March 20-24, 2012: The Whitman Baltimore Expo
Good morning coin collector, coin dealer, industry professional or person(s) who have stumbled upon this website accidentally while attempting to do an internet search for “Coin Operated Laundry”, or “Do it yourself dog grooming”.
Regardless of how you arrived here, we are delighted you are with us for this the first CRO Road Report from this week’s Whitman Baltimore Expo. And while nothing has actually happened yet (except for me getting to the airport and typing this), we are sufficiently excited by the prospects of this show that we have assembled this list explaining why:
- The Baltimore Show is usually spectacular, with this 1st installment (of 3 annually) always numismatically rockin’.
- There is a lot of cool stuff in the Stack’s-Bowers auction, much of which we fully intend to outbid everyone else on and then list on our site with a spectacular photo and jaunty description (unless we sell it here first, which is equally possible).
- Crab cakes.
- We have with us more than 100 new coins ready to be unleashed at this show, the result of some aggressive buying in recent weeks, several of which we are confident will be candidates for the coveted Wnuck “Star of the Show” award.
- We get to try out our new CRO banners (designed to conform to the bourse floor rules here regardless of what those rules turn out to be or how many times they are changed during the show).
- High quality socializing with our coin friends.
- An opportunity to walk through our newest raw purchases to the grading services without having to pack up a box, stand in a long line at the post office or mail it anywhere.
- The ever-present promise of buying great coins which walk up to the table, or that we bird-dog on the bourse floor, both of which we always seem to do here at an impressive clip.
So of course you can understand why I have booked myself on the first flight down here on Tuesday, before most other dealers have woken up, had breakfast, or sorted their inventory to make it easy to dump it directly into the cases once the bourse floor opens.
But before that happens, we will be focused on the S-B auction starting with lot viewing in just a few hours from now.
March 20th: Day 1
Landing in foggy, rainy Baltimore at 7:30 AM on Tuesday, I sped straight to my hotel, carefully hung my clothes in the closet (not true), got organized, and checked out the view of Oriole Park from my window:
And then headed over to Stack’s-Bowers lot viewing to begin what figured to be an extremely long day of perusing rare and unusual numismatic items.
And indeed it was, as I pored through (almost) every lot, even the ones containing groups of low grade coppers we’d almost certainly not be bidding on, oversized medals which are heavy and awkward to carry around, and a few things I saw in the catalog and knew were just not CRO material. So why did I bother viewing things I was sure we were not going to buy? Because you just never know, as evidenced by the fact that a few of those uninspiring group lots actually contained interesting things, there were hidden jewels in the federal section and, in total, I ended up with a much longer list of coins to bid on than expected.
And all this was before Dave even arrived, as he had, for the first time in a while, missed his flight down here and, instead of hanging around with me viewing coins and comparing notes, was sitting in an airport in New England, probably muttering to himself and definitely wishing he had gotten up earlier. That was unfortunate.
But in the end, it probably didn’t matter too much since he eventually arrived and still had enough time to view everything, though the comparing notes portion of our auction prep will have to wait until Wednesday morning. That will work out well, since by then the lot viewing room will be a zoo and we will not be in it.
Anyway, at 7 PM we packed up and headed to dinner with a dealer friend at this fine dining establishment:
Where dinner looked as appetizing as this:
It may surprise the reader to know that this is not exactly my first cuisine choice, but it was a fun experience and good to try a new place since we were frankly in a restaurant rut around here.
And then it was back to our hotels where your author discovered the internet was down making it impossible to get any work done. So I didn’t.
Which will make Wednesday an even busier day than it was shaping up to be, with auction prep and a lot of other stuff to finish in the morning, followed by the live sessions which start at midday and will likely run very, very late.
And, of course, we will be there for all of it, taking detailed notes and, possibly, snapping action photos to incorporate in tomorrow’s RR.
Until then –
March 21st: Day 2
After ironing my shirt with great care, I walked over to the convention center on Wednesday morning and proceeded, over the next several hours, to re-look at some key coins and then debate with Dave about exactly what to bid on in the auction, to what level and how to do it (i.e. with a bidder paddle in the room, leaving the bid on the on the computer, or handing in a written bid sheet to the podium).
And, amazingly, we came to an overall agreement on what to do without shouting loudly or insulting one another (though Dave did roll his eyes at one point).
Particularly enjoyable in this conversation was when one of us would say “So, what would you pay for lot XYZ?” and the other person responded instantly with a number that was either identical to what the first guy was thinking, or pretty darn close (which is no mean feat for a lot of coins which are not listed in any reliable price guide and which often sell for a huge range of prices).
Leading me to believe that we had a good plan.
Which went out the window almost right away in the 1 PM session featuring group lots and assorted Numismatic Americana during which we had targeted only two lots and bought both of them for exactly what we figured them at in total, though one was much higher and one much lower than we expected. In such a case, of course, we should only have bought the cheaper one, but I figured what the heck and decided to cost average. I guess if we want something, we just don’t like to be denied.
And we wanted a lot of the coins in the 6 PM auction session too, starting with the colonials and continuing through Twenty Cent Pieces, and including some 45 lots that we had targeted to bid on.
And when the dust settled, we managed to buy about half of them, including a number of the cool marquee coins in the colonial session (which I will be recapping in detail for an upcoming article in the Colonial Coin Collectors Club Newsletter), and some spectacular federal issues which we were not aware of until we saw them at lot viewing. Most with us sitting in the auction room, but after a while we headed out for dinner, leaving the rest of our bids on the computer and strolling down to the Capital Grill on an evening that was so warm that the valet parking attendant was dressed like this:
Yes, he had shorts on, a stunning development, since it has been absolutely freezing here during this 1st Baltimore Show in past years.
And then I walked back to my hotel at about 10:30, passed the convention center on the way, ducked into the auction room, saw that one of our key target lots would be coming up soon and decided to hang around. And though I had our bidder paddle at the ready, our book bid turned out to be more than enough to buy it with me just sitting there pretending not to be that interested.
After which I left, finally got to the room and collapsed on the bed knowing that I needed to get up at 4 AM to finish some work, update the site, go to the gym and make it to the show for the 8 AM start of dealer set up.
And then run around like crazy on the bourse floor all day before attending the Rarities Night auction afterward.
Meaning that Wednesday is going to be a one r-e-a-l-l-y long day. But one that I personally am really looking forward to, and intend to recap with great enthusiasm in tomorrow’s RR.
March 22nd: Day 3
Thursday turned out to be just as long a day as predicted, starting with a 4 AM wake-up call and your author getting a tremendous amount of work done before eventually hauling a heavy supply bag from my hotel to the show on one of those long schlepps where you have to pause every 50 yards or so, set everything down, switch hands, and then keep walking.
Allowing me to arrive at the show at 7:45 sort of sweaty and with a cramp in my neck, which is nearly ideal from my perspective.
And then wait in line to get my badge so I could stand in another line by the door before they let us in.
So by the time I got to the table right at 8, I needed a nap, but of course that was not possible, since for the next 10 hours or so we would be engaged in some high octane coin dealering in which we got to show off some cool new things which have not been on our website, like this, for example:
That turned out to be a popular item that was viewed, discussed, examined, louped, negotiated and fondled by about 10 different people during the day. None of which surprised us at all, since coins that look like this are such an aberration on the bourse floor.
Except at our table, actually, where it was one of a handful of spectacular gold CAC’ed coins that we have acquired in recent weeks.
Lots of other things were ‘in play’ as well on a day that turned out to be at least as busy as we expected.
Good buying too, as we finalized the purchase of a cool collection that had been in the works since January, bought a spectacular world coin that we had been told about but had never seen until we were writing the check, and assorted other neat pieces one or two at a time.
All of which kept us busy right up until 5:45, when I realized the Stack’s-Bowers Rarities Night auction was starting in just a few minutes, so we packed up as fast as possible and raced up to the third floor where we bid aggressively on a few coins and bought most of them.
But not the big kahuna, the extremely rare, seldom seen, very crude and admittedly controversial New Hampshire Copper which sold for $172,500 to someone not named CRO. Interestingly (to me, anyway), a result like that no longer leads to a round of applause in the auction room, as apparently that kind of APR is so commonplace these days.
We thought it was a big deal, though.
After that drama, we left the rest of our bids on the book and went to dinner at Pazo with some dealer friends, which was about as good as it usually is and which ran until 10:30 or so.
Making for another late night before another early wake-up call and what I personally predict will be another action packed and long day on the bourse floor on Friday which at least will not begin with me hauling 50 pounds of stuff to the show (since it’s already there).
Whatever happens, I will be describing it right here on Saturday morning.
March 23rd: Day 4
I am pleased to present 10 numismatic highlights from Friday:
- Sold that spectacular 1873 PF Seated Dollar featured in yesterday’s RR, which surprised Dave and me not even a little bit. But I sure wish we could have taken a really good photo of it first.
- Bought a lovely 1786 New Jersey Copper PLUKIBUS variety notable for its gigantic planchet and perfect golden brown color.
- Completed 3 different cash and trade deals with 3 different customers. So if you ever have an interest in a coin on our list that is perhaps slightly out of reach, keep in mind that this is always an option. They do not call Dave ‘The Trademaker’ for nothing.
- Bought a trio of oddball tokens in circa 1940 cardboad flips.
- As is the case at every single show, we saw a coin in a guy’s case that we wanted to buy, stopped by repeatedly and were told each time that the owner was not there, or they could not find the key. On our last visit, the guy was there, but of course a giant deal of some kind was taking place directly on top of the case the coin was in. We’ll try again Saturday, but I am getting the sense this one was not meant to happen.
- Sold the beautiful, original AU 1842 Dollar that we have owned twice in the last several years, each time for just a few days.
- At this show, we had about the best group of Buffalo Nickels that we have ever owned.
- Dumped coffee all over my white shirt, an event I actually was so sure would happen that I presciently brought a second shirt with me to the show, changed, and never missed a beat.
- Sold a totally original Argentina Sun Face 8 Reales with perfect coin gray color, the only one I’ve ever seen like that.
- Had 4 or 5 people contemplate a Pine Tree Shilling in our case, lay out all of the pieces we have in stock (including a few that are not on the site) and narrow it down to their favorite, which for each person was a different example. I found that interesting – more so that none of them picked the one I would have chosen.
Saturday is shaping up to be extreeeeeemely busy, as I expect a lot of activity to continue at the show, and at the same time we have a huge amount of work to get done before we hit the road. So if you come to our table and see two guys running around like crazy, that is probably going to be the reason why.
March 24th: Day 5
After a couple of glorious days of warm weather and blue skies here in Baltimore, I unceremoniously flung my hotel room curtains open on Saturday morning to reveal a medium gray gloom which would linger all day.
And while some might expect me to make some sort of comment about this portending a decline in business on Saturday, I won’t, partly because I don’t like those sort of literary techniques, and also because it didn’t happen.
In fact, activity continued very nicely through the day, thank you, with some pretty large scale wholesale sales and a veritable slew of individual sales to old friends and brand new customers at the table.
Including, in the span of about 15 minutes (and an entire region, geographically), the sale of one Massachusetts, one New Jersey, one Connecticut and one Vermont colonial copper to 4 different buyers.
Gold was also hot for us (well, at least on a wholesale basis), as we sold a big group of $20’s to another dealer.
But the big surprise for us on Saturday was the numismatic haul of great things we were able to buy, including some cool world coins from an unexpected source in the AM, a few more colonials including a delightful, original, well-centered, seldom-seen-collector-grade Oak Tree Twopence, a choice and always popular 1815 Half Dollar, a wicked (trust me, you will agree with this assessment when you see it) early Half Eagle and a group of choice federal coppers in what would be the very last deal of the show concluded just as we were about to walk out the door. Phew.
But we never did buy that coin locked away in the dealer’s case referenced yesterday (it was a spectacular Morgan, by the way) or the Peace Dollar in an NGC black slab on the floor that the owner clearly did not really want to sell, or a world coin another dealer was absolutely sure I’d love. He was wrong.
Most of the things that happened this week, however, were extremely right, numismatically, commercially and socially, which is very much what we expected, and why we always enjoy this event.
But now it’s time to rest up, because we have another EB coming out this Tuesday, and it is going to be this big (hands held really far apart).