Tales from Our Numismatic Travels
November 17-20, 2021: The Whitman Baltimore Expo
For the first time since November of 2019 (i.e. two looooong years ago), Team CRO is delighted to be setting up once again at a fall Baltimore, always one of the biggest and best shows of the year.
And we absolutely expect more of the same this time, with no shortage of enthusiastic collector attendees, dealers rarin’ to go, tons of new coins on the bourse floor and all arrows pointing toward a numismatic explosion (in a good way).
With CRO right in the middle of it, back at our usual table location just steps from the door, with tons of new coins in tow, and the desire to buy every cool coin we see starting with wholesale action followed by dealer set-up on Wednesday night (a new thing this time since that was always Thursday AM in previous years), rolling directly into the show on Thursday and continuing right up until we depart on Saturday evening.
So if you are in the area we hope you’ll stop by and see us. But if not, you can still follow along with all of the action in our Road Reports to be posted right here every morning of this show.
November 17: Day 1
Your author likes to work.
And that’s a good thing, since we got an XL dose of it on Wednesday starting with a rapid fire tour of the wholesale rooms at the convention center early in the AM during which we pored through about 75 boxes of coins being offered by the various dealers there.
In which we always hope to find neat some NEWPs suitable for the website, though the reality is most of what we see in these sorts of venues is just ‘stuff’ with an occasional (or extreeeeeemeley occasional) nice coin mixed in. But it’s always worth it to us to look, just in case.
As it was on this day with a total haul of 11 coins all likely destined for an upcoming EB.
Interesting side note: We saw one other spectacular piece we really wanted to buy, only to be told by the owner that “We cannot sell you that coin because you already own half of it”. Now you might ask yourself how I did not recognize a coin I already own, but the reality is that as our business has gotten bigger we have more partnership deals and split coins than ever with dealers we know and trust, and sometimes some of those get sold by those partners and involve trade ins for other coins that we never actually see. Until we run into one of them in a box of coins and experience the scenario above.
Interesting side note part 2: I can recall something similar to that happening years ago when another dealer came running over to our table at a FUN show with a cool coin he had found on the bourse floor and wanted to know if I would split it with him. To which I responded that I would, except I already owned half that coin.
Anyway, after that excitement, we re-reviewed all of the lots of interest in the Stack’s Bowers sale with my favorite lot viewing attendant Elizabeth, who has been a fixture here forever, is 94 years old and sharp as a tack. So I was able to breeze through all of those coins like lightning, revise my thinking on a few, confirm my opinions on others, and ultimately identify about 50 to bid on in the various sessions next week.
Interesting side note part 3: I have to say that I like this new set up where the lot viewing is held here at the show, but the auctions themselves are next week, since trying to manage all of the show and auction stuff at the same time like in the pre-Covid days was craziness.
After which I ran back to the hotel, had a quick lunch and then returned to the convention center to meet up with two collectors in succession to review coins, offer opinions, take some on consignment for CAC submissions and/or for sale, buy a few others and generally continue to build up our boxes of EB-destined NEWPs.
Interesting side not part 4: One of the coins shown to us was one the owner had found on the bourse floor at a show some years ago, and thought it was something that we would like. To which the answer was yes, definitely, since it turned out we previously owned that coin and sold it to the person who sold it to the dealer in whose case our customer had found it.
During which we were interrupted 3 times (in a good way) by other dealers calling us to mention coins that they saw that could be for us. Of which we bought a few because we really liked them, and because we definitely want to encourage people to birddog stuff for us like that.
Anyway, after all that it was about 4:45, giving us just enough time to run down to security, get our bags, and join the queue waiting to enter the bourse for the new Wednesday evening dealer set up period from 5-9 during which we’d be starting Phase II of our workday just as other people around the country were about to engage in happy hour.
And I have to say that Team CRO was working like a well oiled machine as we made our way to our familiar table 442, arranged the booth, attached the lights, hung the banner, filled the cases and were completely set up in less than 15 minutes.
Giving your author an opportunity to then run around the bourse floor and find more cool stuff. And while most other dealers were not fully set up yet, I did look through a few more boxes and found another 6 cool coins.
Interesting side not part 5: One of the coins in that group is one I had purchase originally in April at a show, only to be called back by the selling dealer the next day and told that it actually had been ordered by a customer the previous day from his website, was in the bourse case by mistake, and would I be willing to unwind that transaction. Which I did since it wasn’t that big a deal to me, what goes around comes around, karma and all that. But I was very happy to find it again here.
And then, after all that. We finally decided to call it a day, heading out to dinner with some dealer friends at Cinghiale which we were delighted to find was still open (since not all of our other Baltimore favorites are), solved various important world issues, talked through several ridiculous coin dealer scenarios, and generally had a lovely dinner that ended late at night.
Putting us in the proper frame of mind to hit the floor running tomorrow where we expect all hell to break loose (in a good way) during the first official day of the fall Baltimore show 2021.
November 18: Day 2
After a delicious breakfast of artificial plastic eggs at the hotel on Thursday AM, Team CRO was off to the convention center for whatever the day might bring.
And since our booth was of course already prepped and ready to go, we were able to hit the ground running (literally) as your author once again raced around the room looking for cool stuff that someone else had just put out.
Which I did to the tune of another half a dozen neat NEWPs in the US and world categories, ranging in date from 1556 to 1953, in grade from XF40 to MS66 Gold CAC, and in price from a few hundred dollars to the low 5-figures. And I can’t tell you how much fun that is, just cruising around, buying whatever catches my eye and seems like a good fit for the website in any category.
Returning back to the table just in time for what would end up being the first of a few dozen transactions, including sales of coins we’ve had on the site, others just acquired here in Baltimore and a few that we specifically brought to show customers.
We also bought a bunch of other coins that walked up to the table, including another wicked Indian Cent to add to the couple we found earlier thinking they would make an ideal 3-coin row on the next EB. Yes, we do think that way, since 1) A row of related items on any EB always seems to be popular, and 2) It also satisfies your author’s need for visual EB symmetry. To wit, rows should contain like items whenever possible, be they coins of the same type or series, or three unrelated issues that all have a common theme such as a volcano or an animal, any single slab shown must be in the middle of a row, if a row contains 2 slabs they must be on the ends, etc., all self-imposed design directives guaranteed to make our typical EB prep take as long as is humanly possible.
After which we tried one of those gyros from the snack stand in the convention center lobby which I would describe as “acceptable”. Frankly we’re just glad there is even a snack stand operating at all, since in these Covid times many similar conveniences have been vamoosed in the airports and hotels we frequent.
Anyway, we were back at it all afternoon, selling well, looking at other coins to buy, closing the deal on some, but rejecting others (including some old holder and CAC coins) that just did not hold up under a loupe.
Speaking of which I had an interesting conversation here with a collector concerned with some tiny marks on his coins which I could barely even see with my trusty 3x glass. It then occurred to me he was probably using a much more powerful loupe which is great for certain things, and terrible for just looking at regular coins. In my experience, if you are looking at all coins with some mega-magnifier, you are not going to buy any of them since every trivial mark and inconsequential flaw will leap into your face in bold Grand Canyon relief. To summarize, looking carefully is great, hauling your electron microscope onto the bourse floor: Not so great.
With our last deals of the day completed around 5:45 after which we headed out for dinner with my old college roommate and his wife in nearby Highland, MD, capping off an excellent day at the show with some Grade A socializing we have not been able to partake in here in 2 long years. That was fun.
Getting back to the hotel just in time to catch the 4th quarter of the Patriots-Falcons game before summarily collapsing after what had by then been a long, active and extremely productive day.
And we expect another one here on Friday which will then be summarized, detailed and encapsulated right here in our next EB to be posted 24 hours from now.
Until then, then.
November 19: Day 3
Eschewing the super expensive and terribly mediocre buffet at our hotel, Team CRO opted instead for the extremely flat ham and egg croissant in the convention center lobby, schlepped it to our table and enjoyed an elegant 7 minute back table breakfast under a bourse lamp before flinging off the table covers and officially starting our Friday in Baltimore.
A day which would prove to be significantly more active than our already very productive Thursday – both on the buying and selling side.
With purchases including two nearly full PCGS box of choice coins acquired one or two at a time from a variety of dealers and collectors during the day, the highlights of which would be a group of lovely, wholesome colonials, some neat tokens, nicely toned US type, an extremely round and very eye appealing Cob 8 Reales, etc., etc.
And then a couple of small collections from which we extracted the best pieces for the website and sold the remainders immediately to other dealers on the floor which is sort of a standard CRO SOP in these situations.
All adding up to a great deal of activity which in and of itself would have made for a real fine Friday, but which here was totally overwhelmed by ‘regular’ sales which were steady, to both collectors and dealers, in all categories, and including one XL colonial which suddenly two different collectors independently decided they wanted a few minutes apart in the afternoon.
We always find that sort of thing especially interesting, when a coin which has been in our case and available and has been viewed by people casually over a few days, but which then two people suddenly want to buy based on no obvious precipitating event. Hey, maybe it’s some kind of synchronicity or something.
With Friday’s last transactions the sale of a neat 8 Reales and an old holdered $10 Lib to a couple of YNs at about 5:30.
After which we packed up, headed over to the Renaissance for a drink and then drove over to Blue Agave with some collector and dealer friends on Light Street where we discovered a neat neighborhood we’ll definitely be visiting again next time we’re in town.
Finally calling it a night late in anticipation of a busy and hectic Saturday where we’ll pack up and check out of the hotel, work a full day on the bourse floor and then catch an evening flight home.
From where our last EB from this show will be written on Sunday.
So you might want to keep an eye out for that –
November 20: The Exciting Conclusion
Now back home after another excellent Baltimore experience let’s recap the show through a series of random observations that do not include any mentions of breakfast at all:
After 2 long years away, we were very happy to see many, many local collectors stop by our table at this show, and very pleased to do a deal with a good % of them.
We kept searching for cool coins here right up until the very end, adding a neatly toned O-mint H10¢ and a nice Seated Dollar in the early afternoon on Saturday, bringing our total NEWP count to (a drumroll please . . .) 68 coins and tokens here. And that does not include whatever damage we can do in the series of SB auctions starting late this afternoon.
Speaking of which, I will say once again that I really like having the auctions held the week after the show, since it allowed us to focus completely on our customers here without also trying to figure, track and execute bids at the table like in past years. I even remember a show some years back where an important auction session was held literally all day during show hours to the extent that some dealers put an “AT THE AUCTION” sign on their vacated tables leaving dumbfounded show attendees in the lurch.
At this show (like pretty much every other one we attend) a number of collectors and dealers asked if they could make an offer on a coin in our case. Many offered reasonable numbers within some shouting distance of our asking prices and we were able to make a deal with almost all of them. One person Saturday offered 22% of our asking price on a US coin which predictably did not result in a sale. So I would say please do keep those offers coming at shows or on website coins, but let’s not get goofy about it.
Of every cool coin I saw at this show, there were only two that I really, really wanted that got away to someone else. Oh well, can’t win ‘em all, and in my coin dealing experience it would not be surprising if both of those eventually find their way back to CRO eventually. Here’s hoping.
Based on our own experience and what I observed in the 400 aisle here with some of my best dealer friends, there was an awful lot of colonial coin business being done at this show. That was very cool to see.
Staying at a hotel during this covid period takes some getting used to. We accept that certain services are curtailed and we can deal with some inconveniences, but it would be great if they did not leave the half-finished bar glasses with 800 gross cigarette butts in them sitting by the door for a week.
When I mentioned to a gentleman at the table that CRO has been setting up at this show in this exact same table location since 2008, he asked me “Do you ever sell any coins here?”. Um, yes, yes we do.
We sold plenty of coins here that were listed on our website, but many that were not. Like these, for example:
In 6 unrelated transactions throughout the course of the show with 6 different people, some involving a single coin, some multiple coins, others with partial trades, or partial payment in cash, we ended up receiving 6 checks for exactly $8,000. That was weird.
A collector at the table mentioned to me that he had heard that “only 5% of the total CRO business is actually done on our website”. I don’t know what that means, or where it came from, but I am always amazed at the amount of mis-information and puffery that flows in the coin business. All I can say is that if you want to know something about a CRO coin or the CRO business, just ask us.
Such as “Hey CRO, when will you do your next EB?”. The answer to which is Tuesday, November 30th. We thought about doing it a week earlier (i.e. two days from now) but we can’t get all that photography done in time, and we also don’t really want to send a list out at the same time SB is conducting a mega-auction in which we are also bidding.
And that’s really all we have to say about that.