November 13-17, 2007: The Whitman Baltimore Expo
As promised, our first Road Report from the Baltimore Show (actually from the Stack’s auction) begins right now:
It was an early start to the day, as my primary and back-up alarm clocks both went off at 3:30 AM just before my wife’s emergency alarm clock (which I always have her set just in case the other two fail) went off like crazy, waking everyone in the entire house in a situation best described as ‘not a good situation’.
But at least I was awake, and ready to start packing in a frenzy for my 6:45 flight. Which I did, successfully.
A quick hour-long, bumpy, unpleasant flight to Baltimore later, I got to retrieve my bags in a cold rain storm, grab a cab and race straight to the Sheraton Hotel for lot viewing at Stack’s. Extremely relaxing.
It was 10:14 AM when I settled into the last remaining empty seat, giving me about two and a half hours to re-review the entire session (having seen it once in New Hampshire last week), finalize bids and be completely ready for Session I kicking off at 1:00 PM.
And it was an exciting session.
First off was a group of 251 colonials, including a large number of extremely mediocre and not very attractive coins:
Lot #10, a Maryland Lord Baltimore Sixpence in a very optimistically graded AU55 holder, weakly struck, bright white and with a massive (and not real attractive) planchet crack, sold for a Charmin-like (i.e. soft) $16,500.
Lot #123, a frankly hideous Bar Cent with “lunar” surfaces (that’s not good) in another PCGS AU55 holder sold for $16,100.
But there were a few nice pieces as well, and they went strong:
Lot #67, a 186 Vermont Landscape Copper in raw, original VF with a few flaws and some striking weakness brought a robust $7,188.
Lot #242, a very fresh and original (though spotted) Continental Dollar graded PCGS MS64 sold for $189,750 (much to the dismay of another well known dealer who entered the room right after it had already sold, realized they missed it and tried to buy it from the other dealer).
And then there was the requisite inexplicable result:
Lot #80, a 1788 Vermont Bust Right Ryder 20 variety in an NCS Fine Details holder seemingly hammered for a bizarre $5,500 (which by all accounts was about $5,250 more than I would have expected), but later was noted as not having met reserve. I have no idea what happened there.
And then it was on to 500-something lots of federal coins, starting logically with Half Cents and Cents, continuing neatly into Quarters and then degenerating into a morass of US Mint Errors, Hawaiian Coins, US Mint Sets and Rolls, and 19th Century Store-Card Tokens.
Overall quality was pretty good, with some pretty cool highlights:
Lot #301, an 1803 Draped Bust Large Cent in PCGS MS65 RB and looking pretty frickin’ good realized $60,375.
Lot #391, a fresh 1918/7-D Buffalo Nickel in PCGS MS64 brought $161,000 in spirited bidding.
We had just some scattered lots of interest in this session and ended up buying half a dozen or so that we thought were especially nice and represented reasonable value. Then we headed out into the hall for some impromptu coin dealering next to an escalator and in the midst of an ‘Under-Armour’ sales meeting featuring a large group of young, good-looking women (who I’m sure were impressed by us numismatists and the colonial coins spread out all over my briefcase).
Anyway, the Session I finished up about 4:30 PM, leaving time for a complimentary dinner break and then time to get back at it at about 6:30 PM for the start of Session II and the ‘Waccubuc Collection’ type set, followed by the ‘Cat Daddy’ Pattern Collection and assorted choice gold (and making for a very, very, very long day overall).
The evening session was far more active, with a much more crowded room, more phone bidders, more arguments and the look and feel of a full-blown ‘Platinum Night’ session. And the prices of a Platinum Night Session too:
Lot #1009, the 1793 Liberty Cap Cent of extremely mediocre quality in a PCGS VF20 holder realized $48,300 to a phone bidder. That’s about the same number it realized at Heritage when sold as part of the Troy Wiseman Collection in September of 2006.
Lot #1020, a 1909-S VDB Lincoln Cent in a PCGS MS65 RB holder and pedigreed to the Eliasberg Collection realized $7,475, which is about twice what the coin might have brought without the pedigree. We think.
Lot #1064, a lovely toned 1838 No Drapery Seated Quarter in a PCGS MS63 holder brought $9,200 to the usual suspects (who always seem to bid wildly for beautiful seated coins in every single auction). My advice: Consign nice Seated coins to sales these guys will be attending.
Lot #1167, an 1873 $20 Pattern in copper in a PCGS PF65 RB holder and considered to be Rarity-7+ brought $115,000 to a specialist in the room in competition with an extremely deliberate phone bidder (who seemingly went out for dinner and a movie whilst contemplating their bids).
In total, prices were high in the session and anything good, or rare, or interesting brought deluxe money – or at least it did up until the time that we left and headed back to our hotel for some power sleeping in anticipation of what figures to be a just-as-busy Wednesday,
We’ll be re-reviewing lots in the morning to get ready for the 1:00 PM Stack’s 3rd Session of non-Waccubuc Half Dollars through Dollars followed by the ‘Amherst Collection’ of Morgan Dollars, our first glimpse of Bowers and Merena’s auction, and hauling our bags over to the convention center in anticipation of Thursday’s dealer day.
I slept much later today, waking up at 6:00 AM, writing what I hope was an entertaining coin blog, having breakfast and zipping over to lot viewing at the Sheraton at a civilized 9:00 AM.
Dave and I arrived to a moderate crowd, spent a few hours viewing the Half Dollars through Dollars (including the impressive Amherst Collection) in Session III and finalizing our bids on the 10 or 12 pieces (out of 600 or so) that we liked well enough to try to buy.
Then it was down the hall for a quick lunch (during which I watched Dave eat a Cobb Salad while I enjoyed a cold glass of water), and then off to a private corner of the auction room where we went through our entire inventory. The goal was to prepare our PCGS submissions (since they were set up in the very next room) and it seemed like a great way to save an awful lot of time we would otherwise spend at the PCGS table during the show. Another nice benefit of doing so was that another dealer (who himself is ‘portly’) stopped by to remark that I had “gained a lot of weight”, and to dis one of our coins. So that was nice.
Anyway, we finished up with PCGS minutes before 1:00 PM, just in time for the first Stack’s lot to hammer down in a session which seemed quite different than yesterday’s.
I say ‘seemed’, because the room was far less full, there was little buzz in the air and the dealer next to me (none other than Harry Laibstain) remarked that there could be some good deals to be had with less competition around. But Harry was wrong.
Bidding was strong pretty much across the board, with lots of internet, book and phone activity throughout and with most of the lots we targeted going to crack-out dealers at more than we wanted to pay. If there is a more frustrating thing in numismatics, I’m not sure what it could be (except maybe standing in one of those interminable lines waiting for a show to open), but the reality is that the guy who intends to redo, repair, conserve and ruin a perfectly good coin, and THEN get it into a higher holder and stick it in a new auction can sometimes pay more than we can.
But not every time. We did land lot #2106, which was the prettiest Seated Half Dollar we’ve ever seen (and we’ve seen a lot) and which we didn’t think we’d possibly be able to acquire. But we did, which is a sure indication that sometimes the good guys are victorious.
One lot of particular interest to us was #2008, the Flowing Hair Half Dollar in PCGS AU58. It was of interest to us because we consigned it, and it sold for $34,500. That’s $1,000 more than we were asking for it on our site, proving once again that some people would simply rather pay more money at auction.
Anyway, we ended up buying a few cool things in the session before leaving for the Baltimore Convention Center and a few hours of lot viewing at Bowers & Merena.
Which ended just in time for dinner, at which time we met up with another dealer over at the Renaissance (or the Radisson, I can never remember which is which) which ended not 30 minutes ago – just in time for the writing of this Road Report to commence.
Tomorrow is dealer set-up day at the show, which means I need my rest and will be signing off at the end of this sentence.
Thursday is always exciting in Baltimore, as we finally get to enter the actual bourse floor and see 80 gazillion coins in dealer cases, all for sale. But not right away.
First we have to schlep our bags from the security room, arrange our cases, assemble and mount the lamps (always a highlight of any show for me), string extension cords all over the place, drink coffee, etc.
And lets not forget the CRO ritual “Hanging of the Banner”, in which Dave climbs onto a rickety table clearly not intended to support the weight of a coin dealer, leans precariously over, reaches as far as possible and attempts to delicately hang our enormous sign from a high, thin pipe without knocking over anything or injuring himself. And usually he does, by inches.
And then it’s time to walk the floor and see the coins that everyone brought, which sometimes yields great stuff that we buy instantly, more often results in us buying a few interesting things, but every once in a while has us wandering aimlessly through unfamiliar aisles looking at more and more obscure and marginal items. Which unfortunately is sort of what we did today.
We did ultimately find a few coins from a few different sources which seemed like good buys, but nothing earth-shattering took place.
Later in the morning we did pick up our Stack’s auction purchases, examined them up close under our own lights and felt pretty good (actually ecstatic) about what we bought. Neat!
We also retrieved our early bird grades from PCGS and we were uniformly hammered on some really choice stuff. And lest you think this is merely sour grapes, come by our table and we’ll show you the coins in their shiny new holders and you can make your own assessment. Hey, you might disagree with us (but we doubt it).
We also made a few sales here and there, but again nothing terribly significant in what was a fairly subdued set-up day overall.
And that was the story until 6:00 PM, when it was time for us to roll into the Bowers & Merena aution in their new room on the ground floor. Interestingly, it was set up with the requisite auctioneer podium, rows of chairs, a standard coin auction buffet, but also with a giant table and chairs in the back of the room much like what you would expect to see in a university library (where I parked myself for most of the evening, even bidding from an arm chair).
But while the room was cool, the auction was slim pickings for us. We found a grand total of three (3) things we wanted to bid on in Session I and bought them all. And since the lots were about 45 minutes apart, I had ample time to shoot the bull with Rich Uhrich, who was seated with me at the big table, but inexplicably positioned with his back to the auctioneer throughout the evening (but which I am positive he will explain in the show recap on his own website). I also had plenty of time to write our next CoinWorld ad, and it is a hoot.
And now I’m back here in my hotel room writing this blog while watching the Oregon-Arizona game and, hopefully, getting some sleep.
Tomorrow the public arrives, and I intend to to be ready for them.
Friday at the show started a little bit slow, then accelerated a little bit like that guy on those old, 1960’s era black and white rocket sled G-force test videos.
And by late afternoon was a full blown ‘really good day”.
We bought and then immediately sold a rare 1785 Vermont Immune Columbia Ryder 1 colonial coin (one of about 30 known in our census data and, amazingly, one of two that were on the bourse floor on this day) to one good client, and an extremely rare Ryder 32 Vermont Bust Right to another.
And two of the egregiously undergraded coins noted in yesterday’s Road Report: A very choice PCGS AU50 1839-C Quarter Eagle and a lovely 1802/1 Quarter Eagle (to two different collectors who knew exactly what they were looking at).
And a nice Pine Tree Shilling, a recent NEWP crusty 1796 Small Eagle Dollar, two high grade Pillar 4 Reales, a rare 1772 Machin’s Mills Halfpenny, some commems, several of our new Seated coins, assorted other colonials, etc., etc.
In other news, we did witness the security guards hauling some guy out in handcuffs to a smattering of applause from surrounding dealers. Apparently he had been stealing coins from a number of people during the afternoon and got nailed.
And we got to see a fake and quite deceptive old ANACs small-sized slab. It had slipped into a group of coins purchased by a dealer from an anonymous walk-in customer at a recent show as genuine, was later sold to another dealer, eventually consigned to Heritage, where they (or one of their customers) ID’d it as a fake and which then was returned back through all of the people who had previously handled it until the initial buyer was left holding the bag, unable to find the anonymous guy who sold it to him in the first place (who himself may well have thought it was real). Interesting. It appeared to be a genuine slab which had been opened, the label replaced with a copied or scanned version (which was slightly fuzzy) listing a higher grade and the slab resealed. If you weren’t looking specifically for it, you would not have found it, which makes the moral of this story “Be careful out there”.
Anyway, after a full day of activity, we really worked up an appetite for some Hawaiian fusion cuisine which was convenient, since we had dinner reservations at Roy’s with the gang from HLRC. That was a blast, and included a series of wine tastings which, at one time, resulted in us having at least 75 glasses on the table and left me waaaay too tired to write this blog before going to bed late last night.
So I set the alarm for 5:30 and I’m writing it now on Saturday AM (with my apologies to all of you who emailed looking for it last night).
Saturday at the show will be hectic, as we need to do some mega-bookkeeping, finalize a few deals, get our last straggler grading submissions back, ship boxes and scour the floor for last minute NEWPs while simultaneously packing up for the trip home. So if you see us running around like crazy behind the table, you’ll know why.
Having carefully calculated Baltimore traffic conditions, I am now in the airport precisely two (2) hours before my flight and ready, willing and able to crank out the last installment of the Road Report for this show right here at my gate. So let’s get to it:
It was another nice day today, with some strong sales, a handful of really exciting NEWPs and, I am pleased to report, some decent grades on our last few submissions. Formally, and officially, we are ‘psyched’.
Another cool thing was that I bought a coin I’d been chasing for a while. It was first described to me at a show a while back. Then I saw a picture (which I liked, a lot), but was told the coin wasn’t for sale now but “might be auctioned sometime next year”. Might? Sometime next year? Who can wait that long? And what if it didn’t happen? So I met the owner at the show and figured I’d see if I could change his mind. I asked him if he’d put a number on it now, to my great surprise he did, I bought it instantly and I was really, really glad I was persistent in this case. It doesn’t always work, but you never know unless you try.
But it was not all great news today.
We witnessed another coin-thieving-SOB carted away in handcuffs to another smattering of applause from appreciative dealers. But while bad guys are evidently wandering around all over the place, security at the Baltimore show is top notch, and it is extremely confidence inspiring from our perspective. I mean that.
And then there was the little matter of our lots at Bowers & Merena. We bought a grand total of three coins in their combined sessions, but when it came time to pick them up the staff was unable to locate one of them (which was, of course, the one we really, really wanted). We were told they would locate it and mail the coins to us, but if somehow that lot disappeared for good, or accidentally was sold to someone else, I am strongly considering having a cow.
Anyway, we haven’t tallied up our total sales and purchases yet, but my sense is that this show was a solid A- on the CRO scale – and this doesn’t even factor in the wine tasting the other night which was sufficiently potent that I responded to all of my emails on Friday night after dinner, and then inadvertently re-responded to all the same people Saturday morning. Oops. By way of apology, I’d like to recommend that you try Au Bon Climat ‘Hildegard’, which may be the best white wine I’ve ever had in my life.
That’s the story here.
I look forward to getting home, enjoying a little R&R for a day and then re-cranking it back up next week in anticipation of the Baystate Show and the annual gathering of C4 (Colonial Coin Collectors’ Club), which is a pretty big deal for us.
Until then, then.