March 21-24, 2018: The Whitman Baltimore Expo
While coin-dealering is primarily an indoor activity, the weather can sometimes be a factor.
Such as for this week’s Baltimore show, where a dicey New England forecast caused us to change our flights to eeeaaarly Tuesday so we could get out before the next nor’easter hit.
And that turned out to be a near genius-level move, but not for the reasons we expected. The weather in NE was not the issue – it was the delightful rain/sleet/snow combo in Baltimore on Tuesday (as seen in our Camden Yards photo above) that was wreaking havoc. So while we made it out as scheduled, later flights were cancelled forcing some of our northern dealer brethren to scramble for alternative arrangements (i.e. the train).
But while they were doing that, we were submitting pre-show grading at the PCGS room at our hotel and then diving into lot viewing at the convention center, poring through thousands of interesting and, in many cases, long off the market items. Of which we found plenty to bid on – some for CRO stock, others for customers – in what will surely be hotly contested sessions.
Also competitive: Getting first shot on new coins from various dealer wholesale boxes here before the show actually starts. From where we picked up a few new cool things in all categories primarily because we tend to be looking for things that are a bit different than what other dealers may be trying to buy. How so? It seems like a lot of the other guys are trying to buy coins that they can get for below bid or things they can crack and upgrade, while we are looking for cool and interesting coins for the site knowing most of them are not going to be cheap (since those kinds of things never are).
After which we made some late afternoon calls to discuss auction lots, bidding strategies and potential deals with a bunch of different collectors and dealers.
Then went to dinner at Fell’s Point with a bunch of dealer friends returning just in time to watch an ominous forecast for Wednesday with some considerable snow predicted.
And it if comes, or even if it doesn’t, you can read all about the weather and various other numismatic goings on right here in this space in just about 24 hours from now.
March 21st: Day 1
It was an early start again on Wednesday as your author met up with a customer here at the hotel at 7, then went back to the room to analyze Wednesday’s auction lots, answered 52 emails, made a bunch of calls and then headed over to the convention center for some follow-up lot viewing.
Which pretty much did not change my view of any coin, but was still time well spent since it reinforced what I had already been thinking and thus emboldened the CRO bidding plan.
And then visited some of the dealers in the wholesale rooms, bought a medium sized pile of distinctly CRO-style coins, including one we sold to a customer 3-4 years ago and were shocked to find here in another dealer’s box. The good news (in addition to it being a fantastic coin that we are delighted to have back) is that we never got a decent pic of it last time and are really looking forward to posting it in its full glory on an upcoming EB.
After which we sat outside the Stack’s-Bowers auction room schmoozing with some collector and dealer friends and discussing many topics ranging from politics (bad idea), grasshoppers as a source of sustainable, environmentally-friendly protein (unpleasant idea) and one dealer’s contention that if he “won the lottery and had another $20 million, he would spend $30 million on new coins” (brilliant idea), all while patiently waiting for our widely spaced lots to come up in the glacial tokens and medals session.
Not that it mattered, since our patience went unrewarded and we got outbid on the few things we wanted.
Though we partially made up for that by buying a bunch of coins from a world coin dealer (including, surprisingly, 2 US coins, one of which had just come out of a Japanese auction). For those scoring at home, that now makes four (4) US coins we have acquired from world coin dealers so far in 2018.
Followed by a quick trip over to the Afghan restaurant with some dealer friends where we encountered an entire restaurant filled with other coin people (which is almost always the case when we go there).
Oh yeah, what about the weather, you ask? It pretty much snowed all day here on Wednesday, but not violently so, and from my vantage point it didn’t look all that bad. On the other hand, many dealers who arrived Wednesday morning reported that they had landed on “the last flight out” from their respective airports and that BWI was closed afterward, and the guys driving in from north of here said the roads were a mess. And while I did hear from some collectors by email and text telling us their various flights had been cancelled and they therefore would not make it to the show, it seems like most people will be able to get here, eventually, and I am still expecting a busy and active show.
Starting with dealer set up Thursday. And so it is time for us to turn in so we can be rested and ready to join the queue which will form outside the bourse room door at about 7:45 AM and then buy, sell, trade and grade coins literally all day long and continuing with the Stack’s auction in the evening.
The results of which will be posted here like clockwork on Friday AM.
March 22nd: Day 2
As promised, Team CRO was present and accounted for in the convention center lobby crisply at 7:45 AM on Thursday.
Where we then joined the queue filing into the bourse room just behind someone (as is usually the case) attempting to enter with a large bag which was just slightly wider than the narrow door frame and thus causing an annoying bottleneck. If the Whitman team were to ask me for suggestions on how to improve this process (which they have not, but which I will now do anyway), I would propose that they add a large sign with the dimensions of the door frame printed in bold numerals like you see on low bridges and/or one of those airport gate-style baggage testers where you can see if your carry-on (enormous trolley filled with wheat cents) will actually fit in the overhead bin (coin show). You’re welcome.
But once we were inside, we leaped into action, setting up booth #442 like crazy, establishing a well-designed and fully functional office space behind the table with expertly arranged extension cords well out of tripping range, hanging the CRO banner and pronouncing ourselves ready for business to no one in particular.
With the first invoice at this show written not 3 minutes later for the sale of a 3-coin gold deal to a wholesaler who usually swings by early during set up.
Followed by a bunch of other mostly small to medium sales mixed in with purchases of coins that walked up to the table with an “I thought this could be something for you” sales pitch. And, in many cases, it was.
But most of our buying on Thursday was of the ‘running around the floor’ variety, as we snagged a choice coin or two that caught our eye from many different dealers randomly scattered around the room. With an old-holdered Seated Half here, a toned Morgan there, a better date Indian Cent near the men’s room, a wicked world coin from a guy I’ve never seen here before, a lovely Fugio just behind us, etc.
Ironically, but not unusually in our experience, the most hyped deal and the one where we might have expected to find the most cool coins turned out to be a bust for us, as nearly everything we saw of interest was already spoken for (even at 8:10 AM), or only available as part of a larger group that contained many coins we would not have wanted. Oh well.
Meanwhile, back at the table, the procession of visitors was pretty steady and with them sales of a variety of coins of all price points and categories, along with some interesting discussions including a few where we were asked for our opinion of a customer’s coin.
Now, while that seems innocuous enough, it is of course not, since we like to give honest opinions about what we are shown and that can sometimes be painful and awkward. As it was on Thursday. Which is why we have learned through the years to preface our comments in these situations with an “I assume you would like me to give you my honest opinion about this coin?” disclaimer.
With your author’s subsequent withering assessment of a particular item interrupted by the first appearance of ‘Pants Man’, an elderly gentlemen who stood directly in front of one of our cases (and my wife) and then in the blink of an eye undid his belt, unbuttoned his pants and pulled down his zipper. We had no idea what was going to happen next, but were extremely relieved to see that he was merely tucking in his shirt in a way that you might do in the privacy of your bedroom. Aaaah yes, the coin business – it is certainly not dull.
Anyway, we got through that, finished up that earlier discussion, bought a few more coins, turned down several other offers, looked down and were shocked to see that it was already 5:30 and time to start getting ready for the evening Stack’s auction.
So we entered our bids, packed up the table and headed out to dinner with some dealer friends at Bococina while monitoring the auction and intermittently bidding using the excellent Stack’s-Bowers app.
Returning to the hotel earlyish to respond to emails, track our late bids and then call it a night in anticipation of a long Friday during which we will need to balance our show activities with participating in the auction session that will take place right in the middle of it. So that should be fun.
And if it is, or even if it isn’t, you can read all about it right here on Saturday AM.
March 23rd: Day 3
First order of business on Friday: Go straight from the hotel to the Stack’s-Bowers lot viewing room for another quick review of a few of the lots in the upcoming session. As an aside, this is one of the reasons I always take my loupe with me when I leave a show in the evening, since you never know if someone will whip out a pattern coin at dinner or you’ll need to look at a nickel up close in the hotel lobby before returning to your table the next day.
Anyway, this time my re-viewing did cause me to change my opinion on a couple of coins, striking a colonial completely off the bidding list, while adding a cool Seated $1 I had glossed over the first time.
After which I headed down to the bourse floor to prepare for what would be a bit of a challenging day in which the aforementioned auction would commence at the precise moment the doors opened to show attendees. Relegating your author to our anti-social back table for bidding in the colonial session just as customers came to the table to say hi and look at coins. I really hate that, but there isn’t much we can do to avoid it short of leaving proxy bids and forgetting about them, though in our experience you’ll invariably get nipped by one increment on all of the good stuff if you do that.
So we juggled as best we could, ultimately missing one lot just as someone asked me a question, but pretty much buying everything else we wanted during the course of the day. Though it was easier at the beginning when we had a whole bunch of target lots in succession than it was later when the coins we wanted were widely spaced.
Causing your author to keep his phone handy and frequently check the auction progress while talking to customers, showing coins, making sales, walking the floor, etc. All of that worked pretty well, ultimately, as we made some good deals and continued to find our share of interesting things scattered about the room.
Which on Friday included a group of cool state coppers from a long time customer and some interesting world coins from some trusted sources. With most of these in the sweet spot of items priced from about $500 to just below $10,000.
We also passed on several coins offered to us for what turned out to be the 2nd, 3rd or even 4th time at this show, each by different people and at slightly higher (or, in one case, hugely higher) prices. That’s not too surprising though, as we work it pretty hard early in the week and some of the things we pass on end up popping back up in the hands of new guys who are convinced they have a CRO-style coin we’ll want. Still, we love being offered anything by anyone and always try to keep an open mind to a coin based on our latest info, new auction prices realized, a customer inquiry, etc., and it is certainly possible that we’d have a change of heart and buy something that we had already passed on once. But not on this day.
Also, in the category of ‘Hey, you never know’, we had an interesting exchange with a young collector friend at the table who showed me a couple of very cool world gold coins. Not familiar with the issues I casually asked “What is something like that worth?” and was surprised when he told me that the last example to sell at auction brought $230,000. Hey, you never know.
After all that we were flat exhausted by 5 PM and finding it hard to focus on a big deal at another table, so we decided it was smarter to shut it down and re-visit on Saturday AM with fresh eyes.
So instead we headed out to dinner with a dealer friend at the Kona Grill where they seated us at a bizarrely high booth, but where the spicy tuna rolls can’t be beat.
And then called it a night so we could be ready to fire it all up again Saturday for what we hope is an exciting end to the March Baltimore Show, 2018.
March 24th: Day 4
Here are some of the things we learned (or re-learned) at this week’s Baltimore Show:
When traveling to a show it’s always wise to come early in the week and take the earliest flight possible on that day in order to give yourself maximum rescheduling options in the event of a cancellation or delay.
It seems like most business is done at shows by people walking coins around (or having them walked around by one of the many people who specialize in this) rather than at a lot of dealers’ tables.
You can carefully evaluate, consider, arrange and submit your best coins for grading, or re-grading, or crossing, but once again it seems to us that you’ll have just as much success throwing some random things in a box and letting it fly.
Colonial coin auction prices are very, very hard to predict even by specialists in this series (like me, for example).
Being the underbidder in an auction can sometimes be a win, as it was for us when we lost a coin we were trying to buy for a customer want list on Friday and then ended up finding a much better one for similar money on the floor the next day.
Whenever someone calls in advance and asks us to bring a specific coin to a show, we can be virtually assured that 1) that person will not buy it, and 2) another customer will (which is exactly what happened here on Saturday).
The best way to create rabid enthusiasm in an auction? Sell some coins that have been off the market for ages, that look like they’ll upgrade, in older holders where possible. And conversely the best way to ensure that no one will bid? Reserve your coins too high.
You can’t beat the Sheraton Hotel for convenience and security, but they must have got a really good deal on their in-room heaters from a local university sleep deprivation study.
Staying over on Saturday night in order to fly home in a more relaxed manner on Sunday morning sounded good in theory, but next time we’re not going to wake up at 3 AM in order to catch that first flight out (because now we’re too tired to write this week’s Early Bird).
But we still have a day and a half to go, and with enough coffee we’re confident we’ll get it done in time to launch, as always, on Tuesday at noon. So you might want to keep an eye out for that –