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Back to Road Report Archive 2019

September 4-7, 2019: The Long Beach Coin & Currency Expo

rr2019 09lb3


Good morning numismatist and welcome to this our very first installment of the 3rd LB Expo RR of 2019.

Which is being written from an extremely dark hotel room where your author is currently typing veeeery quietly so as not to wake up his wife.

Because she is still recovering from a Tuesday which included an early start to meet a customer in Cambridge, a full day’s slate of mailing, packing and show prep and then a looooong flight out here in the evening.

But soon enough we’ll be leaping into action at the convention center, first dropping off our show grading, then doing our typically concentrated lot viewing at Heritage (which, like the ANA auctions a few weeks ago, will include US and world coins here) before storming into the show for dealer set up precisely at noon.

Where we’ll look to buy and sell with alacrity and in general enjoy what we hope is a continuation of the excellent ANA show activity.  And we’re kinda optimistic about that, since that action has continued in full force over the last few weeks since we got back from Rosemont.

But of course every show is different, and we’ll just have to see what happens here and then blog all about all of it right here in this space each and every morning of the show.

OK?  OK!

September 4th:  Day 1

Having carefully planned for the forecasted 96 degree high here in LB on Wednesday (i.e. wearing shorts), your author burst out of the hotel lobby at about 7:30 AM and headed over to the convention center where a series of important numismatic tasks awaited us.

First stop: Deliver some coins to two different dealer friends, which we did on a high-top in the Hyatt lobby in a less discreet fashion than you author would have wanted. But that’s not that unusual in our experience, as dealers are always milling about there in the hours before the show opens, and business is often done right there in the lobby restaurant, in the chairs near the elevator and pretty much anywhere else someone can find a space.

Next we were off to the PCGS pre-show submission room on the lower level which proved interesting, mostly since some unrelated group had brazenly commandeered the room and was in mid-meeting when I arrived (despite the presence of a PCGS sign outside, and a bunch of PCGS supplies on the table behind them which should possibly have triggered someone to think “hey, this is not our room”). They were however very friendly, welcoming me to “pull up a chair!” and join a conversation I knew absolutely nothing about. They were less friendly when evicted a few minutes later by the hotel staff.

Still, that went better than in one of the other rooms, where the exact same scenario played out with other members of this same massive group having set up shop in a room that had been reserved for another coin dealer. Honestly, I thought some guy in a suit was going to get decked in that one, but cooler heads prevailed, allowing us to submit our coins, and look at a few others before heading over to the convention center to view the HA lots.

Which were being shown right on the bourse floor in a new twist that was apparently too new for the security staff who refused to let me in insisting that lot viewing would be held “in the evening” despite the posted schedule literally 3 feet away which said 8 AM on it.  Eventually we got through that too, viewing lots under a large white tent of the sort often seen in a movie when someone has a wedding in their backyard (and then a dog goes nuts and knocks everything over).  Fortunately that did not happen here, allowing me to pore through a few thousand lots at a good clip, finding a lot more to bid on here than I expected. Circling many, taking copious notes and finally finishing up around 11, just in time to have a quick lunch across the street before the show opened.

And when it did, we headed straight to our deluxe table #612, set up our 4 cases, wrestled with some lighting issues, got that squared away, hung the banner and were up and running in not more than 20 minutes.

Making our first sales right after in the form of two of those commems in the old, all-white NGC slabs which would be a theme on this day, since we had 9 of them on display to start and sold 8. Hey, commems are hot.  So were some world coins, and other assorted US apparently since we sold them too during a pretty productive set-up day.

Buying turned out to be pretty decent too, from some long-standing and new sources, as your author scooped up some cool, old holdered US coins ranging in price from a few hundred dollars to just over 10K, a couple of world coins, and a handful of neat tokens. One of the coolest things we saw, though, was not available, since we heard the dreaded “Sorry, that’s on hold for someone else” by the time we got to it. Oh well, can’t get ‘em all (though we certainly try).

We also met a few local collector friends who were in early, schmoozing, catching up and talking coins. Though in one instance we had to opt out, as a collector asked for our opinion and a value estimate on a coin that is coming up in the HA auction here. To which we always respond the same way:  If we are representing you in the auction we will of course give you chapter and verse, otherwise we aren’t going to provide this kind of information lest we create more competition for ourselves. Sorry.

Anyway, we concluded our last deal just before the 6 PM closing, then hustled over to the Hyatt bar for a drink with some dealer friends before heading to dinner at our old haunt 555 at the same table on the patio we always get.

Before finally returning to the hotel at about 10 and unceremoniously collapsing after what had by then been a long, tiring, jet-lagged, pretty warm but altogether quite enjoyable day here in LB.


September 5th:  Day 2

As is de rigueur here at CRO, your author woke up rested and ready for action at 3:19 AM on Thursday, suddenly remembered that we were up against the next CoinWorld ad deadline, banged that out, wrote the blog, worked on auction stuff, answered email, talked to two east coast customers and generally was extreeeeemely productive even before breakfast.

Which due to an annoyingly long line at the Starbucks at our hotel would instead take place back at the Hyatt, followed by a short walk to the convention center, a brief wait at the bottom of the escalator near the bourse room door with all the other dealers and finally our entrance to the show precisely at 9.

Where we dove back into it, finishing pricing a deal left with us late on Wednesday, delivering sold coins to a couple of dealers, picking up some middling show grading, and then spotting a cool not-exactly-in-our-wheel-house coin in an unfamiliar dealer’s case while on the way back.

Which your author purchased at way less than he expected, placed directly into our own bourse case and then sold it literally 6 minutes later to another dealer in what is always an extremely satisfying kind of transaction in which one sees an opportunity, seizes it and receives instant gratification.

Of course that’s hardly the norm, though it was a helpful reminder of the incredible inefficiency of the coin market, where despite a seemingly 100-fold increase in the information available to all participants in recent years, sellers and buyers don’t always find each other readily. It also helps to have a table right near the front of the room, display things well and make sure all the right people can see them.

As was the case with our Seated Dollars at this show, where we sold another cool ‘never-made-it-to-the-website coin’ in a 6-coin cash and trade deal with a local specialist.

And then did a similar transaction for a world coin requiring us to once again figure a whole bunch of coins on the fly, check and recheck the figures and ultimately come to a deal that we think was a win-win for both parties.

In and around which we picked up a bunch more not-all-that-exciting show grading results, and dropped off others hoping for kinder treatment. We’ll see soon enough.

Finally almost making a last deal of the day for another new coin just acquired here, which is now on hold, and which we’d be sorry not to get a chance to list on the site. But we think it is increasingly important to have new, never before seen coins in our cases at all shows so that attendees come running over to the CRO table even faster than they might have otherwise lest they miss something good.

Also something good: Dinner at a cool Vietnamese restaurant in Manhattan Beach with some local coin friends which was great fun and a nice departure from the handful of places near the convention center we have visited countless times through the years.

Arriving back at the hotel around 10, finalizing one last transaction and then calling it a night so we would be rested and ready for what we hope will be a busy Friday with lots of buying and selling, excellent grading results and capped off with some fantastic auction buying. Hey, here’s hoping.

With whatever happens to be described right here on Saturday AM.

September 6th:  Day 3

We had a bit of a different schedule Friday as we needed to re-view (as opposed to review) a bunch of lots in Heritage’s colonial and world sales. So there we were bright and early (the earliest, in fact), with our choice of lamps and viewing assistants, having a second careful look at about 25 lots of high interest.

Then exiting the not-yet-open bourse floor only to make a sharp U-turn about 5 minutes later when it was open to dealers, returning to our table, getting things re-set up and starting the whirlwind once again.

Where we enjoyed another successful day selling a lot of coins that hadn’t yet made the site, like this one for example:

Another satisfying result that nonetheless left of us wondering if we should have taken that home and run it through the next EB and thus realized the added benefit of a marketing boost, demonstrating the kinds of things we handle to a wider audience, surfacing other similarly cool coins someone might offer us, and possibly ID’ing other interested customers who might buy such a future example from us. All important parts of the virtuous coin-dealing cycle that we want to foster within the delicate balance of our show and online business.

We also bought a surprisingly large number of ‘walked-up-to-the-table’ coins on Friday, a reflection of the fact that we like to encourage this behavior, and that many of the things that did walk up were directly in our wheelhouse. Some of which occurred organically (i.e. someone finds our table since we’re near the front of the room), others via referrals from other dealers who thought we were more familiar with certain categories and might want them (which we always appreciate).

We also made a lot of similar referrals ourselves on coins that aren’t quite for us, in one case directing a customer with an SLQ to a dealer likely to pay more for it than we would, and in another advising an attendee that he should not accept the lowball offer he had received on an off-quality gold coin and should instead try a different dealer. Which we were glad to later learn had yielded him 20% more than the first guy. Good deed done.

We were also surprised / bemused by the many people expressing interest in and wanting to see our 1781 Vermont 3 Pound note on Friday, a truly great piece of colonial currency and an item which last traded at auction more than a decade ago for just under $50,000. With the general reaction of Friday’s inexpert viewers all along the lines of “For a piece of old paper?”, and “Are these real signatures?”. Um, yes, and yes.

With our last yesses of the day the agreement to purchase a totally cool old-holdered Ike, and another on a token we found in the “budget” section of a familiar type in a never before seen metal which will look frankly spectacular on the website (if it makes it that far . . .).

And then we were off to the Hyatt for a drink, followed by dinner with some collector and dealer friends at Thai District where the level of spiciness can be ordered in 4 increasingly hot levels, and anything over 2 is pretty much inedible (and will inevitably end up in your eye when you are trying to mop your brow). So now you have been warned. Highly recommended though.

Returning to the hotel late to review the bids I left at Heritage and finding that we were literally outbid by one increment on most of them, except for 2 coins on which we were trumped by $35 (on a ~$1,500 coin), and in another case by $2 (literally) on a ~$2,000 coin.

Q: That’s not really possible, is it?
A: Sure.  It can occur when you enter a proxy bid of, say $2,100, and someone else leaves a prior podium bid of $2,102. Voilà, you just lost by 2 bucks.

Of course that can be avoided by following the session live and bidding again, but for stock we prefer to enter our max bids and let them fly lest we end up catching a mild dose of auction fever and spending more than we want. Oh well. We’ll hope for better auction results in the internet sessions, and more action on the floor on Saturday before catching a late flight home.

From where are final LB RR will be penned from the comfort of our couch.

Until then, then –

September 7th:  Day 4

Great news everyone – now back home, your author is thoroughly rested and ready to start typing!

Which I will now do by summarizing the just-completed LB Expo through another series of random observations presented in no particular order whatsoever:

Based on a surprisingly large number of requests (one of which came in a voicemail message I would describe as “frantic”), we have included a photo here of the aforementioned Heritage Lot Viewing Big Top Circus Tent located smack dab in the middle of the otherwise utterly normal bourse floor:

That was really a good spot in our view, and certainly convenient for us dealers.

Grand LB Irony #1: One interesting aspect of the room dispute described here in our Day 1 RR was that the group that had commandeered the rooms was in fact the SBDC – the Small Business Development Center – whose stated mission of supporting small businesses apparently includes preventing an actual small business from actually conducting their business.   SMH.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure we have ever had worse on-site grading results at any show than we did this week in LB.

Still, our grading was probably more satisfying than most of our auction bidding, as our proxy bids were outbid by one measly increment on nearly everything, except the ones where we were outbid by a half-increment or the tiny fraction thereof reported yesterday.

Even so, our grading and auction bidding went better than our exercise schedule here which pretty much got obliterated in a sea of blog writing, email answering phone calling, auction prepping and other business activities. Hey, at least we got in our usual 15-20,000 steps daily marauding around the bourse floor.

Which we used to great effect, buying a lot of cool coins, making deals left and right, and selling to retail clients right up through early Saturday afternoon.

Speaking of auction lots, one that we were particularly interested to observe here was this lovely 1792 Washington Getz Pattern in an NGC MS62 BN holder which realized $117,000 on this day (images courtesy of HA):

Which is exactly $3,000 less than it realized when last sold by Heritage in a PCGS AU58+ holder back in January of this year (images courtesy of PCGS):

Which is pretty much what we expected, since AU58+ is such a popular grade, and in our experience an “upgrade” to MS62 isn’t necessarily more desirable or more valuable to many collectors.

Grand LB Irony #2: We purchased a coin from a dealer named M&M on Friday, and when we returned to deliver the check he was on his hands and knees behind the table picking up about 600,000 Peanut M&M candies from a giant party bag that had just dumped all over the floor.

Based on yet another generous gift from a dealer friend, MaryAnn too has joined the army of dealers (well, now 4 of us) wearing Spicolis at the show:

So of course we looked good as we completed another successful LB from which we will bring back about 50 NEWPs, many of which we hope to squeeze onto another epic EB on Tuesday.

Which we will begin working on as soon as we finish typing this sentence.