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Back to Road Report Archive 2011

February 2-5, 2011: The Long Beach Coin & Currency Expo

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February 2nd:  Day 1

Truth to be told, I’m just happy I was able to make it here at all to write this exciting edition of the RR, since that was very much in doubt right up until my flight was de-iced for the 3rd time (never a good sign) leaving New England.

But, after repeated delays, one (1) missed connection and the ceremonial losing of my luggage, I arrived in Long Beach rested and ready for some sort of a coin show or something which is apparently going on here this week.

First observation:  Most people on the street here, unlike at home, are not wearing those musher caps with the fuzzy ear flaps.

Second observation:  Lot viewing was quite subdued, with just a few of us in there poring through the lots, which of course will lead to great deals on everything, right?

I doubt it, since this never seems to make a difference in the prices realized at these auctions. I honestly believe that if they held a coin auction in Anchorage, Alaska that started at 6 AM on Christmas Day, there would be no bargains, and I could probably correctly guess the names of 4 of the 6 people sitting in the front row.

Anyway, I kept at it until 2 PM when the bourse doors were flung open to dealers with tables, and then quickly made my way to our new location at Table #717.

Unfortunately, since John can’t get here until Thursday evening due to flight cancellations, and he has all of our case displays, the banner, and half our inventory, I had to improvise our displays like some sort of numismatic McGyver (the original one, not that lame-o SNL skit they have concocted in recent years).  Thinking quickly, I decided to use the cloth table covers the show provides in place of our usual case linings, laid out our inventory on top of that, and was extremely pleased with myself for the cool display I had created.

At least I thought it was cool. But not long after I set up the display and loaded the coins into the cases, another dealer commented that he thought it looked like someone’s grandmother had loaned me her old living room drapes to put in the cases.  He may be right, but since John isn’t here to fuss over such things (and believe me, he would), those fine living room drapes are staying put until Friday.

As for the market, it was definitely more subdued than usual for a set-up day, but I did manage to buy a very nice mid-grade Pine Tree Shilling, some other mid-range colonials and a cool medal, and from what I could tell business was being done all over the room.

Later, I had a great conversation with Don Willis and Ron Guth (separately) , and both were quite excited about their expansion into Europe with the opening of a PCGS office in Paris. There are few thrills in business as great as opening up an untapped market.

Speaking of PCGS, after the bourse closed they hosted an invitation-only reception to celebrate their 25th year in the coin grading business with appetizers, drinks and live music performed by a band that included David Hall, John Dannreuther and Laura Sperber, which was a hoot.

Interestingly, they also had some memorabilia on display from years’ past, including a first generation Rattler slab with a white (instead of green) label, something I had never seen or heard about before.  For folks like myself who are interested in such minutia, it was cool to see.  Apparently, that slab was only used in February of 1986, the first month PCGS graded coins.

And then eventually I headed out for a late dinner with some dealer friends at a steakhouse just up the street.

Thursday I look forward to the arrival of the public and I hereby invite all attendees to check out the awesome living room drapes in our cases (and possibly buy or sell us a few coins while they’re there).

DW (who will also be writing tomorrow’s RR)

February 3rd:  Day 2

The show opened for me today not with a bang, but with a whimper, in that nothing of any particular numismatic significance took place in the first few hours.  Even worse (and despite some frankly heroic efforts to seek some out), nothing really interesting or amusing happened either, resulting in the massive void at the beginning of today’s RR in which you, the reader, are currently mired.

But at around noontime things started to get better, when we had a flurry of selling activity, did some useful buying from a variety of sources, and then had one of these painful (but, unfortunately, not all that uncommon) dealer experiences in which a man comes up to the table with a coin and a story (a l-o-n-g story).

And this one was extremely detailed and involved (and I quote) “a pattern New England Shilling” that was made, according to this man “in off-metal early in the year 1652 in Boston, and then rejected at the time, since the ‘N’ of ‘NE’ was too small to suit the governor of Massachusetts.” The story continued down through numerous generations, finally culminating with the relative in Boston from whence this coin came.

Now, when I hear stuff like this I am immediately skeptical (as you should be too, whenever the words ‘New England Shilling’, and ‘off-metal pattern’ appear in the same sentence).  But hey, you never know, and so I admit I was very slightly curious.

And then the man produced a protective capsule containing this important coin, and a hushed silence fell upon us.

Which lasted about 3/10 of a second, which is the time it took for me to recognize that this was a ubiquitous cheap cast copy that barely resembled the genuine article.  At which time I had to give the man this unpleasant news, in as gentle and detailed a fashion as I could, backing up my reasoning with information gleaned from the coin itself.  I also hinted that the coin was likely made in the 1960’s to early 1970’s, as I have seen identical copies enclosed in packaging of that era.

Finished with my assessment, I then braced myself for the near-certain rebuke from him – a tirade that, in my experience with other people who have just had their numismatic hopes and dreams dashed, often includes the questioning of my knowledge, my motives, my sanity, my intellect and my relationship with my sainted mother, followed by some loud harrumphing, and culminating with a hasty departure and the slamming of a door (if there’s one nearby).

But, surprisingly, that tirade never came. Instead, this man accepted the bad news quite kindly and graciously.  Then, as if he had never recited the long detailed history of this particular object at all, casually mentioned that he will likely keep it as a pocket piece, and then left.  Which seemed strange, but was frankly a tremendous relief.

And then I was back at it, trying to find interesting coins to buy, making a few sales and then, eventually, zipping up to the Heritage viewing room for a quick look at some remaining lots where I had another one of those painful coin dealer experiences.

This time it would be the ‘random guy talking too loud at lot viewing and describing, in detail, his past medical problems’, which happens more often than you might expect.  Though this individual was louder and more graphic than most (please email me if you want to hear any details).  And though I am a numismatic professional experienced in these situations, and tried hard to tune the guy out, I wasn’t succeeding until some Heritage employees ‘jokingly’ told him to cool it.  Which worked for a few minutes, or right up until he began a loud and especially offensive rendition of the song “Ayyy-Hab the Ayyy-Rab”, and then left.

Which allowed me to finish up my work in peace, head back to the table, buy and sell a few more things late in the day, and then picked up our grading submissions which I would characterize as perfectly acceptable and quite fair, and then talk to John on the phone about the auction lots for this evening (since he was, at that time, in Dallas waiting for a connecting flight).

And then as it neared the 7 PM auction starting time, I finalized our bids and ran up to the auction room a few minutes before the start of a colonial session that was small but included several pieces we wanted, followed by other lots scattered throughout the evening.

So I stayed for the beginning, bought most of the coins we targeted, left the rest of my bids on the book and then went to dinner at a Japanese restaurant nearby with some friends before which I issued my standard CRO social event disclaimer:  If you do or say anything interesting or amusing during this meal, I am afraid I am going to have to document it in our Road Report.

As it turns out, they didn’t, but I inadvertently did.  It seems our waitress didn’t speak English as well as I thought she did, so when I ordered some things, changed my mind, cancelled them and ordered other things, I assume she was understanding what I was saying and writing it all down.

It became clear that she did not as soon as she started carting out huge piles of food, including everything I had cancelled AND all of the stuff I replaced it with, which in total was more than enough for two, but which I somehow managed to eat anyway.

And then I called it a night, getting back to the room in time to talk to John who had just walked into the hotel lobby.

Which means that we’ll both be at the table on Friday, and those cool vintage drapes in our cases will be vamoosed by the time the public enters the room.


February 4th:  Day 3

Having finally arrived in LB on Thursday evening (after some excessively well documented delays), I was genuinely excited to wake up early on Friday, fling open my hotel room curtains, gaze out upon the sparkling waters of Long Beach Harbor, get organized and race down to the lobby, meet up with Dave, get my show ribbon, and then head on over to the convention center for the start of what I hoped would be a worthwhile (though brief) day and a half here at the show.

And I am pleased to say that it started off like gangbusters, as we put the rest of our inventory out on display and immediately sold a few coins to another dealer who were hovering over me, disconcertingly, like a vulture (though a vulture with a checkbook).

Then I got to see the new auction purchases Dave bought on Thursday night (most of which I had heretofore only seen in Heritage’s fine web photos) and liked ‘em.

And then managed to buy a few coins on the floor, including several that walked up to the table from collectors and dealers alike.  And this trend would continue pretty much all day, as we bought a slew of coins in all categories ranging in price from $135 to just into the six figures (a purchase which made the trip out here worthwhile, because I definitely like to see such things in hand first, as opposed to getting a phone call from Dave saying “I just bought something, you’re going to love it, and by the way you owe me 50 grand”).

But I was also just as pleased with some of the other coins we acquired, including a bunch from $500 to $5,000, most of which will be finding their way to our Early Bird real soon.

While this was going on, sales continued nicely, including a couple of Fugios, our nice early $10, and some assorted type.

Which, in total, made for an excellent Friday at a much busier than expected Long Beach Expo, especially considering the number of empty tables here, most of which were supposed to have been occupied by other east coast dealers who either couldn’t get here or decided it wasn’t worth the effort.

Speaking of which, about 35 people today came up to me at the table and said “Hey – you made it!”, indicating that either Dave told everyone that I was delayed, or that all of these people read about my travel escapades in our RR’s of the last couple of days.  Regardless of the source of the information, it was nice to have been missed!

And then we ended the day with an additional flurry of purchases between 5 PM and closing, a few more sales, and then headed down the block to dinner with a few dealer friends at 555, one of our favorite restaurants in the area, where we discussed how one of the guys had amassed a giant wine collection even though he does not drink wine(?), and then discussed the perils of over-tipping at these dinners (since one of the guys has a penchant for doing so, which tends to freak out the servers who then hide in the kitchen until he leaves).

After which I walked back to the hotel and collapsed in a heap, but not before writing this installment of the Road Report.

Tomorrow we head out and, assuming all goes according to plan and the flight is not cancelled or delayed by crapola weather, our next RR will be posted from the comfort of my couch on Sunday.


February 5th:  Day 4

Saturday at the show was a little like attempting to squeeze 27 coins into a blue PCGS box (which, of course, only holds 20) since Dave and I had just 2 hours to get an unbelievable amount of work done before racing to the airport at 11 AM to catch the day’s last non-redeye flights to New England (as an aside, we refuse to fly those overnight flights anymore, getting no sleep, landing at 5 AM and then feeling horrendous all day Sunday, the one day off we will get this week).

Anyway, and somewhat amazingly, we finished everything (at least I think we did), first viewing the remaining Heritage lots, entering bids, then picking up our last grading submissions, dropping a couple more off, running around the room finalizing a couple of pending deals, writing checks, collecting checks, buying 2 more coins, strategizing what to do with a bunch of our vast haul of new purchases and then packing like crazy, jumping in a cab to LAX, positive I would miss my flight, but pleased to be totally wrong, as I cruised through check-in and security like a pro and now sit on my plane typing like crazy, in comfort (or as much comfort as you can achieve when the person in front of you has reclined their seat as far back as possible directly into your face).

Still, that seems a small price to pay for the thoroughly pleasurable and productive 1.5 days I spent at the Long Beach Expo, where we sold way more than we expected, and bought way more than we planned – including the kinds of colonial and federal coins we are known for, but also quite a few things we have not had in recent memory, all of which will be ready to be unleashed in the coming weeks, starting with our next Early Bird which will go out on Tuesday the 8th.

Which means I really need to stop writing this and get started on that –