September 14-17, 2011: The Whitman Philadelphia Expo
Since we just got back from Long Beach, and I have spent most of the time since then unpacking a suitcase whose handle was ripped clean off by an airline who shall remain nameless (Virgin America) and then immediately repacking a new one, you might think we’d be a little tired of this traveling thing. If you did, however, you would be utterly and completely wrong, since team CRO is, frankly, psyched for what we expect to be a fantastic Philly show.
Which for us will begin before dawn on Wednesday, as we zoom down to the City of Brotherly Love, eschew a massive cheesesteak breakfast, and head straight to lot viewing at Stack’s-Bowers where we expect to park ourselves until the auction begins, at which time we might just bid like crazy.
During which we will obtain plenty of interesting fodder for our Day 1 Road Report, which can be seen here, bright and early, on Thursday AM.
September 14th: Day 1
Since the first flight to Philadelphia leaves at 5:30 AM, and would require getting up waaaay too early, I instead opted for the much more civilized 6:30 flight, allowing me to sleep in until 3:30, eat a leisurely breakfast while in the shower, and stroll into the airport at 5, land here in town at about 7:30 and grab a cab to the hotel.
And everything was going according to plan, as I landed, approached the first cab in the line, handed my luggage to the kindly older driver, and then watched with abject horror as he hurtled through the streets at about 85 miles per hour in a ride that could best be described as “nauseating”, or “Did we just hit that lady on the bike?” And I know I was not the only one impressed by this performance, since on at least 4 separate occasions during the drive, another motorist took the time to inform my driver, either verbally, or via various well-known hand gestures (including one lady who delivered her message with both hands) that he was an “#@%&!”. I don’t know about you, but I always feel awkward in these situations, as people act like you are in cahoots with the driver and might be thinking “maybe that jerk in the back seat forced that kindly old man to drive like a maniac”, when in reality you are just sitting there trying not to throw up.
Anyway, these insults and gestures did not deter him at all, and we rocketed to the hotel in about 15 minutes, which I thought was worth a substantial tip if only for the entertainment value provided.
I then stashed my bags and raced to lot viewing, arriving just in time to wait outside for 15 minutes with a couple of other dealers until they let us in.
After which I viewed a gazillion lots, at first alone, then eventually with Dave, figuring we’d get through everything before the auction started at 2 PM. One problem: I was soon informed that 2 PM referred to west coast time, meaning that we suddenly found that we had an 3 extra hours to view, which was useful, but also meant that the auction would be running really late in the evening. Scarily so, in fact, as the primary coins of interest to us were 937 lots in, which according to my quick math would have us sitting there, probably pretty tired by then, at 2 AM.
But we had an extremely productive time buying 27 lots in reasonably active session in which there were available chairs, but at least one prominent dealer still opted to sprawl on the floor like this:
And there were a number of items we found interesting:
Lot #83, the extremely cool and previously unknown silver 1780 Virginia Happy While United medal, hammered for $95,000 to a well known dealer who was frankly giddy afterward.
Lot #424, described as “(4) Early Casting Metal Collector Copies of US Medals” sold for what might have seemed a high price for such a thing, which was explained by the fact that one of the supposed copies was actually a genuine piece of which there are less than 10 known (something that a number of astute collectors and dealers had all figured out before the auction).
Lot #445, the newly discovered 4th known example of the AM I NOT A MAN Hard Times Token in pretty rough shape brought a lot more than I expected, hammering at $33,000.
Lot #497, a Spering, Good & Co. HTT in porous VF condition opened at $27 and hammered at $30, demonstrating that not everything was hifalutin.
Lot #1147, a group lot described as “(2) Vermont Coppers”, contained two pieces that were pedigreed to the Taylor and Picker collections respectively, which were significantly better than a number of the items that were sold individually. Based on the spirited bidding, we were not the only ones to notice this – we were delighted to win it though.
Then we returned back to the hotel at a seemingly late hour, where I was surprised and pleased to see by the inexpensive radio clock near my bed that it was only 10:58 PM. “Wow!”, I said to myself, “that went a lot quicker than I thought!”. Until I fired up my computer to check email, and saw that it was actually12:44 AM, and the radio clock was wrong, the second time-related screw-up of the day, and a clear indication to me that I needed to go to bed immediately.
So I did.
September 15th: Day 2
As some readers may have noticed, Thursday was a bit of a challenge resulting in the late posting of yesterday’s RR.
You see, with the auction running as late as it did on Wednesday, your author found himself in the unaccustomed position of having overslept on Thursday but not realizing it right away, since the for-crap radio clock in my hotel room was actually 1 hour and 32 minutes slow (which I have been unable to fix no matter how many of the small buttons I push or how many times I swear at it). Which explains why I woke up feeling good and fully prepared to crank out a fine RR, suddenly realized the clock was completely wrong, the show was already open, and I had to drop everything and race out the door.
Which I did, arriving at the convention center after 9, tried to find the show, got some horrendously bad advice from a security guard who directed me with confidence to the wrong building, ignored her, and finally made a mad dash into the bourse much later than pretty much everyone else, but apparently not too late to snag some good coins on the floor that somebody else had not already snapped up before I even got to our table. True.
And those 5 coins would be the first of about 2 dozen NEWPs we vacuumed up during the day, raw and slabbed, about 1/3 colonial, 1/3 federal and 1/3 esoteric (i.e. weird, including some old holder stuff of the highest order).
Sales were pretty good too and totaled a just about equal number of pieces, including a 1786 Vermont VERMONTIS copper (a coin we bought at the very end of the ANA, and the first of this variety we have owned in y-e-a-r-s), a stunning Capped Bust Half Dollar, some generic gold and one very expensive coin.
One indication of the level of activity was that we never did get a chance to have lunch, which at this show would have meant walking about 15 feet across the street to Reading Terminal Market, where you can literally find any delicious thing you would ever want to eat.
We didn’t pick up any auction lots either (since you can’t do that until Friday, I think), nor did we do any grading (since PCGS is not here), which is unfortunate, though it probably helped our purchases and sales by freeing us up from filling out forms and/or waiting in long lines to pick up or deliver coins.
Allowing us to make our last on-floor acquisition of the day at about 5:30, a cool PF Trade Dollar, after which Dave entered our bids for the evening auctions while I stood over him and told him to hurry up repeatedly so we could go eat.
Which we did with two collectors and a dealer friend when I, being a fairly observant person, noticed that the temperature outside had dropped a good 20 degrees and it was downright autumnal out there.
And dinner was entertaining, with discussion of many numismatic and non-numismatic topics, and the purchase of one last coin, which made 1.5 revolutions around the table before ending up in your author’s pocket.
After which we headed back to the hotel passing the convention center on the way and peering into the auction room but not entering it, since, after Wednesday night, we just couldn’t sit in there any longer.
Friday we look forward to a more timely arrival, buying and selling some more cool stuff, picking up lots, consigning coins to some upcoming auctions for us and on behalf of a couple of collectors (something we do quite often, since with our volume we can get a better deal with the auction houses than they can), and finalizing a few pending deals around the room.
September 16th: Day 3
Although we did not specifically plan it that way, Friday became NEWP day at the show, as we sorted out a large box of auction winnings from the previous 2 days, and also added a frankly surprising number of additional items in all categories that we found on the bourse floor, either through our own extensive rooting around or with the assistance of a numismatic bird-dog (i.e. someone who comes up to us and says “I just found a coin you would like at table #XXX”). Which we then run over and check out. And, if it is something we had not seen on our own, and we buy it, we always pay the NBD a cut for their assistance, since this is really a valuable service which at this show has happened 3 different times.
But other cool NEWPs actually find us and that is always fun, and a little like Christmas, since we have no idea what to expect as someone walks up to the table and says (often quite dramatically) “I think I have something you might want . . .”
Which always brings us to the edge of our seats, craning to see what someone is about to pull out of their bag. Sometimes, unfortunately, it is something horrible, like an artificially toned Morgan Dollar in a 3rd world slab or a clearly counterfeit 1780 8 Escudo in a Capital Plastics holder which we have to politely decline. But other times it’s something very cool, like a cluster of old-holdered gem type that we snap up immediately (if not faster).
On this day it was mostly the latter, plus a colonial variety we have never handled before, the wildest Wildman Taler we’ve ever seen, some cool proof coins, a cool and affordable gem commem with pretty toning, a killer CBH, etc.
And of the things which were offered to us on Friday, we ended up buying almost all of them, which suggests that a lot of people (collectors and dealers alike) have a good sense of the kind of things we will buy (which is good), and know that we are going to pay more for them than most anyone else.
But with this activity comes three downsides:
- It has generated a growing mountain of paperwork that someone (e.g. your author) is going to have to sort out.
- We are running out of room to store this stuff since PCGS’s absence here has had one unanticipated consequence: Those blue plastic storage boxes which are usually ubiquitous are here in very short supply.
- We didn’t have time to eat lunch, which was actually fine since dinner has been pretty enormous every night in a city that another dealer referred to as “Food-adelphia”. And I do believe that is accurate.
And of course we’re not done yet, with more auction sessions to go, more cool coins possibly walking up to the table, more neat things we might find on the floor or maybe more NBD’s pointing out other coins which we either missed on our own or which other dealers may have just put out on display after we had already been there. Whatever the source, we are still very interested to add cool coins, so if you have some, or know of any, let us know – it will be well worth your while.
And whatever we do buy could very well be described here, in the next RR, to be posted early on Sunday AM from the comfort of home.
September 17th: Day 4
Friday night might have been the worst night’s sleep I’ve had since that family camping trip on Cape Cod where the air mattress deflated at 3 AM nearly causing me to roll out of the tent and down a steep hill.
And while this time I did not careen out of my hotel room and into the hall or anything like that, I never really did fall asleep and eventually gave up trying after about 4 hours, instead doing work and watching an old movie before watching the sun come up, getting dressed, packing up and checking out in a sleep-deprived fog.
Which is nothing that a cinnamon bun and a giant cup of coffee won’t fix, of course, and after that I was basically fine, or at least fine enough to buy two more colonial coins in the morning, and then watch as Dave sold two coins and then bought a wicked old-holdered $20 at the table, which was a promising beginning, though it would turn out to be the entirety of our commercial activity during the day.
Mostly because at noon the public numbered no more than about 43, and dealers started leaving the room in droves, vacating some entire aisles, though we, and other like-minded dealers, stuck around to the absolute bitter end. But while a few guys seemed to be busy with customers (probably doing bullion deals and stuff like that) we were mostly doing paperwork, starting to put together Tuesday’s EB, and sorting coins for photography, grading, etc., while talking to an occasional collector who stopped by to ask about the value of a Franklin Mint ingot, or show-off a silver dollar in a lucite block (though admittedly it was a very nice block).
On a more positive note, the lull did finally allow us to go over to the Reading Terminal Market for lunch at the Amish Deli, which was delicious, and to figure out how we did here, which was excellent on the buying side, and merely pretty good on the selling side.
But merely pretty good selling seems a realistic expectation for us at shows these days, in a world where collector buying is increasingly done on the internet (often by people in their underwear), and we don’t see that trend reversing anytime soon. For the record, we also do not anticipate the handwritten note and stamped envelope replacing email, or anyone starting to build hundreds of new, enormous bookstores.
Which for us is all good, since we’ll soon be unleashing a long list of NEWPs on Tuesday and adding a lot of cool things to the website thereafter for the consideration of today’s newfangled collectors.
But before that, it is time to take a nap – right after mentioning that our next RR will be posted from the ANA National Money Show in Pittsburgh in about a month.