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Back to Road Report Archive 2010

January 4-10, 2010: The FUN Show in Orlando, FL

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Good morning everyone, and welcome to this FUN preview, our first new RR in about 45 days (a sufficiently long period that your author forgot how to make the title that cool maroon color and had to go look it up in the CRO website manual).

But that’s not the main theme here.  Instead, it would be that we are off to Orlando this AM, having now unpacked our bathing suits and scuba diving equipment and replaced them with ice scrapers and thick woolen underwear (since the 10-day forecast down there shows low temperatures in the 20’s).  Which, of course, is still considerably better than what we’re dealing with here in New England, and so we aren’t complaining (that much).

On a more positive note, crummy weather will force us indoors and focus our attention (even more than usual) on things numismatic, which by all accounts should be hoppin’.

But whatever happens, we’ll be updating this blog at least daily and possibly more often than that if we see something especially cool.  Like a really rare coin, a bizarro auction result, or a freak snow storm, for example.

So you might want to stay tuned for that.

Day 1: 

We arrived in Orlando refreshed and ready for action on Monday, and then were forced to walk very slowly through the airport terminal stuck behind a bunch of vacationers gumming up the aisles.  Which, in my effort to find something positive in almost every annoying situation, I figured would at least delay our arrival at baggage claim until our luggage was already on the conveyor belt.

Which turned out to be 50% accurate, since the other 50% of the bags were nowhere to be found, necessitating the always enjoyable visit to the baggage claim office typically manned by some poor soul who does nothing all day but get screamed at by irate passengers.  Plus, no matter which airport it is in, that room is always hot and has no windows in it.

Anyway, with that pleasant 45 minute diversion taken care of, we headed off to the hotel, arriving to the eerie sight of the valet wearing a ski hat underneath the hood of his heavy jacket (which will be one of the last comments I make about the weather down here, but not before I mention that he told us it was expected to get “a lot colder”).  I can only imagine what he will be wearing if that does happen.

It was warm inside the hotel, though, a perfect setting for Dave and I to review and price a new collection we just picked up so it would be ready for the FUN show in a couple of days.

Tuesday we’ll be lot viewing, possibly submitting some things for grading, working on a couple of wholesale deals and then having our annual numismatic dinner with some collector friends at one of the good restaurants in town.

Which will be reported about here in not more than 24 hours from now.

Day 2:

Tuesday began at a leisurely pace, with the first stop a noon visit to the convention center during which you have to pass through what looks like a tollbooth to enter the parking lot.  Curiously, this thing is never manned until the day of the show, which always has us wondering what would stop some local entrepreneur from buying a used security guard jacket and just sitting in there all day saying “$20 please” every time someone drives up (come to think of it, I’m not sure that someone isn’t doing that during the show).

Anyway, we picked up our badges and dropped a heavy bag of show supplies at security, then headed over to the pre-show, held at a hotel across town and home to the Bowers auction.

Which we viewed in its entirety over the next several hours, finding a few coins to bid on in a session which had some nice things in it, and some scary things, including a number of RD and RB Indian and Lincoln Cents that ranged in color from pink to orange to brown, some with heavy fingerprints and spots that probably were not there (or at least not that apparent) when they were originally graded.  After seeing this fine selection, Dave remarked that collecting color coins like these would be a little like collecting ice cream, since both seem similarly fleeting.

Ultimately, we left our bids for the evening session (skipping the pink coins, though) and then scooted back over to the convention center, through the unmanned tollbooth and into Heritage lot viewing.

And it was very crowded (as usual) when we got there, especially in the Platinum Night section, where all of the usual suspects were poring through the gold-intensive offering.  I also made sure, of course, to view the 1913 Liberty Nickel, a coin I vividly remember seeing in “The $100,000 Nickel” episode of Hawaii-Five-O with my dad in 1973.

As an aside, that was dad’s favorite show back then, though I recently saw an old re-run and it exhibited the skilled acting and high drama one might expect to find in an extremely bad high school play.  I guess the nickel has held up a little better than Steve McGarrett.

Anyway, we eventually got through that catalog and then most of the Signature session over the next 3 hours or so.

After which it was just about time for dinner, a long anticipated numismatic get-together at a local hotel with a bunch of highfalutin collectors and at least two Presidents of major numismatic organizations, during which the waitress delivered the largest baked potato any of us had ever seen, many cool coins were shown and a number of serious numismatic problems were solved (well, sort of).

Wednesday we’ll be finishing up our Heritage viewing and then actually entering the bourse floor for the start of dealer set-up in the afternoon.

The details of which will be reported in this space on Thursday morning.

Day 3:

As we were standing outside the hotel this morning in the ~30 degree weather waiting for the valet to bring the car around, another guest walked out of the hotel with his golf clubs over his shoulder and wearing shorts.  Now, I enjoy golfing as much as anybody, but you could not have paid me enough money to trade places with that guy.

Instead, Dave and I went to lunch at one of the over-friendly local restaurants where the wait staff always ask where you’re from and then, no matter what you answer, say that they know a guy from that town.  After a while I find myself wanting to test them, first by coming up with more and more obscure places, and finally by naming towns in cartoons:

CRO:  “Hi, we’re just in from Frostbite Falls”.

The Waiter:  “Er, I think a friend of mine went to school there . . .

The food was good though, and kept our streak of eating healthy at three (3) consecutive days.

Which we finished just in time to go the convention center and sit on a hard (and cold) concrete window ledge for 45 minutes waiting for them to open to the doors to dealer set up.

It was in the middle of that period that I realized I had left all of our show supplies and (gasp!) the CRO banner back at the hotel room, and I briefly consider getting in the car and driving back there to pick them up, but I figured I wouldn’t get back in time for the start of the show, and I might miss something really exciting.

And then the proverbial bell rang and it was time to join the sea of humanity rushing down the stairs, escalators and elevators to the bourse floor, right in the middle of which some poor guy’s suitcase popped open with an audible “CLICK!”, launching a bunch of coins and stacks of hundred dollar bills all over the place as a huge throng (of which your author was a member) was trying to pass through that exact spot.

“Gee, that sucks” I thought to myself, but all was resolved in the end, and we eventually made it to the bourse floor, setting up our new table location as best we could with no banner, no decorations and no frills.

It didn’t seem to have much of a negative impact though, as we sold a number of coins during the day, and sent off 2 expensive ones on memo with customers, making this (potentially) one of the better dealer set-up days we’ve had at any show in recent memory.  Which is heartening.

We only bought two coins though, and will need to do better than that over the next several days.

Come to think of it, we didn’t do very well in the HA auction session in the evening either, bidding on a few things, but not getting any of them, even though most of the session seemed to me to be very lackluster (except for the lots we wanted).

We did, however, do very well at dinner, going to that Japanese place we like with an entourage from a well-known auction house and getting back at about 11:30.

Thursday the actual show begins, and we will be ready.  And while we will not be wearing shorts, we will have the CRO banner with us, and it will be ironed (I know this because I am going to iron it right now).

Which means I need to sign off until tomorrow.

In the meantime, if you will be attending the show on Thursday, we recommend that you wear long pants as well, and that you make sure your suitcase is securely latched.

Day 4:

We hit the bourse floor running on Thursday, if by running you actually mean that we walked in slowly, drank coffee and started hanging banners and stuff.

But we did so feeling optimistic, since the first day of the show was pretty good, and we could see no reason why Thursday – with the public anticipated in numismatic droves – wouldn’t be even better.

And, in fact, it was, with a pretty nice crowd all day, ample buzz on the floor, and a lot of activity buying and selling, as suggested by this panorama shot taken by PCGS Forum poster “HighRelief” (note the aforementioned CRO banner indicated by the red arrow):

There wasn’t wild, crazy activity, mind you, but good sales, a few neat NEWPs, and the requisite Florida schmoozing that we enjoy at this show with a lot of people we haven’t seen in months.

What we did not find, however, were any super expensive rarities that we wanted to buy, though there are still a few days left, and you never know what might walk in the door before the end of the show.  And if it does, we will have the checkbook ready.

The other thing we did not find here were a lot of inspiring grades on our submissions.  That seems to happen sometimes at certain shows, and when everything is coming back lower than we think it really should, our belief is that it is not prudent to continue beating your head against the wall.  So we just stop submitting and go do something else.

Such as rooting through a giant collection of foreign coins trying tofind something cool to buy, and then having a nice dinner with a collector friend at Vito’s, avoiding any of the unbelievably enormous dishes on their dessert cart, and getting back just in time to catch some exciting Heritage Platinum Night auction.

Which, in the areas that we follow most closely, was reasonably strong in your author’s opinion.  We’ll detail some more specific results later, but for now will note that we got trumped on a bunch of the things we were bidding on in a session in which a lot of the results were pretty robust, and at least one nickel pedigreed to a 1973 TV show met a pretty robust reserve.

Tomorrow we are expecting a few of our long-time clients to arrive and with them the hope that something extremely exciting will happen.

And, if it does, you will read about it right here on Saturday morning.

Day 5:

“I think this is the first FUN show that has lived up to its name in more than 3 years” said the prominent west coast dealer seated next to me at dinner on Friday night as he (continuing this week’s potato theme) ate the largest order of hash browns any of us had ever seen as his entrée.

And while we didn’t think the last few FUN shows were that bad (and we’re really not sure what to make of eating hash brown potatoes as a main course), we do agree that this show has been what numismatists call a ‘hoot’.

Especially on Friday, where we saw another crowded room, a lot of upbeat people and the fast-paced action and continuous deal making that characterized the shows of a couple of years ago.

Such as during a 15 minute span in the mid-afternoon, when we were buying a couple of federal coins from a collector at the table while selling a colonial to someone else, then doing a cash and trade deal with a long time collector we haven’t seen in several years while working on another deal to sell an early dollar on a wholesale basis to someone else, then agreeing to buy a spectacular piece of Washingtonia from a collector / dealer who has owned it since 1984, then selling several of the very few federal coins we did get graded at show, etc.

Not that every deal got done (the early dollar did not sell, ultimately), but everyone certainly seemed enthusiastic to try.

And this can be contagious (in a good way).  If we suddenly sell a bunch of coins, and see other dealers doing the same thing, we are certainly going to be more enthusiastic to go buy some new inventory or ‘take a flyer’ on something cool and expensive.

And we are apparently not the only ones, which may explain why an interesting colonial coin being sold in a sealed bid auction on the other side of the room brought a simply astonishing price to two collectors who apparently really, really wanted it.

Friday also saw the last of our Heritage lots sell, all with pretty good results and contributing to the fine feeling in the air.

But I did also manage to sneak away from the table long enough to attend the PCGS Luncheon held upstairs, during which Don Willis talked about new developments at the company with a focus on the information available on their website, including a really impressive demonstration of the Auction Prices Realized section in which you can research recent sales results of any coin and then click on the price realized to see the link to the original lot listing at a number of different auction houses.  That’s pretty compelling stuff one might not expect to be available all in one place.  Then David Hall followed with a bullish speech about the coin market and his goals for PCGS Coinfacts.  It was interesting, and, for the record, I had the chicken, and it was delicious.

Anyway, we’re not quite sure what to expect for Saturday, but if it looks even remotely like Friday, we are officially going to be ‘psyched’.

Day 6:

On Saturday the worm turned (I honestly have no idea what that means, but I thought it was a good opening line, and was suggestive of a change in fortunes for us on Saturday).

Which is apt, since I doubt any dealer (or at least any of us who hadn’t already packed up and left Florida) made a fortune on this day.

Whatever wild buzz was permeating the air on Friday and earlier in the week was gone, and we settled into a regular coin show weekend.  Which means there were lots of families with kids roaming the aisles, and while they all seemed to be having fun, few were buying a lot of coins, at least from us.

Which is why I really can’t blame any of the dealers who did leave early, as the business simply doesn’t justify the expense of staying in many cases.  Though of course if more dealers stayed, more people might attend, and that would be good for us.

Anyway, in total, we sold maybe 10 coins all day (still not a bad total), including a little group of world coins to another dealer at the very end of the day, but nothing super rare or expensive.

Which left us plenty of time to get the last straggler grading submissions back, consign some coins to auction, send out a bunch of coins for photography, shoot the bull for a while and then head out to dinner at the Capital Grill with some dealer friends.

Which was extremely pleasant, except for the part afterward where you had to get your car back from the valet in 28 degree weather with a huge crowd all fighting for a spot next to the one space heater that was actually working.

Sunday we expect things will really wind down with most all the dealers packed and gone by midday, though we all hold out hope that some miraculous thing will walk in the door or some spectacular deal will happen just as we are about to leave.  But that’s not the way to bet.

However, if it does happen, rest assured that we will post about it here on Monday and gloat about how smart we were not to leave early.

Day 7:

It would be ideal to start this FUN show wrap-up by describing each of the 23 choice early copper coins we purchased from a little old man who walked into the show on Sunday, but since that didn’t happen we’ll begin instead by saying that (even though that one imaginary guy was not present) there were still quite a few people in the room.  Which, in my experience, is very unusual on a Sunday for even a major show like this.  That said, many of them were of the casual visitor variety, including families with young children, some of whom were screaming and running around in circles.  That was nice.

Still, I know for a fact that there were at least three transactions on the bourse floor during the day, since that’s how many coins we sold.

Including one, ironically, to the dealer at the table immediately next to us.  Though we were right next door for the whole show, we didn’t have a chance to talk until Sunday, during which he shared one of his customer’s want lists with us, revealing a coin we had bought from a customer not 24 hours earlier.  Once again proving Dave’s theory that coin shows are very, very inefficient places.  Which I guess is a good thing if you enjoy the thrill of the hunt (which most of us do).

Otherwise we spent the day picking up checks, finalizing a couple of deals from earlier in the show, and then making the dreaded trip to the US Post Office booth to ship out some packages.

In fairness, the employees there were nice (which is not always the case) and seemingly very competent (ditto), however, the equipment relegated to these trade show USPS locations is usually some decrepit stuff that just barely works, and that most of the employees have never seen before.  Which means that the one old timer who actually knows how to operate the equipment has to continuously assist the other clerks to show them how to do a Priority Mail, or print a receipt, or, God forbid, enter a corporate account number on a mailing label.   Even better, the computer is finicky, and ‘locks up’ every once in a while, but only if you are in a hurry, or have a large number of heavy boxes in your arms.  Which would explain why as the 8th person in the line it still took over 1 hour to migrate to the counter and finally ship our packages.  Dave was well prepared this time, though, as he brought his lunch along with the packages in some sort of coin dealer version of multitasking.

On a more positive note, we were not mugged leaving the show, had an uneventful trip home and are now resting comfortably in New England typing Road Reports, like this one.

Where we can make broad sweeping statements and generalize about the market like this:

The show was terrific from our perspective, with very good sales, and, despite a slow start on the buying side, a nice haul of cool stuff for the site.

Everything we consigned to auction (and keep in mind that we rarely consign the good stuff, preferring instead to retail it) sold well.

Leaving us feeling A-OK as we get ready for our next EB on Tuesday (assuming the system cooperates, which is no sure thing), and point toward our next event, the Stack’s Americana auction, from where our next RR will be posted in a couple of weeks.