March 13-17, 2013: The Whitman Baltimore Expo
March 12th: Prologue
After a several week hiatus between shows, I was psyched to wake up at 3 AM on Tuesday, thrilled to drive to the unbelievably crowded airport, excited to get on the plane and zip down to Baltimore, jazzed to scoop up my luggage at baggage claim, delighted to hop in a filthy cab and very, very happy to stride through a cold rain into the hotel lobby here in the Inner Harbor at about 8.
Because that meant I was only a few steps away from lot viewing, which would commence at 9 AM and continue until about 6 with a brief break for lunch and another to meet with a client in the afternoon.
Conclusion: There are a lot of cool things to bid on, though perhaps not as many as I thought there might be when I first checked out this sale online.
And then after a full day I went out for a nice dinner at Sullivan’s with a dealer friend, headed back to the hotel, wrote this week’s ad and then pored through all of my notes, figured bids and then went to sleep early so I could get over a lingering cold and not be totally exhausted for what figures to be a very, very busy rest of the week.
All of which will be described here in vivid detail every morning in what is, as far as I know, the only real-time, daily show blog in all of numismatics.
More later. Much more.
March 13th: Day 1
It was a rare treat on Wednesday as I actually got to sleep in like a complete slacker, waking up at about 9, doing some work, eventually hitting the hotel’s tiny gym and there encountering some guy who was shouting stirring motivational messages to himself as he road the recumbent bike (the first time I’ve ever seen anyone do that).
And while that was thoroughly entertaining, I unfortunately couldn’t stay long as I was due over at the Hilton for some extremely high-powered wholesale activity.
Immediately followed by the loooong trek back to my hotel so I could sit in my room and enter all of my bids for Stack’s-Bowers first auction session containing 518 colonial lots which would begin promptly at 4 PM.
And despite my fears that the S-B site would freeze up, and this process might go haywire (which may have happened once or twice in the past), everything went very smoothly this time. In fact, the only problem I encountered was that some of my numbers were already outbid before I even started. Oh well, I let some of those lots go, but on the important coins I decided to get more aggressive and upped my levels accordingly. Then double checked everything, made some less illegible notes than usual in my catalog and headed over to the auction a bit early so I could get a good seat.
Which proved to be unnecessary, since the room was basically empty when I walked in (so much so that I briefly wondered if I was in the wrong place).
I wasn’t, and soon enough the rest of the optimistic would-be bidders showed up, including most of the usual suspects, some familiar faces who generally do not bid on this stuff (hmmm), and a number of other people I had never seen before in my life, all there to chase coins in this the 3rd installment of the Ted Craige Collection, followed by some additional odds and ends from other consignors at the end of the session.
And over the next 5 hours or so the bidding was very enthusiastic on the good stuff and surprisingly strong on a bunch of coins which were, to be kind, less good.
Your author was very active too, buying about 30 coins including many of the ones I really wanted, but also underbidding another 20 or so.
In fact, through it all, there was just one coin I bid on that went more than one increment above my level, so either I was way off on that piece, or a couple of other bidders saw something I didn’t. I think it was the latter.
When I have more time I will add some lot by lot detail to this session, but given the late hour, the early start on Thursday, and the extremely long day I expect on the bourse floor, followed by another auction, I really need to call it a night.
March 14th: Day 2
Here was my plan for Thursday morning:
- I needed to be standing outside the bourse floor ready to go in with the hundred other dealers all crammed in the doorway at 8 AM.
- Which meant I would need to be at the security room at 7:45 (thinking there would be a queue) to pick up my coins.
- So I would have to leave the hotel at about 7:30.
- Requiring me to be back from the gym at 7.
- So I’d have to update the site and get any other work done by 6.
- Which required that I finished a sales spreadsheet for a customer by 5.
- So I set the alarm for 4. Which never went off since I woke up at 3:56.
So when I finally did enter the bourse floor at the aforementioned 8 AM, it already been a moderately long and pretty productive day.
Which I kept rolling by setting up the booth as quickly as possible using three (3) extension cords, laying out all of the coins I had carefully priced on Monday, locking up and then racing around the room looking for cool NEWPs wherever I could find them.
And I had some decent success right off the bat, buying some uber-fresh world coins from a dealer who had just acquired them in Europe, some cool old-holdered US type and, of course, a few colonials.
Then it was back to the table where over the next few hours I met with a series of PCGS chatroomites who variously perused and/or bought and sold coins with an occasional impressive show and tell mixed in for entertainment. And that it was.
And then, all of a sudden, PCGS announced that they would be taking show Walk-Through submissions only until noon today (i.e. Thursday, unlike a typical show where you can usually submit until the end of day Friday or so). I later heard that this was due to some convention center snafu and was not planned, which nonetheless required me to drop everything, fill out a bunch of grading forms as fast as possible and then kill most of the next hour standing in line at the PCGS table as I calculated in my head the possible business I was missing at my table during that period.
Anyway, once that was done, I was back at it, buying and selling at a decent but not spectacular clip and taking the opportunity to zip out and look for more buying opportunities whenever there was a lull at the table.
Also, I was delighted to see the return of Chili to the snack stand menu, though I am pretty sure someone had changed the recipe (and not for the better) since the last time I had it hear about 18 months ago. But still more appealing IMO than the other options presented.
Followed by more buying, including a small pile of raw coins from another dealer.
And then, as the day was winding down, I found a really nice NJ copper on the floor from an unlikely source, which underscores my view that you really need to scour the floor at these shows since you never know what you will find, where, or when.
After which I locked up and headed back to the hotel to drop off my stuff before walking over to Sullivan’s for an excellent and entertaining dinner with some collector and dealer friends, while rudely checking the progress of the S-B auction on my iPhone throughout. Hey, it’s what we do.
And then it was time to call it a night in anticipation of a busy Friday during which I expect to see a number of local collectors at the table and hope to sell or buy or trade for (or some combination thereof) more cool stuff.
The Ides of March: Day 3
Though Shakespeare did say that “All that glisters is not gold”, he definitely could not have been talking about Friday at the Baltimore show, since I bought a bunch of cool gold coins here on the floor from a number of different (and in some cases totally unexpected) sources.
In addition to other assorted cool federal type, a few more raw colonials and a couple of the requisite wacko things that typically reside at the bottom of the website inventory page.
To say nothing of the neat world issues I took in trade at the show in a series of deals during the afternoon.
But I was not in purely acquisition mode on Friday, as sales progressed nicely and in all areas, the most prominent being the “Killer Pillar” which had been in our February 11th ad, and, in a separate deal, the wild silver “Washing-tone” piece from the March 25th ad. Conclusion: People seem to really dig coins which appear in advertisements (especially if they look like these two pieces).
I also had a number of discussions about some of the really big coins on the site, with myriad different deals possible with several collectors and dealers. I have no idea what will come of any of this, but my guess is something really good since somehow the Baltimore show always seems to get people wanting to make deals. Big deals.
Somewhere during the day a few grades came trickling back, and the results were quite nice on some colonial and world coins submitted here. A few more are yet to come, though, including a box of 10 pieces which I had hoped (and am still hoping) to have back in time to photograph and put on the EB for Tuesday.
And then the day culminated with a not atypical experience when a collector came to the table offering a couple of raw coins. I wanted to buy one, but they were only being sold as a pair. So I made an offer which was subsequently trumped by the next dealer in line, who fortunately valued the coin I did not want much higher than I did, allowing me to swoop in like a Pelican and buy the coin I did want from him and thus make everyone involved extremely happy.
Good feelings which continued as we headed out to dinner at Roy’s with some dealer friends where your author proceeded to eat and drink way more than intended so that we could stay there long enough to get back to my hotel just in time to get into an elevator which would then grind to a halt between floors 2 and 3, as verified by this action photo snapped just before Kelsey (of CRO banner hanging fame in Long Beach) started to ‘lose it’:
Alas, just like a scene in a bad sitcom, we called for help on the in-elevator phone and then waited patiently while the crack maintenance team extricated us, after which an awkward celebratory hug was shared by (nearly) all:
And then I called it a night, climbing with trepidation into a different elevator which fortunately worked just fine, whisked me to my room and ended what had been mostly a real good day.
But my sense is this show ain’t nearly over yet, and there will be a lot of business to be done on Saturday, which is why I intend to be there all day buying, selling and trading, but not before I enjoy the delicious and totally free breakfast the hotel comped us for the aforementoned and extremely harrowing elevator experience.
March 16th: Day 4
Though I would stay at the show literally all-day on Saturday, it is fair to say that I was pretty much completely spent (physically, not financially) by about 3, as the cumulative effect of an extremely active show and not-very-much sleep this week caught up with me in a big way.
Business didn’t stop though, as I ended up buying a couple more coins that walked up to the table and selling a bunch more to other dealers as they looked for last minute opportunities. In fact, the last deal of the day was a 3 federal coin sale as I was packing things up.
I have not even begun to tally things up yet, but in total must have sold 60 coins here, both at the table and with a couple of guys walking things around the room for me. Apparently I managed to buy even more than that, though, as I left with one more box than I came with.
Hard to know exactly, since a bunch of things started out raw and ended up in slabs.
So, how can we summarize this Baltimore show? I would say about as expected – certainly at least an A-. CRO has had bigger shows here, but with the few pending deals in play we might yet get into that range.
If I had to point to any disappointments, it would be the early PCGS walk-through grading cut-off which curtailed my plans and probably resulted in a few lost deals. At least for now – anything that would have happened likely still will over the next few weeks.
And that I was not just a tad more aggressive in the auctions, since I did not buy everything I really could have. Oh well, hindsight might seem like it is 20-20 in these situations, but that does not mean that 1) I would have won the lots even if had I bid more (since of course you never know what the winner’s max was) and 2) I would have felt like they were great deals the next day anyway.
You just never know, and have to go with your best judgment in the heat of the moment, live with the result and not look back. I have no time for that anyway, as I need to get to work on Tuesday’s EB.
But not before I catch up on my sleep, which is what I am going to start doing right now.