March 27-29, 2014: The Whitman Baltimore Expo
Aaaah yes, the Baltimore show, one of our favorite events of the year, particularly this March installment.
So of course one would want to arrive here in Baltimore this week early, well rested, and with plenty of time to view the Stack’s-Bowers lots with proper care, conduct some unhurried wholesale business at the hotels around town, nab whatever wickedly rare coin(s) pop out of the woodwork before anyone else even notices them, etc. At least that was my well-conceived plan.
Unfortunately, that plan was very rudely derailed by some extremely uncooperative northeastern weather featuring wind gusts up to 70 mph which cancelled my original flight, and the next one. With the last insulting delay a plain old mechanical failure on the third flight, which ensured I would not get down here until late on Wednesday – well after the wholesale stuff was over, and the auction had already started in a sale where I never even got to view any of the lots. Ouch.
On a more positive note, I did get here in time to race over to the Kona Grill and have a very nice dinner with three collector / dealer friends during which we resolved several world crises, definitively solved the Malaysian flight mystery, commiserated about various numismatic auction and grading results and generally had an excellent time, thus rescuing a day which had up until that point been a complete and total wipe out.
Which means I will be primed and ready to make up for those lost buying and selling opportunities at the show on Thursday morning, squeezing even more action into what already figured to be an extreeeemely busy and hectic schedule.
And then writing all about it here in this space each and every day of the show, including keen insights into the business of coins, occasional photos of cool things I see, possible anecdotes about pratfalls and travel mishaps, and at least one innocent remark which will unintentionally offend someone (or possibly everyone) which I will only find out about via email the following morning.
So of course I am looking forward to that.
March 27th: Day 1
Brimming with pent up numismatic energy, I leaped out of bed on Thursday, turned on my computer, realized it was 3:14 AM, and then went back to sleep.
Until a re-do at a more civilized 5 AM, at which time I wrote the Wednesday RR, had breakfast, went to the hotel gym, got organized, moseyed over to the convention center, got my bag from security, schmoozed in the lobby with a bunch of dealer friends and then was funneled with the other 300 people in the lobby through the one door they had propped open and officially began the 2014 March Baltimore show.
First order of business: Set up the booth as quickly as possible, which from start to finish including expert banner hanging, organized coin dispersal, lighting clamp attachment and full electric power took 11 minutes.
After which I raced to the tables of some other dealers where I have bought a lot of good coins through the years and, importantly, where I figured based on past experience they would already be set up when I got there. And while that was true in theory, it didn’t actually yield any coins I wanted to buy (since the first guy didn’t really have anything for me), I discovered the 2nd guy wasn’t even setting up here this week, and the 3rd guy hadn’t arrived yet. Hmmm.
So of course I left my business card at the last table with a note to call me when he got in, which is something I don’t often do but figured what the heck.
Then bolted back to my table where I was pleased to sell 5 coins on 3 invoices in rapid succession, buy a few federal coins, sort out a collection I planned to sell here and then went back to that 3rd table where I left my card 40 minutes earlier, saw the dealer there and was told “Sorry, you’re too late”, as he had sold a bunch of the stuff I would have bought to someone else. On the other hand, he did thank me for leaving my card, which was nice.
Now, of course I was very disappointed not to get those coins, but the episode did illustrate several recurring numismatic themes perfect for inclusion in a Road Report:
- The early bird definitely gets the worm in numismatics.
- Being there in person is waaaayy better than leaving a note.
- It’s a competitive world, and while I would have loved to get these coins (or any other new fresh deal of coins like this), the reality is that there are a lot of other people out there looking for the same kinds of coins I am, and they are going to get their share too.
- As another dealer explained to me once, there are some deals you think you are going to get that will elude you, and others that you have no business getting that will fall into your numismatic lap. In other words, it all evens out in the end.
- To which I would add the CRO corollary: Whatever level you ‘even out at’ will be directly related to how hard you are willing to work, how much you are willing to travel, and how many relationships you build through the years. Being able to make fast decisions and writing good checks helps too.
So what did I do next? I tried like heck to figure out who bought those coins, tracked them down like a wild animal and ended up buying all of them from the next guy. Hey, if I want something, I don’t like to let it go.
So by the time I was back at the table, I was in a considerably better mood, which might have explained the very good results through the afternoon, where I sold a bunch of coins of all price points, and amassed a pile of NEWPs totaling more than 40 coins. And it is only THURSDAY.
Somewhere in there I also raced up stairs to view some Stack’s-Bowers lots that someone casually mentioned to me, that I had never found in the online catalog during my own searches last week and did not know where in the session, bid on them and won two. Knowing that if not for my flight delays Wednesday I would have found these earlier, had more time to formulate bids and probably won considerably more. Oh well, as noted in the recurring themes above, it’s my own fault for not flying in Tuesday, avoiding the weather and getting here early.
Anyway, the day eventually wound down and I headed back to the hotel, dropped my bags, eschewed the evening’s live auction session and instead left bids and then headed out to dinner with some collector and dealer friends at Sullivan’s for some rollicking numismatic conversation at what to me is one of the best restaurants on the circuit.
And then walked back to hotel using well lit and highly trafficked main roads (since nothing much good seems to happen in the dimly lit allies around here).
Friday I am anticipating another active day with a new wave of collector visitors and, I am sure, a lot more cool NEWPs to be acquired here, there and everywhere.
March 28th: Day 2
Because I am not a slave to routine, I strolled over to the convention center at about 8 AM on Friday knowing full well that the show would not open to dealers until 9. Thus allowing me to have an extremely relaxed breakfast with some like-minded dealer friends right there in the elegant convention center lobby and then enter the show at the head of the loooong line (here photographed in CRO’s patented ReversePeriscopeVision):
Where I casually made my way to the CRO booth, turned on the lights with an aggressive click and began doing business like crazy, starting with a deal for the most expensive coin we brought to this show and setting a totally excellent tone for what would turn out to be a grand Friday.
A description which could be applied equally to selling (since we wrote a pretty-good-for-CRO 20-something invoices during the day despite the fact that two collectors who had called me last week and asked me to hold coins for them to see on Friday never showed up), and buying (where I kept bumping into things on the floor and having coins walk up to the table and snagging them immediately, if not faster).
And that pace would continue pretty much unabated until about 3 PM, when it suddenly got pretty quiet just as your author was running out of gas anyway. Though there were some late arriving local customers and some additional business to be done, it was a welcome and much slower pace for those last few hours, providing ample opportunity for me to enthusiastically collate and file all that paperwork and sort NEWPs into photography, grading and CAC boxes and then schmooze with some dealers and industry professionals.
Including one of the NGC graders who was describing the non-stop submissions they received of the newly issued Baseball Hall of Fame coins which were being sold here and which have been a major topic of conversation at this show.
Except in these Road Reports, since I really hadn’t paid any attention to these, don’t know much about them, and don’t really deal in this stuff. Lots of other people obviously do though, as there was a long line of ravenous public here in Baltimore buying them, and then most just as ravenously flipping them to dealers right away for a quick few hundred dollar profit (which is not a bad day’s work if your only work is standing in line to buy them, I guess). I won’t pretend to understand this arbitrage, but if everyone involved is happy, then your author is absolutely delighted.
But of course I am more delighted to handle cool old coins, which I look forward to doing again on a Saturday which I think might turn out to be pretty busy, with some late attendees looking to buy and the chance for us to find some last second purchases to make an already excellent show even better.
Whatever happens, it will be posted in the final installment of this Baltimore RR from the comfort of home on Sunday AM.
March 29th: Day 3
Have I ever mentioned that coin shows can be unpredictable? Actually I think I have at least 4,300 times in these RR’s through the years, to which we can now add one more since Saturday in Baltimore surprised me in a few ways:
- Traffic was pretty light, with far fewer visitors than I expected. In fairness, I think there actually were a lot of people here, but most of them were lined up to buy those baseball coin things from the mint.
- Sales were still pretty decent, with those who did come to the table apparently doing so with the intent to buy.
- I managed to spend a lot of money at various tables around the room without really trying to do so, including one expensive coin I was not looking for at all which I bumped into by accident only because I serendipitously took an indirect route back to my table from the PCGS booth. Note to self: Take indirect routes more often at future shows.
Bringing the total NEWPs count at this show to a surprising-even-to-your-author 60-something coins in all categories, making us net buyers at this show in units by a mile, though not in dollars. Which is good for business, though less good for schlepping since all this new stuff was pretty heavy.
The haul was, however, lightened just slightly by the couple of coins noted in yesterday’s RR as having been held for no-show customers who would restore my faith in humanity by surprisingly arriving Saturday and consummating those deals.
And so, after all of the activity here coming and going, we leave with nothing in the way of loose ends, pending deals or trades to work out, which is also surprising in my experience.
Just a lot of grading, CAC’ing and figuring out what to do with everything, finalizing which coins are ready for market, and starting to build the Early Bird list which will go out on Tuesday. And since the weather here stinks (as it has for the last several months now), I should have plenty of time to load it all onto the site uninterrupted by, for example, any outdoor activities at all.
But before I start that, I will end by saying that, despite my very well-documented late arrival here which caused me to miss Wednesday’s lot viewing such that I was less active in the auction than I might have been, this installment of the Baltimore Expo was in all other ways a complete and total hoot, a commercial success by any measure and an indication that the market is humming along very nicely thank you.
Which we hope will continue at our next event, the Chicago International Coin Fair, from where our next RR will be posted in just less than 2 weeks from now.