November 2-6, 2010: The Whitman Baltimore Expo
November 2nd: Day 1
Tuesday began in fine fashion, as your author rolled into Stack’s lot viewing at the Sheraton Hotel here in Baltimore at about noon and discovered that our own Dave Wnuck was already in there poring through the entire sale with a fine tooth numismatic comb. As did I, independently, in a chair on the other side of the room, allowing us to compare unbiased notes over a mediocre dinner several hours later.
Which we did, discussing all of the lots, arguing over many, reaching a consensus on all but a few controversial items, and then, as we usually do, making several side bets about how much these controversial lots would bring in the auction.
Interestingly, on some of these we have wildly different opinions, with Dave thinking a particular coin will bring $2,500 for example, while I predict $1,300. And, over the years, I would say that our side bets are running about even, which suggests that, in some ways, we are both utterly wrong quite often.
After which we called it an early night, allowing your author to watch election results followed by “The American”, starring George Clooney as an assasin in a film in which almost nothing at all happens except for Clooney’s female co-star being naked at least 65% of the time she is on screen. Despite that, I STILL thought the movie was terrible.
Anyway, we’ll be back at it tomorrow for some re-viewing (as opposed to reviewing) at the Sheraton, followed by the auction itself kicking off at 1 PM.
With all of the results (including the side bets) described right here, tomorrow, in vivid detail.
November 3rd: Day 2
I am going to be honest with you – I did not feel well on Wednesday morning, which may have been a result of sliiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiightly too much wine the previous evening.
Nevertheless, the show (or in this case, the pre-show auction) must go on, and so I pulled myself together and headed down to the lobby to meet Dave just a few minutes behind schedule, and then headed off to the Sheraton again for a second look at the Stack’s lots of interest, some final bidding planning, a large cup of black coffee, and a prime seat in the corner of the auction room next to an electrical outlet so we could plug in the laptop and track the whole thing live on the Stack’s site (which actually worked like a charm).
But first we’d need to sit through the paper money at the start of the session, in sufficient quantity that Dave decided that he’d go view the Bowers lots at the convention center while I camped out at Stack’s to wait for the colonials to begin.
Which turned out to be pretty entertaining for me, especially when QDB, who was seated in the front row, bid on and seemingly won a piece of currency, but was then told that there was a late internet bid and that the lot was still open. And, just like any other bidder in that situation, he insisted that he had already bought it. Which goes to show you that even the Chairman is subject to this new late bidding phenomenon, and he doesn’t seem to like it anymore than anyone else.
But eventually, after an hour or two, Dave returned and we got to the colonials. And we bid high and often on all sorts of things in a session that was, in our view, intermittently weak and strong, and included some nice, wholesome colonial type, a few unexpected finest known candidates and the specialist-centric Vermont Copper Collection of Roy Bonjour.
Throughout which we bought about 20 coins of all sorts, including some we were pretty sure we’d be buying, and others we were frankly surprised to win in a session that continued on right up until dinner was served, elaborately, in a nice buffet just outside the auction room.
During which we discussed who bought what with the collectors and dealers who were there, and then Dave and I settled up on our side bets as follows:
Lot #6413, the 1786 Vermont VERMONTENSIUM described as EF40 but with a few issues is a coin I predicted would hammer for $1,300 while Dave guessed $2,500. The actual hammer price was $1,800, allowing your author to pocket the $5 on that one.
Lot #6475, the 1788 Vermont Ryder-30 with the backward ‘C’ in AUCTORI (but which is off the planchet on this specimen and thus not really visible) is a piece I predicted would hammer for $4,750, while Dave guessed $6,000. Turned out we were both high this time, as it hammered for $4,250, making your author yet again victorious, and in total earning me enough money to pay for one cab ride from our hotel to the convention center. Wahoo!
Then we left bids for the evening session and called it a night, heading back to our hotel just in time to start writing this blog and get ready for an early wake up call tomorrow, dealer set-up at 8 AM and what we hope will be a good day on the bourse to follow.
November 4th: Day 3
It was a more or less typical morning on the road on Thursday:
- Wake up at 5 AM
- Drink all the coffee in the hotel room while writing Wednesday’s RR
- Go to the gym at 6
- Get back at 7
- Get dressed, stylishly
- Answer emails, update the website and review upcoming auction lots
- Iron the CRO banner
- Head out to meet Dave in the lobby at 7:45
At which point I realized it was pouring out, and that we’d need to take a cab to the show. As did the other 143 dealers standing in line at the entrance.
Until the bellman told us there was a free shuttle bus around the corner. So we all piled in, and then sat there for a good 15 minutes and until we finally set off on what seemed like the most indirect, circuitous route possible before finally arriving at the wrong side of the convention center and having to walk the last two blocks in the rain anyway.
Fortunately, it had dissipated by then, and we strolled into the show mostly dry and with the CRO banner in good shape at about 8:45.
And it seemed like there was a decent buzz right away, as we set up our table, ran and bought a couple of unexpected coins immediately from another dealer, and then, over the course of the next few hours, did some significant wholesale business of silver and gold federal type, and sold a very nice Libertas Americana Medal in MS62 that we bought recently.
We also bought a lot of things that walked up to the table, or that we saw in other cases around the room, including federal, colonial and esoteric issues of all price points, slabbed and raw – some which we had never seen before, and others which we had pondered in the past but which were now more reasonably priced.
Which took us right up to the aforementioned Bowers auction at 2 PM, but which actually began at about 2:20 due to some minor technical glitches which seemed to primarily involve the microphone, and which I am pretty sure were fixed using a thick roll of tape.
And it was a most successful session IMO, as I sat in the waaaaay back of the room, bought nearly everything I wanted (most for way less than I planned to pay), got up, and left.
Just in time to see some good customers, submit a bunch of grading, pick up yesterday’s auction wins and do a lot more buying and selling on the floor, a highlight of which was a fantastic old-holdered gem Barber Quarter that we had bought here and sold to a good customer just a few hours later.
And before we knew it, it was time for dinner, which on this day meant 13 of us would pile into 3 cabs and head to a place called G&M, rumored to have the best crab cakes ever, and thus worth the roughly 20 minute ride from downtown. And I guess it was, since when we arrived there were a bunch of other dealers there who had made the same culinary decision.
It was good, and mostly quite normal, except for when one of the other dealers who, while we were waiting to be seated for what was by all accounts to be a very large dinner, walked across the street, bought a box of donuts and was eating them right there in the parking lot. Seriously.
Anyway, we finished up about 9, I guess, headed back, and I fell asleep almost immediately in anticipation of another early start on Friday during which we expect to get some grading back and have some new cool stuff at the table.
November 5th: Day 4
As we calmly walked to the convention center on Friday morning we simply could not have anticipated the storm of activity we would encounter from pretty much the moment we arrived, continuing all morning, through the lunch that we had about 4 minutes to eat behind the table, and extending right up until they booted us all out of the room at 6 PM.
In total, this has been the busiest show we’ve had here in quite some time, with excellent selling on a wholesale and retail basis, including our second Libertas Americana Medal in two days (which makes a total of 3 in the last week or so!), a bunch of cool early type, a group of rattler commems that we had acquired yesterday (and frankly weren’t planning to sell just yet), a fabulous Lion Daalder, nice Capped Bust Halves, a Counterstamped NJ copper, some gem Morgans, a denomination set of Continental Currency notes (that we figured would go well on an upcoming EB, but which now won’t, since they are gone) and all sorts of other things.
Buying was excellent as well, both at the auctions and on the floor, for fancy and/or rare coins and affordable pieces too, coins we had on specific customer want lists, and things that we just thought looked neat, including a fantastic colonial out of the woodwork, a fabulous 20 Cent Piece, a bunch of Fugios, some not-CRO’s-usual-fare gem Morgans, a gigantic collection of counterstamped coins (which explains the source of the NJ copper mentioned above), a complete set of Ford catalogs, some gemmy type and pretty much anything else that was 1) choice, and 2) not nailed down. Most encouraging for us, we had a few new customers come to the table and offer us federal and colonial coins because they thought we would be strong buyers of the type of material they had – and they were right. And then we picked up two (2) high-end Gobrechts which lasted about an hour in the case before someone took both to go ponder at their table.
And let’s not forget the grading, which we are pleased to report was really very good, with everything working pretty much as we had expected / hoped, including a customer’s coin we were delighted to upgrade.
All combining to make this one of the most successful commercial days we’ve ever had, coupled with a lot of fun conservations with many existing and new customers, and culminating with an excellent dinner at Pazo, even though they keep changing the menu for no apparent reason every time we go there.
And then, for the third night in a row, I feel asleep kind of early in anticipation of another busy day tomorrow, which will include collating a snow-capped mountain of invoices and cleaning up an absolutely daunting number of loose ends before we leave town.
November 6th: Day 5
Whilst I planned an early start on Saturday, I was not thinking 2:19 AM, which is the precise time I was awakened by 4 or 5 drunken revelers who were either re-enacting the entire chariot race from Ben-Hur, or possibly practicing the long jump (not sure which) in the hallway just outside my hotel room.
Fortunately, this continued for just an hour and a half (including one of the guys intermittently laughing like a hyena) to the point that I considered calling the front desk and complaining or going out in the hall with a night cap on and screaming “DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?”.
But for some reason I did neither, instead trying to fall back asleep, but not succeeding. And so I was up, first putting the finishing touches on Friday’s blog, getting organized and then eventually packing up so I could check out and haul everything to the convention center.
Where we arrived just early enough to have to wait outside the door to get into the bourse, finally found our way to the table and quickly set everything up for one more potentially big day at the show.
And while it was not the equal of Friday (how could it be?), it was still pretty darn good, with more cool new coins, including another nice Libertas (which we suspect was offered to us as a direct result of yesterday’s RR), another half dozen colonials, and a superb early dollar to name a few. Sales remained strong too, with the last transaction taking place literally a minute or two before we headed out the door.
Grading, on the other hand, seemed to go south in a hurry on Saturday, as the last few boxes we got back were absolutely hammered by someone who must have been in a pretty bad mood (quite possibly from having been awakened too early in the morning by drunken revelers).
And then it was over, as we headed to the airport for the quick flight home, pausing only to stop in the bar near my departure gate where I was engaged in a long conversation by a guy who repossesses yachts for a living and who proceeded to tell me stories that would have made anyone extremely happy that they are not behind in their yacht payments.
But while your author will be relaxing on Sunday, Dave will, impressively, go straight to Sunday’s taping of the 2010 version of CPTV’s Connecticut Treasure Hunt Appraisal Fair (as described in our Coin Commentary of November 2009) for another long day of numismatic work.
After which we’ll need to organize all the Baltimore paperwork, sort through all of our NEWPs and get ready for the Bay State show in Boston starting on Thursday, from where our next RR will be written just a few short days from now.
And note that, since we are on the road again this coming week, our next EB will not be until after Bay State on Tuesday, November 16th.