November 15-19, 2011: The Whitman Baltimore Expo
November 15th: Day 1
The good news is that I slept very well in preparation for today’s trip to Baltimore. The bad news is that I was doing a significant part of this sleeping at the airport while waiting for my flight to depart, very nearly missing the entire boarding process, and, in what I believe would have been a first for your author, missing the flight (which could have set in motion an unfortunate sequence of events culminating with me arriving here too late to view lots and make informed bids in the first session of the Stack’s-Bowers auction).
Thankfully, some lady screamed right in my ear, I did get up, did make the flight, did get to the convention center at right around 9 AM (passing the “Occupy Baltimore” tent city down by the harbor), did view the lots on one side of the building and did roll into the auction room waaaay on the other side just in time to buy about a dozen coins with our own Dave Wnuck (one of which was not in the auction at all, instead coming from another dealer in the room who made delivery, discretely, right then and there).
And it was an interesting session overall, reasonably crowded, featuring some low prices, some high prices and one guy who seemed disproportionately devastated that no lunch was being served by Stack’s-Bowers, and would not stop frickin’ talking about it.
We had no such issues, heading over to the crappy sports bar at the Sheraton for our own lunch, then coming back to continue lot viewing for another several hours, during which I saw all of the world stuff (except the Pandas and the colorful world currency, in which we have no interest), made copious notes and found maybe 20 things to bid on.
And then we went to dinner with a couple of dealer friends, one of whom had recently returned from a party at the Playboy Mansion with a bunch of celebrities, a story I could relate to very well, since if memory serves I cleaned out my garage on that same day.
Some serious discussion, too, mostly about the state of the market, who is buying, who isn’t, etc., and by the time we finished we were full, and exhausted, having been up since about 3 AM (except for the aforementioned 45 minute span at the airport), and so we headed back to the hotel, I picked up my bags, walked the 8,000 yards from the elevator to my room and immediately collapsed on the bed.
Wednesday the auctions will continue, starting with the world coins, where we will be camped out, leaving only to finish viewing the unbelievable number of coins in what is unquestionably the thickest auction catalog I have ever seen in my life.
November 16th: Day 2
Often people (and you know who you are) make fun of the fact that I mention waking up at 4 AM (or earlier) nearly every day in these Road Reports.
So those people will be pleased to know that on Wednesday I woke up late, ate a leisurely breakfast in the room, wrote yesterday’s blog, checked auction results (since we left all of our bids on the computer), answered email, visited 52 coin-related websites, went to the gym and did not even bother walking to the convention center until about noon.
Once there, though, we got right into it, checking out all the lots we had not already seen, including, some very cool half dollars from the George Dyer Collection (which apparently had been assembled between 1910 and 1930 and then set in old coin trays for 80 years+ toning exquisitely in order to be ready for this auction), and some high end (or at least expensive) gold.
The viewing of which took us until late in the afternoon, at which time we headed down to what was becoming a pretty crowded auction room, tried to find a seat near the outlet for the laptop, figured last minute bids, availed ourselves of the not unimpressive buffet dinner, and then commenced trying to buy a bunch of stuff.
And prices were perhaps even stronger than we expected on the most interesting items, such as lot #2277, a vividly toned Dyer Collection 1825 Capped Bust Half in a PCGS AU58 holder and CACed which brought a robust $4,083 all-in.
Prompting the dealer behind me to tap me on the shoulder and say that it was going to be very difficult to buy any fresh coins in this session.
He was right, of course, as further evidenced by lot #2301, an 1832 Capped Bust Half with lovely color, great luster and P/L surfaces in an NGC MS62 holder but with no CAC sticker and a very noticeable worn spot on Ms. Liberty’s cheek which brought $4,888. I half jokingly told Dave we’ll probably see that next in a PF holder, and maybe we will.
And then began a run of similarly toned and equally attractive Seated Halves which garnered just as much attention, including lot #2374, an 1878 in PCGS MS64+ CAM with superb blue, golden orange and magenta toning which brought $5,750 to a well-known dealer.
But it was not just these Dyer pieces bringing the big bucks; some more mundane coins were going strong too. Still, we managed to buy a few things that seemed like good deals (including the one coin we really wanted, lot #2377), before leaving the rest of our bids on the computer, packing up, moving our coins from the security room into the bourse and locking them up behind the table so that we would not have to fight the crowds doing so in the morning, and then heading back to the hotel to review about 12 boxes of NEWPs in a dealer friend’s room.
In which we found some great things which we were able to buy without need of a bidder paddle and with a bit less competition (i.e. none), and so that was nice.
And then we called it quits, since Thursday will be one of those days in which your author does get up at 4 AM and is ridiculed by the people mentioned way back in the first sentence of this RR. It should be a good day, though, with dealer set-up starting at 8 AM, and additional auction sessions to keep us occupied until late in the evening.
The highlights of which will be discussed right here on Friday AM.
November 17th: Day 3
Despite my best efforts to time this thing just right, I managed again (like every time we come here) to get to the convention center too early, thus necessitating a 15 minute wait in the lobby before they’d let us all in for dealer set up at 8.
But once inside things proceeded very quickly, with our first sale – a Pine Tree Shilling – made within about 5 minutes. “That’s a good start.”, I said to myself. And it would turn out to be one of a bunch of colonial sales during the day to a whole host of different customers.
We did quite nicely on the federal side too, as a lot of visitors to the table evidently came to buy. And even a number of people who said they didn’t plan to buy anything did buy something, resulting in a good-sized pile of invoices in the back case by noon.
Buying, on the other hand, was way harder, as a few things we really liked on the floor were priced out of our comfort zone, the deal we first mentioned in Boston last week and which we hoped to consummate here didn’t happen when the owner decided he wasn’t ready to sell yet (aaargh!), and some of the other guys who normally have coins for us did not have anything really exciting on this day.
Still, with the number of cool things we have with us that have never been on the site, we weren’t exactly desperate. And of course it’s still early here, so the next few days may have a very different complexion, and could possibly include Dave returning to the table with a huge box of NEWPs at some point. Hey, it could happen.
But here, on Thursday, sales were king with schmoozing a close second, including at dinner with a collector friend who was here in Baltimore for the first time since Elrod Hendricks was behind the plate for the Orioles (i.e. it’s been a while).
After which we headed back to the hotel, where your author watched Denver Tebow the Jets on TV, and Stack’s sell the Teich Collection, Part I, on my computer.
And that was an interesting session, featuring a whole slew of proofs that have been off the market for y-e-a-r-s (that was good), but of very mixed quality with many, in this author’s opinion, cleaned years ago and having retoned in less than beautiful fashion in old envelopes in the intervening decades (not so good), and most having utterly maxed out grades (bad).
The results of which were that we identified only a few pieces in the offering that we liked enough to bid on, and not surprisingly a lot of the other guys liked these same coins too.
Such as lot #5067, a stunning 1870 Shield Nickel in PCGS PF66 CAC which brought a very strong $3,163 all-in to someone who was, unfortunately, not us.
Ditto lot #5112, a stunning 1878 20c Piece in PCGS PF66 CAM CAC that we loved, strongly suspected we were going to be outbid on, and were at $31,625.
And so it went for the all the cool, pretty, colorful and genuinely nice pieces in the offering. With even the lesser coins and some that we did not like at all bringing good money, resulting in a session which was really not very exciting for CRO.
The game, on the other hand, was better, as I stayed awake just long enough to see Tebow take Denver the length of the field in slow motion, receive the adulation of the crowd, sign a bunch of autographs, and then get interviewed by 26 different people.
A feat which we hope to duplicate, numismatically, on Friday.
November 18th: Day 4
As I was walking to the show on Friday I noticed two things:
- It was about 20 degrees colder outside than on Thursday, and starting to feel downright wintery.
- The guy walking next to me was wearing flip-flops (with no socks, as is customary).
At which time my first reaction was to make an inane comment like “Hey, your feet must be freezing!”. But then it occurred to me that a person crazy enough to be walking around like that is not someone you really want to talk to, so I kept my head down and headed into the show where I found Dave already pounding away on his keyboard, presumably doing something very important, like working on some mega-deal with a customer, or watching amusing dog videos on YouTube.
So I left him to do that while I scoured the floor for anything new and exciting I may have missed, or that a previously visited dealer had subsequently put out. This proved to be much more successful than yesterday, as I found about a dozen things of interest, most of which we ended up buying.
But there were some that got away after your author made what I would frankly call a ‘rookie mistake’, i.e. seeing 2 cool coins in an unmanned dealer’s case, failing to write down his name or booth number and then, despite walking around 433 times, never being able to find that table again. And just when I was starting to think I might have dreamt the whole thing, I saw one of the coins in some other guy’s case marked NFS (not for sale). Drat.
I guess we cannot complain too much, though, as we managed to spend more than enough money, and add neat new things to our inventory in all categories.
Some of which we would have submitted for grading here, but since we had, at that point, not yet received any of our earlier show grading back, and thus had no idea if results were good, bad or indifferent, we decided to wait for another venue.
So instead we ended up at the table selling a few coins in the afternoon, buying a few more that walked up to us, trying to figure two larger deals that were offered here at the show, and then discussing one startling auction result from the previous evening. That would be lot #2410, a PCGS AU58 1897-O Barber Half Dollar which realized $14,950, a figure that exceeds average MS64 prices by a factor of 3 or so. Our conclusion: AU58 is a really rare grade for these, and two guys really wanted it. Either that or they thought this coin was going to end up in a 66 holder, which seemed veeeeery unlikely.
Which took us right up until closing, so we packed up and headed to dinner with 4 dealer friends at Pazo, which was pretty fantastic, though we spent much of the time discussing and calling a cell phone that one of the attendees had apparently misplaced somewhere between the show and the restaurant, and which at least up until dessert had not been located.
Then we left, heading back to the hotel to follow Stack’s-Bowers gold auction online, which included some high end early pieces from the Brandywine Collection, nice Classic Head Half Eagles from the Tucker collection, and a few oddball items that caught my eye during lot viewing:
Such as lot #9238, an 1853 Liberty Head Quarter Eagle in an NGC MS64 holder pedigreed, distinctively as “Ylang Ylang Collection”. And while I am sure that was meaningful to whoever put it on the there, I would have chosen to use its earlier pedigree, which was someone named “Norweb”.
And lot #9663, a 1797 Bust Right Half Eagle described in the catalog as “AU50, Cleaned (Uncertified)”, which the consignor had evidently removed from a PCGS AU50 holder, tried to upgrade and ended up with a body bag. We know this because the old AU50 slab label was included with the lot in what was apparently some sort of attempt to spur prospective buyers to bid higher in hopes of getting it back in a straight-graded holder, or maybe it was some sort of protest, or (and this my guess) it was there so that we could all commiserate with the seller.
Whatever the reason, it must have applied even more so to lot #9674, an 1803 Bust Right Eagle described as “AU50 Bent (Uncertified)” which also came with an old green PCGS slab label (this marked AU53), but this label was still inside its now cracked and empty PCGS slab, the first time I can recall seeing that at any auction, anywhere, ever. Perhaps the buyer can sell the empty slab on Ebay and recoup some of his cost for the coin.
In any case, I’m not sure what affect these had on bidders, and I do not plan to spend any additional time thinking about it (unless it works great, in which case I figure everyone will start including smashed and shattered empty slabs with all of their auction consignments).
Regardless, we look forward to another good day on Saturday, the details of which will be posted from home on Sunday AM.
November 19th: Day 5
Normally on a ‘get-away day’ I would check out of the hotel with all my stuff and take a cab to the show, but the weather was so nice on Saturday I decided to walk with another like-minded dealer, arriving at the convention center a few minutes after the show opened and immediately bumping into Chris Karstedt of Stack’s-Bowers, which was fortuitous, since she handed me a pan filled with delicious-looking heavily frosted cinnamon buns.
Of course, I had already eaten breakfast at that point, but so what? If someone hands you a pan of free cinnamon buns, you do not refuse it (especially if they are heavily frosted), So I gratefully accepted, walked to our table, found Dave already there, and then watched with abject horror moments later when another dealer ripped a bun from the pan with his bare hands.
Anyway, after that issue had been resolved (i.e. I screamed at him), I tackled our first official order of business: Make a list of everything we needed to get done before leaving town, since there was a lot and we did not want to forget anything important.
Like picking up all of our grading, which I did at mid-morning, scanned quickly and was happy to see that most everything came back about like we expected, with no horrible surprises, and nothing holdered backward (which happens more often than you might think with colonial issues which must be unfamiliar to the people tasked with putting the coins into the slabs)
And then we consigned coins of our own and on behalf of a few customers to upcoming auctions, filling out the forms as quickly as possible and developing a moderate case of writer’s cramp.
Which was quickly forgotten in a small-sized avalanche of activity at the table, as crowds were larger than we typically see on a Saturday, creating a pretty steady clip of purchases and sales for us (and, as best we could tell, for a lot of the other dealers in the room).
And it continued until pretty late in the afternoon, with our last sale of the day at about 3 PM (CBH), and our last purchase just as we were packing up: A cool Wildman Taler, a type which has been pretty hot for us lately.
After which we left, heading to the airport with an impressively tall stack of paperwork which, when added up, revealed what we call a ‘really big show’, with especially strong sales and a good (but not great) volume of purchases, though what we did acquire here was pretty cool and a bunch of it will look good in our next EB scheduled for November 29th (i.e. after Thanksgiving).
So you might want to keep an eye out for that.