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May 19-22, 2010: The Whitman Nashville Expo



Good morning coin collector, coin dealer, industry professional, unaffiliated coin show article reading enthusiast or person who has stumbled upon this site accidentally (and is now systematically reading each and every article we have ever posted),

We are pleased to be reporting from the airport, again, as we head off to exciting Nashville, TN for the first ever Whitman Nashville Expo, not exactly a new numismatic event per se, but rather a seamless relocation of last year’s Whitman Atlanta Expo.

And since that one was pretty quiet, your author is cautiously optimistic that this new spot may be precisely what the doctor ordered (though the doctor apparently ordered it before the horrendous flooding in the area was shown on CNN 11,000 times in recent weeks).

We are assured, however, that the show will be pretty much unaffected, and that’s good enough for us (though I will admit that I did call my hotel last night just to be sure, asked if they were open, and received a dismissive and condescending “Of course we are”). So that’s good.

All that now remains to be seen is if the show attendance will be good, business will be active, and many amusing and entertaining RR-worthy things will happen between now and Sunday.

Whatever happens, you will be able to read about it right here every morning in vivid detail and featuring some meaty numismatic content (though if you are one of the people who likes to hear what we had for dinner each night, I am almost positive that there will be some of that too).

Until tomorrow –

Day 1:

Dave and I arrived in town at about 9:30 AM, grabbed a cab at the larger than expected airport and headed as quickly as possible straight to the Nashville Convention Center (since dealer set-up actually began at 9 AM and we were already late, a function of the fairly limited flight options into this fine city).

En route, we noticed two things:

  1. That everything looked perfectly normal (as in un-flooded), indicating that all those horrible scenes on the news were not in between the airport and the area where the show was being held, and
  2. Every single person we met from the time we got off the plane until we arrived at the show was unbelievably friendly and helpful, maybe more so than I’ve encountered anywhere in the world

And with positive vibe, we arrived at the show itself.

Which appeared to be well-organized (in typical Whitman fashion), in a large, well-lit room.  It was however, sort of dead for dealer set-up, with perhaps half the tables occupied (indicating that we were not the only guys who couldn’t make it by 9), and many of those uncluttered by inventory (since a lot of dealers had their wares in boxes in typical wholesale mode).

So we got ourselves organized, walked the floor a bit, kicked an occasional tire and found a few things we liked.

Sales during the day were similarly quiet, though another dealer is pondering a group of coins we offered him, and we did have some decent activity on the website during that period.

In fact, the most memorable thing we saw all day was Whitman’s Abraham Lincoln impersonator walking around the floor in jeans and a button down shirt (as opposed to his normal and extremely authentic looking black suit and top hat).  He also seemed to be several inches shorter than usual, indicating that he must not have been wearing his ‘Lincoln lifts’.

Anyway, not much else happened, so we eventually headed to dinner with a group of dealer friends in what was a very active downtown environment (especially for a Wednesday night).

Things should look markedly different tomorrow with all of the dealers set up, and the show open to the public, and we’ll look forward to a full day of buying and selling with typical CRO enthusiasm.

Day 2:

Thursday started in nearly ideal fashion, as I awoke to the faint sounds of two women arguing either in another room (which might have even been on a different floor of the hotel), or possibly on someone’s TV.

In any case, it was annoying, and it continued on for a good 45 minutes.

And since I was up at that point, I began my morning routine which included blog writing, wrestling with the high quality in-room coffee maker (which, curiously, only works when plugged in to the socket in the bathroom, which as we all know is the most elegant room in which to prepare breakfast), and finally checking the local weather on my laptop, which I was pleased to see showed “80 and sunny”.  So of course I dressed accordingly in fine CRO shorts.  Which seemed sort of odd later, as I walked through the hotel lobby and saw a lot of people wearing jackets and rain gear, but made perfect sense after I realized that I had actually checked the weather back home in New England, and not here in Tennessee, for example.

Anyway, we arrived and were ready for action on the bourse at about 9:30 in anticipation of the 10 o’clock opening for the public and noticed that the room was more crowded with dealers than yesterday, and there was actually an audible buzz of activity in the air.

Which increased just slightly when the doors opened at 10 and a few dozen collectors came in.

And the level of activity for us was pretty light, with a few smallish sales and a couple of purchases and really not that much going on until noon or so.  But then somewhat surprisingly things picked up significantly, and we actually had a pretty good afternoon, buying about a dozen coins, and selling pieces of all sorts, including a coin in a new PCGS SecurePlus holder for the amazing price of $30.  But while quite varied, all of those sales had one thing in common:  They were all on a wholesale basis.

We then spent a solid hour or so on the phone working with a couple of different collectors, figured bids for the Stack’s auction scheduled for Friday evening, continued working (unsuccessfully, so far) on the sale of a relatively small type collection and then headed to dinner at the hotel restaurant which turned out to be very good (especially the fried green tomatoes) and completely filled with other coin dealers.

After dinner I got to spend another hour on the phone discussing commemorative half dollars, then colonials with another collector and then collapsed on the bed only to be awakened by another phone call this time about key date quarters.

At the conclusion of which I calculated that I had spent just about 19 hours this day doing some kind of numismatic work, which I enjoy as much or more than the next guy, but which seemed enough for one day.

Friday we are hoping for greater public attendance, and will be significantly more careful when it comes time to check the weather.

Day 3:

It was another extreeeeeemely early start on Friday, this time because we had to figure a deal before the show started and that always takes about 3 times as long as we think it will.

But we got that done, raced over to the show and set up for what we hoped would be a better crowd (but frankly knew that it would be about the same as Thursday).  And it was, with perhaps 30 or 40 people entering the show when it opened at 10 AM, and sort of Long Beach level traffic for most of the rest of the day.

Having said that, we actually did do some decent business, buying some federal and esoteric pieces mostly from vest pocket dealers and show attendees, and selling a few more coins on a wholesale basis, including the 36-coin type set mentioned yesterday.

Dave also checked out the snack bar, returning to inform me that the hot dogs were so large that he found them (and I quote) “revolting” to the extent that they wiped out his appetite (which if you know Dave is no mean feat).  In disbelief, I checked later and, lo and behold, did agree with that sentiment (the fact that they were lined up under a heat lamp and appeared to have been there since early April did not help).

But then it was back to coins, with a few more sales of the small to medium variety.

We did also consider buying a few more expensive colonials, including some pretty nice Massachusetts silver, a choice Nova Constellatio and a rare American Plantation Token variety, but ultimately we could not get together with the sellers on price.  Those might not be quite dead yet, and we may ponder them some more on Saturday if they are still available.

By the end of the day we were in serious auction mode, chasing a few things for inventory, and for customers, and then heading out to dinner at the same restaurant as the night before.

Saturday we expect a slightly larger crowd which will most likely include more families (as is usually the case on the weekends at any show), a large number of empty dealers tables (since some of the guys were heading out last night), and hope for some decent activity before we ourselves pack up and head out in the evening.

Our final report on this show will be posted from the comfort of my home on Sunday morning, and will not, I hope, include any stories about giant hot dogs, lost luggage or screaming babies on the flight.

Day 4:

With Saturday came the largest crowd of the week, which should not be interpreted as me saying that there was a large crowd.  There wasn’t.  But there were more people milling about than on the earlier days and with them more activity at the table, which is a good thing.

I would also add that nearly everyone we met was extremely friendly and unbelievably polite, which made being here in Nashville a real pleasure.

And, on top of that, we actually managed to buy and sell some numismatic items!

But while that was terrific, non-terrific things also happened, such as during a trip to the men’s room, where I was shocked to discover a shattered coin slab in a urinal, a sight for which I could imagine only two logical explanations:

  1. A collector expressing his displeasure with a grade just received, or
  2. A coin doctor experimenting with some sort of new technique

The person responsible was, however, long gone, and so we may never know the actual story behind this deeply disturbing scene.

Back on the bourse floor things were going just fine though, with our last sale at about 2 PM, and our last purchase a few minutes after that of some cool commems and early copper.

As the day went on the crowd thinned out further, and the number of empty dealer tables started to take over the room until CRO too finally succumbed, heading to the airport around 3:30 for a reflective early dinner, and then a relaxing period at the gate which turned into absolute chaos when my flight was cancelled and, unbeknownst to me, rebooked on a different airline which I would soon learn was departing immediately at what had to have been the furthest possible gate on the other side of the airport.

So I took off like a shot, making it just in time to ask the counter staff where the heck my luggage was likely to end up just as I heard a crackling sound on her walkie-talkie and a voice from operations asking if they should put my bag on this flight.  “Wow – that was easy“, I said to myself.

And so while most people (including your author) do nothing but complain about airlines, airports and flying, I have to say that this was extremely well handled, and allowed me to get home, luggage in hand, an hour and a half earlier than originally scheduled.

As for the show itself, it turned out to be actually decent, with enough sales (admittedly of a wholesale nature, but still welcome) to justify coming back here again (if Whitman decides to return), and some cool NEWPs to add to our next EB list this Tuesday.

And you really can’t ask for much more than that.

With that, we close the book on the Nashville Expo, 2010, and look forward to our next event:  The Long Beach Expo, from which our next RR will be posted in a little more than a week.

In the meantime, and starting immediately, I will be officially off-duty for the next 22 hours.