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Back to Road Report Archive 2008

June 5-7, 2008: The Baltimore Coin & Currency Convention

rr2018 10balt


It’s 3:47 AM, and I’ve been up for well over an hour now, giving me ample time to eat a medium-sized piece of toast with sour cherry jelly on it which is delicious, but (and take my word for it) creates a permanent stain if spilled on a shirt, for example.

With that complete (and having now changed clothes), I’ve had time to read all sorts of political blogs and then get organized for the short flight to Baltimore this morning and the straight cab shot to the show.

And it will be exciting, as I haul a humongous suitcase and our award winning (and extremely awkward-to-carry) show banner through two airport terminals and into the show as quickly as I possibly can.

The goal is to get set up pronto, since we have a lot of regulars scheduled to arrive at the table this morning and we don’t want to keep anyone waiting.

We’ll be checking back in later from the show itself with keen numismatic insights and information provided here (and nowhere else whatsoever) at a total cost to you of “free”, as in a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.

Which is why we continue to believe that the RR is the best value in numismatics (or at least a very close second to the $11 tuna sandwich at the Central States show).


Day 1:

Let’s begin with a bunch of excuses:

First, I was going to write a few updates from the show itself during Thursday, but couldn’t get internet access on the bourse floor. So that was right out.

Second, I fully intended to write the full-blown Day One recap on Thursday evening, but I unfortunately fell asleep during the 4th quarter of the Celtics-Lakers game (an apparent bi-product not of a dull game, but rather of waking up at 3 AM, traveling, hauling our awkward show banner, standing on the hard floor of the convention center, etc.) and so let’s get to work here at 7 AM on Friday.

But before we do that, remember that (as specifically mentioned in this space when we left Long Beach) today’s report contains a twist never before attempted in a Road Report. What do we mean? Hold on, we’re getting there.

In the text below is a hidden cipher (sort of like in ‘National Treasure’, but without that good-looking blond woman). The first reader to break the code and tell us, via email, what the hidden message says will win an equally top-secret CRO numismatic prize selected by our own Dave Wnuck. And while we will not reveal what it is here, we can say with confidence that it will be something cool.

So, here we go: We rolled into the show at about 9AM Thursday, a full hour after it had already opened to dealers and sufficiently late that we probably missed a deal or two. That was not good, and really had us regretting that we hadn’t flown in Wednesday night in a more relaxed fashion. On the other hand, the thought of getting home from Long Beach late last Saturday and then turning around and flying out Wednesday to Baltimore was such a thoroughly unappealing concept that we couldn’t get ourselves to do it. We like coin shows as much as anyone, but when they start to run together like this it’s a bit of a grind.

Anyway, we went about setting up our own coins (and we have lots of them) in an extremely elaborate 4 case set-up designed to handle multiple customers at once.

It was then time to discuss, analyze, price and organize a new deal which we’ll be offering Friday, fill out about 10 or 12 submissions to PCGS, walk the floor 11 times looking for cool things to buy, squeeze in a little lot viewing at Bowers, sell 6 or 7 coins to other dealers and early bird collectors, eat a pulled-pork sandwich, and then wait for the public to be admitted at 2 PM per the new show schedule (only half a day of dealer set-up, non-early bird customers being admitted Thursday afternoon, no Sundays, etc.). We’re not sure how many people really paid much attention to the schedule though, as 2 PM came and went without much of a crowd, and many of our customers are planning to come on Friday (as they have in the past).

And so we hung on until about 6:30 before starting to fade badly, and then headed off to our luxurious hotel way over on the other side of town for a well above average dinner with another dealer and even more numismatic strategizing.

Friday figures to be very busy, with what we anticipate to be a full dose of retail collector traffic.

And that, for now, is the last word.

Day 2:

Here are our conclusions for Friday:

Our hotel is very nice, and waaaay too far from the convention center.

There is nothing worse in numismatics than arriving at a show early and having to stand in an interminable line with hundreds of other numismatists in a hot and humid lobby waiting for the doors to open. If it is at all possible to avoid that, I’m not ever, ever doing that again. Ever.

Now that we had two additional grommets added, the CRO banner is is hanging significantly better than it did before (though we cannot determine the specific impact on sales of this change).

Retail traffic was pretty good at this show, and we saw many familiar faces at the table. That was cool.

Sales at any show will be really, really good if you have fresh new material to offer (like we did today).

Certain coins are just easy to sell (because everyone wants them).

Submitting coins for walk through grading at this venue is a complete waste of time and a thoroughly frustrating experience.

Nothing is more disappointing (both commercially and personally) than being offered coins by a collector, looking through them and discovering that nearly every single one is (despite being holdered) cleaned, unoriginal, unattractive and undesirable. And this is what we saw today in a group that we literally wouldn’t have paid anything for. And whenever this happens (and unfortunately it’s not all that uncommon), we wish we could have been there when the collection was being formed to say “Please, do not buy that“.

Sales exceeded purchases today by a factor of 18 to 1 (which did not mean there wasn’t cool stuff to buy – there was).

Dave bought something wicked (and wickedly obscure) on Ebay earlier this week, and a quick discussion with a specialist today at the show confirmed that it was what he thought it was.

We met with a customer today who had measured the number of man-hours it had taken to assemble his collection. That was the first time we had ever heard of such a calculation applied to a numismatic endeavor.

I saw an incredibly beautiful, original early silver coin today which had been body bagged for ‘Questionable Color”. Shocking, that.

The spicy tuna maki at Edo’s near the convention center is not as good as at the restaurant in Beverly Hills because they do not put the crunchy things in it.

That’s it.  And tomorrow we get to do it all over again.

Airport Report:

I always enjoy these last-day reports from the Baltimore show, as I typically write them in the airport terminal across from Wendy’s (which is somewhat nostalgic, since in 1990 I loaned my car to my brother while I was studying abroad and he dumped a gigantic Wendy’s Chocolate Frosty all over the interior, then attempted to clean it with Armor-All, which took the finish off the leather seats). Since then, and specifically based on that event, I have never set foot in a Wendy’s again. But I digress.

We left the show around 3 PM today, and in retrospect, I wish we stayed since business was pretty good and it was about 30 degrees cooler in the convention center than it is outside. And there is really nothing quite like schlepping a bunch of heavy bags (don’t forget the awkward show banner!) through a crowded city in 100 degree weather. But I digress again.

Anyway, it was a good day today, as we sold several medium sized coins, including a nifty piece of early gold which we have owned once before and which, like this time, sold within a matter of hours of being placed in the case. And, just like the first time we owned it, we never had a chance to have it photographed which is too bad, since it would have looked pretty cool on the site.

We also met some serious collectors right from our neck of the woods in CT and reveled in the irony of both of us having to come to Baltimore to meet. Which is a nice and underrated benefit of coming to shows – the contacts you make.

But it wasn’t all good news – the grades we got today were again atrocious, and, adding insult to injury, three of our submissions ended up getting ‘Pended’ (PCGS parlance for having to take a $100 show walk-through back to the office for further study). In fairness, this is something you have to get used to if you submit colonials, since some of the stuff is highly esoteric and hardly ever seen.

The rest of our available time was spent standing in the Post Office queue, eating, cleaning out the booth, collecting checks and not buying any coins at all (except one coin in a trade deal with a customer, which we then sold a few minutes later at cost).

So, what can we conclude about the Baltimore show? It’s still the best coin show in the country, even when it’s the less robustly attended mid-summer, 3-day version with no mega-auction attached (no offense to Bowers & Merena, whose session was fine – it just wasn’t a gigantic hyped event like The Millenia Collection or something).

And now, at the end of this sentence, I am going to begin 36 continuous hours of being ‘off-duty’.