November 12-16, 2019: The Whitman Baltimore Expo
November 12: Day 1
Team CRO was, as usual, up and out early for the quick trip to Baltimore on Tuesday morning, endured a terribly turbulent and uncomfortable ride through some nasty Atlantic Seaboard weather, landed gratefully at 10:30, figuratively kissed the ground, discovered it was just as cold here as in Boston, grabbed our bags, and jumped into a standard issue Baltimore cab (i.e. one that had no shock absorbers. None).
Where our driver told us a charming tale of learning to cook as a child with his grandmother, and then suddenly flipped into an unrelated story about a truck driver who was beheaded in an accident. About which we had two reactions:
- Wow – we did not see that segue coming
- Next time maybe just play the radio
Finally arriving at our hotel where we were delighted to find our room was available right then.
So we dumped everything off, had a quick lunch and then made our way over to the convention center to begin the immense task of poring through 6(!) Stack’s-Bowers catalogs of numismatic material (only because we skipped #7, the currency).
Which took many hours of careful looking and re-looking at coins which were in varying cases complicated, or raw, or covered with lacquer or containing hidden problems (or all of the above). Hey, not exactly for the faint of heart here. But we got through everything we had planned for this day, knowing we’d have time on Wednesday to revisit a few key pieces and explore lesser priority items.
So rather than kill ourselves with marathon viewing on Tuesday, we called it a day at a civilized hour, went back to the hotel to unwind, had an excellent dinner at the Kona Grill with some dealer friends and then returned early enough for some solid customer calling, Grade-A ad creation and, of course, blog writing (like this one, for example).
With our next installment of the RR to be posted here bright and early on Thursday AM containing updates on everything that happens, including our wholesale activities and our auction successes and/or failures in session #1.
November 13: Day 2
After a deep rejuvenating sleep your author exploded out of bed on Wednesday morning, worked like a madman and/or beaver, answered email, updated auction info, hit the gym, zipped down to breakfast and was back over at the convention center at 9 for a second look at many target auction lots.
But the numismatic activity started just before that (on the escalator to be specific) when another dealer shouted “Hey, I have something for you”. And while not everything in that encouraging category actually turns out to be a CRO item, this one did and we made a deal for it right then and there.
After which I entered the aforementioned viewing room, got my same seat as yesterday and proceeded to re-look at all of the E Pluribus Unum Collection New Jersey coppers, many of the Connecticut Coppers, Washingtonia, tokens and medals and assorted U.S. coins. In nearly every case confirming what I thought on Tuesday, but also adding a few more target coins to my various lists for inventory and customer representation.
Working with such single mindedness that I flat forgot to eat lunch until about 2:30, at which time I walked back to our hotel, ate, made a few calls, sent a bunch of emails and then headed back to the convention center to meet with another dealer and pore through 12 more boxes of coins.
So after that I was completely spent and went to the bar is something that I cannot say, since the 1st Stack’s-Bowers auction session kicked off at 5 PM with your author in attendance. Where I bought 4 coins for customers and a bunch for inventory in and around many other medals and tokens about which I knew very little but which seemed to be getting a lot of attention in the room and online.
And then left to meet a customer for an excellent dinner, finished up about 9:30, went back to the room and spent about an hour and a half summarizing auction lots for another customer before calling it a night in anticipation of an even busier and more active Thursday with dealer set up, the first day of the show and several more auction sessions mixed in.
With all of that beginning bright and early, so we’ll need to stop doing this and get ready to head over there post haste. EOMSo you might want to keep an eye out for that –
November 14: Day 3
This was our thought process on Thursday:
The show would open to dealers at 8 AM, but we needed to get our badges first and thought there may be a long queue, so best we try to get there at 7:30. Which meant we had to be back from the gym by 7. Giving us until about 6:15 to finish entering auction lot info that would take a half hour or so. Meaning we had to set the alarm for 5 so we’d have time to write the blog first. And that’s pretty much how it all went down, allowing us to calmly walk through the bourse floor doors just as they opened, proceed to our usual table 442 and set up with our usual quick efficiency.
Which was good, since it was busy pretty much right away. Starting with the sale of a cool world coin just acquired by us at our local show, then a couple of US coins. Followed by some cool purchases of neat old gold, a totally CRO Draped Bust Dollar and a neatly toned Capped Bust Half.
All of which turned out to be a mere appetizer for a larger deal to follow, namely a group of tokens and medals offered to us by an unlikely source, which took a while to figure. And then re-figure. Finally culminating with the purchase of arguably the coolest items in it.
In and around which made our standard circuits of the bourse floor, saw a lot of cool things, bought some, considered others and generally tried to find as many neat coins for our next Early Bird as we possible could. Efforts complicated to some degree by the fact that the Stack’s-Bowers auction session #2 was running concurrently, forcing us to enter all those bids in advance and pretty much let the chips fall where they may. Fortunately many of them fell about right, augmenting our Thursday NEWP collection in a way we didn’t fully realize until we checked online later.
Then figuring some late bids for the 5 PM session #3 of medals, and then Rarities Night session #4, entering those and then monitoring that activity on Stack’s-Bowers excellent app while at a delicious Afghan dinner with some dealer friends at The Helmand. Where conversation topics ranged from electric bicycles to the future of Brexit to another dealer’s near-death experience (very near, it turned out) when he literally attempted to walk on thin ice. The moral of that story: Walk around (not over) the pond next time.
Finishing up about 10, heading back to the hotel and then diving back into auction lot prep for 3 hours to be ready for the many sessions on Friday which will be running most of the day during the show and then after, almost certainly late, late into the evening.
Wow. That sounds exhausting, but it should be highly entertaining and provide rich blog fodder for our next installment of the RR to be posted right here on Saturday AM.
Until then, then –
November 15: Day 4
Looking forward to Friday with great anticipation (for the show activities and high drama auctions to come) and dread (since it was shaping up to be an epically looooong, exhausting, multi-tasking day), your author fueled up by eating the now rock hard cold pizza leftover from Tuesday, washed it down with a mediocre coffee and raced to the convention center.
First order of business: Head to the 3rd floor to pick up our auction lot winnings from Thursday, which was something like 20 coins, and then back to the table to make sure we were good to go for auction session #6 starting crisply at 10 AM, followed by session #7 thereafter.
With that all running for hours smack dab in the middle of everything on a day in which we had a very steady stream of customers to the table looking to buy, sell and trade. So we met with them with one hand, while checking our bid status with the other in a process repeated dozens of times. Of course we could have just entered the bids and let them all fly like we have done in other past auctions, but here there were things we wanted, with hard to figure values and so we decided it was best to try to follow along, bid live on the computer and take advantage of good opportunities as we saw them.
Which worked sometimes quite well (like when we snagged something really good for well less than our max bid), but not so good at other times (like when someone came to the table to offer us a very cool coin just as another lot was selling at a number we definitely would have advanced had we been paying attention). With sometimes this effect further multiplied by other customers coming to the table while we met with the aforementioned customers, creating a queue at the table and suddenly rendering the auction third priority.
So we did the best we could to keep everyone happy, ultimately making some excellent sales, buying some great coins that walked up to the table and winning some neat auction lots which by any measure is a positive outcome. Less positive: Our grading results here which were thoroughly unsatisfying.
But late in the day we had to set all of that aside and focus on the auction session #8, the much anticipated New Jersey Coppers, which we would be attending live and in person like the old days, ready to do battle over what we figured would be some hotly contested coins.
And we were right, in a room that was full to capacity, with widespread bidding on coins that in many cases had been off the market since the 1950’s(!). Of course nothing gets people more excited than coins so fresh. Except possibly the opportunity to buy things that seldom if ever come to market, in condition census grades, with choice color and surfaces and with wonderful, historical provenances.
So CRO was fully ready, having viewed all of these coins multiple times, carefully planning our strategy and figuring our max numbers, ultimately bidding on 33 coins and winning 14.
And while some got away to numbers that we could not wrap our numismatic heads around, we were delighted to buy others for what we thought were reasonable prices, picking up some choice pieces with extreeeeemely desirable Maris, Garrett, Picker, William Sumner Appleton, Massachusetts Historical Society and Taylor provenances to name but an epic few.
Finishing up there earlier than anticipated at 10:30 PM after what had still been a more than long enough day. Certainly could have been worse though, as we feared this thing might run until 1 AM.
Allowing us time to get back to the room, write up some summaries for customers and do some final prep work for the Washingtonia auction which will start at 10 AM on Saturday and run, again, during show hours for what will be another opportunity to multi-task galore.
But at least we will be thoroughly practiced in doing so, and then prepared to write all about it in our final RR from this event to be posted from the comfort of home on Sunday AM.
November 16: Day 5
Now back home and mostly recovered from an action-packed week in Baltimore it is once again time for one our patented series of random observations presented in no particular order and starting right now:
We had about as much good stuff walk up to the table at this show as we’ve ever had, both from familiar and new sources, and we bought most every CRO-style coin that had a price that we could justify, from colonial to choice U.S. type, to neat world issues to medals and tokens.
In related news, for the first time we can recall at a coin show we wrote the absolutely perfect number of checks (i.e. we used all of the ones we brought with us and ended up with none remaining in the checkbook – and we brought a lot).
With the always busy bourse floor and a larger slate of Stack’s-Bowers auctions of interest to us than usual, we regret that we never had a chance to participate in other activities at the show, including the Colonial Coin Collectors Club reception and presentations.
We really did not like the look of those crab cakes under the heat lamps at the convention center snack bar.
One of the most entertaining things about a major auction like the New Jersey Coppers here is to compare notes with other bidders afterward, find out who bought what, and why, and do some show and telling. I have to say it was educational, but also reinforced what we thought going in.
On the auctions in general, it was also quite interesting to take a macro view at prices realized throughout the sessions. Since on a given day prices are subject to many factors, including of course the quality of the coins, but also other less obvious things:
The Sequence of the Lots
Some people may skip or hold back on an early lot that they like to focus on a later coin they want more. I know we did that a couple of times, not going to full-blown nuclear level early lest we wouldn’t have enough ammo to chase a later coin. Conversely, I know of a couple of cases of people who did hold back, then went way above their planned bid on a later coin just to avoid going home empty handed.
The Timing of the Sale vs Other Auctions
Similarly, some would-be Connecticut Copper bidders were also holding back a bit for the New Jersey auction to follow, with a lot of coins going for less than expected in that earlier session. Including some we would have wanted.
The Participation – or Lack Thereof – of a Few Bidders
In every sale it seems there are always some new people who show up, but also a few known collectors who for whatever reason don’t bid on a particular lot. Sometimes by accident if they simply missed a bid (of which I know of two examples in the NJ session), or planned if some would-be buyers just aren’t in the mode to bid right then – we know of more of that here than we’d seen at any auctions in recent memory.
With the end result being that, as is invariably the case, some nice things went too cheap, while other cool coins were hotly contested and carried to levels we never saw coming.
And though we did not get everything we wanted, it was a very successful and entertaining week for us in Baltimore with very few regrets (except that thing about the colonial presentations, and maybe that rock hard cold Pizza on Friday morning).
Now we’ll look forward to our next Early Bird, the timing of which will depend on our images. So watch our home page for the schedule which will be posted just as soon as we know it.