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January 7-11, 2020: The FUN Show in Orlando, FL

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Good morning intrepid Road Report reader and welcome to this our first installment of the roaring 2020s.

Which is, as pretty much always, being written before 6 AM local time, in the dark, with your author typing quietly so as not to wake up his wife, thankful this is not one of those new 2-way video blogs (since these pajamas, while very nice, are not quite ready for prime time).

What is ready for prime time?  I think we finally are, having spent the last several days sorting, collating, stapling, printing, tabulating, sending telexes, mimeographing, etc. all in anticipation of what is always a gangbuster event in FLA that starts the instant we land and, if history is our guide, continues pretty much unabated until we leave late Saturday.

Where we’ll be buying, bidding, selling, trading, grading and, of course, schmoozing from our command center at table #925 where we hope to see as many long time customers, industry colleagues and new friends as is possible in a 4 day stretch.

And then blogging all about all of it each and every morning of the show, in said pajamas, right here in this space.  Starting tomorrow.

Until then, then –

January 7:  Day 1

Deviating from our standard travel SOP (i.e. waking up at 3 AM and taking the first flight out to wherever we are going), Team CRO instead had booked a leisurely late morning flight on Tuesday.

  And since this was scheduled to get us here to Orlando at about 2, we figured this would still give us plenty of time to dump everything in our hotel room, head to the convention center, view lots, do our wholesale business, etc., etc.

But as the reader may have already surmised by some subtle but ominous foreshadowing above, that flight was of course delayed getting in, giving us a scant and unrelaxing hour to do all that stuff.  Still, we did it, viewing lots for stock and for customers, conducting some business with dealer friends, dropping our large and awkward show supply bag at security and then racing back to the hotel so we could get ready for a highlight of this (and all past) FUN shows, our annual Tuesday night dinner hosted by a collector friend at an excellent nearby restaurant.

Where the numismatic conversation flowed kinda late into the evening, but not so late that we were completely wiped out, allowing us to turn in at a reasonable hour so we could be ready to hit the ground running on Wednesday which will include a deeper dive into the HA lots, a bunch more wholesale activity and some grading submissions all before the bourse floor opens for dealer set up at 2 PM.

  Where we’ll race around like mad right up until the HA session starts at 6 PM, followed by another pre-arranged numismatic dinner with some dealer friends down the street.

With everything that happens along the way to be described in minute detail here in the RR, the first real-time, daily blog in the numismatic world now celebrating our 14th year of early morning typing (since we started all of this at the FUN show in 2007.  Remember?).


January 8:  Day 2

With the precision of one of those college marching bands you see at halftime, Team CRO was up at 6, in the gym by 7, at breakfast by 8, at lot viewing by 9, checking out wholesale boxes by 11 and in the queue to enter the bourse room at 1:30 with hundreds of other polite and patient dealers:

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Most with small wheelie bags or Pelican cases, some not-very-robust guys pulling large and heavy-looking carts and at least one world dealer dragging their inventory into the show in a giant orange Tyvek bag said to weigh 42kg and notable for not having any wheels on it.  None.

And we would all eventually make it in, arriving at our respective tables and setting up as fast as possible.  Which for us – other than the fact that our show lights arrived as some sort of DIY kit – went like clockwork, allowing us to be fully ready for action in not more than twenty (20) minutes.

At which point I could then race around the room looking for interesting coins, finding a few want list items for customers, some neat old-holdered type, 2 cool colonials, 3 gold CACs and one neat CWT in a reasonably productive first foray.

Returning to the table to meet up with many long time customers who stopped by in an unplanned but somehow orderly procession, looking at coins of mostly the big ticket variety, weighing their options vs other budget-consuming targets around the room and in the auctions and generally getting the lay of the land.

  Of course we did some of that too in our own searches, but also jumped on anything that we could for fear it would be gone if we didn’t.

Returning again to meet up with the next wave of visitors, variously selling coins we’ve had for a while and others that had never before seen the light of day.  Like this cool DMPL Morgan, for example:

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Continuing on about like that until 5:30 PM or so, at which time we worked on a collection with a dealer friend, rifled through our notes, entered some late bids in the HA session and then decided to actually attend Session I in person starting at 6 just down the hall.  Which I would declare as merely semi-successful as we bought a couple of coins, got outbid on some and were completely and utterly swamped on others.

Then coming back down to the bourse for another blast of activity before heading out to dinner with some dealer friends at a restaurant that was not as close to the convention center as we thought, but still not so far that that there weren’t other dealers standing right in the doorway when we arrived (which is invariably the case at these events no matter how far you drive or how exotic the cuisine).

Getting back at a semi-civilized hour, bidding on some late target lots in the still-running auction and eventually turning in  so we could be ready for what we expect and hope will be another busy day on the bourse floor.

  So we can then blog about it on Friday right here in this space.

So you might want to keep an eye out for that –

January 9:  Day 3

Aaaah yes, Thursday at FUN, with another early morning spent variously writing the blog, answering email and entering auction lots in the dark, before grabbing breakfast to go in the lobby and beginning the loooooong hike from our hotel to the convention center.

During which we tried to find a shortcut to get there and failed heroically, taking a circuitous route down convoluted corridors and over various pedestrian bridges while struggling with a heavy catalog-laden briefcase, an English muffin and a small coffee that I spilled, dropped, or lost control of 7 times en route.

So after an impressive amount of swearing for that time of morning, and vowing not to do this again on Friday, we would arrive at the show, take a deep breath and then start the numismatic rollercoaster all over again.

First orders of business: Finalize a pending deal started during set up on Wednesday, deliver a coin to another dealer, pick up a bunch of type coins I agreed to buy by text last night, drop off a consignment with an auction house, hand in some grading and generally do a metric ton of paperwork for a solid hour and a half.

Eventually walking past the entrance, peering into the lobby just as some sort of overly formal opening ceremony was concluding and then nearly being run over by a herd of enthusiastic numismatists launching themselves into the bourse room. So I headed back to the table to be ready for the onslaught which I calculated would hit us, like a tsunami, shortly thererafter.

And it did in the form of lots of people stopping buy to look at coins, buy some and offer us others. Some of which we owned before and thus snapped up in 2 seconds flat, others which were not exactly CRO coins but which we still pondered and tried to make work and a few which were honestly not even close (including, unfortunately, a giant 3 ring binder of raw coins handed to me by a collector with great fanfare, was said to contain a great collection of dollars that were all “some kind of mint state with no scratches” but upon a cursory inspection were absolutely 100% cleaned to death or counterfeit). I hate when that happens since I know that no matter what I say or how delicately it is phrased it will go over about like the Hindenburg, only slightly worse. And that definitely was the case here. So I sent the gentlemen off to a dollar specialist across the room where he was going to hear exactly the same thing. Oh well.

Then it was time for a massive reconciliation with another dealer, strategizing what to do with some jointly owned coins with a different dealer, working out a cash and trade deal for a cool Seated Dollar and generally doing a lot of good, solid, medium sized business through much of the afternoon, including buying an XF45 Large Planchet Pine Tree Shilling we last handled maybe 8 years ago.

And selling some totally cool stuff we just got here, like this epic No Stars H10c which blows away most of what we see hyped as high quality in some auction or other:

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After which it was time to dive into the Heritage Platinum Night auction prep where we would be targeting a couple of pieces of Mass silver which we thought would likely go for more than we wanted to pay. And that was indeed the case in a session I monitored closely online from my hotel room before heading off to dinner with a collector friend at the hotel.

Again finishing up pretty early knowing we’d have another long tiring day ahead of us on Friday.  Which will be described, discussed and blogged about in this space in about 24 hours from now –

January 10:  Day 4

While the previous days in Orlando had certainly been busy, they paled in comparison to a Friday which had us pretty much running around the bourse floor like crazy all day either picking up coins, dropping off coins, buying coins, trying to finalize deals on coins, grading coins, consigning coins and generally conducting some kind of commercial numismatic transaction from about 9:30 AM until 5:50 PM.

With brief interludes only for the following:
▪ When I was parked at our back table work space compiling spreadsheets trying to figure what we could pay a variety of larger deals. A process made 50% more frustrating because the internet on the bourse floor rates no higher than a C- (not that I would have known where to look up some of this stuff even if I had a good connection). But we worked through that best we could, occasionally enlisting one expert or other for pricing input on the most esoteric stuff.
▪ When we had to go pick up our auction winnings from Heritage, a process that got surprisingly complicated and time consuming because the haul was larger than usual.
▪ Lunch.
▪ When people stopped by the table to view coins, offer us coins or show and tell some coins, which happened virtually nonstop all day, including many people who had been here the last couple of days, but also people we saw for the very first time on Friday.

All contributing to a day which could be described as “it was a very good day”, culminating with an excellent outdoor Greek dinner at Taverna Opa with some collector and dealer friends during which I believe we were the only restaurant patrons not dancing in a drunken conga line and/or dangerously standing on a table.

After which we headed back to the hotel which should have been utterly uneventful, but wasn’t when our elevator to the 23rd floor suddenly went kaput and 7 of us (including Al Adams from Gold Rush Gallery and 2 ladies from the Mary Kay convention) were trapped inside. Fortunately, when we pressed the emergency button for assistance the operator called the fire department, and then began cranking maybe the worst elevator music any of us had ever heard in a continuous, very loud 20 second repeating cycle. So that was good. But then, after about 15 minutes (and just before I could convince Al to climb up through the ceiling vent like in Mission Impossible, shimmy up the cable and try to climb out of the elevator shaft and get us help), the fire department pried open the doors and we were on our way.

Where we’ll be ready for action one last time on Saturday before flying home real late (unless our flight is delayed and/or cancelled due to weather, which based on all of the weather maps I’ve seen the last few hours certainly seems like a possibility).

But wherever we are at that time, we’ll be posting our final FUN RR installment on Sunday AM.

January 11:  Day 5

Editor’s note: In what is surely a first for Team CRO, this last installment of the FUN RR is actually being written while the next is already underway. Well, sort of. Let’s continue on to find out why!

You see, your author is writing this blog while having breakfast at the Pershing Square Cafe just across from Grand Central Terminal in NYC, having woken up at 3 AM to catch a 5:24 AM flight from Boston to get down here.  Which in and of itself sounds sorta’ horrendous to me, but is actually much worse than that.  Since of course we just flew back from Orlando to Boston last night.  The good news is that there were no delays on that Florida-Massachusetts leg, getting us home at the scheduled time of ~midnight, and thus allowing your author to get the full and complete complement of 3 hours of sleep before this morning’s disgustingly early wake up call.

So why would a numismatist subject themselves to this? Because of course today is the only time I have to view the upcoming Heritage world lots in their NYINC auction, and not to do so would be far more painful than some minor travel inconvenience / sleep deprivation. Also, they have delicious avocado toast here (the key to which is, I believe, their surprising addition of feta cheese).

Anyway, I’d probably feel tired and cranky if we were coming off of a forgettable Saturday at the FUN show, but that was most definitely not the case. In fact, it was the busiest Saturday there I can ever recall starting literally 2 minutes after we arrived and continuing until we made our last sale on the bourse at about 4 PM as highlighted thusly:

Bought a dozen extremely sexy rattler slabbed US type coins from a collection that was being dispersed starting right at 8:30, so of course your author was parked at that table, check book in hand, to vacuum up all the CRO-style examples.

Including things like this:

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And this:

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And this:

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Returning to the table a few minutes later just in time to sell a 5-figure colonial.  And then a bunch of type coins.  Followed by a group of world coins.  Then received some wicked federal coins on consignment from a connoisseur.

And were handed a check by another dealer with whom we jointly own (er, owned) a pretty good colonial.

Followed right after by the sale of our 1793 Half Cent.  And then a bunch of the rattler coins we bought earlier in the day (though not the ones pictured above).

In and around which we had many discussions about other possible deals coming and going with a bunch of dealers and collectors apparently and suddenly inspired to do a lot of business.  With our last transaction of the day the sale of this coin:

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All adding up to a pretty fantastic day at a show which turned out great overall, but with the busiest days at the end (which is not often the case). Believe me, not complaining though.

So by the time we left the show at 5 PM, we were feeling pretty good, had a calm dinner at the airport, and then got on that aforementioned flight home that got this whole new cycle started.