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Back to Road Report Archive 2012

January 3-8, 2012: The FUN Show in Orlando, FL



And then, suddenly, the 2012 FUN Show is upon us, requiring your author to re-assemble the CRO travel kit (the components of which always seems to get widely dispersed between shows), grab a flight to Orlando and then emerse ourselves in what we expect to be a high-quality, 6-day, numismatic experience in which we offer some cool, new, never-before-seen rarities (including a collection acquired just days ago), try to buy every interesting coin we see, and engage in some deluxe socializing at various local restaurants.

The exciting details of which will be reported here every morning, with photos, for your reading pleasure.  Plus this RR will contain responses to specific reader questions about the show, so if you want to know anything (of a non-personal nature), fire it to us by email and we’ll do our best to respond post haste.

More later.

January 3rd:  Day 1

I had booked a leisurely late morning flight down to Orlando on Tuesday (and not the 5:55 AM kind I typically do), which meant that I would have plenty of time to pack and get organized on this day and there would be no reason to run around like a crazy person.

So it was disappointing that I ended up doing that anyway during a chaotic morning that culminated with the frantic shoving of the CRO banner into my suitcase, dashing out the door, and getting to the airport with about 6 minutes to spare.

But once there, the experience became almost (but not quite) serene, the flight was fine, the hotel was adequate and I made my way to the Heritage lot viewing room at the convention center for the official start of our FUN Show 2012 numismatic activities.

First Observation:  It was extremely crowded in there.

Second Observation:  I was handed more catalogs than in any past session I can recall, including 3 different ones for Platinum Night (or, more accurately, Platinum Nights, since for the first time the high falutin material is now spread over two days, and here includes a dedicated catalog for the august Duckor Collection of St. Gaudens Double Eagles).

Third Observation:  I looked at as many coins as I could on this day before I started to lose it at about 6:30.

Fourth Observation:  Fortunately, I did manage to go through pretty much everything except the gold before then, including some extensive study of the nice early copper in Platinum Night I.  Speaking of which, one of our customers asked us to post our impressions of the Denis Loring 1793 Cents, which we will be delighted to do after the auction, continuing our policy of not discussing coins in active auctions lest we bias potential bidders and/or unduly influence coins we ourselves wish to bid on.

And after all that observing, Dave arrived and we headed off to the annual dinner at Capriccios with a group of collectors and industry professionals during which we had a great time and passed around cool coins like these:

After which we called it a night so we could rest up for a full day on Wednesday which will include more lot viewing followed by dealer set-up in the afternoon where we hope the buying and selling will take place with near reckless abandon.


January 4th:  Day 2

For the first time in, well, ever, I became so fed up with my original hotel that I called around town, found something better and then schlepped my luggage to hotel #2 in the AM.

And I was glad I did, skating into my new digs around mid-morning, availing myself of an internet system that actually worked, hitting the gym, ordering room service and then zipping over to the convention center for the start of the day’s festivities.

Which would begin with some additional lot viewing, followed by the great migration of dealers onto the bourse floor, a journey which in a well-planned scenario required hundreds of middle-aged men to carry heavy wheeled luggage down long staircases during which if anyone tripped and fell he would easily take out out another 15 or 20 people.  And while this looked like a disaster waiting to happen, no one did a header (at least not while I was watching).

Having dodged that bullet, we walked onto the bourse and were delighted to find our table #811 in a location real estate agents might call “A very good location” just a few steps from door where the CRO banner would soon be whipping in the wind (more about that later . . .).

Also new this year:  Lamps, at the table and waiting for us, this due to the fact that Dave smartly ordered them in advance and we did not (like in previous years) have to fight to get the last few broken ones from that guy who rents them on the floor.

And then we spread all our coins out, filling 3 cases pretty much to the brim and including all sorts of NEWPs no one has seen before (including, in some cases, me, since Dave bought some of these on his own right before the show).

Which was good timing, since a bunch of collectors and dealers quickly descended upon us like vultures (in a good way), buying a bunch of different things and pondering others.

We also did some decent buying on the floor, finding 3 new colonials from a new source, a bunch of cool type and a neat piece of Washingtonia from a dealer friend.  Nothing really big or expensive though.

And then, before we knew it, it was time to pack up and head up to Heritage’s Platinum Night I, with a couple of notable results catching our eye as follows:

Lot #3005, a totally original 1776 Continental Dollar EG FECIT variety in a PCGS MS64 holder realized a very reasonable $126,500 all-in.  This was a coin a purist would appreciate but evidently not the market at large, since it apparently did not receive CAC’s blessing, lacked the flash that a conserved example would have and received no bids on the floor.  This same piece had been offered to us last summer for $175,000, a level at which we declined.  Also interesting to us was a specialist who informed us that he actually preferred this coin to the next lot . . .

Lot #3006, a second example of this issue, though this a less original, much flashier NGC MS67 coin, also un-CACed, which realized a very surprising (to me) $546,250.  That’s about 3 times more than this same coin brought raw in the Ford sale in 2003.

Lot #3009, the Church Penny with ‘D’ variety in a PCGS XF45+ holder brought a robust but not shocking $115,000.  This same piece had been offered at the ANA show last August for $100K even, and less than that in recent months, which sounds extra-super good in retrospect.

Lot #3013, the common Washington Liberty and Security Penny in a PCGS MS63 RB holder was notable for the fact that it was in Platinum Night for no reason that we could figure, since that is about a $2,500 coin (which is, not coincidentally, about what it brought here).

Which took us to the extreeeeeeemely well publicized Denis Loring 1793 Large Cents which were, in our humble opinion (which may differ from your own humble opinion) nice but not spectacular for the grades and performed satisfactorily overall, but did not have the explosive bidding that our own Dave Wnuck thought they might.

The highlight of his collection was Lot #3031, a lovely example of the 1-year type 1793 Liberty Cap Cent in PCGS AU50+ which brought $299,000.  And while that was a large number, and more than the higher graded (at AU53) Al Boka specimen realized last September, it was less than half as much as the PCGS AU55 Husak coin brought in 2008.

But before that, the real star of the early copper session went off as lot #3020, the Cleneay-Atwater-Eliasberg Chain Cent in PCGS MS65 old holder.  While this piece had been expertly conserved to lessen some vertigris on the reverse since we saw it in the Eliasberg sale in 1996, it remained a flashy, lustrous example of the very first US copper issue.  Speculation prior to the sale had high estimates ranging from $700K to $1.3 mil (the latter by your author!), with the final result being a strong $1.38 million (you’re welcome!).  Quite a nice increase from the $391K this piece brought at Stack’s in 2004.

This session would be followed by the “regular” Signature auction of Half Dollars and Dollars, a fact I discovered while sitting there in the auction room causing some frantic last minute planning to determine our bids for later in the session.

After which we headed out to dinner with a collector friend which began with a shock (since the Japanese restaurant we always visit here in Orlando is apparently gone) and ended at the formerly reliable Vito’s Chophouse for a meal which could best be described as a train wreck (though that would really not be fair to train wrecks), with an inept waiter and a veritable comedy of dining errors pretty evenly dispersed across the entire meal.  Good conversation though (except the part where the waiter attempted to inject himself into it).

And then we called it a night in anticipation of Thursday and the first official public day of FUN 2012.  The details of which will be described right here in just about 24 hours from now.

January 5th:  Day 3

The new hotel has been soooo comfortable that I slept fantastically right through the alarm on Thursday, and as a result had very little time to write the RR or do any other work, got ready as quickly as possible and arrived at the show at about 10 AM calm and relaxed.

Which would be the last time either of those words could be used on a day that was crowded and busy pretty much non-stop from the official opening right up until Dave was sorting out our bids at 6:50 for the evening Heritage Platinum Night II session.

In between, we were selling and trading colonials, federal coins and esoterica of all kinds from the downright affordable to some low five-figure coin.  A few of our really big coins were also ‘in play’, but none of those deals were finalized on Thursday (normally I would add a jaunty “Yet!” in this space, but the reality is we have no idea if anything will happen with these – we hope so, though).

And while we did buy some cool new items that walked up to the table, and found a few more neat new things on the floor, the haul here so far has frankly been less than we would have expected at a show this ginormous.

A situation that was only mildly offset by our purchases in the Heritage afternoon auction, since there wasn’t much for us to buy in a session notable for the number of Massachusets silver coins with problems, a gaggle of Vermont Landscape coppers that were not very choice and other assorted coins that just weren’t that nice for the grade.

The few pieces that did stand out were coins that we had either handled once before (which is always good karma if we have had success with a coin in the past), or had been offered to us in the months leading up to the show for too much money (making us feel good when we were able to buy them in the auction for less).

This was, however, partly offset by the sheer entertainment provided by the auction of the John W. Adams Collection of French and Indian War Medals, a lovely and important offering of some 150 or so pieces all beautifully illustrated, expertly cataloged by John Kraljevich, suitably iuaded by the good folks at Heritage and then auctioned by Bob Merrill in a session in which each and every single lot (not most, mind you, ALL) were purchased by the same internet bidder #7102.  Seriously?  Seriously.

After which things continued nicely until late in the afternoon when your author noticed two things:  1)  It was absolutely freezing at the table, and 2)  It was actually windy, which I later determined were both caused by this massive air conditioning vent on the convention center ceiling which was, possibly on purpose, pointed directly at my head:

And since there was no thermostat anywhere nearby which we could adjust, I settled for at first shivering, and then wearing a jacket for the rest of the day.

Eventually, though, we began to focus on the aforementioned evening auction, but having been wiped out by the days activities we decided to leave our bids on the book and go out for a completely calm and normal dinner, but not at the Japanese restaurant (which we mentioned yesterday was gone, but which turns out to have merely moved to a convenient new location just 19 miles away).

But despite that disappointment, we look forward to more good things on Friday which we will then write about here in this space next time.

Until then –

January 6th:  Day 4

After a very detailed analysis (most of which we conducted at the hotel bar after the show) we have determined that Friday was actually busier than Thursday, both in traffic at the table (which was utterly non-stop from early in the AM until closing) and in the impressive volume of CRO invoices written.

Including one for a really big coin mentioned in yesterday’s RR, causing Dave to do a brief numismatic ‘Tebow’ in celebration.  The second really big coin in play is still pending at this hour and we remain optimistic on that one, though we have not planned any specific celebration if it does happen.

But the majority of activity was, as it usually is, in nice colonials, US type in the $500 to $10,000 range and a dash of esoterica, including some brand-new-never-before-offered-by-us coins, but others we’ve had for a long time.  And, symmetrically, we had a nice mix of new, first-time buyers and long term customers we have seen at this show (and many others) for years in an environment where pretty much everyone was looking to buy coins.

Lest anyone think this is easy, though, we should mention that we also had a few potential transactions that did not work out, including one with a customer looking to trade an album filled with raw Morgans for a Pine Tree Shilling.  We couldn’t agree on the trade values, though, despite our best efforts and a lot of time spent trying to make it work.  And we did have one ‘reversal’ (to use a term I once heard while watching a hot dog eating contest), where a customer wanted a coin from our inventory and was set to buy it, but then ultimately changed his mind based on a friend’s last second opinion.

But this did not deter us from buying quite successfully on Friday, adding a lot of early type, neat proofs, more Washingtonia, a very, very red colonial copper and two (2) Chain Cents (one of which was sold within about 2 hours).  Plus a few additional pieces from the afternoon HA auction to round things out.  We were not, however, able to buy the group of raw colonials and tokens offered to us for $2,400 which we evaluated carefully and came up with a total of (wait for a it, wait for it . . .) $450.  Oh well.

We also got a few grades back, which were generally good and had us wishing we had submitted more coins here.  Too late now though.

Then we got into a long discussion with a dealer friend about the results of the Duckor auction, which seemed like they brought all the money to us.  However, the bourse floor scuttlebutt (from multiple sources, actually) was that the consignor received an offer for the entire collection prior to the auction which was said to be approximately $1 million more than the coins actually realized in the session.  If true, that would be interesting, but we’re not sure it is.

And while we were contemplating that, we made some last minute sales before packing up and heading out, eventually winding up at dinner at Capriccio’s with a group that included some dealer friends and a bigwig from one of the auction houses where we had a good time and discussed a range of topics which included New York apartment rents, the collecting of rare postcards and some unusual interactions the other guys had with people at the show (none of which I can describe here lest any of the same people might be reading this).

We look forward to more of everything on Saturday, all of which will be described here on Sunday AM (with the possible exception of any unusual interactions we end up having during the day).

January 7th:  Day 5

I enjoy packing a suitcase as much as anyone, which is terrific, since I got to do just that on Saturday AM (for the 2nd time this week), checked out of my hotel (for the 2nd time this week), left my stuff at the bell desk and made my way to the convention center for what we hoped would be a de-luxe Saturday.

And it was, with traffic still at pretty high levels and some nice sales activity at the table, including our AU55 1801 $10, which is the sort of de-luxe coin not typically sold on a weekend at a coin show.  Granted most of the activity was in more affordable US type coins and in cool esoteric items, including many coins which were never on our website.  Like this one, for example (crummy photo courtesy of your author):

We also managed to buy quite a few more coins on the floor and from collectors who came to the table, and, in addition to the auction lots we acquired here, have a veritable cornucopia of exciting new material to unleash over the next several weeks.

There were, however, a smattering of disappointments, near-misses and numismatic hose-jobs mixed in, as we tried unsuccessfully to buy several other cool coins including groups from other dealers (who should be well equipped to price their coins) for which we were asked to “Make me an offer!”.  Based on past experience, this virtually always results in us giving them a number and then getting sold out to anyone the seller can find who will pay $6 more, which is why we either decline to play this game with dealers, or make an offer which is good right then and there, but null and void once he or we leave the table.  Regardless, we did not get those coins.

We also didn’t get a high grade New Jersey Copper offered to us by the owner in a Capital Plastics holder labeled (with a little sticky note that looked to have been there a very long time) as “Condition Census #2 as of 1991”.  Unfortunately, that sticker (though neatly written) does not hold much sway in the current market, and we and the seller were approximately this far apart on the price:

Additional perusing of dealer cases revealed a few of the just-purchased-at-Heritage Duckor Saints being offered, about 4,500 pattern coins of all grades and prices (if your grade is gem and your price is wicked high) and a surprisingly large number of giant Chinese coins in those gargantuan NGC ‘Tome’ holders (a name your author made up but which I think is going to stick).  No more additional coins we had to buy, though.

Including the Pillar Dollar offered to us for $7,500 late in the day and which we declined, since we ourselves bought that same piece for $2,350 at the Denver ANA in 2006, dumped it in an auction sometime later where it brought maybe a tick more and since then have had it offered to us at least 4 or 5 times by various dealers who have all been absolutely convinced we were going to buy it at prices multiples higher.

And then your author headed out, leaving the table in the capable hands of our own Dave Wnuck, who will thus be penning tomorrow’s RR with his usual flair and in which he might possibly describe some fantastic new purchase or sale that takes place while I am golfing (payback for me representing team CRO in Vegas a few weeks back).

The End

January 8th:  The Exciting Conclusion

With John loooong gone, I (DW) will be writing today’s RR (though I have been informed that JA, who uploads this stuff to the site and wields the editor’s pen, might occasionally be inserting comments and smart alecky remarks in jaunty blue ink).

That’s correct Dave!

In any case, my first order of business on Sunday would be to check out of a hotel that John hated so much he left after 1 day despite paying in advance for the entire week.  Well, my standards must be lower since I found it perfectly fine.

Perfectly fine?  Hello?  In 2012, a hotel with no internet service is not exactly ideal for someone who is trying to, oh, I don’t know, update a website everyday.  At least I was also not able to blow off steam in the hotel’s gym, which was located in a separate building accessible by walking a mile in gym shorts in 42 degree weather and was only open during FUN Show hours when I, of course, could not use it.  And I will not even mention that there was also no restaurant or any place to get coffee or anything like that.  Conclusion:  Dave will no longer be our designated travel director.

Oh, OK.  Anyway, I was somewhat dreading this day, because I assumed I would be one of only about 6 dealers in attendance like in past years since most people (dealers and collectors alike) vamoose on Saturday from this show.  However, the FUN show organizers sent out a more-threatening-than-usual letter about a month before this event warning dealers that if they do not man their tables on Sunday, they will definitely be relocated to a brand new spot just behind the freight elevator in 2013.   They send dealers such a letter every year, but this time they said – in effect – that they really, REALLY mean it.

Yes!  While the amount of business we can do on a Sunday is usually minimal and doesn’t justify sticking around, we do not want to jeopardize our table location which is really good.

And apparently this year’s threatening letter worked on a lot of other people, as maybe 75% or more of the tables in this cavernous hall were still being manned today.  It was a pleasant surprise.  And there were a few serious collectors in attendance too, walking the aisles among the families with kids (and the members of the general public who carry around a handful of polished silver dollars in a tattered sandwich bag while looking for the highest offer for their treasures).

And we actually did some business as well, selling some coins and even picking up a few more cool coins for Tuesday’s Early Bird, including a truly rare 1836 silver coin in a PCGS PF64 CAM holder with a CAC sticker.

What?  What silver coin?  Can you be more specific?  Hello?!  Is this thing on?

And then as the day wound down I was warned several times by dealers (who always seem to know these things before we do) that there were significant delays expected going through security at the Orlando airport, as there were several events going on, including the Disney marathon which was expecting 50,000 participants plus associated hangers-on.

Great news Dave, as the Orlando airport isn’t already filled with enough huge crowds of people, most of whom are wearing Mickey Mouse ears, have never flown on an airplane before and are attempting to carry large bottles of liquids through security screening causing me to have to wait in line for an extra hour and 43 minutes.

Ultimately I made it home with juuuust a minor delay, arriving home at 3 AM just in time to collapse in a numismatic heep and then wake up a few hours later and begin cranking out the aforementioned EB, in which we will list a slew of interesting new items, and tell everyone what the proof 1836 silver coin is.

But not before saying that this year’s show was a solid A on the selling side, a B on the buying side, an A+ for schmoozing and a most excellent numismatic start to 2012.