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January 10-14, 2024: The New York International Numismatic Convention

NY2024-01

Prologue

Who’s ready for another coin show?

We are!  Though just barely.

As one of the few dealers who set up at both FUN and NYINC, I can tell you it’s hard enough to do the quick turn around between these shows under normal circumstances, but the degree of difficulty increases approximately 2.5x when our power is out at home. So if we dropped any balls or missed something, give us a couple days to recover and I’m confident we’ll get it all just right.

That recovery, however, will be taking place in NYC which is where we arrived on a bumpy flight on Tuesday AM just in time to whisk over to the Intercontinental Hotel, site of the show and a plethora of world coin auctions, many of which contain cool stuff that will look good on this very website.

I know that because we viewed many of them during the afternoon, jumping from lot viewing room to lot viewing room, checking out the offerings from each company, identifying coins we’ll be pursuing, and scratching others off our list which were not as enticing in hand as the catalog images suggested. That’s always disappointing.

Not disappointing:  Meeting up with dealer friends, poring through a gazillion wholesale boxes and finding half a dozen coins to buy of various types / series / countries we’ve had success with in the past.  That’s a pretty important point, since now nearly 25 years down the track we have a pretty good sense of what will do well for us, and what won’t.  That doesn’t mean we won’t take a flyer on something that seems really interesting, but if past flyers were unsuccessful with the same coin types we probably ought to stop getting on that numismatic horse.

Somewhere in there I had a tomato bisque in the lobby restaurant, handled all of the show badge stuff, got our room keys, stashed stuff in security, answered customer emails, returned a bunch of calls, made a deal for some US coins and generally had an extremely productive day.

Then headed out in a torrential rain storm for dinner at Calle Dao, a Cuban Chinese place on 39th that is high on our list of NYC restaurants offering fare we really can’t get anywhere else (unless we are in Chinatown in Havana, which as you might imagine does not happen that often).

After which we came back to the hotel and carefully planned our schedule for Wednesday, which includes more lot viewing, more wholesale box searching and bidding on US coins for inventory and for customers in the HA FUN auction.

With the result of all of that to be posted here on Thursday AM.

January 10: Day 1

With no urgent early morning business scheduled on Wednesday, we woke up at a civilized hour, went to the hotel gym which contains a very limited array of equipment most of which is broken, walked a few blocks to the anachronistic New York Luncheonette and had a nice breakfast for about a third of what it would cost in our hotel.

Hey, I have an idea, maybe the hotel could use the excess breakfast profit to pay for new gym equipment?  By my calculation they could pay for all of it in 3 breakfasts.

Anyway, after that it was time to get down to business.

First by hitting the Heritage lot viewing room and working through the entire world session in a couple of hours, finding plenty of things to bid on, and plenty of things to immediately shove back into the lot viewing boxes as decidedly “not CRO”.

After which I went back to the room and starting tracking all of our lots of interest on the HA site and figured out when they were all actually being sold.

Stopping a bunch of times to answer the phone, respond to emails, sort out a 50/50 split deal from FUN with another dealer, get through a bunch of stuff I ideally wanted to get done in between FUN and NYINC but couldn’t, and then successfully chased the housekeeper down the hall for extra coffee.

Then zipped down to Bryant Park to have lunch with our kids, said our goodbyes, walked back to the hotel and started going through the entire Stack’s-Bowers online session on my computer.  Where I found a bunch of coins that looked interesting, made a small list on the tiny gratis notepad on my nightstand, then went down to the SB lot viewing room to view just those in hand.  Arriving in time to listen to an utterly fascinating conversation between two other dealers about Sergio Tacchini track suits and a house clock that chimed every 15 minutes like Big Ben. Also I learned how to tell a real Tinnah from a fake one, and saw some coins.

Speaking of which, I have concluded that there really is no efficient way to view the SB internet session other than to scout it out online, since there is no printed catalog, and no one (especially me) wants to pore through a gazillion mystery boxes having no idea what’s in any of them in hopes of finding a few interesting coins.  Hey, time is money.  Also, a Tinnah is money.  Sort of.

After which I went back to the room, marked all of those on their website and went through the same routine I had done for the Heritage coins earlier.

And then shifted gears to US coins and prepared to bid in the HA FUN auction which would be starting at 7 PM local time right when I was supposed to be in Koreatown having Bulgogi.

So I figured I’d enter my proxy bids and be done with it, but that was before I encountered a lot that had me sufficiently baffled that I literally had to call a specialist dealer to discuss it and/or potentially split it with me.

Eventually finding out what I needed, making such a pre-arrangement, and then getting nipped in the auction while watching from my table on the HA app.  Hey, I tried.  I also tried the Pear Makgeolli, which was delicious.

Finally getting back to the hotel at about 10:30 and encountering a bunch of world coin afficionados in the lobby.  A sure sign that this NYINC thing is ramping up.

Another sign:  Dealer set up at 8 AM on Thursday where you will find Team CRO rarin’ to go right when the doors open.

Where I am positive we will see and do a large number of interesting things and then write all about them in our next RR to be posted right here on Friday AM.

January 11: Day 2

Dealer set up began at 8 AM on Thursday, causing a mad rush on the security room starting at about 7:30, a commensurate surge in hotel elevator demand and the annual frustrating experience where you are just staring at the ‘up’ button waiting for something to happen.

Eventually it did, though, allowing us to join the elegantly attired queue assembled at the show entrance.

And then, suddenly, we were off, racing to set up our well appointed booth in a room that is 83% more elegant than a typical show.  More organized too, as everything we needed was there when we arrived, allowing us to set up at our usual super-efficient pace. But that was not good enough here, as the gentleman from Stuttgart in the booth next to us already had coins on display (and people looking at them) while we were still fiddling with our lamp brackets.

Eventually we caught up though, filling our three cases with 1) Colonials and early US coins (since only US coins dated 1815 and earlier can be displayed here), 2) World coins which circulated in Early America, and 3) World coins, tokens and medals arranged by region and/or theme.  Including things we’ve never offered before, since of course you can’t show up at an event like this and just put stuff out that everyone has seen before.  Well, I guess you could, but that does not seem like a real good business model to us.

And then began what would be the first of approximately 11 million circuits of the room looking for interesting coins to buy, finding some things I was specifically looking for here, but also snagging some coins that just looked cool.  Including what were, to my eye, the only 2 totally original, uncorrupted Pillar Dollars in the entire room, a medium sized pile of choice colonials, a couple of toned pieces, some choice gold, etc.  In the past here I have sometimes acted like a giant Hoover, buying tons of coins, figuring I’d sort it all out later, but this time I came in with the mindset of trying to be sliiiiightly more discriminating. But if I encounter something interesting, that kind of approach can sometimes go directly out the window, and frankly it probably will.

When we were weren’t touring the room, we were at the table, seeing old and new coin friends from Latvia, Spain, Israel, Japan, Hong Kong, the United States, etc., showing coins, selling a few, checking out some offered to us, trying to work out some trade deals and generally doing decent but not epic business on what was an entirely dealer-to-dealer + early bird attendee day.

Friday the public comes in and, in our experience here, the show becomes ~10x more crowded, you can barely walk down any of the aisles and sales go way up.  Way, way up.

If that happens here, or even if it doesn’t, we’ll write all about all of it in our next RR in just about 24 hours from now.

January 12: Day 3

Opening my hotel room window at 4:14 AM on Friday, I looked out over 48th street and shouted TGIF at the top of my lungs (even though that doesn’t mean anything to any of us in the coin business, since of course we routinely work weekends).  I could not make out exactly what people screamed back at me in response, but I could tell they were excited to express their views and probably were wishing me well at the show.  Also, they knocked over some trash cans, and many cab drivers leaned on their horns in what I assume was a show of support.

After that I mowed down the in-room coffee supply, answered emails, checked texts, reviewed the status of my upcoming bids, and consignments, wrote the blog and got ready for what we thought would be a super busy day at the show.

And while it turned out to be good it was not exactly the jam-packed, no-room-in-the-aisles, knocking-over-the-trash cans affair I thought it might be. More just steady traffic of the serious collector variety, with good sales for us across all categories, including a cool proof Cuban Peso we just acquired after the FUN show, assorted world type, half a dozen US coins, 4 colonials, Pillars, Portraits and a bunch of Central American Republic coins.

Throughout the day I kept trying to find interesting things to buy around the floor, but I was only able to add a few more, including a cool Cap and Rays 8R, assorted French and some US coins that walked up to the table.

I was also pleased to snag a gold coin that I saw at the FUN show, researched, planned to buy, got sidetracked and then forgot about when we had to fly out early.  But then saw again here just as another dealer was writing a check for it, and ended up buying it from him later for a price I still considered a relative bargain.  Yes, it would have been easier to just grab it the first time I saw it, but I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking at, and of course you live and learn, persistence pays off, all’s well that ends well, etc.

With our last deal of the day Friday a near miss when a collector tried to trade assorted gold and world coins for a new Pine Tree Shilling in our case.  We’re always open to trades, but this got complicated in a hurry with coins that were hard to value and we couldn’t quite get it done.  That could still happen tomorrow though.

Then we packed up and headed to an early dinner at an Italian place on 50th so I could be back in time to bid in the Stack’s-Bowers auction of French and British coins during which we bid aggressively on 5 lots and won 3 of them.  I was quite happy with that result, especially the part where I decided not to keep chasing the other 2 coins at levels that really did not make any sense for us.

With the last of our lots finishing up around 11:30 PM, and thus capping off a busy, active, productive and exhausting ~20 hour day here in midtown.

More later –

January 13: Day 4

Notable Notes from the NYINC on Saturday:

We sold a lot of coins during the day.  A lot a lot. Never in a mad swarm at the table, but quite steady from around 9:30 AM to the last customer handing us a check for 2 coins at 5:50 PM.

I viewed auction lots for sales coming up over the next couple months at several companies, which was extremely helpful and was literally my only opportunity to see some of them (one of the great benefits of attending coins shows that is often overlooked).

A diminutive 15 year-old YN came to the table, wheeled and dealed, showed me thousands of dollars of his coins for sale and was going through our inventory of higher end US coins. It was sort of like a scene from an animated Disney movie where the CEO is a child barking orders at the adults.

We dropped off a bunch of stuff to be graded, and one obscure coin to be reholdered after two different knowledgeable Dutch dealers independently told me the current slab label contained a mis-attribution. Hey, I figured they both can’t be wrong.

I had an Israeli Cous Cous salad for lunch, which was literally the only healthy thing available at the bakery next door. Sorry, I just can’t eat any more bread on this trip.

The customer I tried to work out the cash and trade deal for a choice Pine Tree Shilling on Friday returned late in the day, but we still couldn’t swing a deal since he had spent all his money in the interim on some damaged gold ancient coins. Which led me to conclude that those are some extreeeeemely widespread collecting interests.

We picked up the lots we won at SB in Friday’s auction sessions.

At least 5 people asked MaryAnn and me what the butterfly perched on the skull on our Mendelssohn medal symbolized, so I was glad we had specifically discussed it at length earlier and were armed with an erudite explanation.

We signed our show contract to return to the NYINC in 2025 which seemed in doubt as recently as yesterday, since we were under the mistaken impression that FUN and NYINC would be held during the same week next year forcing us to choose one of them. Fortunately, that won’t be necessary and we’ll be back for both shows next year.

I put in a bid on a coin in the auction Saturday night that I did not really like. Why would I do that? It was a popular issue, and one that I thought at the right level could be sold on a wholesale basis to less picky dealers. We buy plenty of things that are not for the website, but alas this went too strong for that purpose and I was happy to let it go.

I had dinner with a collector and dealer friend during which we discussed, among other things, the various business models utilized by dealers at the show and the merits / drawbacks of same.  My conclusion: Any business model which requires me to push a giant heavy cart piled high with coins and supplies down a hallway with very plush carpeting is not for me.

So I am glad not to have to do that on Sunday when we return for the final day here before heading out in another mad rush to beat the weather.

With our final RR from this show to be posted here on Monday AM.

EOM

January 14: Day 5

Based on the emails we have received, I probably should clarify that I did not actually shout TGIF onto 48th Street the other day, that just seemed like an interesting way to start an RR segment.  Sorry.

In a more factual statement, Team CRO was again up early on Sunday, writing the blog, answering email, verifying the day’s schedule and then zipping over to the bakery next door to get breakfast to go. Where I took the advice of my friend Chris Karstedt of Stack’s-Bowers who told me that for sheer entertainment, she orders something different every single time she goes there – and that’s easy to do, since they have about 50 different kinds of little Danish buns on display, including at least one with fuchsia icing.  Actually, I did not order that one, choosing the truffle thing instead since it seemed more butch and thus defying my own ‘no more bread on this trip’ pronouncement before even 24 hours had elapsed.

And then packing up, checking out of our room, hanging out in the lobby / show anteroom where your author then made sure to figure out where the Spink auction would be held, since there were some lots in there that I wanted. It wouldn’t be easy though, since based on my estimate for the pace of the auction, those coins seemed like they would be sold right about the same time we needed to be heading to the airport. Hmmm.

So I kept a close eye on the auction online while working the table in the AM, sold a few coins in a room in which there were a decent number of people milling about, delivered one last check to another dealer, picked up a last coin and then headed down to the auction while MaryAnn started to pack up the table.

And while I should have had plenty of time to make my bids and leave, the auction seemed to grind to halt leading up to my target lots, so that when they finally did come up we were s-e-r-i-o-u-s-l-y late.

Fortunately I got what I wanted, then hightailed it back to the bourse floor, sold one last coin at the table, finished packing up and raced to the airport.

Where I could then start typing this blog and ending with this list of takeaways from the show:

  • It’s always fun for us to be one of the few US dealers that does not focus exclusively on world coins to set up here.
  • While we did find plenty of things to buy here, we never found any singularly epic, super high-end world coins on the bourse floor in any of our areas of interest, and based on discussions with many other dealers, we were not the only ones to conclude that.
  • In total, we did end up buying about 35 coins here, but not many that are what I would call ‘finished goods’ ready for the website.  We’ll need to grade or reholder a lot of them, so it’ll be a while before we can list them.
  • It was about as busy here as it was at FUN for us, though more evenly spaced out during the days which made it easier to manage.
  • It occurred to me only later that at this show very few people at the table seemed to be checking price guides or looking up coins on their phones as is de rigueur at the other shows we do.  Here most people just seemed to be buying things they liked in an old school way.
  • After two major shows back to back, a lot of early mornings, and a lot of late nights, we’re exhausted.  So it’s good that we have a little time to recover here on MLK Day before diving back into action on Tuesday, picking up the mail and packages that came last week, shipping orders received while we were gone, doing spreadsheets, depositing checks, mailing checks, sorting NEWPs, sending coins out for grading, and gearing up to bid in more NYINC auction sessions this week at both HA and SB.  And then imaging coins for our next EB which we plan for one week from tomorrow on January 23rd.

Aah yes, the coin business, it sure is relaxing.