February 6-9, 2013: The Long Beach Coin & Currency Expo
Here is what I notice about flying to Los Angeles:
1. It seems like the flight is slightly longer each time.
2. Baggage claim at LAX has to be the least confidence inspiring set up I’ve experienced at any airport this side of Manila. Seriously, I once flew in here years ago with 2 bags and they came out on different baggage carousels. How does that happen? They also seem to have a lot of issues where the bags come out 2 deep like this:
And then of course the only way to grab one of those 2nd row suitcases is to climb someone else’s luggage like a mountain goat, grab yours by the handle before it rotates past and fling it off the carousel in an awkward maneuver unbecoming of a serious numismatist.
3. Also there are never enough cabs, which surprises me since this is sort of a big town.
On the other hand, the weather was delightful, and when we finally did hit the road traffic was light and I made it to the hotel here in LB in no time flat.
And, since I arrived on a low-stress afternoon flight, I am now well-rested and ready for what figures to be a good show during which I already have some significant business lined up, since a number of customers arranged in advance to meet me to either sell me something, buy something from me, or trade something (including one coin that has been in the works for months).
So anything else that happens is sort of a bonus, right?
Whatever that turns out to be, you can read about it right here every morning keeping in mind that since we are operating in the Pacific time zone, Road Reporting may not take place until 9 AM or so east coast time. OK?
February 6th: Day 1
So I made my way to the convention center at 9 AM, dropped my bags off at security, briefly schmoozed with some other dealers, got a hot tip or two on a new coin someone bought or wanted to buy and then went to get my show badge from the customer service counter located (as always) in the back of the bourse floor and thus requires you to ask security if you can enter the bourse floor (since it isn’t actually open to dealers yet), walk the length of the room down aisle 700 (and ONLY aisle 700), and ask for your ribbon.
It seems to me that it would make more sense to have this counter in the lobby like Whitman does at the Baltimore show, which is why I am suggesting it here.
After that I steam-rolled into the Heritage room and spent a good, solid two hours lot viewing as efficiently as possible. During which I found enough coins to bid on, but also was disappointed with a few that seemed promising based on the online images (as usual), and put a big X through those in my catalog (as usual).
And then it was time to join the stampede of other dealers heading for the bourse floor at the new (as of the last LB) noon start to Wednesday dealer set up.
- I love the changes they’ve made at this show, and I do not know anyone who feels otherwise.
- The new CRO table location is fantastic, much closer to the door, spacious, and has lovely blue carpeting.
- I was impressed that the folks at HLRC (who have the table right behind me), actually purchased and then assembled (right there in the booth) their own comfortable chairs for the occasion. I’m serious.
As always, I enlisted the services of another guest CRO banner hanger, in this instance Kelsey of HLRC:
Once situated, I hit the floor hard seeking NEWPs with moderate success, mostly because people kept coming to the table offering me coins or buying them from me, resulting in an extremely high-powered sales day much of which I believe is directly attributable to our new, easy-to-find location.
Whatever free time I found was also put to good use, mostly filling out 82 grading submission forms which I frankly should have done before I left home, but I never got to it.
And then suddenly, it was 7 PM, so I headed back to my hotel and then spent a good hour trying to re-arrange my trip home so that I could avoid the massive snow storm about to bury Boston. Of all the things I miss about my old corporate life (and there are not many), having a travel department to handle crap like this is right there at the top of the list.
Anyway, I look forward to a fine Thursday during which I expect a number of local collectors to come by and the show to heat up by a factor of 3, or possibly even 4.
February 7th: Day 2
Here are some of the things I did not do on Thursday:
- I did not go to the gym at 6 AM, since I woke up with a huge headache.
- I did not get to the show early, since I was busy writing yesterday’s blog and working on some changes to next week’s Early Bird format (which I expect will go out as scheduled on Tuesday, though if the snow storm in New England is as bad as predicted, I may be without power and have to delay it).
- I did not scour the bourse floor for NEWPs before the show opened to the public, because a lot of dealer tables were not open yet, and I wanted to finish a couple of last grading submissions.
- I did not buy a couple of the colonials offered to me by other dealers even though they were pretty nice and priced pretty reasonably. Just not quite CRO quality.
- I did not order lunch from California Pizza Kitchen, since the Thai Crunch Salad I got from them on Wednesday was large enough to feed 11 people and, even though it had the healthy word ‘salad’ in the name, must have contained at least 8,500 calories.
- I did not pick up any of my grading submissions, since they weren’t done yet.
- I did not get bored, since the activity at the table was pretty much non-stop for pretty much the entire day.
- I did not freak out, even when there were 3 or 4 people at the table at once all trying to talk to me.
- I did not see any of the Laker Girls who are going to be at this show signing autographs at some point, or any of the other cool displays in the room. I hope I’ll have a chance to do some of that before I leave.
- I did not pass on a totally cool Capped Bust 50c in a doily holder.
- I did not run out of checks in the afternoon since I brought a huge pile of them with me expecting to buy tons of things from lots of different people, which is exactly what happened.
- I did not have a chance to go back to the hotel and change before dinner, since my last deal of the day finished at about 6:50, and I had to meet up with friends at 7.
- I did not get to ride in the luxury SUV another dealer rented specifically to drive us to dinner at the home of an industry bigwig, since the guy who was going to drive didn’t feel up to going. So instead we piled into a distinctly non-luxurious cab.
- I did not take it easy and have just one drink, instead trying pretty much everything anyone poured in my glass.
- I did not complain at all about a day that was great commercially and better socially, and which will be extremely hard to top on Friday.
But I hereby commit to try to do just that.
February 8th: Day 3
Whilst the traffic at the show on Friday wasn’t quite like Thursday, it was still pretty darn good, and sales continued at a nice and well-balanced pace.
Well balanced? Yes:
- Approximately evenly split between wholesale and retail activity.
- In a wide range of price points from a few hundred dollars into the mid 5-figures.
- Including a roughly equal quantity of federal, world and colonial issues.
Why does that matter? Well, in addition to allowing me to have fun interacting with lots of different people, it is important for this business (or any business) not to be too reliant on any one category or group of customers, since I never know which areas will be up or down, which buyers will be most active or what coins will be available on the market for me to buy.
Speaking of buying, I did very well on Friday, also across all categories, adding some really choice federal copper, silver and gold, some spectacular world coins (though less than I expected to find out here) and, surprisingly (since this is not normally the best venue for it), some nice colonials, many of which will be appearing on the Early Bird Tuesday which now seems like it will be going out as scheduled.
Also of note on Friday was the steady stream of grading results, most of which were just fine, though there was one cautionary tale in there: A customer asked me to submit an early copper for him which had been in an AU55 holder, but was cracked out years ago and kept raw. This time it came back AU50, which frankly I think was the more accurate grade. So while having coins raw may have added to the enjoyment of collecting for the owner, it came at a cost. Maybe that cost was acceptable, but it’s good to consider that up front before you go wild, crack out your entire coin collection in a frenzy and put it in a Dansco album.
I also got deeply involved in another grading project for another customer, helping submit an expensive and esoteric colonial which required some explanation and supporting documents. The rest I will leave up to PCGS to decide if they choose to grade it, and at what level.
After which the day wound down, with a few late sales and some last minute check writing before we headed to the nearby Belmont Shores area for what might be the 2nd best sushi I’ve ever had at a coin show, followed by a loooong and entertaining walk around the neighborhood before finally calling it a night.
Saturday I don’t expect too much in the way of additional business, but you never know and I will be there all day hoping for something good to happen.
February 9th & 10th: Day 4 and Part of Day 5
Saturday began just about as auspiciously as possible for a coin dealer, with 2 website orders coming in before I had even left the hotel in the AM.
And so, with a proverbial spring in my step, I headed over to the show, opened the booth, turned the lights on, pulled those two coins from the case, marked them on hold on the site and then tried to figure out everything else I needed to get done before leaving town.
But while I have left at midday Saturday at past LB shows, this time I would be here for the duration (admittedly due to the weather back east which delayed my return flight to Sunday AM) and thus did not have to rush.
So instead of running over to the Post Office booth and grabbing boxes and shipping labels straight away, for example, I figured I’d take my time and ship things out in the afternoon. So when I walked over there at 12:15, I was surprised to see that they were already closed for the day, having kept skimpy “I’m-not-sure-why-they-bothered-to-come-at-all” 10 AM to 12 PM hours. Based on past experience, it could easily take 20 minutes to mail one package here, so I guess they served their 6 people and then went home.
But I have to say that that was the one single thing that did not go well on Saturday, since business remained brisk, I sold a bunch of coins to a number of different buyers (not counting the two off the website), and managed to buy another group of cool things on the floor. On a Saturday! At LB?! Um, yes.
I attribute much of this activity (all week) to the crowd-drawing improvements made at this show of late by PCGS and Show Coordinator Taryn Warreker, and to our deluxe new table location, which could not have worked out any better (unless I had sold a coin to Magic Johnson, who was here signing autographs for a massive crowd that went nuts when he walked in the room). Alas, Mr. Johnson either does not collect coins, or he came to the table while I was out getting lunch. Even so, my calculations indicate that this was the 2nd best LB in CRO history in terms of sales.
Eventually, however, all good things must come to an end, and so I packed up late in the day, went back to the hotel, had a nice dinner with some dealer friends, slept very well, headed off to the airport on Sunday AM in a most relaxed fashion and discovered, to my shock and horror, that some idiot (i.e. your author) had booked my flight home for March 10th instead of February 10th (which I guess explains why I never got any flight delay notices from the airline), and since the blizzard back home had caused the cancellation of so many other flights and had everyone rescheduling their trips to Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, I may well be stuck here until Wednesday.
Which means that this trip is not exactly ending on a really high note, but what can you do (other than go back to the hotel and sit by the pool, or fly to some other city as a standby on any available flight I can get).
In any case, wherever I end up, I will be working on the EB throughout, and as of this moment it is still my intention to send it out on Tuesday as scheduled. If that changes, I will announce it on the homepage in bold 18 point font.
Until then, I will bid you adieu from the waiting lounge at LAX.
February 11th: Addendum
Good news everyone, I lucked out, flying home standby and taking the last seat on the plane from a passenger who had checked in at LAX, but never made it to the gate. Phew.
And here’s the cool part: Because I screwed up and unknowingly booked the original return flight for March, I was able to easily push it back a day, and then drive to the airport Sunday morning under the mistaken notion that I had a flight waiting for me, and then actually get home.
If I had booked the original flight correctly, for February, I would not have been able to push it back, I would not have gone to the airport Sunday, and I’d be stuck in LA.
So, in this case, my travel planning ineptitude really paid off!