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Back to Road Report Archive 2011

January 3-9, 2011: The FUN Show in Tampa, FL

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After a delightful December to Remember (well documented in our most recent Coin Commentary), we are thoroughly, completely and totally ready to unleash ourselves upon January.

Which will begin for us in earnest on Monday the 3rd when we arrive in Tampa for the start of FUN Show week.  Where we’ll be doing some intensive schmoozing with collector and dealer friends, extensive lot viewing at Bowers and Heritage, non-stop wholesale wheeling and dealing (we hope), making a side trip to visit a local customer on Tuesday to work out a deal, and, finally, bursting into the show itself for dealer set-up on Wednesday.

Throughout which your author will be blogging like a wildman, so you might want to keep an eye out for that.

January 3rd:  Day 1

Even though I have had January 3rd circled on the calendar for weeks, and had ample time to prepare in advance for my trip to Tampa, I didn’t actually do that.

Instead, I waited until the last minute to get myself organized, which proved to be a near disaster (and what I hope will serve as an important lesson for all aspiring coin dealers).

First off, I had computer troubles Sunday might, and discovered that all of my back up files had simply vamoosed sometime since Christmas.  Which required some extensive swearing and about 4 extra hours (time I had specifically allocated to packing) to resolve with the able assistance of our IT department (i.e. my son, who some people believe might have caused the problem to begin with).

Which meant that instead of packing in a leisurely manner on Sunday evening and waking up well-rested for my morning flight, I was instead up until 1:30, out of bed at 4 AM and had about an hour to pack like crazy before heading to the airport.  Which under normal circumstances probably would have been OK, but in this instance was not, since this trip required a little bit of thought, and enough stuff for a week or so in Tampa, a smaller luggage subset for my side-trip flight to much colder Pensacola, another bag to lock up some stuff at security, and a plan for what would go where, when.

Somehow I managed to sort it all out though, over-stuffing one giant suitcase with several smaller bags inside, which worked perfectly as I arrived in warm, sunny Tampa in the early afternoon, headed to the hotel without incident, checked-in, unpacked, re-packed, dropped some stuff at the security room and rolled into Heritage lot viewing at 1:30 or so.

Most of the auction material was not overly exciting, though, as there were very few coins in our area of specialty that I had not seen before (since most this stuff has traded at least a time or two in recent years).  But, as almost always, I found a few things I liked in that group, and we will do our best to try to buy them.

And after just a couple of hours I was mostly done, which was good, since by then I was nearly out of steam, so I headed back to my hotel room where I decided to collapse unceremoniously on a hard, uncomfortable couch until a dealer friend called and we grabbed some dinner at the hotel.

After which I called it an early night, resting up for yet another 4 AM wake-up call and a trip back to the airport for my flight to Pensacola, where I will be looking at a lot of cool coins and gathering material for tomorrow’s RR.

Which will be posted right here in just about 24 hours from now –

January 4th:  Day 2

Squinting, I tried to make sure I was correctly reading the tiny writing at the bottom of the flight information screen at my Tampa airport departure gate:  There is no bathroom on this aircraft.  “Gee, that seems like important information”, I said to myself, “possibly of the sort that should be written in larger letters, so a passenger on this flight does not, oh, I don’t know, down 2 Grande Caramel Macchiatos just prior to departure.

But since the flight to Pensacola was just 40 minutes, it didn’t seem like that big a deal.  Until I realized that there was a one hour time difference between Tampa and Pensacola, meaning the flight was actually an hour and 40 minutes.  Hmmmm.

Fortunately, none of the 19 passengers and crew aboard the plane (including your author) had any incidents worth mentioning in a Road Report, and we arrived at our destination at about 7:30 AM.

First reaction:  Is it like 42 degrees outside?

Second reaction:  Cool – the free WiFi at the airport will allow me to post yesterday’s RR (which I had just completed on the plane) while waiting for my luggage to arrive.

Which it did shortly thereafter, just in time for me to hit the road with a good customer, get to his place and then almost immediately start coin viewing, coin discussing, coin evaluating, coin buying, coin selling and coin appraising, followed by a brief side trip to the beach to check out the utterly pristine white sand which displayed almost no trace whatsoever of any major oil spills or anything like that.  Followed by more coin discussing.

And when we were all done with that, we headed out to dinner near the marina, where your author enjoyed a dramatic sunset, saw a tiny but extremely cool submarine being loaded onto a boat to go look for more of the aforementioned oil, and then ate a spectacular dinner which included the unexpected combination of grits, sushi, collared greens, pasta and black-eyed peas.

After which we camped directly in front of the TV to watch the Sugar Bowl, bang out next week’s CRO ads, craft another exciting installment of the RR (which you are reading right now) and hit the the sack by midnight thoroughly exhausted after a longer day than usual (even by coin dealer standards).

Tomorrow I look forward to getting up at 4 AM for the third day in a row, catching an early flight back to Tampa (prior to which I will not drink anything at all), making a mad dash to the convention center, meeting up with our own Dave Wnuck (for the first time in more than a month) and then kicking-off of the 2011 FUN Show festivities in earnest.

The results of which will be described right here on Thursday morning.

January 5th:  Day 3

So I did get up at 4 AM again on Wednesday, took the flight back to Tampa, jumped in a cab, raced back to the hotel, finalized our bids for the Heritage auction, walked over to the convention center and picked up my 2011 teal dealer ribbon, went back to the hotel, ate lunch for 3 minutes, met up with Dave who had just arrived from New England, got caught up with him on the latest CRO developments, picked up my stuff from the security room and then stood in the huge crowd waiting for the bourse floor to open for dealer set up at 2 PM.

During which several dealer friends I have not seen in a while told me I looked tired (which I always appreciate, but did not find surprising).

Then suddenly the clock struck 2, they opened one tiny door to the bourse about halfway, and hundreds of dealers tried to squeeze through it all at once.

But once inside, I got a slight second wind, quickly set up everything except the award winning CRO banner, which some idiot (possibly your author) had left in the hotel.

And while that may have caused some people not to be able to spot our table from across the room, it didn’t seem to impact sales too much, since they were actually pretty brisk for a dealer set up day, of all sorts, including one piece from our ‘World Coins which Circulated in Early America’ category (as an aside, if anyone has a better, more concise name for this section of our website we’d like to hear it, since WCwCiEA is a mouthful and half).

Anyway, while we did well on the sales side, we bought not one single thing on the floor.  Partly because we were too tired to hoof it all over the place seeking out hidden gems, and partly because the places we did venture to didn’t have anything we wanted to buy.  In fairness, however, not everyone was totally set up yet, and we still expect to make some buying hay over the couple of days.

In the meantime, though, we did manage to come up with some cool new stuff from two other sources:

  1. We got back a big box of colonials from PCGS, in one fell swoop replenishing our previously depleted inventory in this category
  2. We snagged a few cool things in the Heritage auction session in the evening, several for well below our max bids, which was somewhat surprising in a session which exhibited an unusual-bordering-on-bizarre mix of lackluster results and astronomically high prices

And then we left for dinner at a Thai restaurant off the beaten track that was nonetheless filled with other coin dealers, proving once again that no matter how far away from the convention center you go to eat, you will see another dealer there.  I do not know why.

And then I went back to the room to write this RR, after which I fully intend to collapse on the bed, sleep peacefully, wake up at a decent hour, and be totally ready to tackle Thursday with an ‘enthusiasm unknown to mankind’ (a quote I once heard from Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh, later tried to use to motivate my own children, but which did not work at all).

More later –

January 6th:  Day 4

You may not believe this, but on Thursday I woke up again at precisely 4 AM.  But not intentionally – this time it was caused by the rain pounding against my hotel window and not the incredibly annoying alarm clock near the bed.

And after 3 solid hours listening to the rain and intermittent thunder, I finally leapt out of bed at 7, answered a bunch of emails, tried unsuccessfully to figure out the results of our late-session bids at Heritage from the previous evening, ironed the CRO banner, packed up and headed over to the show for the 8:30 start.

Where I arrived just in time to join the sea of coin dealers all shuffling forward and trying to squeeze en masse through the one tiny door onto the bourse floor.

But eventually I made it inside, and in short order we were back at the table preparing for what we hoped would be another good day at the show.

And that’s exactly how it turned out, with what seemed to us to be a very good crowd, steady sales and, unlike yesterday, a lot of nice new acquisitions on the floor from a variety of different sources.

We were pleased with our grading results, too, with almost everything (so far, at least) coming back at the level we thought it should.

Sometime during that period we also found a few minutes to check out the special displays at PCGS and NGC, the latter featuring some frankly unbelievably toned commems in a some mega-grade * and + holders.

What we did not do during the day, however, was eat, since, in our opinion, the faire offered at the concession stand left a significant amount to be desired.

We also did not complete one of the larger deals we had been working on this week, and it seems now that it is not going to happen.  And though that is disappointing, it only means we’ll need to focus on the next big thing.

In the meantime, we had a couple of neat new purchases late in the day, then suddenly realized we were about to miss our target lots in the currency auction already underway, so we quickly packed up, sprinted downstairs, obtained our bidder card with seconds to spare (since HA requires a special green one for currency), won both lots we wanted for good prices, and then shot across the road for a quick dinner at the hotel before I called it a night and Dave headed back to execute our Platinum Night bids.

And while he was there, he got to witness some cool highfalutin auction drama when lot #5238 came up, a 1907 Rolled Edge $10 Indian graded SP67 by NGC, one of just 2 known, consigned by the family of Frank Leach, Superintendent of the Mint at that time.  Unreserved, the coin opened at $550,000 and then quickly and dramatically rose to $1 million, at which point one of the consignors sitting directly in front of Dave could almost not contain her enthusiasm.  At the $1.5 million level, just two bidders remained, one on the phone, the other a prominent dealer representing a collector who owns the finest $10 Indian set.  The bidder on the phone deliberated for what seemed like an hour (but was probably 20 seconds) and raised it by $100,000, then he dealer on the floor instantly raised it by another $100k, and on it went until the coin finally succumbed at $1.9 million hammer, at which time the crowd burst into spontaneous and sustained applause, the consignors went berserk, and our own Dave Wnuck was thoroughly entertained.

He did however regain his composure in time to buy the rare unc, $20 we were targeting a little while later, then finally call it a night.

Friday we hope for more of the same (except for the part about being awakened at 4 AM, because frankly I have had just about enough of that).


January 7:  Day 5

Friday started better in several ways:

  • Got up at a normal hour.
  • Found my glasses (which had gone missing in the my hotel room for several days, and would not be the last discussion of glasses on this day . . .).
  • Headed over to the convention center just late enough to avoid dealer rush-hour in the lobby.

And then began a series of productive, entertaining and ridiculous events during the course of the day:

Found two neat colonials on the floor while walking to the USPS booth to mail a package, both of which we ended up buying, but only after I wandered around aimlessly for a while trying to remember where I saw the second one.  The moral of this story:  If you see something cool on the floor write down the table number where you saw it, because you will not remember otherwise, even if you are sure you will.

Sold 2 Fugios, and bought 3 more on the floor from a dealer and a collector.

Sold a bunch of federal coins to collectors who came to the table.

Got the rest of our grades back, one of which was rotated in the holder, requiring me to tap the edge 463 times to fix it, which ALWAYS causes someone to walk over to the table and ask “Are you trying to crack that coin out?”.  Honestly, that drives me crazy, and I am tempted to do all of my future holder rotating back at the hotel.

Found some cool foreign coins, even though most of the world coin dealers were in New York at the International Show this week (a scheduling overlap that makes very little sense to us, since it seems so utterly avoidable, and definitely weakens both shows).

Got the rest of our auction purchases, liked what we saw and then tried to figure out what to do with them next (i.e. reholder, add pedigrees, remove goofy modern pedigrees that we don’t consider important, cross, etc., something we always do, and a reason that most of the new things we acquire do not instantly make their way to an EB).

Schmoozed with collector and dealer friends and industry bigwigs, like Scott Schechter of NGC who stopped by the table to chat.  During which we joked about people screwing up submission forms just as, ironically, Dave was royally screwing up our own NGC submission which Scott helped fix and graciously offered to hand deliver to the NGC table (probably because he assumed we would screw that up, too).

And then, in a rare ‘two-fer’ in an RR, Scott received mention in a second RR paragraph (i.e. this one), when he showed Dave the original black holder prototype on display at the NGC table.  Which was extremely cool and a little different than the actual production model, and well worth a look for slab weenies everywhere.

A little later a gentleman from Connecticut came by introduced himself at our table, as we had a Higley Copper on display.  Turns out he had found a genuine Higley copper while metal detecting about 5 years ago.  Now, when we hear things like this we are instantly skeptical, since about once a week some well-meaning person emails us trying to sell a Higley copper that invariably turns out to be a copy of some sort, but it turns out this story was true.  It is a ‘3 Hammers, Value Me as you Please’ type, and it now resides in a PCGS Genuine holder.

And then, in an event that sounds like I am making it up but which is actually true, Dave broke his glasses and then fixed them by putting tape around the hinge exactly like a guy playing a nerd in a movie.  The fact that Dave accidentally taped the wrong hinge first (and thus now has tape on both sides of his glasses) only added to the special-ness of the occasion.

Then we called it a day, dropped our bags at the hotel and headed back to the Thai restaurant with a dealer friend, hung out until late, walked back along the water and got ready for Saturday, which we think will be good, though we know lots of other dealers will start leaving by early afternoon.

We, on the other hand, are here for the duration, so if you can make it to the show, please do stop by and see us at table #913.


January 8th:  Day 6

One of the things about the coin business that takes a little bit of getting used to for a dealer is that Saturday is just like any other day, which for us meant getting up early, hauling everything over to the show and having another busy day on the bourse floor.

Much of which was spent running around buying a lot of nice federal coins from multiple sources, from the relatively affordable (mostly 20th century silver) to the extremely big time (mostly 19th century gold).  Plus a couple more new colonials, and some cool, incredibly original Latin American silver.  One book, too, I think.

And throughout the day, sales were pretty consistent as well, both to dealers and collectors, with the last a totally unexpected one to a customer who walked up to the table, expressed mild interest in one of our expensive coins, then within a span of just a few minutes went out to his car, came back with a bunch of bullion, sold that to another dealer and used the proceeds to buy our coin.  I honestly never saw that one coming, demonstrating once again that you simply just never know.

Sometime during the day we were also thrilled beyond belief to hand-off a giant collection here at the show rather than have to carry it home and/or stand in the USPS line and ship it out in the 11 individual boxes it would have required.

And then things started to slow down, interrupted only by a dealer who came by to show off a rare, raw medal he had just bought to the impromptu gathering of colonial dealers at our table, all of whom unanimously and unfortunately concluded that it was NG.  As in No Good.  As in a cast copy.  The moral of this story being that for the rare and obscure, you are best to know exactly what it is that you are buying before you write that check, or hand over a big wad of cash.

Then we called it a day, heading out to a deluxe dinner with some dealer and collector friends at a highly recommended and very popular local restaurant called Ceviche, but not until Dave had to tell the cab driver not just the name of the restaurant, or that it was on South Howard Street, but also how to spell the word ‘South’ so the driver could enter it into his Garmin GPS.  At that point we concluded that the guy was not very good at this.

Dinner, on the other hand, was excellent, very entertaining, served to us by a waitress who looked suspiciously like Jessica Simpson, and ran a bit late, before the 5 of us piled into a cab (literally, like a circus stunt) and headed back to the hotel, allowing me to get back to my room just in time to catch the end of the Jets-Colts game, write this blog and start getting organized, finally, for the very last day of the 2011 FUN show.

Our next RR will be posted from home on Monday AM, and will probably not include a story about some fantastic coin that walked up to our table on Sunday, since that never happens (or at least it hasn’t happened yet, which means it still could, and is the exact reason that we will be here until closing, just in case).

I can say with certainty, however, that we will provide a detailed description of anything amusing that happens during the course of the day, and our overall impressions of the entire show, which will be fairly serious, and which will, in our humble opinion, be worth reading.

The End

January 9th:  Day 7

We are pleased to be back home in New England in extremely cold, unpleasant conditions with a big pile of snow just outside the window, as opposed to the awful sunshine and palm trees we had to endure over the last week in Florida:

But now that we are here, it is of course time to recap the just-ended FUN show in earnest.  So let’s get started!

The venue, was in our opinion, excellent, and in almost every way significantly better than the set-up in Orlando, and if it was up to us (which it isn’t) we’d hold the FUN Show here every year.  With hotels very close to the show, it was definitely more convenient, and felt safer (which is not an unimportant consideration at this event), with more than enough restaurants and activities in the vicinity to satisfy most people.  Best of all, we didn’t need to rent a car to get around, which is an annual pain in the neck in Orlando (even though I enjoy driving a teal Kia as much as anyone).

We did not see the hard data, but it appeared to us that the attendance was strong (actually surprisingly so for a new location) from the start until about mid-afternoon on Saturday.

As an aside, and again if it was up to us (which it is not), we would have ended the show at 6 PM Saturday.  Sunday hours make little sense to us, or, evidently, to the public (since very few of them showed up) or to the dealer community (since most of them had long since left) and the room was filled with mostly sad, empty tables by noon, and all of the remaining dealers had migrated toward the vacated tables at the front of the room, with the result being unfamiliar faces offering a flea-market type assortment under a sign bearing the name of more than one well-known national dealer.  Our understanding was that despite the fact that the show insists that all dealers stay until the end of the day Sunday or risk being relegated to crummy table locations next year, this time anyone who wanted to leave early was excused due to inclement weather hampering travel to many destinations (and if you give a lot of these guys an excuse to hit the road, they will).  I’m not sure I blame them, though, since we can say that from a commercial perspective the day was a bust, as we sold just a handful of generic gold, all to the same dealer, in a transaction that could have just as easily taken place anytime / anywhere.

On the other hand, if we had left early, we would have missed our first interesting contrast of the day when two customers came to the table in succession. The first being a very knowledgeable guy who told us he had sold his coin shop in 1964, had owned a number of famous and interesting rarities, and was personal friends with the Childs family (of Childs’ 1804 Dollar fame), the second a gentlemen who studied our coins with a mildly bewlidered look on his face, and then asked what that plastic encasement was around each one (referring of course to the PCGS and NGC slabs, which he had never seen before).

Anyway, another dealer who remained until the bitter end was intrepid bookseller John Burns, who in our opinion is the hardest working man in numismatics, bringing an entire library of numismatic books and catalogs (many of which appear to be extremely heavy) to every show,  hauling them from his van to the bourse floor, neatly arranging them on bookshelves, and then doing all of that in reverse at the end of the show.  Honestly, I don’t know how he does it, but I’m glad he does, and would encourage anyone who needs a book to buy it from him.

Sunday aside, our retail sales for the week were excellent, with quite a bit to regular customers who had flown in from around the country (which we always appreciate), but also a significant amount to local (relatively speaking) people we met for the first time in Tampa, who either sought us out or accidentally strolled by, saw something they liked, and bought it, which is exactly what we hope will happen when we incur the expense to travel around the country to any shows.  So that was most welcome.

Our anecdotal conversations with other dealers revealed a second interesting contrast, as most were pleased with their results, except for one guy who proclaimed this (and I quote) “The worst FUN show ever”.  I do believe that was an extreme outlier view, but offer it here in an attempt to provide an unbiased recap.

So what did we sell while we were here?  Pretty much everything, from a few hundred dollar Mercury Dime, to a mid five-figure colonial, a cool Flowing Hair Dollar, foreign, esoteric, mainstream type, several Fugios, a fair amount of gold, etc.  In fact, I cannot say that any particular area was weak, and just wish we had brought more inventory with us (but we couldn’t, since much of what we had was decimated during December).

That shouldn’t be a problem for long, though, as we found a lot of neat stuff on the floor here and, despite the fact that there were not a lot of exciting new coins in our areas of specialty in the auctions (a lot of the expensive coins in the session had traded as recently as a year ago), we bought our fair share there too, many of which will be coming soon to an EB near you.

So, overall, we left eminently satisfied with our results and optimistic about the market, headed to the airport, went our separate ways (since Dave and I never take the same flights), and then I sat at the Tequileria in Terminal A and encountered the last interesting contrast of the day, sitting between a woman who looked liked Estelle Getty on one side and a woman who was an absolute dead ringer for Amy Winehouse on the other:

We then engaged in ridiculous conversation about gambling in Biloxi, Mississippi (which I have not done, and have no plans to ever do in the future).

And now we are back home, and, illustrating once again that there is no rest for the weary, hard at work on Tuesday’s Early Bird list, which we think will be a very good one that you will most definitely want to check out.