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Back to Road Report Archive 2007

May 26-June 2, 2007: The Long Beach Coin & Currency Expo

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Day 1:

It was travel day today, as I woke up at a tidy 3:45 AM, packed heroically (i.e. threw everything into a suitcase indiscriminately), jumped in a cab for the airport and, eventually, boarded my 6 hour and 20 minute JetBlue flight to Long Beach.

And it certainly was a pleasure.

The good news is that I got to watch TV on the flight the entire time, which is better than doing the impossible Sudokus they usually put in the inflight magazines on the other airlines. Seriously, I really don’t believe some of those can be solved.

Anyway, I landed in Long Beach to 70 degree temperatures and a ‘marine layer’ (I’ve always liked the way that sounds) and grabbed another cab to Beverly Hills.

Got there, checked in, was pleased to discover that my card key actually worked in my door (which is seldom the case at this hotel) ditched my luggage in the room, and was off to Goldberg’s for some concentrated viewing of the 7,000+ items to be sold over the next several days.

I don’t know about you, but to me that’s an impressive number of anything.

Three short hours later, it was time to run across the street to Superior for viewing of their smallish sale.

On the way, I finally caught up with Dave, who had flown on a different airline and had then viewed the coins in the opposite auction-house order. Later we compared notes and offered our opinions on the various coins over an extremely mediocre dinner at the restaurant in Goldberg’s building.

That was about it.

After dinner I went back to the room and collapsed.

Sunday brings three separate auction sessions – two at Superior and one at Goldberg’s – as the whirlwind which is the Long Beach Expo and Surrounding Auctions continues.

More later.

Day 2:

After a quick breakfast in the ‘Club Lounge’ (basically just another hotel room which had been converted into a tiny restaurant on the 12th floor), we walked down the block to Superior for some last minute re-reviewing of the coins in their first session scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM.

But since the catalog was lean, we decided to look at every coin in all three sessions again and, surprisingly, actually identified a half a dozen pieces we liked enough to bid on. And with two of those in session one, we stuck around, bid on them, and won one.

Batting .500 – so far, so good.

Then it was back across the street to Goldberg’s to re-review the lots that we had identified as high interest the day before. That took an hour or so, at which point it was time to return to Superior to bid on two coins we liked in their second session beginning at 1:00 PM.

And so we did, we bid, and we won both.

Hey, this is easy!

By that point it was about 3:30 PM, which gave us some time to kill before Goldberg’s 5:00 PM start of their session one (conveniently, Superior and Goldberg coordinate their respective auction schedules so that no two sessions overlap), so it was back to the hotel, then back to Goldberg’s where the auction was being conducted in the small, L shaped lot viewing room. Not quite sure why that was the case, as usually Goldberg’s sessions are in a spacious ballroom at the Crown Plaza Hotel, but whatever.

In cramped quarters, we tepidly sat through a few hundred lots, bid once with our heart not in it and lost, then bought one el-cheapo coin for $55. Try as we might, we just didn’t like the colonials in this group well enough to try hard to buy more. Too bad, really – we’d have been motivated buyers for the right stuff.

Anyway, we left two bids on esoteric pieces at the tail end of the session and walked back up the street to the Japanese restaurant for dinner.

In conclusion, these days in Beverly Hills can be summarized as follows:

1. Walk all over the place.
2. View a gazillion coins.
3. Like about 1% of them.
4. Bid on those.
5. Win a few.
6. Eat well.
7. Collapse.

And we look forward to doing it again tomorrow.

Day 3:

It’s an unmistakable sound.

An 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper being folded clumsily and shoved under a hotel room door.

And under normal circumstances, it might even go unnoticed. But if it’s at 3:45 AM, and it wakes you up, that’s inconvenient. And when you discover that it is a message intended for a guest in a different room (who is not you at all) that’s annoying.

But, now that I was awake, it was an opportunity to write a blog, study my catalogs once more and get set for what figured to be a fairly active Monday.

So I did.

And then some 3 hours later it was time to meet Dave in the tiny lounge for a last minute re-review and strategy session, and then head down to the 2nd floor for the start of Goldberg’s 9 AM session.

Remember yesterday when I said that Goldberg and Superior staggered their auctions to avoid schedule conflicts? Turns out that’s only partially true this week.

And so I would leave Dave in the Goldberg session, walk down the street to Superior and bid in their abbreviated 10 AM World Coin session. I bought one coin, then headed back up to Goldberg’s to find out what Dave bought. Something cool was the answer.

Then we would both head back down to Superior for their 1 PM session of dollars through gold, while the Goldberg’s would simultaneously be auctioning ancient coins (which is an area in which we do not participate, and therefore a session we could skip).

But for the sessions we did attend, bidding interest seemed pretty high. So did prices. Even though most of the coins weren’t that great.

What was great was the lunch provided by Superior. It was a buffet spread provided by a company called Slice of Heaven who did not ask me for a plug here in the blog, but is getting one because they were awesome. Seriously, if you need any catering done in the LA area, call Holli.

Then we headed back up to Goldberg’s for their mega evening session of dollars through gold.

In all, through the multiple sessions, we bought a dozen or so carefully chosen coins that we liked and that we thought offered good value out of the thousands offered.

Tuesday is world coin day at Goldberg’s and we’ll be there for the duration, trying to buy just a handful of coins.

And you can read about how successful we are in tomorrow’s Road Report.

Day 4:

One thing was different about Tuesday.

With Superior’s auction sessions now concluded, we only attended Goldberg’s sessions. And with both of those in our hotel, there was no need to hoof it all over Beverly Hills with 40 pounds of coin catalogs in tow.

That was good.

Today Goldberg’s brought us the world, starting with the World Crowns and Minors (i.e. copper and silver coins) starting at 9 AM.

For those that don’t know, these world sessions are conducted in alphabetical order by country, which means that if you are focused on European coins, for example, you will be sitting there for hours from Austria through Switzerland – with hundreds if not thousands of lots of no interest to you in between. Which can make for a very, very long day.

Sure, you can step out of the room and possibly write a blog between your lots, but the pace of the auction is unpredictable and it’s hard to know exactly when your lots will go off. As a result, we usually end up sitting there for the duration and trying to use the time to learn about other areas (and eat all the free food). Seriously, we carefully tracked prices and, more importantly, who was bidding.

Anyway, we had identified just a handful of coins that we liked enough to bid on in this session and ended up buying all of them.

Session one sort of morphed into session 2 (World Gold Coins) at about 3 PM, and then continued with a brief break or two until late in the evening.

There was a grand total of one coin we liked in the gold session, and after sitting there for literally 5 hours waiting for it, it went stronger than we thought it was worth and we exercised some restraint (which was not easy after waiting that long) and let it go to someone else.

That’s an interesting point and a valuable lesson. Sometimes the ‘What the heck, we’re here and we may as well buy it’ mentality can take over and it’s easy to pay too much for a coin. We were pleased that we didn’t do that.

And after all that, it was back to the Japanese restaurant for one last meal before we would head down to Long Beach in the morning.

Our next Road Report will be (finally) from the show itself.

Day 5:

Wednesday marked an important milestone (of sorts) in our 8-day trip to sunny southern California.

After 7 auction sessions, 2 Japanese dinners, 3 horrific nights of sleep and 42 hikes up and down Beverly Hills streets carrying several thick auction catalogs, today we actually made it to the Long Beach Show itself.

But not right away.

First we had to pack up and check-out of our hotel up north, retrieve our bags from storage, hail a cab for the hour or so ride to Long Beach, redeposit our bags in the security room at the Convention Center, view several thousand Heritage US and World coin lots, replace (another) lost ID badge and then get set for the mass migration of dealers from the door to their respective tables at precisely 2 PM.

Which we did.

After getting situated at our usual table 535, it was time to scour the floor for new and interesting material from likely and unlikely sources.

Typically in these situations we find a half-dozen or so coins that we like, but today we bought just 2 things.

On a more positive note, we sold about 10 coins and notes, including one of the 2 things we had purchased minutes earlier. That’s kind of cool when that happens, though Dave and I buy things because we think our clients will like them, they’ll make a nice addition to our website, they’ll tell an interesting story, etc. We don’t buy coins specifically to flip to other dealers and make a fast profit, but if an opportunity knocks, we answer.

We kept at it until 7 PM, then cabbed it to our hotel to check-in, then walked to dinner with a number of dealer friends at the Madison. For those interested, I had the tomato Gorgonzola salad and the blackened New York strip. It was good.

We hung out there until 10 PM or so, then back to the hotel where I began typing this Road Report.

Tomorrow the public enters the fray, and we look forward to seeing a lot of our California clients out in force.

Until then –

Day 6:

It seemed calm as I walked to the convention center on Thursday AM, but it was anything but when I got there.

We had a very, very active day today, buying one 6-figure deal from a collector friend, a second smaller deal, 15 additional coins and notes of all different shapes, sizes and price points from various collector and dealer sources and then selling a bunch of them within a matter of hours.

We also picked up our new purchases from Superior and Goldberg’s at midday and immediately sold a couple of those too.

Then we inched closer to finalizing the sale of a mega-rarity that is not at the show with us, meaning that the entire week is now shaping up as what we numismatists call ‘Grande’.

But business aside, Thursday was also a great day for us to see a lot of friends and clients from out here on the left coast, including an extremely fancy hot dog lunch with one collector and an impromptu show and tell with another.  You just can’t beat that.

After running at a fever pitch all day, it was back to the Madison for dinner with another group of dealers, followed by another late-night blog session here in the room.

Phew.

Based on what we’ve seen so far, we’re expecting a wild Friday.

Plus we expect to get a lot of our coins back from grading, and there is some pretty cool stuff in there that we think people are going to like.

If you are in the neighborhood, it will be worth your time to stop by –

Day 7:

Sometimes it’s better to wait, such as in this case:

Several days ago at Goldberg we considered bidding on a coin in their auction. It’s a rare item and a type we had been looking to buy for a while, but the coin was just too white, too ‘NCS’ed’ looking and not choice enough, and so Dave and I decided to pass rather than compromise.

But we did wonder if that had been a mistake. Until Friday, when a stunningly better example walked up to the table.

And this time we did not pass.

We have an opportunity to buy thousands upon thousands of coins – in auctions, in private transactions, etc., but we reject the overwhelming majority. Frankly, we sometimes question whether we are being too harsh, but based on little experiences like that one on Friday, we don’t think so.

The best pieces are out there and we aim to find them.

And that’s not the only thing we found on Friday.

We had another good day at the show, buying a number of new coins of all types.  It’s amazing – after many LB shows in which we found very little to buy, this week has turned into some sort of bonanza of high quality pieces.

And we also sold coins at a pretty good clip – including more of our new auctions purchases from Beverly Hills long before they could make it to our website. Among them was a wildly toned Washington Quarter that would have photographed like a son of a gun – but we will leave that to the new owner.

Saturday we’ll be cleaning up some loose ends, picking up checks from other dealers and heading on home – but not before we scour the floor one last time looking for a last minute deal (or two).

We’ll close the book on the May / June 2007 Long Beach Expo in our next Road Report.

Epilogue

I’m pleased to report that I’m back in New England as I type this final chapter of our Long Beach saga, having taken the red-eye, crossed the country and slept a good, solid 14 minutes since leaving the show.

Delightful.

Saturday proved to be another surprisingly good day, representing 20% or so of our total sales for the week despite the fact that we shipped our inventory home before 1 PM. That’s not half bad for half a day.

Dave caught an earlier flight, leaving me to walk the floor in the afternoon and, consistent with CRO corporate policy, ‘buy whatever I want on the company account’. And believe me, I tried. But despite my best efforts, my only purchase was a hardbound copy of the Siegfried Von Schuckmann catalog of Latin American Colonial 8 Reales. You have no idea how excited I was to find that.

Saturday was also notable for an incident at about 3 PM where some guy was caught stealing coins from Coleman Foster’s table. After a bit of shouting and some assistance from other dealers, security nabbed the guy, found stolen coins on him (and not just from Foster) and, according to the PA announcement made later, had him arrested. Hopefully, they’ll throw the book at him (but not my new, hardbound Von Schuckmann).

That’s it.

In summary, I would say that the show was significantly better than we expected and that this was a sentiment I heard from most dealers.

Our next stop will be the Mid America show in Chicago in a few weeks, where we’d be delighted to have exactly the same result (except for the part about the thief).

Finito.

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