October 27-30, 2010: Coinfest in Stamford, CT
After an extended period of no shows whatsoever, we are excited to embark, today, for the first of three consecutive shows in three weeks. The first being Coinfest in Stamford, CT, during which we’ll look forward to another good show and a cool Heritage auction to boot.
From where we’ll be blogging like crazy starting tomorrow, continuing through Baltimore and Boston and including interesting information about just about everything we see, and do, and hear, and buy, and sell, and trade, and grade, and sometimes eat.
October 27th: Day 1
Excellent news everyone – I have arrived in Stamford, checked into the hotel, located the security room and then dumped my stuf there, said hello to show host Jon Lerner, finished next week’s CoinWorld and Numismatic News ads, carefully checked the mattress in the room for bed bugs (at my wife’s insistence) and didn’t find any, changed, went across the street to dinner with a dealer friend, returned here, reviewed the status of the Heritage bidding, and the next thing I know it was about 2 AM, as I had fallen asleep directly into my laptop. So I went back to bed and just woke up again now.
And that’s a good thing, because we will need to be well-rested for Thursday’s dealer set-up and Heritage lot viewing starting at 9 AM, followed by a full day on the bourse floor and the auction in the evening.
All of which will be described right here tomorrow in vivid detail for your reading pleasure.
October 28th: Day 2
Dealer set-up was scheduled to begin at 9 AM on Thursday, but a lot of us began to congregate outside the bourse room door a bit before that trying to get an early start. Which we did, setting up our A-1 table location (thanks to show organizers Laura Sperber and Jon Lerner) and then scooting down to Heritage lot viewing on the lower level to begin the extremely long process of poring through the gazillion coins.
But while getting into the bourse early was not a problem, Heritage was holding fast to their posted 10 AM start time for viewing, despite a bunch of us loitering out in the hall waiting, and your author yanking on the locked lot-viewing room door several times (which must have been annoying for the people inside). As the first of the two-man CRO lot viewing tag-team, I would eventually burst inside, though, and start going through the 800 or so lots of almost entirely fresh and interesting colonials which included many neat things and interesting / tough varieties, but not much in the way of great rarities or power coins. I found plenty of things to bid on, though, during my 2 hour or so stint, after which I called Dave and had him come down, take over my seat in what was by then a totally full room, and, with no prompting or direction from me, view everything on his own so we could compare unbiased notes later.
And while he started doing that, I would take over the table activities upstairs at what is among the best run and most dealer-and-collector-friendly shows on the circuit:
- The security room was open the night before, which is a huge issue for all of us who prefer not to guard our inventory in our hotel room, or go out to eat while hauling a suitcase.
- Related to the above, security has a significant and very visible presence here much more than at any other show I can recall.
- Everything was extremely organized and ready for dealers upon arrival, including the aforementioned slightly early start – something absolutely unheard of anywhere else.
- This show is advertised extremely well (and very cleverly in our opinion), and they do everything they can to get the public to attend. Seems to be working, too.
- The attention to detail is impressive, with every little issue covered and absolutely nothing to complain about (though I am positive someone will try to anyway).
Finally, it bears mentioning that if you have ever run the numbers on conducting a coin show, I think you will discover that it is akin to performing a charitable service until you get to the size of a Baltimore or a FUN show. Which means that the good folks at Coinfest are providing a public service to the collector and dealer communities, and we at CRO appreciate it and are doing everything we can to support it (such as by enthusiastically telling everyone we know to attend, and bringing a lot of cool stuff with us).
Anyway, there I was at the table, seeing a lot of collector and dealer friends, buying some neat new things, selling a bit, pondering a smallish deal, submitting a bunch of stuff for grading and generally staying occupied until Dave finally re-emerged from lot viewing hours later with copious notes (many of which neither he nor I could read), but which we would somehow use to figure out what to do in the auction beginning just a couple of hours later.
And we made it just in time, walking into the Heritage sale at about 6:20, getting lousy seats in the back corner and then bidding on all sorts of things over the next 2 hours and winning just slightly more than our fair share in a session that was very active, generally very, very strong, and most unlike the typical offering:
- Most of the coins were as fresh as a proverbial daisy, having been purchased by the consignor in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s and not having been seen (or, in a lot of cases, known about) until they started showing up in Heritage auction previews this fall.
- In sheer quantity, I don’t believe there have been this many colonials in a sale since one of the Ford offerings, which created a lot of interest in the specialist collector and dealer communities, and had them all waving bidder paddles (or performing the at-home internet equivalent) like crazy.
- Adding to the excitement, most of the stuff in here was either graded conservatively, randomly, or simply, IMO, incorrectly, with lovely choice coins in net graded holders, historically significant state coppers with attribution ink holdered as “graffitied”, and generally enough ‘play’ in the grades to entice many of the upgraders and cracker-outers to participate, too. Now, in fairness to NGC (who had done nearly all of the grading), this stuff is very, very hard to grade and I am positive that no one would have agreed with all of it no matter what holders they ended up in.
- Adding to the challenge of viewing, assimilating and then bidding on many of these coins was the fact that Heritage had attributed them all by the well-accepted and understood die varieties, but then organized the coins by PCGS coin number. So, for example, the NJ coppers, which are ALWAYS attributed by Maris number and sold in that sequence, were instead listed here in a totally different order. I have no idea how this might have impacted bidding results, for all I know it might have led to higher prices – as some bidders probably thought they had discovered some secret coin in the catalog that no else noticed, and then, as people seem to often do in these cases, bid some astronomical number to secure it.
- That’s possible, I guess, since prices in general were very robust (especially compared to recent colonial sales), though every single person we talked to felt that they had identified and purchased a bunch of good deals in the session or had much more to pay on a particular lot (which I guess is a win-win for all involved).
And then we went to the bar, unwound, and called it a night an hour or two later.
Friday we look forward to more auction activities of a federal nature, and an active bourse floor on the buying and selling side. And if you are reading this, and plan to attend, we look forward to seeing you too.
October 29th: Day 3
“Here you go.” said Dave, as he walked up to our table early Friday AM carrying two (2) impressively large white boxes containing our Heritage auction haul from the night before (the largest volume of coins we have bought at any auction in quite some time).
Which led to many of the requisite post-auction discussions we always have with other dealers and collectors about who bought what, and why, some of the hidden discoveries they made, which coins they thought went for too much, or too little, and recounted every amusing, odd or annoying thing that happened during the session.
Such as the several times that a lot seemed to have been hammered down and closed, but then suddenly reopened due to a very late-arriving internet bid. Which happened to us on an important lot we thought we had already won for well less than our max bid, and were busy celebrating, when, unbeknownst to your author, the auctioneer reopened the lot and was just about to hammer it down to an unseen internet buyer when the dealer next to me elbowed me in the ribcage and pointed out what was happening just in time for me to get my paddle in the air again, and, finally, win it. Phew, that was close, and made for a good lesson: It ain’t over until it’s over (even if it WAS over, but then suddenly wasn’t anymore). On the other hand, if I had been the consignor, I would certainly have appreciated Heritage’s effort to let all bidders have their say.
We were also pleased to receive one of those always welcome calls from another dealer who saw that we bought a particular coin at the auction and wanted to buy it from us immediately (which is always better than not getting one of those calls).
But before we do anything rash, we will take some time to sort out everything, verify some hidden pedigrees, figure out what we have here, etc. Fortunately, on this day we had plenty of time to start such activities, as the bourse was really pretty quiet.
Sure, there were people milling about, including a lot of the collectors we know from the local vicinity, but not the same volume we’ve seen here in past years. And the ones that did attend were not as actively buying and or selling coins like we’ve seen in past years.
Which we think can be explained by several factors:
- The economy, we guess.
- A phenomenon some dealers refer to as “there are too many frickin’ shows”, and not everyone can attend all of them. Further, some, like this one, and Baltimore, and Boston, are back to back to back, which by any objective measure is about as many coin shows as you can cram into a 3-week period.
- Stamford CT, while idyllic and filled with nice restaurants, is a little bit hard to get to, with a bunch of airports within an hour, but none really close by. Meaning the crowd here is primarily a regional one (not that there is anything wrong with that).
- The ‘lack of CAC factor’. At past Coinfest shows, CAC was stickering coins for collectors on-site, gratis, which brought a lot of serious collectors here, most carrying big boxes of coins, some of which they decided to sell, and all of which contributed to a lot of activity on the bourse floor. But CAC was not here this year.
As a result, in total, we sold a modest number of coins, bought a few more on the floor, but did not establish any new CRO sales records in the process.
Still, we have done just enough business on the floor so far to make the trip worthwhile, and we still have Saturday to go – and who knows, that might be an unmitigated blockbuster (as one of the dealers near us on the floor keeps saying).
If it is, or if it isn’t, we’ll write all about it, right here, tomorrow.
October 30th: Day 4
As noted yesterday, one of the other dealers (Colonel Steve Ellsworth, who occupied the table directly next to us) told me that, surprisingly, at the last several shows he attended Saturday was the busiest day. And since Steve attends an unbelievably prolific 46 shows a year, I figure he might very well know something we don’t.
And so Dave and I arrived for business on this day thinking it might actually be pretty decent. Which, in fact, turned out to be the case – with what seemed to be the biggest crowd of the week, and the most visitors to our table in particular, and the most commercial activity, along with the most schmoozing, and the most discussion about potential future deals.
And while we did not buy and/or sell as much as we would have liked, we did place some cool federal type, buy some absurdly nice old-holdered coins and acquire a nice Washington colonial we have been trying to buy for about 4 months before finally consummating the deal at the show unexpectedly (since we did not know the owner was going to be here).
We also submitted the last of our grading at PCGS, doled out some auction winnings, walked the floor a few times looking for last minute deals, packed up, and headed out at about 4 PM.
In total, we would rate our overall performance here as about a B-, heavier on buying than selling, a result that should serve us pretty well as we head to Baltimore, from where our next RR will be posted right here in this space on Wednesday.