Tales from Our Numismatic Travels
August 8-14, 2021: The ANA World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, IL
Wow. For the first time since February of 2020, Team CRO is delighted to actually be attending a full-blown, airplane-flight-away, multi-day, national (international, actually) coin show!
With all that that entails, such as trying to remember how many power strips and extension cords we need, where the bourse case liners are, what happened to that little sign we display with our phone number on it, etc., etc.
But I am confident we’ll get it all elegantly shoved into our luggage where it can be variously unpacked, installed and unfurled in Rosemont allowing us to do business from the get go and continuing on for the entire loooooong duration of this event.
With everything that happens here to be described in excruciating detail right here in this spot each and every morning of the show exactly as we have done since 2006. Actually 2007, since the FUN Show that year was our first daily Road Report, the 2006 ones were all a sort of post-mortem recap written after we got home.
In any case, let’s dive in to the 2021 ANA World’s Fair of Money! Starting tomorrow.
August 8th: Day 1
Up at 3 AM, in a cab by 5, on our flight at 7:30, nervously waiting for our last bag to finally appear on the luggage carousel at 9:30 and in our thankfully available hotel room in Rosemont by 10 AM local time, Team CRO was already completely exhausted and ready for a nap. Just kidding. We were of course rarin’ to get to work at that point, first getting all of our show supplies organized, sorting all the price stickers, having a quick lunch and then racing to the convention center to start doing something. Anything.
Where we encountered actual numismatic people we had not seen in 1.5 years, all of whom – like your author – looked younger and more fit since the last time we had seen them. But we’d have to eschew long-winded pleasantries here so we could instead dive directly into Stack’s Bowers lot viewing in one tremendously long, but typically CRO-efficient viewing session.
Though this time we felt sliiiiightly less lot viewing time pressure, since of course these auctions (like all of the 2021 SB and HA ANA sessions) will be conducted next week, rather than during the actual show like in all past years. That’s a significant difference for us, since that former timing was always extreeeeemely stressful, just trying to sort out when everything was being sold, making sure we were ready to bid live or online, all while conducting business at our table. But of course it was more complicated than that, since we are one of the few dealers who buy both US and World coins and in some cases coins of interest to us were being auctioned simultaneously, in different rooms, during the show. So yeah, we’re not going to miss that part of it.
Anyway, we got through all that viewing on this day, circling ~3 dozen coins to bid on, using our top secret small star notation to indicate that a few of them were extra super deluxe and in all felt pretty confident in exactly which ones we’d be chasing in next week’s auctions. Though we’ll take a second look later in the week on all the coins for which we are representing collectors just to be extra sure.
Then packed up, darted back to the hotel and headed out to my old college stomping grounds in Evanston for dinner with relatives outdoors under an increasingly threatening sky. Fortunately, it didn’t really start raining until we we’re back in our Uber which may have contributed to the guy getting lost, driving all over the place, passing Rosemont at least 3 times and finally depositing us back here at about 10:30 only slightly worse for wear.
But don’t worry, we will be well rested and ready for action bright and early on Monday morning for ANA Dealer Day where we’ll hope to buy and or sell lots of cool coins.
And then write all about it on Tuesday in our next installment of the RR.
Until then, then –
August 9th: Day 2
Admittedly, some aspects of coin show life seem strangely unfamiliar this week, as we gradually get back into the groove and re-remember how we used to do everything here.
Like actually getting from the hotel to the convention center, which we had concluded years ago was way easier just walking on the street here instead of using the elaborate system of hamster Habitrail pedestrian tubes which connect all of the buildings here via looooong creepy elevated corridors filled with hundreds if not thousands of loud radiators:
So of course we avoided that and just walked outside to the corner and into the convention center at about 8 AM on Monday, super excited to stand in line get MaryAnn’s show ribbons, kibitz with the other attendees and watch some of our more senior colleagues pushing and/or pulling massive carts of numismatic material sort of like how the Grinch hauled all of those toys and decorations up Mount Crumpet. And then proceeded to mill about the lobby and patiently wait for the bourse floor to finally open for the start of this ANA subset Dealer Day at 9 AM.
Which it did, revealing not a flat floor or luxurious ramp, but instead a small staircase down which every single dealer would be pulling some sort of wheelie bag in a scenario which had disaster written all over it. And this was before some convention center employee in a forklift drove up and blocked the bottom of the stairs rightfully earning a “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS GUY DOING?” shout from the security staff. Answer: I have no idea.
But somehow no one fell down said stairs or was run over, and we all headed to our respective tables which were, in general, waaaaaay more spread out than is evident on the various bourse maps (including the one on our home page). With massive Covid induced (I guess) aisles wide enough for even the most erratically driven forklift. And that’s really good, since the ANA show continues to be the only one in my experience with heavy machinery driving around during set up. Like this, for example:
Anyway, Team CRO arrived at our table 417, quickly identified that we had one (1) too many cases, two (2) too few lamps and were short one (1) chair, all of which we could rectify quickly on this day since only 100 or so dealers were here and the convention center supply people were not yet overwhelmed with requests as they surely will be tomorrow when everyone else shows up. Truth be told, this was our primary motivation for opting in on Dealer Day, knowing it would allow us to avoid the stress of a full blown, full bourse set up. So we got all that stuff corrected, set up our 4 cases of numismatic material and were 100% ready for action by 9:45.
And then quickly sold 3 coins to another dealer in what would become a trend of pretty steady and largely similar activity, with good sales of old and new items alike to many different buyers.
In and around which we walked the floor and impatiently waited for the other guys to put their coins out, which they eventually did at mostly a snail’s pace during the course of the morning. But still fast enough for us to vacuum up a lot of cool stuff in the US and esoteric categories.
While also greeting and chatting with more numismatic friends we mostly had not seen even once in about a year and a half.
Continuing on like this pretty much all day, and finally culminating with us finding a modest motherlode of cool old holders late in the afternoon and buying a big pile of them in one fell numismatic swoop.
Then racing over to lot viewing for some quick review of coins on which we are representing customers, knocked out two of the Heritage sessions of interest and then came back to the bourse just in time to lock up the booth, flip the chairs upside down and head out for a late dinner around the block with some dealer friends during which we variously discussed primitive money, raging forest fires and suitable topics for online numismatic classes.
Finally finishing up around 10:30, heading back to the hotel and settling in for a long restful sleep. Just kidding. I actually instead went to meet a customer friend in the hotel and pick up a box of coins for potential purchase / grading just to be sure I could achieve of our initial goal of working a full 18 hour day.
So by the time I did return to my own room I was ready to collapse to ensure we could be sufficiently rested to do the exact same thing tomorrow, which will include more wholesale activity, more lot viewing and of course more racing around the by then entirely full bourse floor since all other dealers will be set up and the full blown ANA will open at 1 PM.
Wow. I’m exhausted just typing all that. But not too exhausted to also write all about everything that happens in this space real early on Wednesday AM.
August 10th: Day 3
With a piercing blast my cell phone alarm went off at 6AM on Tuesday. Fortunately I was already long since awake reviewing online auction listings, so I just leaned over, turned it off and continued reading.
Then wrote yesterday’s blog.
Updated the website.
Answered customer email.
Described a bunch of auction lots to would-be buyers.
Then went down and got some kind of weird breakfast from the the extremely mediocre snack bar on the first floor.
And eventually got dressed and headed out the door where I immediately heard someone shouting “John! John!“. Now, if you are now or have ever been named John, you will realize that through your entire life that 1) People everywhere always seem to be shouting the name John, and 2) They are always 100% of the time directing it to someone who is not you. Except this time, where I turned to see a long-time customer friend heading over from the parking garage and joining us on our way to the show.
Where we immediately encountered a hurricane-tornado vortex of numismatic activity which, while not always totally productive, would continue, at our table, in the aisles and around the room for the next, oh, 10 hours.
Including evaluating all manner of things that people brought to the table to variously sell, trade or consign to us, among them mainstream US coins that take 10 seconds to value, to weird, highly esoteric material for which your author could find not one single comp or shred of information about despite our extensive experience and robust internet connection.
With as many people coming to the table to look at and or buy coins, of all kinds, and all price points, including things we have owned since last year, and other coins which arrived in our PO Box as recently as Saturday. True.
Plus the dealers who swung by or called to discuss possible deals to split, with all of those needing to be evaluated, mostly with great drop-everything-you’re-doing urgency before someone else swoops in and buys them.
So by about 3 PM your author was already running on fumes, though I did get a Chicago pizza induced 2nd wind in time to buy 3 really cool toned coins at the table, and then snag one excellent coin each from the bourse cases of two dealer friends with whom I’d be having dinner later.
I did not however buy the beautiful US type coin from the dealer who first lamented how he could not find anything to buy on the floor since everyone was asking craaaaazy money for their coins, then immediately proceeded to quote me a price 2.5 times higher than any recent auction record for his own item. “Hmmmm, I see what you mean“, I said to myself while skulking away.
But in all we did find plenty of neat coins to buy on this day, including a lot of old gold, many neat toned US coins, our requisite old holders, some wicked world coins and, of course, some wacko esoteric issues before finally locking up the booth and heading out to dinner across town with dealer friends at Harry Caray’s which I sorta expected to be a typically average celebrity-endorsed joint, but which turned out to be really excellent.
Before finally turning in to be ready for what will undoubtedly be more of the same on Wednesday.
Which you can read all about right here in this space in just about 24 hours from now.
August 11th: Day 4
That was of course your author’s step count on Wednesday, reflective mostly of the continuous loops of the large room we made searching for cool coins in every bourse case on the floor. And since a lot of guys put out new coins during the show, you kinda have to keep going back and looking in these cases over and over again lest you miss something good.
Such as this item:
Which appeared in the furthest reaches of the room (literally) and which we STILL would have missed if not for some helpful bird-dogging by a long time customer friend. But with that tip your author was off like a shot (if not faster), found the item in the back of a case of what turned out to be a local dealer I actually know well and snarfed it up with 3 other CRO-style coins.
And while that black slab would have looked good on the next EB, that’s not going to happen now since we sold it approximately 9 minutes later out of the case making for an especially tidy start to finish transaction.
Though that’s not typical of most of our activity, since we usually buy new coins, ruminate about them and carefully decide our next moves before proceeding. Which is the current status of the giant pile of NEWPs in our back case which is just about full to overflowing.
Including coins in all categories, ranging in cost from $100 to about $50,000, some ready for market as is, others that will be off to grading, or CAC just as soon as we can get them all organized. But given the overall frenetic level of activity here, that’s not likely to happen until we get back home.
Other interesting developments on this day:
- The sale of the single oldest item in our inventory (by holding period, not date).
- A delicious salad for lunch from Gibsons.
- Some yeoman work by MaryAnn who was writing an invoice nearly every time I turned around.
- Some efficient advanced look lot viewing at Great Collections.
- Three interesting deals we split with like-minded dealers, two of which were fast and easy and a third which required your author to figuratively drag the other party across the finish line. He’ll thank me later though.
And while not every coin we were offered or deal presented ended up working, we appreciate every single opportunity and try very, very hard to buy every single CRO-worthy item we see. So please keep offering them to us, but know that if your item contains a lock of human hair or required the participation of a lepidopterist it is probably not going to be for us.
With our last deal of the day the acquisition from a long time customer friend of about 30 choice circ. type coins which we didn’t have time to dive into right then, since it was by then time to race off to dinner at Carlucci’s with some dealer friends which turned out to be a complete and total hoot as evidenced by some impressive hyperventilation which occurred at the table.
Finally finishing up late, making it back to our hotel via the Habitrail and once again collapsing after another super busy, totally productive, extreeeemely entertaining day at the 2021 ANA.
More later –
August 12th: Day 5
How strong have sales been at this ANA show?
Even the snack stand at our hotel was sold out of all viable breakfast options on Thursday morning. And while breakfast is not always a proxy for numismatics, in this case it kinda was as we sold another L sized pile of coins to many different buyers starting early in the AM and continuing on into the late afternoon.
Which is basically the same thing I heard from many different like-minded (i.e. people who have a business model more or less like our own) dealers around the room.
But buying on Thursday was even better, in both standard ways (e.g. I spot a neat coin in an unfamiliar dealer’s bourse case and buy it), and distinctly non-standard. Like when I am at a dealer’s table in the afternoon and a guy walks up and offers him a coin that he passes on, but then says “Can I show this to John?”. That turned out to be a very, very fortunate sentence, since I bought the coin in question instantly, then followed that other dealer back to his table, rummaged through his interesting but chaotic inventory and bought 3 others.
Hauling them back to our table just in time to be handed a coin by another guy who says “I have something you’re going to want” which in this case was 100% accurate. 110% even.
We also squeezed in more time for some additional lot viewing at HA and GC, met with more long time customers, executed 2 trade deals but failed on a third, went and saw the 1933 $20, checked out the Tyrant display, looked at a collector’s neat set of beautiful circulated 18th century type coins, handed over a consignment to an auction house, ate a delicious but absurdly priced cheeseburger at the snack stand, collected checks from other dealers and went back and picked up some remaining straggler stuff we ourselves had bought earlier in the show.
Finally winding down about 5:45 and then heading to dinner on the patio at Morton’s which was delightfully cool, completely dry, totally delicious and ended with an unexpected and impressively large fireworks show which apparently Rosemont puts on every Thursday:
Who knew? I did not not.
And then we looked toward Friday where we expect plenty more activity on the bourse floor, plan to go back and try to buy more coins we saw around the bourse floor, need to view more lots at both SB and HA, have additional coins for us and our customers to consign, etc., etc.
And then again blog all about it right here in our next installment of the RR to be posted about 24 hours from now.
August 13th: Day 6
Good news everyone – the snack stand at the hotel restocked overnight, we were able to have our usual Rosemont breakfast and we were thus feeling fine as we headed to the convention center for the penultimate day at the 2021 ANA.
First order of business, view some SB and HA lots for a customer, at which time your author plowed through all of the remaining coins I had yet to view finding a surprising additional number to bid on.
Then headed to our table to find us already open for business (since MaryAnn was of course there to hold down the fort) and making sales, since she is apparently something of an invoice writing machine.
Allowing me to focus on consigning some additional coins to HA, and GC, work out another split deal with a guy on the other side of the room, check out our latest grading results and price two deals offered to us – one of which was relatively simple and straightforward, the other more akin to birthing the same baby hippopotamus I used to describe launching our website last year.
Making this an excellent opportunity to illustrate the best way to sell, or not sell, your numismatic items to a dealer:
A Good Way
- Offer your items to a dealer who actually specializes in things like yours.
- Know that the price of your coins needs to be in some alignment with the current market for comparable items.
- Understand that the dealer reselling them needs to make some profit on the deal.
A Not So Good Way
- Offer bizarro stuff to a guy who doesn’t know anything about it.
- Attach all sorts of unrealistic conditions (i.e. I will sell you my coins, but only if you also buy my collection of rare laundry hampers).
- Treat the other party as though their time is worth 9¢ per hour.
But despite some minor frustrations along the way, we had an excellent day overall, especially toward the end when we added 15 fantastic coins to our ANA haul, including some of the beautiful old-holdered gold we looooooove to buy.
Then perking up when your author was paged to go to another table, did so and discovered that, for the first time ever in my numismatic career, the page was actually for me (and not some guy with a similar name), the table # was correct and there was actually business to be done there. So I did it.
Returning just in time to find a luxurious extra few minutes to go view coins in the auction previews at HA and SB which will be appearing in future sales down the road where we may or may not be able to view them.
So all told we were very pleased with the day’s activities as we headed out to dinner with a dealer friend at a different restaurant waaaaaay down the street, along the way passing a bunch of attendees from the Anime Show being held this week at the Crown Plaza, all in wild costumes. Not sure why costumes have not really caught on at coin shows – we’re actually considering it for the upcoming LB show where your author is thinking of dressing as a bourse floor lamp.
Anyway, we’ll be back at it on Saturday, cleaning up loose ends, finalizing any deals, maybe viewing a few more lots, doing whatever last business can be done and then hightailing it out of town on an evening flight which we hope will not be delayed by weather, but probably will be.
And if it is, or even if it isn’t, we’ll be recapping the last day in Rosemont from the comfort of home on Sunday AM.
August 14th: The Exciting Conclusion
As is our usual method, we’re going to recap the last day at the ANA via a series of random observations presented in no particular order:
While Rosemont is not the most exciting venue we’ve ever visited, it gets extreeeeemely high marks for convenience when you are flying in and out
Including Saturday’s group, our total NEWPs haul at this show ended up at 101 coins, 87 of which were slabbed.
While we also had an excellent selling show by our standards, we also had a few near misses on coin deals we really thought would happen. Hey, maybe they still will in the next few weeks.
MaryAnn lost an earring at the show Saturday which we could not find despite diligent searching, but then discovered at the airport that it had been stuck to her shoe the entire time.
Someone showed me some wicked coin late on Saturday they had purchased on the floor here which we had apparently missed in our many tours of the room. Hey, we know you can’t get ‘em all, but we would have really, really wanted that one.
For lunch on Saturday we split a real Chicago-style pizza with the guys at the table next to us, and it was several hundred grades better than the version being sold at the bourse floor snack stand.
We bought a totally cool set of medals here that we had been trying to buy for the last 5 years. I really did not think that was ever going to happen.
I watched someone buy an antique magic wand with a coin in it here in a transaction that I was absolutely convinced was not going to happen either.
I feel fortunate that during the entire show only one (1) visitor to the table tried to engage us in a debate about mask efficacy. For the avoidance of any confusion, we’d really prefer to talk about coins.
I spent more time viewing the Tyrant Collection on Saturday, and then watched them start to break it down and box it up as the show ended. Seeing that made me feel very, very fortunate that we travel light.
Speaking of highfalutin coins, I talked to several dealers who specialize in the really high end 6-figure++ material and ALL reported fabulous sales at this show.
At 3PM Saturday we bought our very last coin at this show, a neatly toned Seated Quarter we last owned 9 years ago. That was cool, since we are always happy to buyback coins we did well with before, especially if they have been away long enough to be so totally fresh again on our list like this one.
Where it will now find a welcome spot on our next Early Bird which we are planning for Tuesday, August 24th. So you might want to keep an eye out for that –