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Back to Road Report Archive 2007

September 23-29, 2007: The Long Beach Coin & Currency Expo


Day 1:

Good Morning Readers,

Our story of the Long Beach show and pre-auctions will begin not with a bang, but with a whimper. I actually arrived in Beverly Hills on Saturday the 22nd, but so little happened on the first day that I couldn’t bring myself to write about it. Sure, I could have mentioned the jetBlue flight, and how the guy next to me couldn’t get his in-seat TV to work and so insisted on not only watching mine, but actually asked me to turn off the Florida-MSU game at one point so he could watch women’s soccer. But other than that the day was fairly uneventful.

And Sunday wasn’t much different (except that the weather was better).

I was up early, walked down the block to Goldberg’s, tooled through all of the US and foreign lots, was generally uninspired, and then left. Still, it was more interesting than Superior, which I skipped altogether.

Goldberg’s auction schedule kicked off Sunday night with the “Budget, Bulk & Bullion” lots, though I think an alternative name might have been something like “Coins We Can’t Get Rid Of”. I did view them all in hopes of finding a hidden gem, but there wasn’t one. So I didn’t go.

I did find perhaps a dozen things to bid on in the the first session of the ‘regular’ US lots and spent some time in the evening going through those and calculating bids. Figured I’d go view the key pieces one more time Monday morning prior to the auction starting just after lunch at my hotel.

I’ll tell you one thing – I sure hope something exciting happens on Monday becuase I really need better material to work with in these blogs.



Day 2:

I was hoping for some increased activity on Monday and that’s exactly what I got – in fact, this activity is still continuing right now, as I am sitting in the Goldberg’s Ancient and World Coin session watching generally strong prices, bidding occasionally myself and writing this Road Report. Yes.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The day started 15 hours ago, as I woke up on east coast time, read 42 emails, responded to 28, re-worked a bunch of bids and called Dave (who is currently in Connecticut), at which time he reminded me that Ponterio & Associates was holding another auction across the street from my hotel. And that was good, since I had completely forgotten about it.

So I made that my first stop (actually my second stop; first stop was breakfast with a dealer friend). But then it was over to the Marriott to view the few hundred lots of US, world and territorial gold in the Ponterio offering. Pretty neat stuff there, and we’ll certainly be bidding on some.

Then it was down the block to Superior, where I decided that, contrary to yesterday, the silver and gold sessions were worth viewing / attending / participating in. While the catalog was pretty thin, there actually were some neat, original coins there. And we like neat, original coins.

I then rolled straight from viewing into the Superior auction itself (held right there in the lobby of their building) and bought all 3 coins I wanted. And speaking of holding an auction right in the lobby of their building, one of the more interesting aspects of the session (and a situation unique to Superior in my experience) is that the lobby opens directly out onto the street and people come and go throughout, including a man who was apparently buying a watch at the jewelry counter right there in the lobby, right in the middle of the session. I kept waiting for the guy to suddenly thrust his arm in the air and bid on a coin. Alas, he didn’t.

Anyway, as soon as my last Superior lot hammered down, I slowly raced across the street to Goldberg’s to re-review the coins of interest I had identified the previous day. That took me up until about noon, just in time to head back to my hotel for the kick-off of Goldberg’s colonials through copper session (and lunch!) at 1 PM.

That proved to be uneventful (both the cold cut lunch and the session itself), as I ate very little and bought nothing. Still, it took a couple of hours to finish up, leaving just a small window of time for planning and prep for tonight’s two auctions – dollars through gold at Superior at 6 PM, and the aforementioned ancients and world coins at Goldberg’s at 5 PM. Seeing as how I couldn’t really be in both places at once, I had to leave bids with a rep at Superior (which I really do not like to do) and attend Goldberg’s myself.

Which explains why I’m sitting here now. Anyway, this blog is almost done, and I have just one more coin to bid on before I call it a night.

Tomorrow promises some of the same, with Goldberg’s long (and robust) session kicking off at 9 AM, including many coins on which I will be bidding.

Until then, then.

Day 3:

Tuesday was sort of like Monday, except that I didn’t have to run up and down the street from Ponterio to Superior to Goldberg’s and back. Instead, I got to comfortably go down to the 2nd floor of my hotel to the Goldberg auction starting at 9 AM and stay there, in relative comfort, for hours and hours as they sold small cents through commemoratives in a well-attended marathon session.

Then I had a few hour break (which I used to collapse in my hotel room) before the Goldberg’s would crank it back up again with patterns through gold starting at 6 PM in the same room.

In total, I sat through the sale of 1,252 lots and bought a grand total of five (5).

It was just about SRO in the room for much of the day, and the attendees (plus the Ebay and phone bidders) were active throughout. And, not surprisingly, prices were robust on most everything.

A few things did stand out though:

Lot 2580, a wonderfully, classically toned 1805 Draped Bust Dime in a MS64 PCGS holder hammered for $30,000.  That’s well, well over price guide values (no surprise there) and seemed like a decent deal to me.

Lot 2783, a stunningly beautiful 1870 Seated Half Dollar in a PCGS MS65 Green Label holder hammered for a numerical-grade-ignoring $11,000 to a dealer apparently representing someone on the phone. With coins like this, it is necessary not just to ignore the price guides, but to actually wad them up into a ball and fire them out the nearest window – which several bidders apparently did.

Lot 3276, the lovely 1795 Small Eagle $5 in an MS64 PCGS holder hammered for $280,000, a figure which in this day and age caused not even a glimmer of excitement in the room. I was amused when someone on the other side of the room asked if we should all clap or something (not unusual in auctions when something really big goes off). But no one did.

I stayed through it all, including the sale of the Dr. Hesselgesser Saints toward the end of the session where prices were strong and a 1921 Saint in a MS65 PCGS holder brought the highest price of the day, hammering for $880,000 and thus tipping the $1 million mark all-in.

And there you have it – most anything good, or rare or attractive seemed to go very strong and we expect more of the same at the Heritage auctions and the show itself over the next several days.

And that’s where I’m heading right now, as we pack up and drive down to Long Beach this morning.

Day 4:

Today’s Road Report represents a first for CRO: That’s correct, this blog is being written, right now, on a boat.

And not just any boat – I’m on the Queen Mary, now converted into a big, floating hotel, anchored securely in Long Beach harbor (as seen on our home page), looking somewhat the worse for wear, but still elegant in a 1970’s James Bond film sort of way. Such as my room, which is smallish, and somewhat spartan, except for the burl walnut walls which would be right at home on the dashboard of an old Jaguar.

I’d also mention the portholes, but I’m still trying to figure out how to open them. But even that is not as cool as the shower, which has four knobs in it labeled Hot Salt Water, Cold Salt Water, Hot Fresh Water and Cold Fresh Water. I can only imagine the adventure that awaits me tomorrow morning when I try to figure out exactly how that works, and which direction I’m supposed to turn all of them.

Anyway, it wasn’t exactly our first choice of hotels here in Long Beach, but since there is a massive solar power convention going on at the same time as the coin show, hotel rooms are scarce and we took what we could get.

In total, the overall effect of being on a large, really old boat could best be described as extremely creepy, as I keep flashing back to that scene in Titanic when Leonardo DiCaprio first discovers a few inches of water in the hall outside his room. But the foreign tourists seem to like it, as evidenced by the fact that there are literally hundreds of them everywhere I go, mostly taking pictures of each other. Including on a tour of the boat being conducted by a guy in a full (and apparently historically accurate) captain’s uniform not 15 minutes ago on the poop deck.

But enough about the boat – there was actually some real coin activity today which will be described beginning with the following sentence:

I left Beverly Hills today at about 9 AM, cabbed it down to the Long Beach Convention Center and rolled directly into lot viewing for the myriad Heritage sessions to be held over the next several days. And since I would have a window of about 4 hours before dealer set-up began, I pored through thousands of lots first in the World and Medals & Tokens catalogs being shown on the first floor, and then in the US Signature and US Final sessions shown right on the bourse floor, weeding out things I didn’t like and creating a list of ‘possibles’ for Dave to view later.

And 4 hours later, that’s what I had done, ending up with a list of perhaps 100 coins out of thousands and thousands viewed. I’m also pleased to report that only one coin went missing in the process. Fortunately (for me) it was found after considerable and frankly pretty calm searching by the Heritage employee wearing the ‘Lot Shower’ (presumably pronounced show-er) badge. The coin turned up after he determined that it was a ‘Large Lot’ that was never in the box to begin with (as I had suggested about 6 seconds after it ‘disappeared’), but I did appreciate the fact that there was never any panic, I was never made to feel uncomfortable, and no one frisked me.

Anyway, after viewing we were funneled back out into the lobby just before 2 PM to join the requisite enormous throng waiting to get back into the bourse floor when it opened, followed by the traditional mass migration to the various dealer tables. At which time Dave made his first appearance of the week, straight in from the airport, just in time for set-up to commence.

But set-up was fairly uneventful. We sold 12 coins in total, and bought one, against a continuous backdrop of PA announcements telling dealers that there was a huge backlog of people waiting to unload at the loading dock and bring their coins in, a function, again, of overcrowding do to the aforementioned solar power convention. I have no idea what the real impact of that was, if any, but overall activity on the bourse certainly seemed subdued.

Anyway, set-up continued until 7 PM, at which time I took a cab over to the Queen Mary for dinner and some blog writing. It will need to be a fairly early evening on this day, as I need to hit the bourse running at 8 AM and make sure we’re ready for the first auction (Tokens and Medals) starting at 9:30.

So, that’s really all I have at this time.

Day 5:

We’re going to get right to it in this Road Report, just like we did when we woke up early on Thursday, hit the bourse at 8 AM and got ourselves organized for the Heritage Medals & Tokens auction starting at 9:30.

We did, and the results were good at the start of the session, as we bought everything we wanted at prices that were on average about 30% less than our max bids (including two lots bought on behalf of happy customers).

And as this session continued for hours (and hours and hours), prices were basically all over the place, with some things dirt cheap in our opinion, and others well above our expectations. But perhaps that is not surprising when highly esoteric items with, in some cases, no defined price guides are auctioned. Leading the high-end charge was the 1826 Erie Canal medal in gold at $63,000+ (gulp), while a few scattered items sold for less than $20 (gasp).

Anyway, we had also targeted a few items very late in this session, and so, in the interim, it was down to the bourse floor for some pretty good selling, followed by some judicious buying, which culminated just in time for us to attend the Heritage Signature Auction, Session One, at 1 PM.

And while the Signature Session One was kicking off, the Medals & Tokens sale continued in the room next door, requiring Dave and I to be in two places at once to bid on the things we wanted (since we really don’t like to leave bids on the book). Which meant we weren’t on the bourse floor manning our table at this time, which almost certainly cost us business on the floor that we will never know we missed. Oh well.

On a more positive note, we were not bidding on anything in the Heritage currency auction (also running simultaneously in yet a third room), and so we didn’t have to figure out how to juggle that too.

As for the colonials, prices were mixed. Some of the better material went strong, some medium and one or two weak. We bid on the few relatively affordable choice pieces in the session and were pleased to land a few. But some went higher than we wanted to pay and we let them go. Overall, the results were just OK from our perspective.

Next door, Dave had better luck, buying two more tokens at way less than we had planned to pay.

Then it was back to the bourse, where we had a nice afternoon, selling some neat things and buying a really cool colonial and a superb Pillar dollar at the end of the day.

Then it was off to the Madison for dinner with a few dealer friends, at which time we discussed the Colorado Rockies (the baseball team, not the mountain range), a visit to Hiroshima, and fishing (in addition to coins and coin dealering) before boarding the little red bus back to the Queen Mary.

We expect Friday will be wild, as we have some important Heritage US and World Sessions to participate in while managing what is typically our busiest retail day at the LB show. And this will require a good nights sleep which will begin for me in precisely 7 minutes.

Day 6:

My plan was to write this edition of the Road Report after dinner on Friday in the lobby bar here on the Queen Mary, as this is the only Wi-Fi hotspot on the boat. What I did not plan on was finding about 5,000 screaming teenagers who were apparently here for some concert, but had spilled out into the halls, gangways and most every public space on the boat.

Did I mention they were extremely loud? They were – including the 4 girls staying in the room next to me who made as much noise as possible pretty much all night. Fortunately, the walls here have absolutely no sound insulation whatsoever, and so I was able to hear everything. And when I say ‘everything’, I mean EVERYTHING.

Which was of course not an environment conducive to Road Report writing, which is why I am up now at the crack of dawn typing.

Anyway, back to coins –

If you’ll remember Thursday’s report, I was pretty bullish about Friday and expected big things. I thought it would be really busy. I thought we would sell a gazillion coins.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

Show traffic was very light bordering on anemic, sales were scant and there was very little buzz in the room. And this sentiment seemed to have been shared by most of the dealers that we know.

So what does it mean? I don’t think it means anything, in particular. Thursday was good, maybe Saturday will be strong too, but for whatever reason Friday just wasn’t happening.

In total, we sold 4 coins during the day and bought just a few things on the floor, though we did buy about a dozen lots in the various Heritage auctions going on upstairs.

And then we did, of course, head back to the Madison for another fantastic dinner and some healthy discussions about coin grading. And that’s always pleasant.

Other than a near-miss on the red shuttle bus back to the hotel (let’s just say we weren’t sure if the passenger wearing knee-high combat boots, a ski hat, baggy shorts and a pained expression was going to 1. Lose it, 2. Start a fight, 3. Wig out or 4. All of the above) we made it back to the QM without serious incident (other than the aforementioned screaming teenagers here when we arrived).

Anyway, I am not going to predict what the show will be like on Saturday, we’ll take it as it comes and tell you all about it in our next installment.

But I will predict this: I won’t be riding this bus anymore:

Day 7:

A quick 5 hour red-eye flight across country (which included no sleep whatsoever), and we’re back in New England now and finally able to post the last (and, based on our emails, much anticipated) Road Report from the September, 2007 Long Beach Expo.

The good news is that Saturday in Long Beach was a lot better than Friday, with some strong activity right from the moment we arrived on the bourse floor at 9 AM. Show traffic in general was pretty good on this day until about 1 PM or so, at which time the crowd dramatically thinned out and most dealers headed for their various flights back home.

I was at the table until 4:30 or so and in total we sold 10 pieces during the day, which for us is a very good result for a Saturday, especially when you consider that we were packing up and shipping inventory for much of that time.

Overall, this show was a good one for us and most unusual in that, according to my rough calculations on the plane, our total sales in dollars outweighed our purchases by more than 10 to 1. In general, we often consider shows (and, obviously, the surrounding auctions) as opportunities to buy new items for sale on our site, but it doesn’t always work out that way. And sometimes we just have to go with the flow.

But what we did pick up was pretty neat, plus we have a lot of new items acquired prior to heading out to Long Beach. Many of these pieces will be offered in our next few Early Birds (and eventually on this site), so stay tuned for that.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to 1) Seeing my family, 2) Sleeping, and 3) Not having to get back onto the Queen Mary again for, I hope, ever.