March 27-30, 2019: The ANA National Money Show in Pittsburgh, PA
March 27: Day 1
Good morning numismatist and welcome to this our first RR penned from western Pennsylvania since the Fall ANA show here waaaaay back in October of 2011.
Wow. That was a long time ago, and much has changed since then:
- This time we have a corner table.
- We have an even more robust inventory representing each of our four categories – Colonial Coins, U.S. Coins, World Coins Used in Early America and Esoteric Numismatic Items.
- We now know which hotel to stay at here (unlike last time when we ended up way down the street and had to schlepp back and forth every day).
All positive developments in our view.
So of course we were in a hurry to get down here, flying from New England at 5:58 AM on Wednesday, arriving at the voluminous Pittsburgh International Airport at about 7:30, meeting a local customer who graciously volunteered to pick us up at the airport and eventually making it to the show hotel about 8:15.
Just in time for a quick breakfast that ended up taking so long that the hotel comped us for it, before heading over to Kagin’s Auction lot viewing at the convention center.
But since we got there about 45 minutes before they opened, we had time for one of those impromptu, unofficial pre-shows that sometimes sprouts up in a convention center lobby. With a bunch of dealers all suddenly passing around coins and actual business being done. Especially by us, as we managed to buy a surprising eight (8) coins there.
Four of which were only possible because two different dealers independently mentioned that they thought some other guys had some coins that we might want. That was especially helpful and much appreciated, since a couple of those coins were being offered by someone I had never met before, would not have thought to ask and would not have been able to buy without the heads up and subsequent introduction. That was very cool.
After which we headed to the lot viewing room, powered through 29 boxes of lots, ID’d maybe 15 coins to bid on and then migrated over to the bourse room for the 1 PM start of dealer set up. Where we once again got the booth ready as fast as possible so your author could tear around the room looking for more cool coins to populate our next EB. That proved to be pretty difficult, since many of the other dealers weren’t set up yet, and I didn’t see too many exciting new coins in the cases of the ones that were. Still, I snagged a few US coins here, a stack of Pillar coins there and began to amass what I hope will eventually be a full box or two of news coins before this show ends on Saturday.
A project I continued working on until the bitter end on Wednesday, eventually heading out at 6 PM and walking a few blocks to dinner with a dealer friend at some cool gastro pub. Getting back to the hotel around 10 and summarily collapsing after what had by then been a pretty exhausting 20-hour, 15,000-step day here in Pittsburgh.
Where we’ll be back at it again early Thursday, hoping to to see many local visitors at the show, find more cool coins on the floor and buy the coins we want in the first auction session which will be held right after.
And then describe everything that happens right here, as always, on Friday AM.
March 28: Day 2
Years ago, when your author was employed in the private sector (i.e. in a job unrelated to numismatics) I occasionally dreamed of how much fun it would be to play with coins all day, buy cool stuff, write descriptions like those I had seen in those old Bowers and Ruddy Rare Coin Reviews in the 1970s and generally craft a business based on what I as a collector liked to see.
And for the most part, it has turned out about as I pictured it.
One of the things I did not quite imagine was what life would be like on the road as a coin dealer, as illustrated by what turned out to be a not atypical Thursday here in Pittsburgh.
Starting with a 5 AM alarm clock that I clicked off when I actually woke up at 3:30.
And then spent about an hour answering emails, making sure the inventory on the website and listed on Collectors Corner was in sync and responding to what would be the first of several trade proposal ideas sent to us by customers during the day.
Wrote Wednesday’s installment of the RR, the most challenging aspect of which (as always) is figuring out what the format will be.
Hit the hotel gym (which is frankly amazing here, easily the best one I’ve been to this side of Las Vegas and an amenity badly under-marketed by this hotel, since the website shows only a black and white photo of a fat guy with a medicine ball).
Got dressed and headed off to breakfast at 8:30 where I received service sufficiently acceptable there that I did not need to wig out or have them comp me anything.
Stopped at the hotel shop to buy something healthy for lunch since the snack bar in the bourse room is one of those chili dog and giant pretzel kind of places.
Took the somewhat disjointed and poorly labeled corridor from the hotel over to the convention center walking past the glass wall that allows you to see down into the bourse room where I noticed there were already a bunch of people in there who were positioned to get first shot at something that your author might have wanted had such a coin existed. And even though I’m not sure it did, the notion that I might have missed something still bugs me.
Got to the booth, clicked on the lights and spent the next 9 hours talking to the local customers who were came to the table and scouring the not-very-expansive bourse floor looking for cool coins in competition with a lot of other dealers and collectors here looking for the same things. Well, maybe not exactly the same things, or with the same appetite at various price points, which has always allowed us to buy coins even in an environment like this (as illustrated by the 30-something coins now piled up in the back case).
Continuing on like that until about 5:30, when we changed our focus to the Kagin’s auction which would be starting at 6. And while the plan was to just enter the bids online and go eat, we started too late to do that since the online iCollector bidding platform had by then already switched over to live bidding only. Which meant we’d be camped out there for a while, first bidding live in the room, then on the computer at the hotel and finally by phone at the restaurant on our widely spaced target lots.
The good news is that we bought all of them and could then focus on dinner which turned out to be pretty good and ran until 10:30 or so.
After which we your author was back in the room answering emails and working on the website before running out of steam at around 12:30.
So if 20 years ago you had told my pre-coin dealer self that mostly non-stop 20+ hour days on the road would be de rigueur in the business I’m not sure I’d have believed you, but I’m pretty sure I’d have signed up for it any way since (as I have said many times before) I’d probably be doing this anyway even if it weren’t a job.
Including here on Friday where we hope to be buying, selling, trading and (dropping off) grading and otherwise taking advantage of all opportunities that come our way.
And then blogging about them in this space early on Saturday morning.
Until then, then –
March 29: The Karmic Shift
At any coin show you are likely to encounter a wide variety of dealers offering all sorts of different merchandise generally employing one of two business models:
Camp 1: The aggressive pursuers of business carting their wares around the floor looking for buyers.
Camp 2: The coin displayers waiting for people to come to them.
Team CRO has always been firmly rooted in Camp 2, displaying our coins in the cases pretty much exactly like we do on the site: Arranged by category, as attractively as we can and then waiting for collectors and dealers to come to the table to buy, or sell, or trade. An approach that has worked well for us through the years and is in keeping with our own ‘non-pushy’ philosophy.
Which is exactly what we were doing here in Pittsburgh on Wednesday and Thursday with decent enough results at what had been a generally quiet event.
Continuing on this way into Friday when a collector/dealer came by in the morning, expressed great interest in a coin in our case, but said he wasn’t ready to buy unless he sold some of his own coins first.
At which time your author decided to change camps, grab the bull (i.e. the other guy) by the horns (his inventory) and attempt to make something happen by involving a 3rd guy to help move some distinctly non-CRO style coins, a deal which ultimately took only about 10 minutes to construct and complete and worked great for all parties.
The universe too must have approved, since this seemed to create a kind of karmic shift in which we suddenly sold a bunch of unrelated coins in rapid succession to collectors and dealers alike in as surprising a development as I can recall at any show.
And this would continue all afternoon, in all categories, including some fresh new coins, some old friends and even some things from the back case that were not on display and that we weren’t even really trying to sell here.
With the last of this activity cut short only by the fact that we had to pack up everything late on Friday for an early flight on Saturday in what is unfortunately an abbreviated schedule for us here.
And while we would have of course stayed to the bitter end (like we do at all shows) if possible, it is especially painful here since it feels like there is a lot more that might happen on Saturday.
So we’re holding out hope that if it does, it will be with some dealer friends who will then have new coins to offer us down the line. Hey, we think the universe might like that too.
In the meantime, we’ll be back in the office finalizing our 2018 taxes and taking care of business before unleashing our next EB on Tuesday, April 9th.
So you might want to keep an eye out for that.