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Back to Road Report Archive 2016

August 6-13, 2016: The ANA World’s Fair of Money in Anaheim, CA



After months of anticipation, weeks of preparation, days of organization and hours of pack-ification, Team CRO is finally rocketing toward Anaheim, CA for the 2016 ANA World’s Fair of Money.

And what we will find when we get there?

Pretty much everyone who is anyone in the coin business from all over the world, a gigantic bourse, dealer tables filled with every conceivable specialty, thousands of high octane auction lots and, if past experience is our guide, business being done in all corners of the room from start to finish everyday.

Including, we hope, by us, since we expect to buy aggressively, sell enthusiastically, and generally exhaust ourselves completely by the time this thing is over.

But not before we have blogged about this show epically right here in this space every single morning of the show.

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

August 6th:  Day 1

With the precise and athletic movements of a middle-aged coin dealer, your author woke up crisply at 3:30 AM, drank 3 large coffees and headed off to the airport for the 7 hour, 2-leg journey to SoCal.

And it all came off pretty much without a hitch, allowing me to stroll casually into the show hotel here in Anaheim about noon where I was delighted to find that my room was ready, and that I would be allowed to stay in it for the duration of the show (which sounds like no big deal, but actually IS, since for the last 3 months I was faced with having to switch hotels in the middle of this thing). So that was good.

Where I dropped my bags and then walked briskly over to the convention center for the PNG Pre-ANA show which I originally decided to participate in for one reason: So I could set up the CRO booth in a calm, unhurried environment and fix any of the issues that come up (as was thoroughly described in last year’s ANA RR here) without competing with all of the other guys dealing with the same problems which will inevitably surface on Monday during ‘regular’ set-up.

And this proved to be a heroicially great decision, since of course I did not get all my cases, or lamps, and – as is typical of the kinds of things that happen here – some of the clamps that are supposed to hold the lamps to the table do not actually fit on these tables. Yes, I know this sounds like a trivial thing, but I cannot tell you how frustrating that can be.

But I managed to get it sorted out, snagging the very last usable lamp clamp from the organizers, sticking them with the bad ones, removing the incorrect booth sign and successfully setting up everything by 2 PM.

Where I then proceeded to wander aimlessly around the floor finding about a dozen U.S. coins like this, for example:

But actually selling one off the site for more than all of those combined.  Which was a nice bonus.

And then made my first foray into lot viewing, which is a massive undertaking including about a dozen different catalogs from Heritage and S-B combined.  So I did what I could in the time that I had, with the intention to view in earnest tomorrow.

Then back to the bourse floor for a couple of last, late purchases before heading out to dinner at fantastic place called Urbana where this giant face stared at us while we ate:

After which I finally had to call it a looooong 22 hour day so that I would be sufficiently rested and ready to view all of the rest of those lots on Sunday before welcoming the other half of Team CRO, MaryAnn, who will be here Sunday evening.

More later –

August 7th:  Day 2

Our first full day here at the ANA would be an extreeeeemely productive one, as I efficiently ate breakfast while answering email, updating the site and working on auction prep here in the room, then headed over to the convention center precisely at nine for the official opening of Stack’s-Bowers lot viewing.

And then proceeded not to move until I had pored through every last lot of interest (and many that weren’t), writing copious notes in tiny illegible writing, seeing that one coin I had ID’d as a prime CRO target weeks ago had been withdrawn from the sale (Aaaaaargh!), and ultimately compiling a final list of a few dozen U.S. and world lots to bid on.

Before sliding next door to Heritage and doing the same exact thing.

A process which would take about 4 hours, including re-reviewing some of the more complicated coins I had seen on Saturday, wrapping the whole thing up at about 1 just in time for lunch.

Of which the options here are staggering, including a shopping mall-style food court at the Hilton and a bunch of food trucks on the street outside the convention center where some dude was playing a guitar in a scene which was more street fair than coin show.

So I skipped all that, grabbed something small from the hotel and then headed back into the show to once again walk the floor 50 times looking for interesting NEWPs.

Where again I found a decent number of coins in all categories which I added to growing pile behind CRO table #313.

Stopping intermittently to talk to a few other dealers, meet with a few customers and submit a bunch more grading before heading back to the hotel at 4 to enter all the auction lots onto my watch lists and input some early bids.

Eventually walking to an early-ish dinner with a dealer friend and then returning to the hotel so I could be here when the other half of Team CRO arrived.

And now, with a full complement of employees, no one will be readier for a Monday which will include, finally, full fledged dealer set-up at the convention center in the afternoon during which hundreds and hundreds of dealers will descend upon Anaheim, flooding the place with more cool coins and causing even longer lines at the fish taco truck.

With everything that happens to be described right here on Tuesday AM.


August 8th:  Day 3

Monday (at least the early part of it) proved to be a lot like Saturday and Sunday here in Anaheim, as we once again arrived at the show, once again met a few people at the table and once again scoured the room for cool coins.

This time adding just a few more, including one produced from a dealer’s back case and handed to us with a “I have something you’re gonna want” flourish. Some version of that actually happened to us 3 times with 3 different dealers here at the pre-show (since a lot of people by now think they know exactly the kind of things we’re looking for), but only this last one actually filled the bill.

So we vacuumed it up like a giant Hoover, wrote the check and then locked it in the back case just as the clock turned twelve and they announced that the ANA Pre-show was officially over.

Giving us the option to hang around for 3 hours of dead time, or leave for a while and come back for the start of the full blown ANA dealer set-up later.

So of course we selected option 2, went and had lunch at the hotel pool restaurant and returned rested and ready to join the massive throng of dealers ready to pour into the room at 3 PM.

And then cruising over to our table absolutely thrilled that it was already set up, and encountering a bunch of other dealers wandering the aisles asking me where they could get lamps, or cases for their booths. I feel your pain, numismatist, I feel your pain.

But while they were doing that, I was surveying the extremely busy, seemingly under construction bourse floor, dodging the fast moving forklifts we only encounter at the ANA like this:

While trying to figure out where all of the tables of high interest were and scouting out some additional NEWPs, of which I found a bunch of strong possibilities, but nothing I felt had to jump on right away without doing some additional research. I might have taken a flyer on cheaper coins, but when they approach 10K I am less cavalier.

And then, after a pretty productive hour and a half, we were off again, this time for an amazing dinner at the home of a local numismatic friend which is the kind of thing we always love to do as we travel around the country.

Getting back to the hotel pretty late and then turning in so we could be ready for what we expect to be a very long, very busy and hopefully very productive first full day of the ANA here in Anaheim.

Until tomorrow –

August 9th:  Day 4

We were feeling the pressure on Tuesday.

Faced with a full day on the bourse and an auction immediately afterward, we started by first losing the show schedule, then the phone charger, then the bidder card, topped off by your author inhaling (literally) a Starbucks’s egg and cheese English muffin directly into his windpipe, which I promise you is a very poor way to begin any day at any coin show, let alone the ANA.

But after only 15 minutes of violent coughing I pronounced myself ready to head to the bourse and start coin dealering in earnest.

Which we would do for the next, oh, 10 hours or so, as we clicked on the lights promptly at 8 AM, ran around like crazy making deals for the entirety of set up, then entertained a steady stream of visitors at the table pretty much all day with nearly every single person buying a coin (or two, or five), or selling us one (or 14). Unless they were doing both.  And these visitors ran the gamut from looooong time local customers we had expected to see here, to brand new faces who came to our table for the first time ever and dove right in.

With interests varying greatly from colonial to U.S. to world coins which circulated in early America to esoteric numismatic items, but generally sharing one thing in common: Most sales were in the $2,000 to $5,000 range, which is certainly higher than our website average.  Possibly suggesting that the people here (at least so far) have been of the very serious collector variety seeking very specific things, which is good.

Also good: While were busy at the table, the traffic was mostly sequential, and not overlapping, allowing us sufficient time to work with customers one on one, rather than in the chaotic keystone cops routine we’ve had at past ANA’s with 5 people wanting to see different coins in 5 different cases all being serviced by two of us. That’s hard.

But here it was sufficiently better than we even got a few chances to cruise the floor and go shopping, finding some nice colonials, CRO-style U.S. and a whole collection of raw world coins that were just exactly the kind of thing we hoped to find here.

Then I casually looked at my watch and noticed it was suddenly 5:30, so we started packing up so I could be at the Stack’s-Bowers auction right when it opened at 6, where we bought a half dozen coins including every one of the lots we wanted most.

Finally making it to dinner here at the hotel at about 9:30, then returning to the room to write this blog since we will be too busy in the morning with a lot to do for normal show prep AND getting ready for the first auction lot to hit the block at the extremely early hour of 9 AM.

With all of Wednesday’s results to be described right here in just about 24 hours from now.

August 10th:  Day 5

After 5 days here in Anaheim we have now entered the ‘Dog Days’ of the ANA characterized by the fact that everyone is exhausted and no one can remember what day it is or what auction is next.

On the other hand, we now know where everything is, we have the ANA schedule down pat and we figured out the time to go to the gym and Starbuck’s to avoid the longest lines, allowing us to stroll into the show on Wednesday ready to go at 9 AM.

And while MaryAnn manned the table, I was able to once again race around peering in cases in the early morning, finding a few more coins buried in the deep recesses of the room. But not finding all of them, since a couple of long time customers showed me some great coins they snagged as well on this day.

Not that it’s always easy for any of us. Sure, sometimes something falls into your lap, but mostly it’s a complete crapshoot requiring a combination of luck, knowledge, timing, persistence and the ability not to have a cow when things aren’t going your way:

1) You actually have to find the item buried in a sea of thousands and thousands of coins you don’t want.

2) You need to do so when the owner is actually present, which turns out to be the real trick, since a lot of the time even if there is a guy at that table he’ll say something like “Oh, those are Bob Friedleburg’s coins – he’ll be back at some unspecified future time. Also, he is anti-cell phone, and there is absolutely no way to contact him unless he is standing directly in front of you.

3) Said dealer, once located, needs to tell you an actual price, and sell you the coin. Which also sounds simple, but sometimes the item – despite the fact that it is sitting in a bourse case at a coin show and certainly appears to be for sale – turns out to be on consignment from his customer, who doesn’t know what he wants for it, and he doesn’t own a cell phone either.

Somehow, despite some of the single most frustrating experiences I’ve ever had in my life, some of these deals actually get done.

Others were muuuuuuch easier, as a variety of cool coins found us at the table throughout the day in all categories, including some nice mainstream type and one of the most esoteric items we’ve ever encountered.

Sales continued to be pretty good too, including a pair of Peace Dollars sold to a good local customer at midday, some Pillars, some better gold and a high end colonial which we had just acquired in the auction the previous evening. That last one is a coin we did not intend to sell here, but people knew we bought it, the offer was right and we struck while the iron was hot.

Auctions Wednesday were less kind, as we bid on a smattering of lots and bought very little as prices on some coins raced out to levels beyond what we wanted to pay, then beyond what we thought we could sell them for and, in some cases, for numbers entering an area we have described through the years as “Wait a minute, is that a rare variety or something?”, or “Is that guy crazy?” and finally “Am I on the right lot #?”.  With the answers to those questions almost always No, Yes and Yes.

And then, after a full, fine day of coin dealering, we headed out to dinner at some Middle Eastern restaurant called Zov’s where we planned our upcoming auction bidding over jalapeño pineapple margaritas and baba ghanoush.

So of course there is no question that we’ll be ready for action come Thursday.

August 11th:  Day 6

Like a missile we rocketed to the show on Thursday morning attempting to get there just as the doors opened at 8AM so we could complete a planned early morning deal, finalize and enter our bids for the Heritage Rudman session and deliver another coin to a dealer who had a client coming in early the morning.

And we were successful on all counts, though we would not know the results of those Rudman bids for several hours and at that time it would be a complete surprise, since we would not be following the sale live during the day. Spoiler alert: The results were indeed surprising, no, shocking to us, as we entered about 15 aggressive bids and won only 6, but including the Biggest Kahuna we wanted most in the session and also Kahuna 1b.

A decent result on a day that was pretty much chock full of them, including sales of a bunch of wholesale coins, a few more retail and the addition of another handful of NEWPs. The last of which was a wildly toned 8 Reales that walked up to the table in the late afternoon.

Now, we don’t buy every coin that people offer us in the fashion, but definitely more than half as most of the people have a good sense of what we like. And we really, really liked that last one.

But then it was time to pack up a few things so 50% of Team CRO (i.e. MaryAnn) could head to the airport for her flight home to a previous engagement, leaving your author to fend for himself over these last couple of ANA days.

And also for dinner on Thursday, where I went for the first time ever to Ruth Chris’ with a coin friend and discovered that, yes, it IS better than Morton’s. Getting back late and falling asleep almost immediately.

And that was good, since I expect to be über-busy on Friday, with coins to pack and write up for photography, the Heritage Capped Bust Half auction in the afternoon, all of our grading to pick up, more coins to sell, and, we hope, to buy, and, if time allows, a cruise through the exhibits and all of that other stuff that makes the ANA, well, the ANA.

With (almost) everything I do, see, touch, trade, grade, buy or sell to be described right here on Saturday AM.


August 12th:  Day 7

It was great to be able to sleep in on Friday is something I would not be able to say, since I once again had to get up early and race over to the convention center just as it opened, this time to finalize a deal and hand off 81 new coins to our photographer before he left to catch his flight. Eighty-one.

And while that may seem like a lot (and it does to me as I’m typing this), it doesn’t include the 34 additional coins currently at PCGS which I expect to be done before I skip town. The 22 world coins in the back case delivered too late to make the imaging deadline. The 4 more coins we bought later in the day. All the raw coins that will go into grading next week. Or anything else I find on the bourse floor here on Saturday.

Still, while we have continued to buy enthusiastically here at the show, sales on Friday actually exceeded purchases, which is not always the way to bet at the tail end of a show like this.

But the appearance of some new visitors who just arrived in Anaheim, and the return of other collectors who did not get the coins at auction they had been targeting here provided a shot in the proverbial CRO sales arm.

Not everything went according to plan, however, as we just missed a wicked item at the table when we could not make a deal with the owner, and one of the coins I had been hemming and hawing about in another dealer’s case was sold to someone else. I know what you’re thinking:  It serves me right for hesitating.

The big news on Friday, though, was mostly Heritage’s epic sale of the Hamilton Collection of Half Dollars, including many old holdered monsters, a vast swath of gold CACs, rare varieties and beautifully toned type sufficient to insure that everyone and his brother (and his brother’s brother) would be all over these, bidding to levels that would make little sense to a martian descending upon earth with only the greysheet and/or the PCGS Coinfacts app.

Sure, I knew these would sell for a ton, but they were the kinds of coins worth a ton, and I circled many of them and was prepared to bid the ridiculous prices necessary to buy at least a few. But ultimately decided that while sexy to own, these didn’t make a lot of business sense to try to inventory, since you’d have to outbid most of the serious collectors (i.e. potential customers) to own them, then try to sell them to those same people for even more money.  So I mostly watched, since as was reported here about 30 seconds ago, it’s not like we had a shortage of other coins to buy at this show.

And then, suddenly (the time always flies at these events) it was time to pack up and head to dinner with a dealer friend where we compared notes about what worked (or is working) and what didn’t here in Anheim.

With just one more day to go here before we pack up and head out for good, then write all about it from the comfort of home on Sunday AM.

Until then, then.

August 13th:  Day 8

Well, we are delighted to be back home after a looooong week in Anaheim and a looooong flight home, just in time to post this recap of another excellent ANA show using one of our patented yin and yang lists:

Yin: I’ll admit I had my doubts about this Anaheim venue for several reasons: 1) The last SoCal ANA in LA in 2009 was by far the worst one I’ve ever attended, 2) We are just down the road at the Long Beach Expo 3 times every year, so a 4th visit here hardly seems additive, and 3) The onerous CA tax rules prevent out of state dealers (like us for example) from being in CA more than 15 days a year, so none of us can now actually do the 3 LB shows this year anyway. Doesn’t anyone on the ANA board get this?  I would really like to know the name of the person on the board who first suggested Anaheim as a venue.  And the names of everyone else on the board who did not immediately say “No, we’re not doing that, it’s an absolutely terrible idea.
Yang: Ignoring all of those very real considerations for a moment, once I got here I have to admit I kinda liked this place. The convention center is modern and nice. Hotels are convenient and comfortable. There are tons of restaurant options nearby. It seems a pretty easy place to get into and out of. And attendance seemed decent from this author’s vantage point. Still, I hope the next SoCal ANA show is scheduled for around 2048. Or maybe 2049.

Yin: Another jam-packed ANA auction schedule is a PITA to keep track of, to say nothing of the catalog schlepping, lot viewing and actual bidding all compressed around a tight show schedule.
Yang: It worked out better than I expected, as we viewed efficiently, bid almost entirely online at S-B and HA and won much of what we wanted for less than we were willing to pay.

Yin: Long lines at Starbuck’s in the hotel lobby right before the show opened.
Yang: I get up early, so it wasn’t a problem when they first flung the doors open at 6 AM.

Yin: We did not sell anything truly monstrous here.
Yang: Sales were very strong in the middle range from $1,000 to $5,000, right from the outset and continuing through Friday afternoon.

Yin: I never did pull the trigger on a cool gold coin I spied early in the week in a dealer’s case.
Yang: We still bought epically, literally from the first few minutes after we arrived right up until we snagged a world coin at the table from a show visitor who probably was not supposed to be in the room anymore at 4:15 PM on Saturday.

Yin: All those weird colonial and world coins I submitted for grading early in the show did not come back until the very last PCGS delivery at about 3:30 on Saturday afternoon.
Yang: The coins were facing right side up in the holders (which is not always the case on weird things on which the date is sometimes on the back), the labels were correct (also an occasional issue), the grades were perfectly acceptable (ditto), and all of these coins will be ready for market in short order.

Yin: I barely had enough room to haul everything home.
Yang: Thank goodness we sent all those coins back with the photographer, and shipped another 125 home from the show via the USPS.

Yin: Dude next to me on the flight home stole some lady’s seat and had a skateboard on his lap.
Yang: They moved him to crappy middle seat and made him put that thing in the overhead bin.

Yin: I caught a cold at the show and was really dragging by the time I got home.
Yang: Our home A/C went kaput in the middle of another heat wave, so at least I did not have to wrap myself in a blanket to throttle this fever.

Regardless, I’ll be good enough to work on our next Early Bird which will go out on Tuesday at noon.

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