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Back to Road Report Archive 2010

June 16-19, 2010: The Whitman Baltimore Expo

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Though we seemingly just finished unpacking from the Long Beach show, it is time to reload, recharge and do it all over again as we head down to uncomfortably hot Baltimore for the June show and auctions today.

Though, as may be evident by the fact that it is Wednesday, we skipped day 1 of the Stack’s auction, having viewed the goods in NY last week and opting to bid via the internet from the comfort of home on Tuesday.   But with the colonial session kicking off today, your intrepid author will be in the actual audience, bidding like crazy, availing himself of the anticipated buffet lunch and while en route seeking out amusing travel anecdotes to fill the RR.

Such as just now, when I passed through the security screening here at the airport and witnessed an otherwise normal looking individual remove his shirt and attempt to shove it into the X-ray machine.  I am sure there was a logical explanation for that, though neither I nor anyone who worked there seemed to know what it might be.  As an aside, this is not the first time I have witnessed something like this, the first being a guy behind me in a crowded ticketing line in Singapore about 10 years ago who (and I am not making this up) stripped down to his underwear just before he was tackled by two security guards.  I am sure there was a logical explanation for that, too.

But I digress.

Numismatically, we’ll be posting in this space for the next several days, highlighting interesting auction results, discussing major happenings of a commercial and non-commercial nature at the show and generally attempting to make all of our readers feel like they are actually here in Baltimore, even if they aren’t.

Until tomorrow –

Day 1:  Wednesday

After a minor and relatively well documented (see below) incident at airport security on the way down here, I rolled into downtown Baltimore at about 8:30 AM, quickly checked into my hotel, walked briskly over to the Pier 5 Hotel for Stack’s lot viewing and discovered that I was actually an hour an 15 minutes early since viewing did not begin until 10.  Which made me question, once again, the wisdom of having gotten up at 3:00 AM to catch that first flight down here, but of course you never know when there will be a flight delay (possibly caused by a crazy shirtless man at security, for example).

Anyway, not taking no for an answer, I begged the Stack’s staff to let me in to viewing early and they did, though the fact that a bunch of guys were already in there looking at lots suggested that begging may not have been all that necessary).

An hour or so later I had viewed everything, called Dave (who is in CT until Thursday) to compare notes, discussed a few items with another dealer, had a giant coffee, and then with several hours to kill before the auction was scheduled to begin, I walked back to my hotel and watched Chile play Honduras in the World Cup, an extremely exciting game in which absolutely nothing at all happened during the hour I had it on.

The auction, on the other hand, would be slightly more stimulating, beginning with 170+ colonials of the mostly mid-range variety which brought decidedly mid range numbers with three exceptions:

Lot #2013, a St. Patrick farthing QUIESAT error in nice, raw VF (but with a veritable ton of verdigris on it) sold for a very strong IMO $23,000 in a back and forth battle between 2 determined floor bidders.  From my vantage point, the third highest bidder on that coin seemed to have been ‘out’ at $4K or so, which is possibly informative.

Lot #2101, a very average Bar Copper in PCGS XF40, brought what to us was a stunningly high (for the grade and quality) $13,800 to an internet bidder.

Lot #2115, a pretty nice Washington Roman Head Cent, was purchased by a well-known dealer for $103,500, less than some recent results for like-graded items, but no bargain in our view.

But most of the rest of the session was quiet.

I stayed into the early copper, left a few bids on some later federal issues and then went back to the hotel again (no, not to check up on the Honduras game), but instead to take a giant nap in an effort to finally subdue a nasty cold I picked up earlier in the week,

And that seemed to work a little bit, as I woke up around dinner time feeling 13% better, checked to see that Chile had won, that we had purchased 4 out of about 23 lots we bid on, ate dinner, answered 762 emails, and began typing this blog,

Thursday we’ll be at the show for dealer set up bright and early, then setting our sights on the Bowers auction which begins at noon, I think.

So I firmly believe that tomorrow’s blog will have considerably more interesting stuff in it.

Day 2:  Thursday

Still not feeling 100% here, I woke up late (by CRO Road Report standards) at 6:30 AM, discovered that my in–room coffee-maker did not work, ordered a pot from room service, drank all of it, got myself organized, and headed out the door at about 7:45.

Upon leaving the hotel, I discovered two things:

  1. It was extremely humid and uncomfortable out there, and hauling a bunch of heavy catalogs and my laptop (which I was) was no fun. 
  2. I had forgotten to post yesterday’s Road Report, which was extremely annoying, since it was done, finished and ready to go the night before. 

So I arrived at the show a little late, got my new badge (very efficiently I might add, unlike the pre-Whitman days at this show which were just chaos in my experience), and went about setting up the table prior to Dave’s anticipated arrival at about 10.

And he did not miss much at the beginning, as there was not much activity of any kind.

So I walked around looking for cool newps, and surveying the scene, which was quite different than the previous and much larger show here in Baltimore in March.  For this one, they had closed off that large L-shaped wing of the room to the right of the entrance, moving all of the dealers into a still impressively large rectangle and, in my opinion, improving the flow.  It did take me a little while for me to figure out where everyone was though, since the new configuration meant a lot of guys were not in their usual spots.

I didn’t actually buy anything though, instead bird-dogging some cool federal stuff for Dave to check out when he arrived.

And when he did, he did, buying everything I pointed out and then some over the next few hours, including several other neat coins and medals that walked up to the table during the course of the day.

Then we stole away a few minutes each for some high powered lot viewing at the Bowers table (also in a new spot), finding a small number of things we wanted to bid on in their 3 o’clock auction.

Of which we would later win 2 of them in a session which had some unusual items in it:

Lot #16, a very pleasing Oak Tree Shilling with an impressive and long pedigree, but waaaay underweight at 61.7 grains (compared to the statutory weight of 72 grains for the issue) and below PCGS’s standards for what should be holderable in Massachusetts silver (within 10% of the 72 grain standard) but inexplicably holdered anyway, brought $9,775.  That was waaaay less than what it would have sold for if it was full weight.

Lot #26, a Rhode Island Ship Token in an NGC MS62 holder, looked downright odd to all of the colonial specialist dealers in the room and none of us bid on it.

Lot #37, the Massachusetts Half Cent ex-Garrett, has had a most unusual and unfavorable auction trajectory in recent years, bringing a gigantic $21,850 in 2006 at Stack’s and then a lot less in each of its 3 or 4 subsequent appearances at different auction houses, this time selling for a more reasonable sounding $7,763 to a well-known collector-dealer.

I left after the colonial session, headed back to our table and did a little more business before we all headed out to dinner at Sullivan’s, a relatively hip steak house next door.

After which your author walked back to the hotel, collapsed on the bed and woke up just in time to see that he had missed the entire Celtics game and all of the golf highlights, then went back to bed ‘for good’, totaling about 11 hours of sleep which we can all assume that he really needed.

Friday we look forward to lots of our local collector friends stopping by the table, and showing them a lot of the cool new stuff we have.

More later.

Day 3:  Friday

Processing everything that I learned during that very hot walk to the convention center on Thursday morning, I took a cab on Friday.  Which was just fine, though the route from the hotel seems strangely convoluted, requires significantly more turns than appear to be really necessary, and takes 20 minutes to go a couple of miles. In fact, Dave and I have joked that one day in the future we are going to get into a cab in this town, ask to go the convention center and the guy is going to drive us straight there in 2 minutes, indicating that every other driver for the last 5 years has been screwing us and running up the meter.  Possibly.

Anyway, upon arrival, I set up the table, walked around visiting dealers I had not seen on Thursday and managed to find a few new coins we needed to buy.

Then returned to our booth just in time to see the first of a number of customers who live in the local area and always stop by our table at this show for a chat, some show and tell, and, on this day, a purchase or two, as we were pleased to have at least one coin of interest to each and every one of them.

We also had some nice sales activity to new customers, and sold quite a few coins from a new 100% ‘green holder’ deal we had purchased just days before the show.  So that was nice.

Somewhere in there we picked up our winnings from the Bowers auction, submitted a few more coins for grading, had an argument (ultimately resolved) with a dealer I have never seen before, skipped the potato soup at lunch, pondered but ultimately did not buy an expensive coin from a collector, sold some bullion gold we had taken in trade, discussed the New Jersey Copper census with a specialist collector, sold a deluxe high-end commem and then finally called it a day at about 6.

At which time Dave and I went to the sushi restaurant down the street and sat in the outdoor patio overlooking the harbor, which was beautiful and sunny, and completely packed with tourists, some of whom had made the mistake of renting those little swan-shaped (though inexplicably bright green) paddle boats which seem fun, but which are uncomfortable and necessitate that you wear a gigantic life preserver which looks ridiculous and gets very, very hot.

So we passed on that, instead wending our way through the crowd that had formed to watch the Earth, Wind and Fire concert and heading back to our hotel for some intensive US Open watching and some high velocity blog writing, the results of which you are reading right now.

Saturday is moving day (both in the golf tournament and here at the show), so we are hopeful that before we head home we’ll see some more quadruple bogies on the 14th hole and some coin movement of both the buying and selling variety.

If you check in here tomorrow you can see if we actually do.

Day 4:  Saturday

I think we could most accurately describe Saturday as a minor mad-house, with a lot of stuff going on all day, including some concentrated wheeling and dealing with many different people all over the room (some, but not all, of which was successful), picking up the last of our thoroughly appropriate grades received from PCGS, a very brief period of the lights going out in the convention center, some very successful check collecting (though we had our doubts for a few minutes there), extremely entertaining show and telling (including a stunning coin that we compelled a serious collector to sell us), a very soggy but still acceptable tuna sandwich for lunch, some last second consignments to the major auction houses on behalf of collectors and dealers alike, some typically hectic packing and shipping coins for photography and, finally, some late afternoon high-tailing it to the airport (from where I am now typing this installment of the Road Report).

And, in all, we did pretty well here, selling about as many coins as we have at any show, though most were of the relatively less expensive variety (including a lot of stuff we bought in an all-green-holder deal right before this show).

Our buying here was productive too, and very varied, featuring esoteric, colonial and federal issues of all shapes and sizes, one very handsome medal, a collection we split with another dealer, an especially wicked rattler-holdered quarter and all sorts of other cool numismatic items, some of which will be in Tuesday’s robust EB.

And, unless our schedule changes (and that is possible), our next RR will, amazingly, not be posted until the ANA pre-show in August, though we will be actively buying and selling as usual and maintaining a full EB schedule until then (including some wild stuff that is in the process of being graded that you will not want to miss).

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