July 30-August 5, 2017: The ANA World’s Fair of Money in Denver, CO
Team CRO Readiness Status: Very
Our bags are packed, our inventory is organized, our checkbook has been fortified and we are totally and completely ready to numismatically storm the Colorado Convention Center (in a good way) and then buy, sell, trade and grade as many cool coins as possible over the next week, stopping only to schmooze, to eat lunch and then to blog about each and every single thing that happens at this show right here in this space. Phew. I’m exhausted just thinking about all that (though it could also be because we woke up at 3 AM in order to make it to our airport gate in time to type this prologue . . .).
But we are here and looking forward to a great week in Denver!
July 30th: Day 1
After an uneventful early flight (the earliest, actually), we landed in what appeared to be the middle of Kansas (since this airport is waaaaay out of town), Ubered our way to the hotel, dropped our bags, and had a quick lunch with some New England dealer friends before heading to the sprawling Colorado Convention Center, home of the WFOM, 2017.
Where we eventually found the Stack’s-Bowers lot viewing room and then dove directly into their extensive U.S. and world offerings, including many coins we had handled years ago but had not seen since. Identifying 50-60 coins to bid on in all sessions (including many of the aforementioned ex-CROers), but exasperatingly waiting for one last box of lots which some other less efficient lot viewer had held captive for the whole time it took me to view the entire rest of the sale. Literally. And while it is true that I did not view 100% of the offerings, I can confidently say that I must have looked through about 50 boxes while that guy sequestered that one.
But I eventually got it, gleaned the information I needed, made my final detailed notes, packed up and moved into schmoozing position in the convention center lobby where I hung out with a few other dealers for an hour or so before we all headed back to the hotel.
Where I power-slammed a medium sized pot of coffee and then entered all of our lots of interest online and figured some bids before heading out to dinner on 16th Street where your author ate a buffalo, since we don’t get lot of that in Massachusetts.
After which we crashed early in anticipation of another long and tiring day on Monday during which we get to do all of that lot viewing all over again, but this time at Heritage. Where I will try very hard to get there before that other lot box sequesterer shows up.
But if he does, or even if he doesn’t, you can read all about our Monday activities right here in this space in just about 24 hours from now.
July 31st: Day 2
We enjoyed a leisurely start on Monday, partly because we knew it was the last one we’d see this week, and also because Heritage lot viewing at the convention center would not open until 10 AM (actually it turned out to be 10:13).
So we spent the early hours writing yesterday’s blog, emailing customers, visiting the impressive hotel gym and having an unhurried breakfast before your author took the loooong walk back the convention center.
And then knuckled down in the Heritage viewing room looking at coins I had specifically targeted online, but also perusing other sections looking for unexpected CRO-style items of which we always seem to find a few in every auction. We sure do have to look through a lot of coins to find them though, which I did here in 3 hours of my typical concentrated, high-speed viewing.
Before joining the other half of Team CRO for lunch across the street, then returning to meet up with another dealer to look through about 15 double row boxes of world coins in which I found a similarly unimpressive yield of coins of interest, buying two (2) and flagging another 8 or 10 maybes.
Then bumping into a few other dealers as I wended my way back toward the door and the long schlepp back to the hotel in what had by then become surprisingly hot Denver weather.
Getting back to the room just in time to receive a text inviting us to join a group for dinner which would be meeting at, of course, the convention center, so we turned around and headed back and then joined what turned out to be an intensive search for an interesting Indian restaurant which we would eventually find an Uber ride away.
And then returning to our hotel, checking email, making a few calls to customers still awake on the west coast and then reviewing the status of all of our lots of interest in this week’s various auction sessions.
After which it was time to turn in on the early side in anticipation of a really long Tuesday which will begin with another trek to the convention center for dealer set-up starting at 8, culminate with the Stack’s-Bowers auction session 1 in the evening and, we hope, be jam-packed with buying and selling activity in-between.
The results of which will be described right here insanely early on Wednesday AM –
August 1st: Day 3
“Everything has to be out of here by 8 AM on Tuesday” the guard in the security room had told us on Sunday when we arrived.
And since that was, coincidentally, the exact same time the show would open for dealer set-up, we figured every other dealer in the world (99% of whom are in attendance here) would arrive at the same time, forming a miles long queue and causing your author to become aggravated even before breakfast.
So we carefully planned our schedule to avoid that. Waking up early, making the 15 minute walk to to the convention center, trekking down the massive carpeted corridor and arriving at security at 7:15 with not a single other dealer in site. “Hmmmm” I said to myself, scanning the room and seeing that it was still absolutely 100% filled with coin cases.
Meaning that #1) There was about to be chaos here with everyone arriving in the next few minutes, and #2) Our plan had worked perfectly to avoid #1.
Allowing us to then haul everything to the little cafe and have a leisurely breakfast before joining the sure-to-be-massive queue lined up to enter the bourse room at 8. Including us, as we all politely filed in and made our way to our various tables.
For Team CRO that would be #520, which was in mostly good order when we arrived, though at any ANA there is an inevitable re-set required to get the tables properly organized, the correct numbers of cases, and working lights, all plugged in to a working power source. Sounds simple; never is.
But we got it all done in about 30 minutes, just in time for the maintenance staff to come and sweep up the giant pile of gravel inexplicably on the floor in our booth. And no, I have no idea where it came from, which is what I told the guy the 3 times he asked me.
After which, and having now been awake and working hard for 4 hours, it was time to start some actual coin business, with our first order of the day to buy a cool coin spied at a nearby table. That would turn out to be one of about 30 neat NEWPs on this day, raw and slabbed, which frankly seemed a little on the light side to your author, though of course there is a looooong way to go here and hundreds of tables we have not visited yet.
With those purchases offset by some pretty steady sales, first to other dealers, later to collectors who entered the bourse at the 1 PM official start time. Including coins in all categories, some we had owned for a while, the last of which we acquired as recently as last Friday morning.
And then, all of a sudden, it was 4:30, and time to get organized to run downstairs to the Stack’s-Bowers auction session #1 starting at 5 PM and thus creating a typical coin dealer scheduling dilemma where we can’t always be at the table during the show hours. And no, that does not seem ideal to any of us either.
Anyway, we bid on a few things, let a few go that sailed past our maximum bids, succumbed to auction fever and bid far higher than we planned on another and were frankly relieved to be outbid. Auction discipline: Easy to talk about, sometimes difficult to exercise in the heat of the moment, even for someone who does this for a living and has had an awful lot of practice. Though we did snag a few lots at the end that seemed like especially good deals.
Finishing just in time to race back to the hotel, drop our bags and meet some friends at Marlowe’s down the block for a nice dinner marred only by some well below average trumpet playing just outside the door. Good calamari though.
After which we headed back to the hotel and turned in early, again, to be ready for another 8 AM start on Wednesday during which we look forward to jumping straight into coin business without any bag schlepping or gravel removal at all.
August 2nd: Day 4
Aaah what a glorious morning in Denver on Wednesday as your author leaped out of bed, fired up the Mr. Coffee in our hotel room, opened the Stack’s-Bowers website and began final preparations for the world auction session which would be taking place just a few hours later and would contain, among other things, many cool coins we had sold to a very serious and unfortunately now departed collector over the last 10 years or so.
My first order of business: Type a 5-digit lot number into a search bar and hit enter just moments before realizing I was actually typing in the wrong section and had thus bid $20,000+ on a coin worth about $800 that I did not plan to bid on at all. “Wonderful“, I said to myself.
With my wife and I then both locking ourselves out of the hotel room by mistake to complete the effect.
Fortunately Stack’s-Bowers helped undo my mistake, we got new room keys and we were off and running to the convention center for another exciting day on the bourse.
Though my day would start in the room of the aforementioned auction bidding on coins, getting swamped on some, but snagging a couple that I really, really wanted.
And then zipping up to the show and diving into what turned out to be an action packed day during which we sold a lot of coins in all categories, bought another few dozen cool, original coins and did one straight up swap of a fantastic world coin for a really nice Fugio.
All while keeping an eye on the auctions, since that Stack’s-Bowers session would be continuing on for a while until it was almost, but not quite, overlapped by Heritage’s afternoon session in which there were a few more lots we wanted.
And then returning to race around the room looking for more NEWPs, finding some in plain site, but coming across others via some combination of hard work and just being in the right place at the right time. Such as when I saw a neat gold-stickered coin in a guy’s case, asked to see it, bought it and then listened with enthusiasm as he told me he had just bought a deal of such items. And so we bought all of those too.
Arriving at to the table just in time for the most interesting deal of the day when a vest pocket dealer we know well asked to see a coin in the case, said he thought he had a customer for it and then after about 15 minutes gleefully returned with a check for $2,500. Unfortunately, the coin he had just sold for us was actually priced at $25,000, a situation which could best be characterized as “a less than ideal situation”. And while this could have easily Hindenburged all over us, it was ultimately resolved in just a few minutes and everything was once again right with the world.
Putting us in the proper frame of mind to begin working on the Heritage Platinum Night session which would once again contain many coins we sold to collectors over the last several years. And while we wanted many of them back, we knew that we couldn’t afford all of them in one fell swoop, and were unlikely to outbid everyone else on everything anyway.
But when it was over we bought as many as we could, including some we never thought we’d win, while missing out on some others we never thought we’d lose. Illustrating once again that auctions are inherently unpredictable, and you just have to be prepared, give it your best shot and hope that you win your fair share (or more).
Finishing up there just in time to jump in an Uber and zip over to Vespa on the other side of town for a lovely dinner with another numismatic couple.
And then returning to the hotel before the baseball game and the Guns N’ Roses concert let out and Uber prices surged to 9 TIMES(!) their regular levels so I could whip up next week’s CoinWorld ad and then collapse after another long, tiring and very productive day in Denver.
August 3rd: Day 5
Uneventfully, we walked in suddenly brisk weather to the convention center, clicked on the lights and pronounced booth #520 open for business.
And then almost immediately sold a cool world coin that we had purchased on Tuesday, even though we don’t normally offer any NEWPs until we have had a chance to ruminate on them at least for a little while. Something about selling in haste, repenting in leisure and all that.
We must not have repented that much though, since we did the same thing a few hours later, this time with a US colonial coin.
But the rest of the sales during the day – and there were many – were mostly of the “this coin has been on the website already” variety. Primarily to collectors, some to dealers, including exciting high-end coins and neat examples of relatively affordable issues. Plus some gold bullion we had recently taken in trade in lieu of cash which proved harder to sell than I would have guessed.
And while that was happening, your author stealed away from time to time to buy a few world coins here, snag a very cool commemorative in the Stack’s auction there, jump on an old-holder proof Seated Dollar offered by a dealer friend across the room, etc. With another few that we seriously considered as well, but ended up passing on in the end – almost always because of quality considerations, not based on price.
Activity which yielded another dozen neat NEWPs during the course of the day, some of which will be off to grading or CAC when we get back. The rest were ready for market right now, so we gathered all of those up into one gigantic photography package in a mad-dash, there’s-no-time-to-waste, we’re-on-a-tight-deadline effort to be ready the next Early Bird on Tuesday. I think we’re gonna make it though – including one new colonial just back from PCGS minutes before the show closed for the day.
After which we grabbed an Uber for the ~30 minute ride to Morrison, CO for dinner at a restaurant called The Fort, which was chock full of local flavor (as well as some other coin dealers, proving once again that no matter how far you drive away from a coin show for dinner, you cannot drive far enough to avoid all of us).
Then got back real late, but not so late that we could not do some work to prep for the auctions and other activities on what figures to be a busy Friday at the show. We think.
And if it is, or even if it isn’t, we’ll write all about all of it right here on Saturday AM.
Until then, then.
August 4th: Day 6
We’d need to dive right into it on Friday, as the Stack’s-Bowers world auction Session B would be starting at 9:30 AM, and an important lot on which we would be representing a client would be on the block just a few minutes later.
Didn’t know we represent people at auction? We do.
Which for us means studying the lot carefully, planning intensively and then physically being in the room (even if we are actually bidding extra-discreetly by computer or using Stack’s-Bowers excellent app) so we can survey the scene and give ourselves the best chance to buy the coin for the lowest price possible. Which I am pleased to say we did.
Allowing us to be back on the bourse floor right about 10 AM for the start of what turned out to be another extreeeeemely active sales day.
Including some coins which collectors had been pondering for several days before pulling the trigger, and others which seemed to be more in the impulse category.
And then there was the collector we had never met before who stopped by the table late in the day, announced he had been looking for a particular issue for 4 years, was pleased to see we had one, studied it carefully and then said “Let’s do it!”.
A transaction that took not more than 5 minutes from the moment he arrived until we completed the paperwork, and reminded me of the sorts of deals we would see at shows 10-15 years ago before so much of our business had moved to the website. With a high percentage of our show sales these days being to collectors who have seen the coin(s) before on the site (unless, of course, it is something brand new we are unleashing for the first time at a show).
We also bought a few more interesting coins in our regular forays around the room, which on Friday just happened to be mostly in our two categories of World Coins which Circulated in Early America and Esoteric Numismatic Items. A completely random and unplanned result derived from buying whatever caught our eye as we pored through the typical ANA sea of coins of all sorts on Friday, being offered by dealers of every kind, from all over the world, with vastly different business models, display methods, pricing strategies and inventory offerings.
An incredible variety which makes the numismatic world go round.
Including at our table, where we always endeavor to offer cool and unusual coins with an extra bell and whistle that you won’t find anywhere else, knowing that not everything we offer will appeal to every buyer (and thats a good thing, since we can’t find enough CRO-style coins for all of them).
And then, all of a sudden, it was 6 PM and time to head to dinner with a collector friend before calling it another early-ish night to get ready for what promises to be the longest most tiring day of the week on Saturday as we’ll be at the show all day before flying home really, really late so we can arrive just in time to write the last installment of this RR from the comfort of our couch on Sunday AM.
August 5th: Day 7
Now back home in New England it’s time to summarize this year’s ANA World’s Fair of Money through a series of random CRObservations:
As ANA venues go we think Denver is a pretty decent one. The convention center is nice. The city is cool. It’s easy to get here from most anywhere and the attendance seemed pretty good. But I make these comments in the context of coin shows in 2017. These days most business is online and at auction. You don’t see the kind of wild volume on the bourse floor that we did 10 years ago, nor would a reasonable person expect to.
When choosing our table location for this event several months ago we studied the bourse map, tried to figure out how the traffic would flow and where the best spots would be. While there is always some guess work involved, our conclusion at that time was that it was better to be a bit further back in the room near other like-minded dealers (i.e. those offering nice coins to collectors and thus likely to generate the kind of foot traffic we want), rather than way up near the door among the auction houses, wholesale guys and others who don’t stay ’til the end of the show. And that turned out to be a good decision.
Only by doing this show together with my wife MaryAnn were we able to manage our table activities and properly scour the bourse floor for NEWPs while also keeping tabs on the various auction sessions held all week during show hours. If you were here solo, I don’t know how you could have done it.
That buffalo chicken sandwich from the place across the street was an effective lunch option every single day of this show.
This turned out to be something of a buying bonanza for us as we left with well over 100 new coins here, including some fantastic pieces in each of our four major categories, starting at a few hundred dollars up to the mid five figures.
I always enjoy our interactions with some of the wholesale dealers at these shows as they come to our table and try to buy really nice coins for 10% back of the price that an awful one just brought in a recent auction. I would suggest that that is not an effective strategy for anyone to use if you are trying to buy nice coins, but is a great way to obtain things that are right and truly awful.
We received back the last of our show grading early Saturday afternoon and at least they were consistent (i.e. extremely tough), with most everything coming back at what seemed to us to be the lowest possible grades. Though we admit we might be slightly biased.
We were very surprised to learn from other show attendees that there was a fire alarm in our hotel at 2 AM on Friday that continued on for some 45 minutes. The guys on the lower floors all complained about it, while those of us on the higher floors never heard a peep. So we are all really glad it was (apparently) a false alarm.
We were dreading our departure late on Saturday, as the (distant) location of the aforementioned show hotel forced us to schlepp all of our luggage to the convention center in the AM, and then haul everything out at the end of the day into a crowded street to try to get a cab to the airport. This was our own fault though, as we failed to study the map at the time we made the reservation. If we had, we would have stayed much closer to the convention center and avoided this hassle and security risk.
That ANA exhibit featuring Great Beards on Coins was an absolute hoot.
Our flight home finally left at about 12:30 AM on Sunday, arriving back here at 6 AM, and putting a nice, tight-fitting cap on a long, productive, entertaining week at the ANA which for us (as well as nearly every like-minded dealer we spoke to) resulted in strong sales, good buying and, aside from the aforementioned hotel issues, nothing much to complain about.
And now, after a very brief rest, we are about to dive into our next Early Bird which, if all goes according to plan, will go out at our usual noon on Tuesday. So you might want to keep an eye out for that.