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Back to Road Report Archive 2011

May 31-June 4, 2011: The Long Beach Coin & Currency Expo

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We’ll be doing a truncated version of the LB show this time, which is to say that we will be here for every waking moment of it, but not here for the preceding Goldberg auction in Beverly Hills which has, by this time, already taken place (which explains why we did not write anything about that).

Actually, we would have attended that too had there been more auction material in our area of interest, but after perusing the online catalogs we opted to skip it.  Still, even though we made that decision with our eyes wide open, I usually regret it, since I feel like we are missing out on some potential opportunities, and frankly I just like going there.

It is my sincere hope, therefore, that we can channel this regret into some especially successful coin dealering activity here in LB, starting first thing Wednesday AM for lot viewing, through dealer set-up in the afternoon and continuing until late Saturday before we head on home.

(Almost) every minute detail of which will be posted right here every morning, though, as always, readers are reminded that given the time difference, that might not be until 9 AM or so EDT each day, and so I am hopeful that I will not be flooded with irate (though sometimes very creative) emails asking where the heck it is.

More later.

June 1st:  Day 1

Yesterday I mentioned my intention to start first thing Wednesday morning, and that’s what I did, arriving at the Heritage lot viewing room early, before it got crowded, and thus allowing me to secure all of the boxes I needed in the sequence I needed them in (which is atypical, since we are usually lot viewing in a jam packed room, having to fight with the other collectors and dealers for the stuff we want to see, and having to look at whatever is available in no particular order, jumping from colonials to commemoratives to gold and then back again, which I personally find disconcerting).

But just as I was getting into a good coin viewing rhythm, I was disrupted by another dealer who walked in, sat down near me and then proceeded to have a loud 15 minute call on his cell phone which was of course set on speaker phone (seriously).  Which meant that all of us in the room got to hear not just the caller, but also some lady on the other end giving long, complicated directions to some meeting.  Which was very annoying, but still better than the amateurish flirting at the end of the call which caused all of us in the room to roll our eyes in unison.

This was followed by about 5 minutes of peace and quiet interrupted by a second call, also set on speaker until I asked the guy (who I know well, by the way) to cut it out.  Maybe I should have done that sooner, since it worked.

And after that, there were no additional phone interruptions, and I was able to focus on the auction offerings, which I would characterize as “lean”, without much in the way of really sexy or interesting coins, at least in our areas of primary interest.  And I believe I am not the only one who felt that way, as the aforementioned speaker phone caller mentioned to me that this sale, and the preceding Goldberg’s session, and the Bonham’s auction before that were about the ‘slimmest pickin’s’ he can remember.  Why is that?  I’m not really sure, other than to say a lot of cool stuff must be in strong hands at this time.

I did manage to circle about 3 dozen coins for us though, including a few abjectly original type coins that I am sure everyone else identified too.  Which is a problem in sales like this, where it is likely that a lot of us will be focusing on the same few items and they are all but assured to sell for even stronger prices than they might otherwise.

Anyway, I finished viewing at just about the time Dave arrived from the hotel where he had been sorting new inventory, and then we walked across the street for lunch with a dealer friend at a local restaurant at which time we were all surprised to see that, apparently by some new California law, restaurant menus must now show the number of calories present in every item in large bold face type right in your face.  So, for example, the person ordering a side of cheese fries can see that they are making the conscious (and no doubt delicious) decision to ingest 1,935 calories in a single sitting (which I believe is more than enough to power a small city for several hours).  And while that seemed excessive to me, so was pretty much everything else on the menu, which I am positive has not helped business very much at this fine establishment.  For the record, I had a salad, half portion, which still clocked in at a robust 590.

After which it was time to head back, pick up our stuff from security and then meander slowly toward the show entrance for the 2 PM start of dealer set-up.

Which we did right on schedule, quickly securing our delightful corner table location, putting out the gazillion coins we have with us, making sure everything was priced, and then exploding onto the bourse floor to assess the scene.

First observation:  Lots of empty tables here, which are either actual empty tables, or temporarily empty tables belonging to people who had just not shown up yet.

Second observation:  We did find some cool world and esoteric material here, as is often the case at this show, and then bought all of them before someone else could.

Third observation:  The place was pretty dead, with no buzz in the air.  At least until 4:30 or so, when the show organizers announced that there was free beer and Mexican food for everyone (and, best of all, the calories therein were not posted anywhere).

Somewhere along the way we managed to sell a few commems, 2 colonials and one expensive gold coin which was a decent result from our perspective.

And then we went to dinner up the street with a dealer friend and called it an early evening.

Thursday should be better, I think, with the arrival of the public, some of those empty tables occupied and with them, presumably, a better selection of coins to buy, followed by the start of the Heritage auction at 6 PM.

All of which will be described right here in just about 24 hours from now.

June 2nd:  Day 2

The show would open to dealers at 8 AM on Thursday, and so you can imagine my surprise when I arrived at precisely 8:03 and discovered that Dave was already there (since I generally get there first and then watch as he strolls in much, much later looking extremely well rested).

So we set up the table (i.e. took the chairs off it), and then dived in to the process of preparing a bunch of submissions for grading, checking the status of our target Heritage lots and then eventually walking around the floor 50 times after most of the other dealers were set up and open for business.

We did not find terribly much to buy at that time though – adding just a couple of coins in the not-very-expensive category until we came across a rare, raw colonial which looked sufficiently familiar to me that I ran back to the hotel (leaving just as the public was pouring in to the show) to check my colonial census files (which includes scanned catalog pages of just about every significant colonial item), confirmed what I thought, printed out one page, ran back and then submitted it with the coin to PCGS with great anticipation.

By the time I got done doing that, I looked up and noticed that it was actually really busy on the floor, with a good crowd milling about, including some familiar faces (a few of which I had seen just a couple of weeks ago at EAC) at our table, one of whom greeted me with the always pleasing “You look tired!“, and another who told me I looked (and I quote) “disheveled”.  So that was nice.

It did not, however, prevent us from selling them and others a bunch of coins, doling out CRO hats, discussing some other deals and generally engaging in more commercial activity than we might have expected at this show.

By late afternoon, we had managed to find some very cool new material which will be appearing in upcoming EB’s, and one fabulous item which had CRO ad written all over it.  In fact, the seller, in an excellent display of full service coin dealering, even provided the ad caption, which was extremely clever, and which we will use (with full credit to the author, of course).  As an aside, if you have something neat which should appear in one of our ads, let us know – we are always on the lookout for choice, unusual and interesting material and frankly we need your help finding it.

And then things got very hectic at the end of the day, as we did some last minute auction prep, packed up everything and sprinted up to the auction room only to discover that the door was locked, and that we were an hour early.  Which gave us time to drop our bags at the hotel, return leisurely-like and bid in the session on a few select items (though not at all on one coin we had planned to bid on when we first saw it in the catalog, but hated once we saw it in hand), buying two things before we headed out to dinner with some dealer friends.

Friday should be good too, with, I hope, a bunch of our coins coming back from grading, and the possibility of consummating some or all of the pretty big deals that are ‘in play’.

June 3rd:  Day 3

OK, I’m not saying that Friday at Long Beach was fantastic or something (because it wasn’t), but despite what seemed to us to be generally light attendance, the buying and selling here wasn’t too bad.

Importantly, we added to our list of neat NEWPs, with some genuinely cool new colonials from multiple sources, a fabulously original, old-holdered Wreath Cent, some lovely and just as original silver type, old gold, our usual haul of eye-appealing esoteric items of all kinds and a 5-piece modern(!) set the likes of which we have never, ever seen before.  Ever.

And we did OK on the sales side too, which can perhaps best be measured in the number of hats we have now given out here, which is most of the ones we brought (and we brought a lot).  And, as is sometimes the case, we ended up selling some of the brand new stuff we just bought since we got here, suggesting that people like things that are brand new (even when the new stuff is 309 years-old), and despite the fact that we never segregate or identify the new coins in our display (or on the site for that matter).  But people still seem to find them anyway.

But while the buying and selling here was pretty decent, the grading has been a bear from our perspective, with a lot of things coming back in what I honestly believe is the lowest holder possible, and others coming back even lower than that.  One could infer, therefore, that a lot of these coins must look pretty choice for their new grades, and I think that is the case.

We also got closer (we think) to finalizing some bigger deals, one or more of which might happen as early as tomorrow.  Or they might never happen at all, but we prefer to be optimistic about these things.

Somewhere along the way we did some on-site photography so that we would be ready to roll with our all-important next ad, saw some drop dead gorgeous show and tell items that a local collector friend brought with him, hob-knobbed (briefly) with industry big wigs, cherry-picked what I thought was a great rarity that turned out not to be one, and then had some guy come to the table, grouse about absolutely everything, explain that the problem with young people today is that they don’t do enough research and then proceed to tell me all that is wrong with the state of California in a 15 minute tirade that included hardly any pauses for him to breathe, or for me to escape.  Thankfully, he then accidentally mentioned some foreign coins of a type we do not carry, so I was thrilled to have an opportunity to point him toward another dealer’s table who had some on display, where I then saw him sitting, almost certainly complaining about something while frantically waiving his arms, for the next hour or more.  Good riddance.

But this sort of frustrating / annoying experience is hardly typical, and on balance we had a good time commercially, socially and, finally, epicureally, as we finished our day at Gladstone’s on the water where the Mahi-Mahi is sublime.

Saturday will be long, as we check out of the hotel, work all day and then fly home very late having, at that point, we hope, finalized a bunch of great deals at the show and possibly solved all of the problems facing young people and the state of California (since I now know exactly what they are and how to fix them).

Whatever happens, it will be described right here on Sunday in an epic RR that will be written as soon as I wake up after taking the red-eye home, on my couch, with my dog attacking me.

Until then –

June 4th:  The Exciting Conclusion

Saturday started very much according to plan, as I updated the website, answered email, spoke to a few east coast customers by phone, packed up and headed down to the lobby to check out of the hotel right on time, a schedule which was then immediately derailed by the big crowd of people (including several other dealers) waiting in line at the front desk all being helped by one very slow clerk.

But eventually I inched my way forward to the counter, checked out, had the accidental duplicate charge of “The Adjustment Bureau” removed from my bill (one of the worst movies I can ever recall seeing, by the way) and then turned to walk over to the convention center when I noticed a prominent dealer wheeling his hard-sided coin case on which was written something like “Medical Laboratories Inc.” in an apparent attempt to throw any would-be coin thieves off the scent.

Which then had me wondering if there was anything better you could write on a coin case in order to make it even less likely that someone would want to steal it.  The best I could come up with was ‘University of Manitoba Department of Fungal Diseases”, or “This case contains 12 dozen DVD copies of The Adjustment Bureau”, though I am sure I could have thought of something better if I had more time.

Anyway, I continued on to the convention center arriving just in time to have to wait by the entrance in a big, loud, cramped crowd, proving that no matter how hard you try, or how early or late you arrive, you apparently cannot avoid this (even if you are a tenured Professor at the University of Manitoba).

Once inside, we made a list of everything we needed to accomplish before Dave would be hitting the road at midday, while I would then clean up all remaining loose ends since I would be here for the duration.

So there we were packing up boxes, picking up a few checks, finalizing our last round of Heritage bids, picking up the last of our straggling grading submissions (many of which worked out considerably better than the ones I lamented earlier in the show), shooting some last second photos on site, and then heading over to the post office to mail some Express Mail packages to customers.

Unfortunately, I arrived at the USPS booth just in time to get in line behind a representative from Heritage who was in the process of mailing out all of their sold auction lots to the winning bidders, with perhaps 175 Express Mail boxes still piled high (actually very, very high) on a giant wheeled cart.  “Hmmm”, I though to myself.  Quickly calculating the number of boxes they had left, and the time it was taking the clerk at the counter to do each one, I determined that it would be my turn in just under 133 hours.  On the other hand, if I left and went back to our table, some other high volume shipper (like one of the grading services, for example) might show up with their cart stacked with boxes too, preventing me from getting our boxes mailed at all (an unacceptable outcome, of course).

But just as I was trying to figure out what to do next, the clerk told me that they would do 10 Heritage boxes, then serve another customer, then 10 more from HA, then another customer etc., thus solving my dilemma in a thoroughly logical way that multiple years of experience has taught me to never expect at an on-site coin show Post Office, and causing me to have to kill just 30 minutes waiting.

Once done, I was back to our table, saw Dave off, and then tried to actually conduct some commercial activity, though frankly that seemed increasingly unlikely in a room that was quickly emptying of both dealers and attendees.

But I did have my chances to buy some pretty cool stuff, including some really wild tokens that I seriously considered but I just couldn’t get myself to pull the trigger on.  And then just a few minutes later a spectacular and expensive colonial, which I am still pondering right now.

I can’t say for sure, but it is still possible that both deals will end up getting done this week.

By while the buy side at least had some activity, and some cause for optimism, there was truly nothing doing on the sell side.  Just a few tire kickers, and the requisite people who always seem to show up on Saturday at Long Beach looking for Pillar Dollars, but who invariably (and maddeningly) say “Oh, that is out of my price range” no matter what I show them, in any grade, and at any cost.  Next time I am tempted to bring some very low end damaged ones that I can keep in the back case and offer for extremely low prices when the time comes just to test these people.

Anyway, the show would eventually end at 4 PM, after which a few of us remaining dealers packed up, walked over to the Hyatt for dinner and then headed off to catch our various flights leaving from LAX or LBO.

At which time we officially closed the book on the June 2011 LB show.  In total, I would say it was a B- or C+, with just enough activity to justify making the trip, and enough cool stuff to help keep the next Early Bird in fine form.

Speaking of which, we will be hard at work on the EB come Monday, then prepping for the Baltimore show, which, for us, will begin as soon as one week from Tuesday (and which will, of course, be described right here in the RR in suitably vivid detail).

The End