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Back to Road Report Archive 2013

January 8-13, 2013: The FUN Show in Orlando, FL



Good morning people and welcome to this the first RR of 2013, written before I have actually gone anywhere (and even before I have started packing, a reflection of the fact that your author has not had the opportnity to write one of these since November and simply could not wait any longer).

And while I am extremely excited to be heading to FLA again, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done before I get on that flight, including two (2) local customer meetings, boxes to ship, checks to deposit, others to write, and then some intensive packing which I fully expect to take (almost) all night.

But when all that is done, and I actually arrive in Orlando, the real work will begin, including tons of lot viewing, auction bidding, coin grading and wholesale selling and buying, not to mention the actual show itself which will commence on Wednesday and will be, in my opinion, an a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e blockbuster.

And if it is, or even if it isn’t, I will be blogging about it each and every morning right here in this space while most other coin dealers are still asleep (not that there is anything wrong with that).

So you might want to stop by and check that out.

January 8th:  Day 1

My first official day of the FUN Show, 2013, would be Tuesday, beginning with a wicked early ride to the airport where I arrived just in time to see the lady in front of me in the security line, evidently an employee of the one of those fantastic Hudson News shops in the terminal, running the cash tray and big stacks of $20’s, unwrapped and in plain view, through the x-ray machine.

Which I appreciated immensely, since it meant that everyone ignored me and I breezed through to my gate in plenty of time to have a totally not hectic breakfast.

After which I flew effortlessly to Orlando, made it to my hotel without incident and was delighted to learn that my room was ready since I needed to sort and price inventory and prepare grading submissions.  And that is exactly what I did for every bit of the next 5 hours while also watching the movie “The Sessions” primarily so I could see Helen Hunt naked, but it turned out to be a really excellent film.

Which took me until about 2 PM, at which time I headed over to the convention center, dropped a few bags at the security room, submitted the aforementioned grading and then viewed (or more accurately tried to view) auction lots at Heritage, but the robust crowd made for a slooooow afternoon of waiting for boxes.

I did finally finish up at about 5, and then zipped back to the hotel and did some work before heading out to our traditional FUN show dinner at Capriccios with a big group of collectors, a few of us dealers and an industry VIP who graciously footed the bill.

But not before we ate and drank very well, and then passed around various show and tell items that looked like this:

And this:

And sometimes like this:

Or even like this mega-combo 1798 Small Eagle $1 and 1795 Flowing Hair $1:

To which I can only say that as hard as a tried, I could not capture the full glory of these coins with my iPhone and limited photography skills, but I can assure you they were fan-tastic.

And then at about 10 PM we headed out where your author eventually went to bed only to be awakened by a call from a customer looking to sell a 1796 1c at about 2 AM, which of all the reasons one could be awakened by a middle of the night phone call, that was certainly not the worst.

After which I went back to sleep in anticipation of a very busy Wednesday, with the HA auction starting at noon, dealer set-up at 2 PM, early birds arriving at 4, more auctions at night and, I hope, fantastic coin buying and selling opportunities throughout.

All of which will be described right here in about 24 hours from now.

January 9th:  Day 2

I awoke on Wednesday ready for action, stormed through the hotel lobby hauling a big and heavy but also awkward bag of show supplies, flung open the outer door and was immediately hit in the face with some delightful and extremely thick Florida humidity.

And even though I was walking only a couple of minutes to the convention center, it was downright uncomfortable, and so by the time I got to the show I was ready for some powerful A/C to blast down upon me.

Alas it seemed to be set on “Low”, and it took a while of sitting in the lobby to cool off.

Eventually, I did though, just in time to schmooze with other dealers, submit some additional grading and then make my way back to the Heritage lot viewing room to see the Platinum Night session.  With that last part proving to be a frustrating experience, as I zipped through nearly the entire sale at my usual rapid rate, and then sat for a good 45 minutes waiting for my very last box while some guy tied it up, fondling each and every coin, chatting with the guy next to him, stopping to pore through the Key Box and generally taking as long as possible to get through it. And then when I finally got it in hand, I realized the coins I thought were in there actually were in the regular Signature Auction session being shown at a different table. Oops.

So I viewed that too with minutes to spare, since by then the auction was starting on the 3rd floor, a fact I verified by hauling the aforementioned big and heavy but also awkward bag up there to check it out.

Where I watched a coin I liked sell for more than I wanted to pay, and then, with a vast gap until my next target lot, I schlepped back downstairs and hung out with some other dealers until the start of the show at 2PM.

And then they finally opened the bourse floor, almost certainly to the relief of the dealers who had been waiting on the lower level just outside the door for a good 2 hours at that point.  I’m not sure why they do that; I personally prefer to wait in the relative comfort of the lobby and then join the mass stampede as hundreds of us funnel onto a “Down” escalator which has been conveniently turned off.  Fortunately, this year (unlike some past events here) no one fell over, got trampled or had their briefcase pop open shooting hundred dollar bills into the air like confetti in the process.

Once inside I quickly located the CRO table, got set up ASAP, and then enlisted the services of dealer Mike Wierzba, who towers over your author and who is very good at hanging things, to move the regular issue bourse sign and put up the new, size-conforming (i.e. small) CRO banner as seen in this intense action photo:

Then I went to check out other coins around the floor, finding a few scattered about of the colonial and federal variety, buying some and pondering others, including a tough to find mid-grade Bar Copper and a neat 1955 DD.

Eventually, at 4 PM, the early birds arrived, and I met up with a slew of collector friends at the table over the next several hours doing deals or talking about them until it was time to start prepping for the evening’s HA auction in earnest.

At which time the day slowed to a crawl. You see, I thought the auction started at 6:30. Which was true, though it began with a long run of Betts Medals I had forgotten about and on which I was not bidding, and which took an unbelievably long time to get through, as they kept opening at low prices and then receiving 15 enthusiastic bids or more on the floor, and internet, and phone while your author repeatedly checked his watch.

Fortunately the HA buffet spread was extremely good, so I ate dinner there and found a comfortable chair out in the hall where I could cool my heels with other dealers until the colonials started at about 9:30.

And those went very quickly in comparison, as I bought 6 of the 8 coins wanted in about 15 minutes and then got the heck out of there, leaving the rest of my bids on the internet and collapsing in my hotel room after what had been an extreeeeeemely long day.

Thursday, on the other hand, should be even longer, as the show opens to the public and the deal making, we all hope, ratchets up, while the auctions continue, culminating with the Platinum Night session in the evening.

And I will be there for all of it, taking copious notes which can then be posted in tomorrow’s RR.

Until then –

January 10th:  Day 3

I took a more leisurely approach on Thursday, heading to the convention center at about 9:15 AM, stopping on the way for breakfast, encountering a massively long line at the coffee shop, and deciding to bag it and head straight to the show.  Where I discovered that it was already pretty active with dealers milling about, including at the table next to mine.

So I dropped off my stuff, turned on the lights and grabbed some coins for grading that I had tried to submit to PCGS late on Wednesday, but got to their table after they were already closed for the night.

Unfortunately, the exact same number of people who had been on line for breakfast were now in front of me at PCGS, slowly inching forward with submission forms in hand.  Fortuitously, Ian Russell of Great Collections happened to be behind me in line, and so I was able to ask him about a big consignment of error coins I have, thus making that otherwise wasted waiting time extremely productive.

Eventually I made it to the front, though, and then headed back to my table #811 to focus on coin selling and coin buying.

And I was moderately successful on the latter, adding about 15 coins during the day of which 14 were federal coins, only 1 was a world coin (not too surprising, since most of the world coin dealers are in NY this week), and none were colonial (also not too surprising to me, since most of what is available on the floor are coins from recent auctions that I did not bid on when I saw them the first time).

Sales, on the other hand, were pretty good if not overwhelming, 1 or 2 at a time, mostly in the middle price points, to a variety of collector buyers.

But a few deals which I thought might happen here did not (at least not yet), including a few large scale trades, and my planned purchase of something really big that turned out not to be as advertised.

On a more positive note, I have been pleased with the grading at this show, both in terms of the appropriateness of the results and the speed with which they have been delivered (keeping in mind that I am submitting a lot of unusual and esoteric material, or coins with pedigrees and things that take more time to grade than your average box of MS62 Morgans).  So I was able to immediately add them to my display cases.

Somewhere along the way I made my online Heritage bids for the Platinum Night session which I had planned to attend in person, but decided to skip when I got a most excellent dinner invitation from some collector and dealer friends.  So while many of my associates were packed into the auction room in the evening, we were impressively yucking it up at the Everglades Restaurant at the Rosen Hotel.

After which I went back to the hotel, saw what I won, what I didn’t, and followed the rest of the auction on my computer.

Friday I expect more of the same, though of course you never know until you get there.  But whatever happens, I will write about it right here on Saturday morning.


January 11th:  Day 4

Here are some of the good things that happened on Friday:

  • I bought a lot of cool federal coins in the HA auction, including several I really expected to be outbid on. Which was a delightful outcome, since there has been no shortage of fantastic colonial buying opportunities lately and I did not want the site to become unbalanced.
  • On the other hand, sales of same were brisk at the show pretty much all day, including the 2nd of our wonderfully original Capped Bust Quarters in 2 days. So I still need to buy more.
  • I met some extremely nice people, several of whom produced show and tell items that ranged from the “That’s fantastic!” to the “Is that for sale?” to an awesome, totally original mint state 1861-D $5 that looked like this:

  • All the rest of the CRO grading came back, and the FUN Show 2013 trend of getting the grades I expected (which sounds like it would be the norm but generally isn’t) continued nicely.
  • I had a tiny lunch.
  • In one fell swoop I wholesaled 10 ‘not-exactly-CRO-style-coins’ that I had received in trade toward coins on the site, completing the kind of transaction that worked pretty well for everyone involved, and meaning I now don’t have to consign these coins to auction or schlepp them home.
  • I had a fantastic dinner at Ocean Prime with some collector and dealer friends, my third such outing with a different group and at a different restaurant this week.

I’m not sure what to expect on Saturday, but will be there, all day, ready to buy and/or sell whatever I can to or from whoever wants to purchase or sell it. Do you know I mean?

More later –

January 5th:  Day 5

So when booking my original plans for this show some months ago I did so based on the following premise:

  • The show would run from Wednesday through Sunday.
  • I needed to get there a day or two early to view lots and do some wholesale business.
  • Dealers were compelled to stay through Sunday (even if there were no customers present) or risk losing their table positions in 2014.

So, of course, that is how I planned it out, including departing on a Sunday evening flight which would get me home around midnight just so that I could (with past experience as my guide) sit at my table all day in a nearly empty row (since most of the other dealers would have left already regardless of the schedule or threats by show management) and not sell anything to anybody (since the only attendees on a Sunday are typically people sight seeing).

So when the well-informed dealer at the table next to me at this show casually mentioned on Saturday afternoon that remaining Sunday was no longer mandatory, I immediately got on the horn and tried to change my flight.  Of course, by then the only way to leave Saturday evening would have been pack up everything like crazy and leave for the airport within the next 12 minutes (what coin dealers refer to as “Pulling a Wnuck”), but having seen that movie a few times through the years (including at this very show in 2008) I just didn’t feel up to it.

So I changed instead to a more relaxing Sunday AM flight, thus allowing me to enjoy a full rest of the day at the show on Saturday.

And, excluding the 37 minutes I was on hold with the airline, it was a generally pleasant experience bracketed by the sale of two coins during dealer set-up early in the AM, and the last one at about 6 as I was 90% through packing up to leave (literally – I had already removed all the coins from the cases and had to root through my boxes to find it).

To say nothing of the other sales during the day, the cool auction lots acquired, the final nice grades received, the scuttlebutt gleaned from other dealers about who bought and sold what coins on the floor, who received what grades, which auction lots they targeted and/or won, or who had an especially memorable customer experience.

For me that last one was definitely the harried lady who came to the table, showed me two very obvious copies of a New England Shilling and a Pine Tree Shilling, asked me if they were real and what they were worth and then absolutely refused to accept any of my answers or explanations and concluded by yelling at me the equivalent of “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”. So that was fun.  And though she was sliiiiiightly more difficult than most such people I have encountered, her basic story was very typical: I.e. these must be real since they have been in my family for 200+ years (even though they looked to me to date to approximately 1976).

Of course, most people you meet at these shows are fantastic, including one customer who told me a story which instantly restored my faith in humanity.

You see, he had purchased a coin at the show earlier in the week, put it in his pocket, went back to his hotel, at some point pulled his cellphone out of the same pocket that had the coin in it and (unbeknownst to him at the time) yanked the coin out too, dropping it somewhere in the very large hotel and not realizing it was gone for several hours (and one can only imagine how nauseating that feeling must have been).

Amazingly, the next day he received a call from a lady who found the coin in the hotel and was able to trace it back to him. And not because had his name and phone number on the slab – the coin was actually in a flip with the original auction tag, which the lady who found it used to do a Google search, find the item in the selling dealer’s online inventory, call him and then track down the name and number of the actual owner.

I personally found it amazing that a stranger would spend the time necessary to figure out what the coin was (determining that it was worth very good money in the process), track down the owner and then, as he was sitting at my table, call him to drop it off at the convention center which she did forthwith. It is very comforting to know that such people exist, but I still would not recommend leaving a valuable coin in a hotel lobby to test this concept.

Speaking of valuable coins, I also made time on Saturday to head over to the exhibit area and view the spectacular (and raw) Chain Cent display put together by a serious collector. Even at a show where there were a number of high grade Chains on display (including those coming up in Goldberg and Stack’s auctions), these were really, really nice.

As was this show overall, commercially and socially, which is exactly as I figured it would be.

And now I will turn my attention to next Tuesday’s Early Bird which will be chock full of cool stuff acquired over the last month+ since our last EB, and which will take me a day and a half to write.  Starting now.

The End