March 24-27, 2010: The ANA National Money Show in Ft. Worth, TX
Hello fellow numismatic enthusiast, collector, dealer or industry professional –
Note that I am going to have to type this quietly so that I do not wake up the dog as I finish my last minute preparations for the long but extremely worthwhile haul from New England to Texas this morning for this year’s ‘Spring ANA’.
Actually, we have no idea if it will be worthwhile or not, but in these situations we have learned that there is a strong correlation between a positive mental outlook (PMO) and having a really big show (a ‘Sullivan’ in CRO parlance). It also helps to have a lot of extremely cool stuff (ECS) to sell AND a checkbook ($) at the ready to scoop up any cool coins that we find while we’re there, whch we do, and we do.
Also cause for optimism: our location at this show, which at least based on my perusal of the bourse floor map it appear that you cannot enter the room without tripping over Dave and possibly buying something from us without even knowing it. I think.
Anyway, as is always the case (since 2006, at least) we’ll be posting about our experiences in TX, be they good, bad, indifferent, or magical/wonderful, each and every single day of the show right here in this space.
So you might want to check that out.
Even though Texas is not as far from our home base in New England as, say, Long Beach, CA, getting here somehow seemed longer, more tiring and less convenient. But rather than bore the reader with stories about a bumpy ride on a cramped flight in a too-small plane with absolutely no amenities whatsoever (like movies, food or in-seat TV’s), and an in-flight WiFi system that was extremely well advertised in the seat-back pocket and on the side of the fuselage but didn’t actually work, we will instead focus on the positives by saying that we did arrive on time and ready for action at about 12:30.
Which would have been perfect timing based on the original show schedule, which listed in bold Palatino font that dealer set-up would be from 3 to 7 on this day. It was less ideal for the revised schedule, which at some point had evidently changed (unbeknownst to your author) from 12 to 6. Which meant that as I was waiting for my luggage to appear on the carousel, I was already late, and needed to scoot from the airport to my hotel to the show as fast as possible lest I miss all of the good deals sure to be there when the doors first opened.
Whatever they were, however, I will never know, as I would not officially enter the bourse until 1:30 or so after a minor mix-up with the ANA ID-checking staff who absolutely insisted that CRO were not listed as attendees despite the fact that CRO is in the official show program (in bold Palatino font) and online on the official ANA website as an (and I quote) “Exhibitor”. For some reason that evidence was deemed insufficient, however,
Anyway, I did eventually resolve that situation without the need to have a cow and, once inside, discovered that our table was actually even closer to the door than it appeared on the bourse floor map, in what I would describe as position ‘1A’. Which served us well almost right off the bat, with a couple of dealer / collectors coming by and our first official sale invoice written at about 2:30.
I was hoping to find some nice things to buy, too, and did on a small scale, adding a couple of cool things and, more interesting, discussing a bigger deal possible in the coming weeks.
By which time our own Dave Wnuck had arrived (after the same harangue at the ID booth), and we were officially fully staffed and ready to do something good here at the show.
Which consisted of putting out the rest of the inventory, scouring the floor for more coins, finding a few neat ones and then going to dinner with a dealer friend across the street instead of taking the bus to the ANA BBQ scheduled at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. Not that that didn’t sound interesting to us, it did, but as Dave often points out, if you have to take a bus to dinner, you also have to take one home, a scheduling constraint that does not jibe well with CRO’s typically free-wheeling dining strategy,
Which meant that by 8:30 or so I was back at the hotel and ready to rest up for what is likely to be a very busy day tomorrow, with all of the usual show activities and, finally, the official announcement of the ‘Big One’ by PCGS.
Which will surely be given plenty of space in tomorrow’s Road Report.
Thursday (also known as “Big One Day”) began inauspiciously, as I inadvertently washed my hair with mouthwash. Which might sound utterly ridiculous, but which was easily explained by the fact that all of the complimentary products here in the hotel bathroom (moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, and mouthwash) were in identical little blue bottles.
On a more positive note, I smelled extremely minty.
But I was eventually able to rectify that, meet Dave at the hotel business center, print out an important document on a computer which appeared to have been built in the late 1970’s, and then walked over to the convention center in brisk 45 degree weather.
Where we were among the first to arrive, setting up the table and then hanging around doing very little for the next hour or so.
But over time the talk turned, not surprisingly, to the “Big One”, which would be announced by PCGS just down the hall at 10:30. And most everyone was either planning to go, talking about going, asking what time they should go, or just up and went. With the exception of your author, who thought it important to man the table while Dave attended the presentation with strict instructions to take copious, RR-worthy notes.
The Plus concept is perhaps not at all unexpected, as there has long been discussion of a ‘CAC response’, or effort to formalize PCGS’s own (as well as NGC’s) recognition that within any grade some coins are superior, and sell for a premium. And, as stated, PCGS is going to denote with a ‘+’ all coins graded under this new tier that are deemed PQ for the grade. And it goes without saying that these + coins will be valued higher on the PCGS price guide, and will almost certainly sell for more than their non-plus brethren in auctions and on the bourse floor.
Our view on that is basically the same as it was when CAC introduced their own stickering concept:
If we like a PCGS coin with a + on it, and the price is fair, we’ll buy it.
If we don’t, and it isn’t, we won’t.
This makes sense to us, and it’s not complicated. It’s also quite practical, since we honestly expect to see some + coins that we like very much, and others that we don’t.
I would also add that the concept (as explained in the video) that these ‘+’ coins will trade on a sight-unseen basis is anethema to us. We would never buy anything sight-unseen, and wouldn’t recommend that anyone else does either. But that’s just us.
On the other hand, we think the Secure concept is about the most significant innovation in coin grading, well, ever, and is most definitely a “Big One”.
What makes it most interesting to us is, as stated by David Hall in the video, that it is not necessarily good for PCGS’s own business in the short term, as it by definition will likely dramatically reduce resubmissions. It is, however, a great thing for the hobby, and will have what we believe are significant and far-reaching positive implications for coin collecting. In short, PCGS has found a way and taken the initiative to directly confront coin doctoring and rampant upgrading, and to a lesser extent, counterfeiting and coin theft in one wonderful fell swoop.
To the extent that the potential financial incentive created by the chance to obtain a + provides a reason for collectors and dealers to use this new service and makes it all commercially viable, then that is all the better for everyone involved (except coin doctors, who should probably begin immediately looking for another line of work).
We’ll have to see how the market reacts to PCGS’s Secure Plus, but for us, for now, it seems like a really cool thing.
After the dust settled on the announcement (at about 1 PM), our focus returned to the show, which was generally pretty quiet, with just a few sales and purchases here and there.
We did however see one truly unexpected thing on one of our many sweeps of the floor searching for new coins: a collector friend who told us he had driven here (a 30-hour journey!) from New Jersey. Which you have to admit is a pretty serious commitment to coin collecting.
And then another: As Adrian Crane of Anaconda Rare Coins fame appeared out of nowhere (literally), swung by the table and said hello.
Then we walked across the aisle and perused the collection of Mercury Dimes being previewed at the Heritage table for one of their upcoming auctions, which I would describe as stunning.
And then went to the PCGS table and checked out the cool set of Indian $10s and the Simpson Collection of Peace Dollars, both of which were housed entirely in the new Secure Plus holders with a number of + coins thrown in (all of which looked absolutely frickin’ fantastic).
Come to think of it, all of the + coins we saw on the floor (and there were a few at a couple of different early-adapter dealer tables) looked extremely high end. Heck, we even bought one of them and plan to unleash it on our next EB on Tuesday.
Anyway, we kept busy until about 6 PM and then had a giant but not very expensive feast at a Tex-Mex restaurant near our hotel (which was packed with other coin dealers), followed by the writing of the blog that you are reading right now.
Friday we hope for some additional commercial activity of either the buying or selling variety, but preferably both. So check this space tomorrow and see if either or both of those things happen.
So it’s mid-morning when I walk over to the table of one of the large auction companies on the bourse floor and ask if I can have a consignment sheet. A request that was met with an odd inquisitive look and a “What?!”. So I asked a second and then a third before that they finally understood what I was saying, handed me the sheet and said “Sorry – I thought you said you wanted a time-machine”.
Which turned out to be (and I am totally serious when I say this) a fairly typical exchange during a most unusual Friday morning in which, for no apparent reason, we found ourselves in a lot of extremely odd conversations.
And while we were highly entertained by many of them (sort of), we did absolutely no business whatsoever in the process. None.
Until after lunch, that is, when suddenly (and unexpectedly) it got downright busy, with some pretty big sales in the federal and esoteric realm, some successful grading of coins which we then sold immediately to other dealers and some neat new acquisitions that walked up to the table from collectors and dealers alike.
We also met a number of nice, normal people we had heretofore known only in cyberspace, and had a lot of fun talking and comparing notes with a couple of very, very serious colonial collectors who came to the table late in the afternoon.
Which all combined to elevate the show to a level I would describe as pretty decent, with Saturday yet to come.
And when it does, Dave will be the guy handling it, since I am comfortably seated in my kitchen back in New England as I type this (my early Saturday morning departure from this show being a trade I agreed with Dave because I will be representing CRO at the EAC show by myself in a few weeks while he is on a beach somewhere).
Accordingly, our next RR will be written by Dave tomorrow, and so I look forward to reading it just as much as you do.
Saturday John bolted out of Texas at 2:30 AM (actually it was probably more like 8, but he likes to exaggerate), leaving me, David J. Wnuck, to fend for myself on this day, dealing with the anticipated onslaught of non-stop coin buying, coin selling and, of course, RR writing.
Anyway, going solo, my first order of business was to pick up the lots we purchased in the preceding days at Heritage, which were few in number, but pretty nice. Even better, one of them was already ‘pre-sold’ to another dealer who saw us buy it at the auction and asked if it was available – a delightful circumstance that has happened to us a couple of times lately.
Then it was on to our typical last day activities, including picking up checks, picking up purchases from other dealers, and trying to close every open transaction in some way or other, which often requires running around like crazy to track down people who are seemingly never, ever at their tables. But I eventually found them all and got it all done (with considerable satisfaction, I might add).
And, in between bursts of that strictly commercial activity, I got to wear my figurative ‘Numismatic Ambassador’ hat, meeting, greeting and introducing coins to the many (many, many) novice collectors and young kids who came by the table on Saturday.
And when they did, I tried very hard to leave them with a positive impression of numismatics, and to show them some really cool stuff. It’s always fun to let people actually hold a 1793 Half Cent or Fugio copper or old gold coin that they may have only seen in a coin book before. Invariably that always draws some impressive oohs and aahs, and, I hope, might compel someone to become a lifelong collector (or possibly a dealer!).
But the crowd eventually thinned out, and I got to work packing things up and then headed out to the airport where I started draft #1 of our next EB scheduled for this coming Tuesday, which will be filled with our usual fare of cool stuff of all shapes and sizes (including one gigantic medal, which, as I explained to a YN at the show, is NOT a belt buckle).