and a fairly continuous light stream of people who were moving from the ‘other’ pre-show to The Castle (and vice versa) to buy, or sell, or more likely just to kick a few tires.

And while several people expressed interest in coins we had, most said they did not want to spend all of their money before the ‘big’ show had even started.  Which seemed logical to us.

There were a few cool coins on the floor that we considered buying too, but we just couldn’t get together on price.

So we spent much of the day either viewing lots, or entering bids into the computer for the Bowers and Stack’s auctions.

Until about noon, when I walked the 10 blocks or so down Boylston Street from the show the Massachusetts Historical Society with a dealer friend (passing a lot of cool shops, and interesting restaurants, seemingly thousands of tourists and the Hynes Convention Center on the way) to check out their display of colonial coins and medals.

And it was well worth the trip to see some of the famous rarities I knew were there (like the unique 1776 Massachusetts Pine Tree copper), some that I had forgotten were there (including one of 2 known Rhode Island Ship Tokens with VLUGTENDE on the obverse), to others I never expected, such as selections from the William Sumner Appleton collection of Washingtonia.  That last group was especially interesting, and included superb medals, neat esoteric pieces (like the finest Chowder Club medal I’ve ever seen) and more mainstream Redbook colonials, with nice examples of the copper and silver Getz Cents and a wonderful golden brown example of the Washington Ugly Head Cent.  The exhibit will be continuing all through next week, and so anyone attending the ANA really should pop over for a visit.

Then we cabbed it back to the show and discovered that we hadn’t missed very much (except the free cupcakes provided by the show organizers which I swear I would not have eaten anyway).

So we spent a bit longer on auctions lots, then eventually got everything packed and organized to be transported over to the ‘big show’ in time for tomorrow’s late afternoon PNG set-up.

Tomorrow will be devoted to auctions, with Stack’s live session, and Heritage lot viewing starting up at the convention center.

More later.

August 8th – Day 4:

While John was out working on an important numismatic project (actually I think he was golfing), I had the pleasure of working hard all day (though I note that I was off on Thursday while he handled our pre-show set-up duties at the ‘The Castle’, so turn-about is fair play or something like that).  And, of course, that means that this Sunday edition of the RR has been scribed by me, Dave Wnuck.

And my first observation is that it was another spectacular day in Boston, sunny, with low humidity, high temperatures in the 70’s, and a breeze off the ocean giving just a slight saltiness to the air.  Which reminded me that the best way to see this city is on foot.

And hoof it I did, about a mile to the Park Plaza Hotel where they were holding the Stack’s auction.

Upon arrival I said to myself “Hey, what a great venue for an auction” – with an old world air and suitably elegant for a gathering of collectors and numismatic professionals.

The auction itself was in a spacious room below ground level with a sunken area filled with tables and chairs set up for about 60 people (with most seats taken by the time the auction started), surrounded by copious floor space for people to view lots, get refreshments, etc.  A great setup, with the (somewhat major) disadvantage of being a ‘dead zone’ for cellular and wireless internet service.  Which forced folks to walk upstairs to the lobby to talk on their cell phones, which – come to think of it – isn’t such a bad thing after all.

Anyway, the auction was active (as was the Bowers & Merena auction held in the same hotel yesterday) with prices in line with auctions in the past few months.  I stayed through the copper coins, then left the rest of our bids at the podium and walked back to the Hynes convention center just in time for the PNG meeting.

During which there was the ritual sacrificing of a goat, followed by the traditional dancing around the bonfire in our long, black robes while chanting the Sacred PNG Verses in Latin.  Err, just kidding.  (Or am I?) Hmmm . . .

After the meeting, we all schlepped our stuff to the convention center for PNG set up (which really is primarily a time for setting up one’s booth; very little business was done by anyone as far as I could tell).

But with that task now (mostly) complete, I’m proud to say we are ready for a rip-roaring ANA to begin.

Starting tomorrow with PNG Day, during which we fully intend to buy and sell a lot of really cool coins (and give away the first of our special edition Red Sox inspired CRO hats as described on our home page).

So if you are going to be at the show, you might want to stop by and see us.

August 9th – Day 5:

Monday began with a long walk through the corridors of Hynes Convention Center desperately trying to find the bourse floor, which I eventually did.  And when I got there, I found dozens of PNG dealers already set-up in a room that somehow seemed smaller than I expected.  Until someone explained to me that there was actually another entire room which would be filled on Tuesday when all the rest of the dealers would arrive.  So size will not be a problem here.

Activity was not a problem either, as there was a pretty decent crowd of dealers and serious collectors (who had entered via invitation from the PNG dealers) roaming about buying, selling, trading and grading at a fairly steady clip from 10 to 5 or so.

Which worked out very well for us, as we sold a bunch of coins, including the Continental Dollar we had purchased just a couple of days ago at the pre-show, about a dozen other colonials, some cool bust halves, and a wide variety of gold.  We also found a bunch of interesting things to buy of all shapes and sizes, including 2 more high-end colonials, a lot of nice type and an obscure coin that Dave bought for himself after what he described as a “20-year search”.  If you ask him about it, he’ll be happy to show it to you.

And, in what is an ANA tradition, there were lot of rare and exceptional things on display in various dealer cases (including ours), one more reason that this show is such a hoot for serious numismatists.

My last order of business on Monday was some late afternoon lot viewing at Heritage, which I concluded just in time to head out to dinner at the well-attended PNG banquet.  That ran pretty late and included a lot of imbibing followed by some very serious sleeping, which explains why I am writing this edition of the RR on Tuesday AM before heading out again for what figures to be a long, busy and very active day on the bourse floor.

The details of which will be described right here in this space in about 24 hours from now.

August 10th – Day 6:

Team CRO was especially excited about Tuesday, since it meant that ALL of the attending dealers would now be set up, thus expanding the total number of coins in the room by a factor of about 17, and similarly improving the odds that we could find something extremely cool to buy.

Which we did with good success, adding some neat federal, colonial and esoteric issues to our inventory during dealer set-up.  Quite an accomplishment in our opinion, especially considering that a convention center staff member annoyingly drove a 5’ wide forklift up and down the 5’3” wide main aisle in front of our table about 23 times during this period, twice coming pretty close to running over your author and possibly flattening him like you sometimes see in one of those Road Runner cartoons.

But I remained unscathed, and the heavy machinery was thankfully gone before the doors opened to the public at 1 PM.

And when they did, a good-sized crowd of collectors came rushing in, quickly spreading across the bourse in a scene that looked, sounded and felt absolutely nothing like the barren wasteland that was last year’s LA show.  So that was nice.

As were the sales that followed for the rest of the day, in all categories, to collectors and dealers alike, ranging from a few hundred dollars to the mid five figures and including the two most expensive coins we had in our inventory (with CRO hats distributed accordingly!).

Also of note were the grades we got back, which included 2 PCGS + coins (our first on the non-Secure Plus service level), and the cool displays we saw:

  • Two wild 1804 $10 Proof Restrikes and a small group of what could best be described as wicked high-grade Massachusetts silver coins at the NGC booth, including a Pine Tree Shilling in an NGC MS67 holder on which Dave and I were the underbidders when it last came up for auction as a raw coin at Stack’s in 2002.  Special thanks to NGC’s Scott Schecter who let us check these out up close and in hand.
  • A neat selection of early American coins in the “other” section of the bourse floor, which included a nice run of raw colonial type and an American Congress Fugio copper, which is, as they say, something you don’t see everyday.
  • Finally, in the collectors exhibit area, there was a spectacular selection of Massachusetts silver from New England to Willow to Oak to Pine Tree coins, in all denominations, artfully executed with old catalogs illustrating auction appearances of the coins on display.

And then, very late in the day, we had another nice flurry of activity at the table, selling, symmetrically, several of the NEWPs we bought earlier in the day, and the one coin which had been in our inventory longer than any other.  Which proves that, despite the planning and analysis we do, you can never really know what will sell, when or to whom.

When that was over, we headed out to dinner at P.F. Chang’s, during which I may have overdone it on the spicy food, but will not know for sure until I go to sleep tonight and possibly have an unusually vivid or disturbing dream.

To find out if I did (and to read about other things actually related to numismatics), please check out tomorrow’s installment of the Road Report.

August 11th – Day 7:

I slept pretty well on Tuesday night, woke up early and quickly made my way to the show in anticipation of some intensive coin dealering activities on Wednesday.

But the early morning was a bit slow, as we had just some light traffic at the table and nothin’ doing in the way of really exciting sales or purchases.  That gradually began to change around mid-morning, though, as a lot of new and long-time customers stopped by to say hi, buy, sell and/or consign coins to us, and, like the previous days, we once again found ourselves genuinely busy at the table, though not too busy to take in the full ANA experience.

Which included the two people (adults, mind you) who walked by our table in what appeared to me to be Harry Potter movie costumes.  No idea why.  But as ridiculous as that appeared , I would still have rather had one of those on than the uncomfortable looking lederhosen worn by the guy at the Austrian mint display.  That looked really uncomfortable, and, in my opinion, would not be well received if you, for example, went out to get some lunch in a nearby Boston neighborhood.

Which we did not do, instead making a quick run to the concession stand and then racing back to the table where we were selling well and buying some nice individual coins in all categories, just enough unusual esoterica to fill future CRO ads and a big box of federal coins that we will ship home to sort out later.

And then, late in the day, we started getting ready for Heritage’s Platinum Night auction which would begin at 6 PM in a medium-sized room just down the hall.  Which was totally packed when we got there, with most every seat filled, and SRO in the back for Dwight Manley’s colonials and Steve Duckor’s Barber Halves, among other things.

And both guys must have been happy with the results, as their consignments sold very strong (though some of the other coins in the session seemed a bit weak from our perspective).  We were not major players, though, as we were shut out on a few of the things we wanted, and not buyers of the others.

Then we whipped up stairs to stop by a friend’s cocktail party, and then headed back to the lobby to meet a good client and head out for a fantastic dinner at a great restaurant in nearby Chesnut Hill, MA during which we talked about coins and other topics, and no one in attendance wore lederhosen.

Thursday we look forward to bidding on some cool stuff in the Heritage auctions, and hope to see some new visitors at the table and start an entirely new wave of buying and selling, and I fully expect that that is exactly what is going to happen.


August 12th – Day 8:

Everything started off absolutely great on Thursday other than the fact that I could not find the key to one of our show cases.  But once that was resolved, it was smoooooth sailing into the morning and another decent day on the bourse floor.

Which included selling a neat coin in our display that had been looked at, considered, evaluated and fondled (numismatically) by about 143 collectors and dealers since the show began, and which we knew would sell to one of them eventually.

We were also pleased to buy some cool world coins which circulated in early America, one a raw gem example of a piece I have been looking for in unc. for at least 4 years and was starting to think might not exist like that.  But I can now state with absolute certainty that it does.

Then I popped into the Heritage auction and bought one colonial coin that I was not really planning to buy for well less than it had sold for about a year ago in a session in which most of the results seemed at least a little soft.

Which stood in stark contrast to at least one of the half dollars sold later, as described to us by a collector friend who noted that he had bid $14,000 on lot 3262, a 1944 Walker in PCGS MS68 (which seemed like an awful lot of money to us) only to be outbid by $81,000.  Which, based on my detailed analysis, means that the $95,000 hammer price for this coin (of which there is a PCGS population in all grades of more than 11,000, nearly 5,000 of which are in MS65 or higher and 66 pieces are MS67) easily exceeded the price of the PCGS MS65 Pine Tree Shilling sold the previous evening, which would make perfect sense to us if we were collecting coins in bizarro world.  But if the buyer is happy, we are happy.

We were also happy to get the very last of our show grades back in the afternoon, which, in total, seemed strict, but fair at this show.

And then ponder a few more deals before packing up and heading out to dinner with a collector friend at Skipjack’s a few blocks from the convention center where the waitress was excellent, the conversation was stimulating, and the wasabi crusted salmon was dee-licious.

Friday we are heading into the home stretch, the 9th of our 10 days in downtown Boston for what we hope will be a few more sales and purchases before we finally pack up and head out this weekend.

August 13th – Day 9:

Dave was off to the Massachusetts Historical Society for some sight-seeing early Friday morning (since he didn’t get to go last week), leaving your author to fend for himself at the table and handle each and every bit of the heavy purchase and sales lifting with no help whatsoever.

And there continued to be a decent amount of activity, with visitors who had been at the show most of the week, and others who had just arrived on Friday, including familiar faces and collectors we were delighted to meet for the first time.

Which is always one of the highlights of these shows, and sometimes a seemingly random act as someone who does not know us happens upon our table, sees some things they like and then asks if we have a website, etc.  I am always especially pleased in these cases when someone asks “Are there pictures of the coins on your site?”, as it gives me an opportunity to fire up the computer and give them the grand tour of CRO.

We also had several conversations with collectors and dealers alike (many of whom have known Dave for years from the New England show circuit) about potential deals and collections which may be available in the coming months.  Which is another important benefit of these shows, as of course we are always on the lookout for the next deal.  And some of these sounded very encouraging, as they included colonial and federal coins that have been off the market for 20 years or more.

And then late in the afternoon we began the gradual migration into show clean-up phase, picking up checks, settling invoices from earlier in the week, and trying to finalize some of the deals which are still pending, but which we hope will happen before we leave town.

We also consigned some coins to the various auction houses on behalf of several different clients, thinning out the material in our back cases leaving just a gigantic stack of paperwork that will keep us busy well into next week.

And then it was time for a nice dinner across town with some dealer friends, and a pleasant stroll back to the hotel in perfect weather amidst lots of people out and about at the restaurants and bars in the area.

Which meant that, in total, absolutely nothing bad happened at all on Day 9 despite about 16 people reminding me that it was Friday the 13th during the course of the day.  Phew.

And now we are looking forward to more business on Saturday with the possibility of new customers coming to the show for the first time, and one last installment of the RR before we close the book on the 2010 ANA.

August 14th – Day 10:

I am now comfortably back home after the best ANA we have attended in several years, which can be summarized as follows:

  • Boston (and the Hynes Convention Center specifically) was an excellent venue in almost every way with plenty of cool things to see and do nearby.  So the same people who ripped the ANA for last year’s LA show (including us) ought to give them kudos this time.  Good job ANA!
  • I don’t recall any other recent show where nearly everyone who came to our table was actively trying to buy something, but that was the case here.
  • I have seen airplane engines less powerful than the automatic hand dryers in the men’s room.
  • We have never before encountered a more location-specific interest in a particular coin type than at this show, where it seemed like 4 or 5 people every day would ask for a piece of Massachusetts silver (with nearly all of them seeking a coin in VF to XF).  And while this may not seem unusual for a show in Boston, I have never experienced anything like it at the Bay State Show (which is held biannually just a few blocks away).
  • At the time we signed up for this show it was not clear based on the bourse map where exactly the best table locations would be, or that there would be two separate rooms for dealers, or where exactly the door would be, suggesting that next time we may actually have to visit the convention center in person before we choose our spot.
  • I did not realize until today that the two people dressed in what appeared to be Harry Potter costumes were actually promoting Wizard Coin Supply.  Now if I could figure out what the guy in the giant light blue eagle-wearing-glasses costume was for, I’d be all set.
  • People like to get free hats (though we do have a just a couple left for our website customers).
  • Perusing every single case on the bourse floor, we didn’t see any other dealers with a single coin with a gold CAC sticker on it.
  • A majority of the high-end marquis coins in the auctions seemed to go for very strong money, but plenty of nice collector coins were soft as can be.
  • It was cool to go to the Canadian Mint Exhibit and actually hold the medals from the Vancouver Winter Olympics.  First reaction:  They were extremely heavy.
  • Fully 50% of the people at our table acknowledged that they did not understand our recent “Batman” ad.
  • I don’t recall talking to anyone at the show who felt like they had received especially good grades on any submission from either service, though in a room that big there must have been someone who did.
  • One of the most interesting conversations I had at the show was with a serious collector who (unbeknownst to me prior to this show) personally owns a number of coins I had been trying to trace for years.  And while none of them are for sale, this sort of information is a very valuable acquisition at any show.

In total, this was our best show of the year, with nearly everything working great, and a few more straggler deals still pending.  Which is more or less what we thought would happen here, but it is awfully nice when it actually does.

And with that, we close the book on the Boston ANA 2010.

Our next Road Report will be coming to you from Long Beach, CA at the end of September (unless we squeeze in another event sometime before then, which is fairly likely).  But now, it’s time to start working on our next Early Bird Notification to be unleashed on Tuesday.