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November 5-9, 2013: The Whitman Baltimore Expo

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After a ~5 week hiatus since the Long Beach show we are primed and ready for the always excellent Baltimore show, as evidenced by the fact that we will be down here at the crack of dawn on Tuesday before most of the rest of the numismatic world has shown up.

Thus giving us the opportunity to check out the Stack’s-Bowers auction lots in an uncrowded viewing room, get the latest industry scuttlebut, get first shot at the inevitable cool coins that appear at these events and do some high-powered wholesale wheeling and dealing in the various hotels around town.

All of which will prepare us to attack the rest of the week with reckless abandon, and then report the results of our efforts here in this space every day of this show (just as we have been doing at every coin show since early 2007 in what was then and remains now numismatics’ only daily show report).

More later –

November 5th:  Day 1

Arriving in Baltimore just in time for rush hour, I crawled (though not literally) into the city, eventually made my way to the hotel and was delighted to learn that my room was ready.

Thus affording me the opportunity to sort out some inventory there and fill out a few grading forms so I could drop them off with PCGS for early action show grading and then head straight to lot viewing.

Where I zipped through 823 boxes (exaggeration) of US and world coins finalizing a few “definitely will be bidding on” and some “scratch this off my list” items before heading out to lunch during which I called a few customers to finalize some sales. As an aside, I will say that Tuesday was unusually productive from this standpoint, as I received a number of phone or email orders during the course of the day for things that I had planned to offer at this show, but now won’t.

Then headed back to viewing for about 3 more hours (a long time for me, based partly on the fact that there are some challenging coins in these sessions, including many of the ‘cleaned and retoned but still attractive’ variety which I really wanted to study in depth).

After which I headed over to some surrounding hotels to look through various dealer NEWPs and see what I could find. That worked pretty well to the tune of about a dozen coins, but I had to cut that somewhat short to follow up with one more customer before going to dinner and pursuing another deal which could turn out to be big, but which will not be described here in detail until it actually happens.

And then I was back to the hotel at about 9:30, just in time to write an item description for a customer, finalize this week’s ad and update the site for various HOLD / SOLD items before finally crashing at the civilized hour of 11 PM.

Which means that I should be unusually well-rested and ready for action on Wednesday, which is good, since the activity level will undoubtedly ramp up, I have more lots left to view and I will be schlepping all over town again looking for good deals before heading over to auction session #1 on Wednesday evening.  Phew.

The results of which will described right here on Thursday AM.

November 6th:  Day 2

Wednesday began most excellently, as I leaped out of bed bright and early, did some work in the room and then headed over to the convention center for some intensive lot viewing during which I spent more time on one group of coins than I have ever before on any coins, anywhere, ever.

After which I needed a break, so I took some inventory out of security, walked over to the Hilton to see a few other dealers, realized I didn’t have everything I needed, walked all the way back through the convention center to the Sheraton, got the rest of my stuff, stopped for lunch and then schlepped back to the Hilton, worked for a couple of hours up there, sold a few coins, bought a nice piece of Mass silver from a very, very unlikely source and then headed back through the convention center where I ran into a bunch of collector and dealer friends who had just arrived.

So I talked to them for a while, found out about a couple of possible deals and then finally went back to my hotel to make a couple of calls before heading out to dinner with a customer.

Which was great except for the part where it seemed like we wandered innocently between two nefarious looking guys and a nervous looking cop with his hand on his gun. Alas, nothing happened and we made it to the Kona Grill unscathed, ate well, talked coins and then called it a night.  But not before stopping by the S-B auction, seeing that the lots I left bids for had already ended, and then running into a couple of other dealer friends on the way back to the hotel (which is not surprising since much of the numismatic world is here this week, all walking around the same few city blocks).

After which I decided to turn in but not before updating the site one last time so I could zip straight over to the show first thing Thursday morning for the 8 AM start of dealer set-up.

During which I expect that the real fun will begin, and then get reported about right here in tomorrow’s RR.


November 7th:  Day 3

Let’s begin by examining Thursday’s carefully arranged morning schedule:

  1. Get up early
  2. Answer email
  3. Head over to the convention center at 7:30 AM
  4. Retrieve the CRO inventory from the security room
  5. Assemble with hundreds of other dealers in the hot, stuffy lobby with my coat on and wait 20 minutes for the bourse to open.

And that worked perfectly, allowing me to explode onto the bourse floor at 8:03 AM, set up the CRO booth at breakneck speed and then start scouring the floor for new coins to buy.

Which yielded a nice array of cool stuff during the day, including the following:

  1. Some beautiful old-holdered (of course) federal
  2. A bunch of exceptional Betts Medals
  3. Some extreeeeemely original pieces of Mass Silver which had been off the market for a very long time
  4. A variety of nice world coins at relatively affordable price points
  5. Assorted weird tokens that I promise you will not find on anyone else’s site

To say nothing of the other stuff I pondered and might buy later, like these for example:

  1. Some high-falutin colonials at another dealers table
  2. A fantastical Draped Bust Half at a super strong price
  3. A ridiculously nice run of old holdered gold
  4. Cool world coins from countries I don’t usually offer
  5. Some über-crusty Bust Halves which either failed CAC, or were never sent in (truly a 21st century coin-buying dilemma).

And when I wasn’t out scouting new stuff, I was at the table selling all kinds of things, including a bunch of the old-holdered federal on the website, a metric ton of world coins and some nice colonials which resulted in total sales volume about like we usually see here.

Leaving, by my calculaton, 11 minutes of non-buying or selling  “dead time” at the show which I used to eat lunch at 120 miles per hour, pick up 7 boxes from PCGS, get a whole bunch of lots I won at the last HA final session but never received, shoot the bull with a few other collector and dealer friends and drop off and pick up a vast pile of checks. Phew.

And then, after all that, when I was about to head to dinner with some friends, I suddenly realized the C4 (Colonial Coin Collectors Club) reception would be starting at 6:30 at the Sheraton, so I dropped off my stuff in my hotel room and joined the party.

But I couldn’t stay long since by then I was draggin’, so I headed back to my room early so as to be ready for what I expect to be a similarly busy Friday.

More later –

November 8th:  Day 4

I think we have established after years of these Road Reports that these shows are typically pretty hectic for your author, with early starts, late nights, an occasional ridiculous event involving some bagpipes or possibly a crazy person on a bus, and lots of work to be done pulling me in all directions.

But I expected Friday to be e-s-p-e-c-i-a-l-l-y tough, since the world coin auction of highest interest to me (and which included all of those coins I had looked at multiple times during lot viewing) would begin at 9 AM sharp (more or less) at the convention center requiring a lot of extra work in the room before I headed over there.

So I got up ridiculously early, got all of my regular stuff done, finalized and entered all of my bids into the Stack’s-Bowers system that is not always lightning fast, and then walked over so I could sit in the live auction, monitor my progress and stick my paddle in the air in the room if my book bids were exceeded (something I typically do only on stuff I really, really want).

A strategy that turned out to work really well, as I ended up buying every single coin I wanted, in most cases for significantly less than I expected before heading over to the show just as all of the other dealers were arriving.

So I was ready for the expected collector onslaught which descended upon the table at 10, continued mostly unabated until mid afternoon and resulted in the obliteration of much of the CRO inventory in a series of regular sales, straightforward trades, occasional lay-a-ways and, in one fell swoop, a sale of 8 coins for green cash money (an unusual occurrence in my experience).

Leaving me just enough time to eat a Nutri-Grain bar for lunch (a healthy choice later sabotaged by another dealer offering me a slice of flat bread pizza), pick up some grading, scour the floor again for interesting NEWPs, have a box of coins photographed at Todd’s table and then pack up early so I could go back to my hotel room and prep in earnest for the Stack’s-Bowers colonial auction which would begin at 6 PM.

It turned out, however, that my prep work there, while efficient and studious, was an utter waste of time, since prices on coins of most interest to me went crazy in my professional opinion to levels that, in many cases, your author 1) Didn’t expect, 2) Applauds S-B for achieving, and 3) Had no interest in paying.

And while I don’t have the time to review the auction lot by lot in great detail (and probably shouldn’t anyway lest I totally offend all of the other bidders), I will note a coupe of things that I found interesting:

Such as lot #4001, the New England Shilling which last appeared at Stack’s October 2005 Ford sale at which time it was the cheapest of the 4 NE’s in that session at $253,000, here brought $440,6225, making it now the most expensive one of these ever sold. E-V-E-R.

And lot #4010, a 1652 Pine Tree Shilling, Noe-1 in an MS62 holder that was moving along nicely with widespread action on the floor and none other than Q. David Bowers standing in the front of the room bidding on it too.  Eventually, though, he bowed out when his $32,500 bid was trumped at $35,000.  But then in a move I have not seen before in any auction, Mr. Bowers asked if he could say a few words before the lot hammered down, which included him advising the room (and the internet bidders online at the time) that this variety (but not this specific specimen) was Louis Eliasberg’s favorite coin, and the consignor’s favorite, and QDB’s favorite, and then pointed out that it dramatically exceeded his own specimen which was “only” VF/XF. Which immediately caused bidding that was seemingly over at that point to shoot up another $7,500 to a very robust $42,500. I’m not sure what this means, though next time I sell anything at auction I’m going to ask Mr. Bowers to come with me and see if he has anything to add before the lot closes.

And finally lot #4205, a coin described as a Washington Draped Bust Copper was actually silver (a fact noted later in the description but likely missed by many would-be bidders), allowing some astute person in the room to snap it up for a good price. Alas, it was not me.

The good news, however, is that the session finished up at an extremely civilized 9:15 PM, unlike last year when it ran seemingly all frickin’ night.

So, with my small number of NEWPs acquired, I headed back to the hotel to get ready for get-away-day on Saturday which will be hectic in a different way, as I pack up and check out before going to the show in the morning for what I fully expect will be another busy day on the bourse.

And if it is, or even if it isn’t, I will describe all of the details right here from the comfort of home on Sunday morning.

November 9th:  Day 5

Having already checked out of the hotel, I walked over to the convention center at 9 AM on Saturday, parked myself at the CRO booth, pulled out a piece of paper, and a pen with teeth marks on it that were not mine and then carefully made a list of everything I needed to get done during the day, including getting my auction lots, picking up and dropping off checks, retrieving my last grading, etc.

Once completed, I neatly placed the list down on the back case and then never looked at it again, since for most of the day I got caught in a medium-sized vortex of activity that was, by any objective measure, pretty good for a Saturday at the Baltimore Expo.

And I knew it would be a busy day right from the start when a number of Colonial Coin Collectors Club members swung by first thing and bought some coins, suggesting that 1) They did not spend all of their money at the auction the evening before, and 2) We had some pretty good coins.

Both of which are kind of important, since of course most buyers have only so much money to spend, and there is considerable competition for said money at these shows, including all that neat stuff in the auctions and in the hundreds of other dealer cases on the floor.

Which is why we try so hard to have cool things that are different than what everyone else is offering at prices that will entice buyers. Based on out results this week, I guess we must have done OK on both counts, though of course we can always do better.

So whenever I had the chance I was scouring the floor again on Saturday for interesting NEWPs, this time with frankly limited success. The few things I liked were more than I wanted to pay, the best deals were cool coins but types / series that I was less confident to sell, the end result being fewer new coins that I had hoped to find on the floor on Saturday.

I’m not worried, though, as we did well earlier in the show, our overall auction haul was respectable, many coins bought in previous weeks are still wending their way through the grading process, various other purchases made online and from other sources will be in the PO Box when I check it and I will be looking at a fresh collection later this week which is supposed to contain some great coins.

Which in total should give us some pretty good ammo to load to the website going forward, and we are going to need to, since there are many other coins that need to be updated, marked HOLD / SOLD or removed.

But not before we take Sunday off after 5 looong, tiring and very successful days in Baltimore –

The End