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Back to Road Report Archive 2014

January 6-11, 2014: The FUN Show in Orlando, FL

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Ah, the Fun Show, that relaxing post-holiday jaunt to sunny and warm (um, warm-er) Orlando for what is always an entertaining, exciting and productive show.

And I had a pretty good travel plan this time, with a flight scheduled for Tuesday AM at a civilized hour getting me to FLA for some unhurried lot viewing and show prep whereby I would be rested and ready for dealer set up at 2 PM Wednesday.

So while I was getting set to pack on Monday afternoon I casually clicked on the airline website to see my flight status and was somewhat surprised to see that it had been cancelled already in anticipation of the polar vortex which was set to hit Massachusetts on Tuesday. Hmmm.

And of course that left me with two rescheduling options:

  1. Leave on the next available later flight, which apparently was not until Wednesday night and would get me to Orlando after dealer set-up, after some important customer meetings and after the first HA auction session, or
  2. Take the one single seat available on a flight which would be leaving in 1 hour and 39 minutes, and which might yet be cancelled.

So of course I took option 2, packed as fast as I possibly could, bolted out the door and somehow, against all odds, and at an airport that looked like a ghost town (since 97% of all other flights had already been cancelled) got on said flight (only becuase it was delayed another 2 hours) and casually strolled into my hotel at about midnight.

Where I was shocked to learn that Florida State actually beat Auburn, since I had been watching on the flight and, up until the end of the 3rd quarter, they seemed to be getting trounced.

In any case, I felt un-trounced and delighted to have made it knowing I now had a full Tuesday to do every thing I intended to do Tuesday afternoon before the schedule changed.  Do you know what I mean?

More later –

January 7th:  Day 1

Extremely proud of myself for getting down here on Monday, I woke up relaxed and ready on Tuesday AM, wrote 62 emails, talked to a few customers and then began the arduous task of making sure every coin in the CRO inventory had a sticker on the back with an item # and price.

Which took me about 3 hours, after which I headed over to the convention center for a stop at the security room, and then on to Heritage for some concentrated lot viewing of my ‘high interest’ items.

And then zipped over to one of the nearby hotels to meet a customer, then on to a different hotel to meet with another dealer, then headed back to my room to get ready for what is always a highlight of these shows for me, the annual dinner organized by a collector friend at one of the nice restaurants in town where we eat well, schmooze better and pass cool coins around the table that look like this lovely but admittedly poorly photographed pair:

And while some of the other guys at said table are indeed numismatic VIPs, we apparently don’t rate real high on the restaurant’s VIP list, since the next table was set up like this:

Alas, Mr. John never showed up (at least not while we were there).

After which I headed back to the hotel for some Grade-A collapsing in order to be ready for an early start and long day on Wednesday which will begin with some wholesale meetings, roll into lot viewing, continue with dealer set-up and conclude with an evening auction.

All of which will be described right here in minute detail tomorrow –

January 8th:  Day 2

My carefully planned schedule of activity on Wednesday went totally, completely and thoroughly out the window when I woke up with a migraine at 3:52 AM, so I took 3 Advil and then slept until about noon, which by most any measure was not a very productive use of time.

On the other hand, I felt 87% better when I woke up, got organized and walked over to the convention center for the 2 PM start of dealer set up.

Where I did in fact set up the booth as fast as possible, spread out the largest inventory we’ve brought to a show in a while, and then proceeded to buy a bunch of world coins which I was originally supposed to view at 9 AM, but obviously didn’t.

Then completed a sale of a different world coin to a collector, bought a couple of raw colonials, sold a Seated Quarter and a GSA that I had been trying to move, scoured the room for interesting NEWPs and generally tried to do business in a room in which I was operating at ¾ speed, and most / many of the guys were not set up yet.

Still, under the circumstances, I think I did pretty well buying and selling coins in the medium price range, pondered a few expensive things, ogled a neat token, considered an offer for a coin in my case and then looked at my watch and was surprised that it was 5:45, which meant that I had 15 minutes before the start of the Heritage auction session 1.

So I closed up, locked up, and went to get a good seat in an auction which would begin with a long run of Betts medals which were mostly not of interest to me, interspersed with a few neat crossover items that are also part of the colonial series.

Alas, and not too surprisingly, I was outbid on most of my target lots in a raucous session in which prices seemed strong on the stuff I wanted, and just so-so on the ones I didn’t.

Ditto the ‘regular’ colonial and federal issues that followed, leaving your author with just a few purchases to show for his 4 hours in the room, which by most any measure was not a very productive use of time (though it was a nice, symmetrical end to my day).

After which I went back to the hotel to turn in early so that I could wake up Thursday feeling, I hope, waaaay better and get back to my normal show pace.

The results of which will be reported right here on Friday AM.

January 9th:  Day 3

It was a much better start to the day on Thursday as I leaped out of bed, got organized, briskly walked to the convention center and stormed onto the bourse floor at 8:30 AM rested and ready to begin buying and selling coins like crazy.

And that’s pretty much what happened for the next, oh, 9 and a half hours as there was a steady stream of customers at the table buying coins in all categories, including colonials ranging in price from $795 to $12,500, a bunch of world and esoteric pieces and a slew of Federal coins, including some Newman pieces that had been on the website, and others which we unveiled for the first time at this show, including this superb Capped Bust Half Dollar:

(Editor’s note:  While we generally try to run all new coins like this in one of our Early Bird emails and then proudly display them on the website, we also like to have some never-before-seen items at every show so as to encourage attendees to stop by our table, see what’s new and, ideally, find something interesting).

Also interesting (to me, anyway) is that we sold some items that had been on the site for as long as a few months, and others that we had owned for not even two hours, once again proving our oft-repeated adage that we never really know what will sell, in what sequence, or at what venue, which is one of the things that makes this business exciting.

And while sales were good, buying was merely decent so far, largely because I found myself pinned to the table for much of the day and had only limited opportunities to head out onto the bourse and look for cool coins (something I will try hard to rectify on Friday).

I did, however, find a few minutes in the afternoon to race through the exhibits area to take a look at the incredible Massachusetts silver coins on display, which I highly recommend to any interested attendees.

And then, as was the case on Thursday, I looked at my watch and was shocked to see that it was already 5:45 PM and therefore time to race over to the Heritage auction for the start of the purple Platinum Night session.

Which promised to be an exciting one, starting with the very first lot, the Brasher Doubloon in a shiny new NGC MS63 CAC holder about which many people had been prognosticating a sales price of 7, 10 or even 15 million dollars.

With a lot of those prognosticators seemingly in the room, as it was SRO to the extent that your author was forced to stand behind a tall person and directly next to a trash can which could best be described as ‘inelegant’.

And then the bidding began (well, sort of) as the coin languished at $3,600,000, a couple of mini-increment jumps ensued and it hammered down for $3,900,000 a minute or two later, which is $4,582,000 with the juice.

That was actually about $300,000 more than I expected (since I personally didn’t think it would advance over the starting bid). Why not? Well, here’s my thinking:

  1. The last public auction of a specimen with the EB punch on the wing was at Heritage in 2005 where an NGC AU55 hammered for $2,100,000.
  2. I don’t think numerical grades matter greatly on these coins.
  3. I did not see the market for these having expanded 3, 4 or 7-fold since 2005.
  4. The publicized private sale of the Brasher Doubloon with the EB punch on breast for some $7 million in recent years was interesting, but not an indicator in my opinion of an actual market value.
  5. NGC announcing this was a $10 Million coin when it was certified does not mean someone actually wanted to pay that much for it.
  6. The sale of a 1794 Dollar for $10 million does not mean that all mega-coins are suddenly worth $10 million dollars, or even that they are worth more than they were before that auction.
  7. $4,582,500 is still a very, very large amount of money for a coin.

So what could have been celebrated as a great result seemed instead like a bit of a letdown, which I don’t think was fair to the coin or the owner (who did pretty darn well on it through the years) or the auction house, which presented it expertly with a superb description.

Anyway, I then hung around a while longer, tried to buy a few regular coins, got outbid and then headed back to my hotel by successfully dodging traffic on International Drive only to be nearly and ironically run over by one of the ubiquitous rickshaw bicycles racing around the area.

Alas, I was unscathed, made it to my room, dropped my bags and then immediately headed out to dinner at the aptly named Primo with some collector friends where we ate and drank well and then left as the ladies at the next table started to get too raucous and seemed to be having too much fun.

Speaking of which, Friday should be another fun day here at FUN, with all details to be reported, right here, on Saturday AM.

January 10th:  Day 4

When we sold a nice coin just minutes after the show opened on Friday I was thinking “Hey, this might be a reeeeaaaally good day”.

But after a couple of hour lull before lunch, I changed my view to “Hmmmm, maybe that is the only transaction that is going to happen”.

A notion I was disabused of in the afternoon and on a grand scale, as we enjoyed the busiest day of the show so far with multiple transactions one after the other in all categories and, in many cases, for 2, 3, or in one deluxe deal, 5 coins at a time.

A delightful outcome which frankly surprised me, but maybe it shouldn’t have, as a lot of collector buyers had apparently by then surveyed the total offerings at the show and made their selections before leaving town, or possibly did not get what they wanted in the nearly never-ending auctions and had money to spend on the floor.

In either case, it was all good.

We were also not the only ones to experience this, as the dealer at the table next to me also said it was his best day at the show.

Despite that, I was able to find a few minutes here and there to buy some neat things (including from my aforementioned dealer-neighbor) which will be coming soon to an Early Bird or maybe a coin show near you.

I’d love to report to you also about our grading results here in Orlando, but we haven’t actually received any back yet which is disappointing, since if we do not have coins back, it is very, very hard to sell them.

Fortunately, that didn’t seem to hold us back, as the last deal happened at about 6 PM, I packed up and headed over to the hotel, and then went straight to dinner with some collector and dealer friends and was nearly spellbound by a collector talking to us about his experiences at the highest high-end of the hobby where the coins are mega-graded and the competition is fierce.

And while that was indeed fascinating, it made me feel quite good about the CRO niche, where we try to buy and sell extremely cool coins in a variety of grades with a minimum of fierceness.

Anyway, I’m not sure exactly what to expect on Saturday as a lot of the dealers will probably be leaving during the day, but whatever happens we will be reporting about it, right here, as always.

January 11th:  Day 5

At the end of Friday’s RR I mentioned that I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at the show on Saturday, but if I had made a prediction it would have sounded something like this:

A few collectors strolling around the aisles, some families with young children, possibly one or two sales, most dealers vacating the premises by noon, maybe a last minute purchase, the place a ghost town by about 3, etc.

In fact, that prediction would have (pardon my French) sucked, since Saturday was actually crazy-busy, with excellent traffic, a boatload of sales, our best buying by far during the show and a lot activity on the bourse pretty much right up until closing time. Sure, a lot of dealers did leave by noon, but maybe that helped steer people to us, which would possibly explain the period between 11 and 1 during which we had utterly frantic activity at the table with more people and more transactions than I think we’ve ever done before in a two hour period, anywhere, ever.

More surprising to me, however, was the cool stuff I bought on the floor in the afternoon from several different sources, and which I would describe as nearly numismatically thrilling. Seriously. And just between you and me, it just sort of happened by accident, since I was not looking for anything in particular, and was just peering into bourse cases mostly in aisles I had not had a chance to visit earlier in the show.  Now, this is not to suggest that I was the only one smart enough to buy these coins, or that everyone else just missed them – in one case a fresh deal had just been put out, in another the coins were esoteric issues that were most decidedly not for everyone.  They were, however, for us.

Then, finally, just as I was all packed up and ready to call it a day, and a show, our last grades came back, and while they weren’t anything to write home about, at least I was able to take them home with me.

And then, after a really long and tiring week during which I felt under the weather throughout, I headed back to my hotel for some very serious sleeping so that I could leave, well rested, on Sunday.



Now back home and (almost) fully recovered from the loooong week in Orlando, I thought I’d add a few additional thoughts about the show and my experience in Orlando:

Just as I arrived at baggage claim on my trip home on Sunday a customer called me on my cell and asked, among other things “How would you rate the show on a 1 to 100 point scale?” To which I responded that from a business perspective it was a 92.375 (since of course a 100 point scale doesn’t offer nearly the precision necessary for me to accurately assess a coin show).

During the show another dealer wondered aloud if the plethora of auction lots offered at FUN had siphoned off much of the bourse floor business (a concept I’ve heard before from others at various shows through the years). And, of course, regardless of how good a show we or any other dealer had in Orlando, it is a logical to think that massive auctions hurt bourse floor sales since there is presumably a finite quantity of money that can be spent on numismatic items in a given period of time. Of course, it could also be logical to conclude that giant auctions attract additional show attendees, and that some of these people may also buy coins on the floor. So, actually, the correct answer is probably maybe. Or maybe not. The upcoming Long Beach show should be an interesting test in this regard, since Heritage will not be conducting a show auction there for the first time in a long time.

And finally, on a very sad note, I wanted to mention how sorry I was to learn on Saturday about the passing of long time numismatic literature dealer and my good friend John Burns.

John was a fixture at major shows and one of the nicest, most interesting and most intelligent people I’ve ever known and I am really going to miss him.