November 8-11, 2023: The Whitman Baltimore Expo
November 8: Day 1
With all of the calming relaxation of an air raid siren, your author was rudely awakened by a piercing alarm at 3 AM on Wednesday signaling the beginning of what would be an extreeeeemely long day.
During which we would whisk off to the airport, grab an early morning flight to Baltimore and make our way to our hotel in the Inner Harbor before 8:30.
Where we were shocked and delighted to find out that our room was already available, so we chucked all our stuff in there and then raced over to the convention center to start doing business ASAP.
Which would include some wholesale activities of both the pre-arranged and totally impromptu variety, as we bought a variety of cool coins from 5 different dealers.
And then dove directly into lot viewing at Stack’s-Bowers as your author pored through several thousand lots of esoteric, colonial and federal coins over the next 3+ hours.
Stopping briefly for lunch at the Kona Grill (literally the only restaurant open close to this end of the convention center) and then returning to mow down the internet session lots and any other odds and ends I didn’t view in the AM.
After which we looked through more wholesale boxes, met with other dealers and early arriving collectors, made some deals, talked to customers on the phone and generally kept ourselves totally busy and productive right up until the 5 PM start of dealer set up.
At which time we joined the throng impatiently assembled in the lobby waiting for the doors to fling open.
And they did right on schedule, allowing us to explode onto the bourse floor and then set up our booth faster than any other dealers which is of course not bragging but merely stating a fact.
Which caused an immediate crowd to form at our table since we were the only ones at that point who had coins on display (an important prerequisite to selling them in our experience).
After which your author dashed around the room looking for interesting coins amidst the tables that were set up, found a few of potential interest, but, disappointingly, nothing I needed to have right then.
And then returned to the table and started packing up so we could head to dinner on Fell’s Point with some dealer friends which turned out to be an absolute hoot that ran late into the night.
So by the time we go back to the hotel we were ready to crash immediately in anticipation of what we expect to be an even busier day on Thursday.
And then blog all about it right here in this space first thing on Friday AM.
November 9: Day 2
I awoke to the sound of gentle tapping on our hotel room door at about 4 AM on Thursday.
At least I thought it was our room. Turned out it was across the hall and one of those situations were a guy is trying to wake up his buddy / co-worker / family member who has apparently overslept. A scene I’ve encountered dozens of times through the years at some hotel or other, and one that always seems to follow the same trajectory: Namely that the oversleeper is comatose, and the increasingly frantic friend starts in with the whisper yelling, door knob cranking and rapid fire knocking until everyone in the surrounding rooms is wide awake.
Including me. So of course I leaped up, fired up the computer and instantly became super-productive coindealer-man, first hammering out the blog, then doing spreadsheets, going through my Stack’s-Bowers catalogs and adding all of the coins I had circled during lot viewing to my watch list, responding to emails and eventually heading out the door for the early start of the show.
Where we arrived in a timely manner, unflipped over our chairs, clicked on the lights and started doing business post haste.
First by selling a couple of gold coins to another dealer who looked at them Wednesday night, then buying a few coins from a dealer at a nearby table and adding them to what has by now became a much larger pile of NEWPS than we might have expected to find here.
Q: Did you really need to buy all of those coins?
A: I never think of it like that. We don’t come to a show with a budget, or think we are looking to add some specific things. We just assess opportunities as they appear and buy things that seem like CRO coins.
Which on Thursday included some neatly toned type, requisite old holders, mega-colonials, a wicked token, a lovely 20¢ Piece I first tried to buy in Phoenix in March, a near perfect Choice AU early CBH and a lovely early quarter that I brought back to the table and received an email from a customer about not 30 seconds later. Hey, word travels fast in this business.
Things that were not fast: Me figuring a wild deal of early copper that I tried to make work by roping in potential partners, and my attempting to value a long, skinny box of raw world coins in inconveniently varying-sized flips.
In and around which managed to sell two XL colonials and bunch of other coins, schmooze with some of the colonial guys in town for the C4 convention and finalize a deal in which a customer used the proceeds from sold memo coins to buy other things. Actually, that last one turned out to be a lot less complicated to sort out than I expected.
With our last deal of the day the purchase of a neatly toned photography medal that came with a tiny box.
And then we headed out to dinner with some industry friends during which another dealer recalled a previous visit to this same restaurant years ago in which he ended up in an argument with the owner. So we tried to lay low this time and not rock the boat, which we successfully did with almost no screaming whatsoever.
After which I calmly retired for a sound sleep is something I wish I could type, but instead I had to go to meet a dealer friend at a different hotel to pick up a collection, and then come back to our room to figure it. A process that would have taken about 2 hours had I not left my computer charger at the show, and instead had me roaming the lobby where I unexpectedly ran into a dealer friend who even more unexpectedly lent me his thus saving our numismatic bacon.
Which meant I actually could stay up until about 1 AM working on this project fully charged.
So by the time I finally did turn in, it had been another long, tiring but extremely productive day here in Baltimore.
And we’ll look forward to more of the same on Friday, except the part about the computer charger, and that dude across the hall.
November 10: Day 3
Great news everyone, the world coin deal I stayed up figuring on Thursday actually did work (much to my surprise), so we finalized that on Friday AM, wrote a check and then whenever I had a spare moment during the day sat at our back table studiously sorting the coins variously for grading / auctioning / jettisoning / melting / spending, etc.
Truth be told I have no idea how this deal is going to work out, might be great, might be OK, might be a giant time sink, but as a dealer friend once told me you cannot make any money on a coin deal if you do not buy it. It’s hard to argue with that.
So with that as our backdrop, we spent the rest of our time meeting with a steady stream of collectors and dealers at the table Friday selling coins, discussing coins and trading coins, often with several people at once, with MaryAnn and I tag-teaming it like a well-oiled machine.
And while sales overall have been good (mostly on the back of a few XL ones), we’ve also had many other customers who seemed on the numismatic precipice of buying something, but did not pull the trigger right then. So of course we’re hoping every single one of them (and their friends and relatives) will come back and pull the trigger before they leave town. Hey, you never know.
In the meantime, we continued buying up a storm mostly in the US category, including more Capped Bust Halves, several cool Trade Dollars and some high end early copper. Frankly, it’s been kind of an epic haul.
Which culminated with the purchase of a cool Seated Half and a super sharp Lion Daalder at about 5:30 PM, after which we headed out for a drink at Morton’s next door.
The plan was then to zip off to dinner with some dealer friends after I dumped my bag in our room, with the zipping curtailed by the fact that your author’s room key stopped working despite 2 trips to the front desk to replace it. I don’t know about you, but I find that annoying, especially when you return to the desk the second time and are behind 24 high school students all checking in for some kind of a school group. There was a time when I might have waited patiently behind them, but that ship sailed many, many years ago.
So less patient John got that fixed in time to head to dinner at The Helmand on Charles St. where the Mantwo and Koufta Challow was as delicious as ever. Returning to the hotel after at a still civilized hour and turning in right way.
So we should be extreeeeemely well rested and ready for whatever action comes our way on Saturday where we’ll be at the table working like crazy until the mid afternoon.
With whatever happens to be described right here in our final Baltimore RR on Sunday AM.
November 11: The Exciting Conclusion
It’s time once again for some random observations summarizing the just concluded Baltimore show:
We bought pretty much every cool coin we saw at the show that we liked, that was actually for sale, and that we could afford, except for one semi-expensive one that we tried to find a like-minded dealer to partner with us on. Alas, no one wanted to join in. And while that is informative to me, it does not mean we wouldn’t go it alone eventually.
Even without that one we left this show with 114 NEWPs, though that total includes all of those raw world coins. Of website material, we ended up with 51, including a totally cool CBH at the end of the day on Saturday.
Of all the NEWPs, quite a few were things we had owned at least once before. Maybe that’s not surprising, since once a CRO coin always a CRO coin. And of course the longer we are on the circuit, the more likely that is to occur.
Many people here asked me about or commented on the lines at the various grading service tables as indicative of either show attendance, or macro market strength / weakness. To which I responded that 1) I have no idea, 2) It might have been more busy / less busy 30 minutes before or after you checked, and 3) Comparing that to lines at previous Whitman Expos where the services were doing on-site grading is a whole different animal.
We certainly felt like VIPs when our hotel rolled out this lavish and impressive red carpet for us:
So, did all of those guys who had been considering coins earlier in the show come back and buy them on Saturday? Two did. But plenty of other guys came to the table for the first time and bought other things making for a very productive final day for us in Baltimore.
We were delighted to see that the convention center snack bar served their excellent chili for the first time in about 6 years. Also delightful: I never spilled any of it on myself despite having it every single day. The secret: You kind of have to handle this stuff like plutonium with carefully measured spoonfuls and no sudden movements.
I can’t explain why, but the more I comb my hair these days, the more it rebels resulting in some crazy styles for which I apologize. I know it’s especially bad when at one point MaryAnn looked at me and said “Wow, you look really smart”:
Kudos to the Whitman show for ramping up the security here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more robust presence at any show. We like that.
We sold our first ever CMQ-stickered coin here (actually a gold CMQ-X), a cool toned Morgan in an OGH slab.
Overall our sales here were excellent, though the total number of transactions was lower than in recent years which is reflective IMO of nothing other than the vagaries of the market in an inefficient and unpredictable business.
One thing I can predict: We are about to enjoy 24 hours of R&R before diving back into business first thing on Monday AM.