July 13-16, 2016: The Whitman Baltimore Expo
And now for something completely different.
Actually, that’s true on two levels:
- There is, for the first time ever (or at least for the first time in recent memory) no “official” auction at this show, allowing us to eschew our usual catalog schlepping, lot viewing, bid planning and auction attending here in Baltimore and to focus instead on buying and selling coins on the actual bourse floor. Imagine that!
- Team CRO will be here in full force, with my better half (i.e. wife) MaryAnn working with me here for the first time. Which will of course be a hoot.
And we both look forward to an action packed week in Baltimore, where we will be displaying some cool, new never before seen coins, aggressively trying to buy every CRO-style coin we see and blogging about all of it right here in this space each and every morning of the show.
Until then, then –
July 13th: Day 1
Arriving in Baltimore around 10 AM, we headed straight for our hotel, dropped our bags and then proceeded for the next, oh, 8 and a half hours to dive into all things numismatic.
Starting at the PCGS pre-show submission room located conveniently right here in our hotel.
And then making our way to the convention center to secure show badges, drop coins at the security room and then head to the various wholesale rooms located in several different hotels in the inner harbor where we pored through about 5,000 US and World coins of all shapes and sizes looking for NEWPs that fit the CRO program:
- Interesting issues
- Original surfaces
- Lovely color
- Accurately graded
- With an extra bell or whiste (like an old holder, gold sticker, interesting provenance, etc.)
- Priced at a level that makes sense to us
Which as you might imagine are not that easy to find, represent a tiny fraction of everything we see and thus explains how we can be in full bore buying mode and still walk away with less than 20 coins.
But there really is no other way to find them, so we considered that time well spent.
After which we headed back to the convention center and noticed, for the first time, that it was oppressively hot and uncomfortable outside, with the humidity weighing you down like a big sweaty guy giving you a bear hug (and not in a good way).
So we went to the hotel post haste for an ice coffee only to receive a late phone call from another dealer asking us to come back and view some additional coins at the convention center, which of course we did instantly, finding a few more cool NEWPs before finally calling it quits again around 6:30.
Then headed off to dinner for Afghan food at the The Helmand, which we’d always heard good things about and confirmed for ourselves, and where we listened intently as a dealer friend described his own personal business philosophy as similar to that of the Hagfish (a prehistoric eel-like creature which secretes some kind of slime on which it can choke itself if confined in a too restrictive space), and thus was an argument for buying even more coins. Our personal opinion? We think that makes sense, and we also think the Hagfish itself would be very surprised to know that it was being mentioned in this context.
After which walked the 10 blocks or so back to the hotel to discover that it really wasn’t much cooler even at that late hour, making for an uncomfortably hot walk which was fortunately briefer than it might have been if we had not been moving as fast as possible to avoid the crazy person ranting violently to himself on the other side of the street.
Making it back here around 9 and then turning in early in anticipation of what we expect to be a an action packed and looooong day at the show on Thursday, starting with dealer set up bright and early at 8 AM.
More later –
July 14th: Day 2
Precisely on schedule, we walked over to the convention center at 7:30 AM, retrieved our inventory from the security room and then sat in the hard plastic chairs right there in the lobby for about 20 minutes chatting with various other dealers until they let us in at 8.
When we sprinted to the CRO booth and began setting up as quickly as possible so we could be ready for whatever wholesale business came our way and free to do our usual bourse floor scouring. A process which has by now, mostly based on these very RRs, become so well known in the industry that another dealer saw me and actually said “Are you currently scouring the floor for cool coins?”. Yes, yes I was.
And I have to say it was very successful on this day, as I found some neat new things in all categories, including some nice, new colonials (which have frankly been hard to find in recent months), some superb US type and, most unexpectedly, some super fresh world coins at a table of a long time New England dealer who has in the 15 years I have known him never, ever offered a world coin before. Illustrating once again that unless you are willing to look everywhere for cool coins you’re almost certainly going to miss something good somewhere, and we can’t let that happen.
Then heading back to the table to see a steady stream of collectors and dealers, many of whom either bought coins or sold us something. Intermingled with more schmoozing than usual, as MaryAnn got to do some meet and greets with people she has known only from phone calls and emails (as well as my vivid descriptions) through the years, so that was fun.
Though she was disappointed that, at least so far, some of the guys we expected to see here haven’t arrived. Yet.
With our last deal of the day completed after the bourse officially closed at 6, just in time for us to head to dinner with some long time coin friends at Cinghiale on the water which was as good as it usually is.
And then getting back around 10 to answer email and prep for a Friday which we hope will be just as productive as the last couple of days.
July 15th: Day 3
Let the record reflect that we reached the tipping point of this show at about 3:15 in the afternoon on Friday.
That would be the moment when, despite our best efforts to buy like crazy, our sales here actually edged in front of our purchases. Not by much mind you, and certainly not based on any specific plan to do so (since we are generally in the mode of buying at shows and selling on the website). But as reported here many times through the years, we always go with the flow, and on this day many, many coins flowed directly out the door.
Including a number of NEWPs acquired here and destined for photography which we ended up fishing back out of those boxes based on several different good customers asking for such items. Which always makes me slightly sad, since that means they’ll never appear on the list or in the archive and they would have looked darn good there. On the other hand, we’re not supposed to be running a museum here, and so if we can match a good customer with a cool coin hours (or even minutes) after buying it, of course we’ll do it.
None of which should suggest that we weren’t still buying coins in our wheelhouse on Friday. We were and we did – including a wicked 1776 Machin’s Mills 1/2p and some superb and superbly toned US type – which will give us plenty to choose from for the Early Bird on Tuesday.
All of which made for a veeeeery productive Friday which we were very sorry to see come to an abbreviated end, as the organizers had decided well in advance to close at 4PM (instead of the scheduled 6) based on a rally planned for Pratt St. near the convention center at 7. Rumors of this being hugely disruptive even caused some dealers to pack up and leave even earlier, but most of us stayed until closing and were glad we did.
At least that early closing allowed us to get a head start on dinner, as we went to meet some old college friends in a nearby town and had a blast before returning to a very calm completely normal, totally un-disrupted Baltimore at about 10PM.
So we will be very excited to return to the convention center on Saturday where the show hours will be back to normal and where we expect to find plenty more buying and selling opportunities before we head home at the end of the day.
Until tomorrow –
July 16th: Day 4
The good news: The show WAS back to normal hours on Saturday after a cacophony of unfounded concerns Friday night.
The bad news: Even though nothing much happened in the city, all those rumors did cause some dealers to leave early and probably hurt attendance Saturday, resulting in a quieter day than normal.
Still, we did some pretty good business, selling 8 coins and buying 6.5 others (that .5 representing half interest in a coin we split with a like-minded dealer) which is a decent result for any last day at any show in our experience.
We also got back our one meaningful grading submission here, a group of world coins submitted raw which I absolutely did not expect to be graded here (since PCGS always makes it clear that they can’t guarantee they’ll be able to do world coins at a show and may have to “pend” them back to the office). But there they were, and with results where we expected, though disappointingly too late to make our Early Bird photography cut-off.
That’s OK though, since we should have enough NEWPs and enough time to do two (2) EB’s before the impending ANA show and these coins will just have to wait until the next one.
After which we began to pack up in a relaxed, unhurried fashion, strolling out the door at 4 PM so we could have dinner at the airport and then wait at our gate as it poured in vast sheets of rain punctuated by impressive thunder and lightening of the sort that causes your early evening flight to be delayed long enough for your original flight crew to “time out”, and a new one to be bussed in from Washington Reagan Airport so that you can eventually get home at 2 AM.
And while that was not exactly ideal, it did not dampen our positive feelings about a show that was, despite the unusual schedule issues, better than expected overall.
But now it will be a quick turnaround for us as we dive into the EB for Tuesday which will be an especially interesting one.
So you might want to keep an eye out for that.