September 9-16, 2006: The Long Beach Coin & Currency Expo
Let me tell you, there is nothing like the Long Beach Expo to test your luggage packing skills. 8 days, two hotels, all of our show materials and everything we need to view and evaluate lots.
We arrived on Friday, September 8th and checked in to our hotel in Beverly Hills just down the street from the offices of Superior on one side and Goldberg’s on the other.
Saturday consisted of speed lot-viewing. The relatively thin Superior catalog didn’t present too much of a problem, but Goldberg’s Yellow-Pages-sized US Coin catalog plus a nifty World Coin catalog took some real effort. And, as noted in past Road Reports, lot viewing at Goldberg’s is no picnic – it’s extremely cramped, and exacerbated by the fact that some of their viewing assistants have evidently never, ever seen a box of coins before. But we got through it all, none the worse for wear.
Anyway, here is what we found to bid on: Not much. Lots of marginal, tired, producty coins (i.e. anti-fresh, conserved coins that have been kicking around the market for a while and looked like they had been out partying really late). We saw a few widely spaced nice pieces and, like probably every other person who viewed the sales, those are the ones we circled.
A couple of colonials were interesting, including a Bar Cent in PCGS AU58 which was not missed by anyone.
We attended sessions most of the day Sunday, Monday and until late in the night on Tuesday, running from Superior’s offices (where their sales are held) to the Crown Plaza Hotel up the street (where Goldberg’s always conducts their sales). Surprisingly, we bought most every coin we had targeted. Not surprisingly (to us), they weren’t inexpensive. The aforementioned Bar Cent hammered for $22,000, which is noteable as, to the best of my knowledge, the highest price ever paid for a Bar Cent at public auction. Ever. And that includes coins in past years in a PCGS MS64 holder and raw Gems.
We too have heard all of the so-called experts opine on the current state of the market and have read a few articles describing the ‘new levels’. And while there is no question that some areas, like generic gold, have softened considerably, all of the classy, choice early type and colonials that we wanted to buy went extremely strong.
Also strong were the buffet offerings at both Superior and Goldberg, and believe me, a good buffet is appreciated.
The couple of days in Beverly Hills are pretty grueling, at least in the context of coin-dealering. Flying cross-country to get there, arriving late at night and being jet-lagged isn’t too bad – lots of people with real jobs do it all the time. Viewing a gazillion coins in a day and a half and critically evaluating each one is hard, and its harder when you are tired. Hanging around Beverly Hills sounds like fun, unless you are hauling 45 pounds worth of auction catalogs, all of your reference materials and a halogen lamp. Add to that the alternating auction schedules of Superior and Goldberg’s which have you dragging all of your stuff from one venue to the other and its a large pain in the neck. But all of this can be soothed by ‘Mexican Night’ at the Goldberg auction – those enchilladas are worth the price of admission.
Come Wednesday AM, we packed up, checked out and rolled on down the road about an hour to Long Beach, where we checked into our next hotel adjacent to the convention center and, you guessed it, went straight to lot viewing for the several thousand coins and tokens in the various Heritage auctions.
We viewed the US session, the Tokens session, the World session, the Canadian session (not that Canada isn’t part of the world – it is – but the catalog was separate) and the online session. We also received the ‘ringer’ Troy Wiseman Collection catalog, which was separate, but merely contained all the coins he owned which were also widely spaced throughout all of the other catalogs noted above. I’m guessing Heritage committed to give him his own book, and by golly they did.
Quality here was about as good as it was at the others, which is to say not very. Most of what we saw was just stuff, with a few very interesting and sexy things here and there – though many of the better pieces were from the Wiseman Collection and had been on the market just a year (or less) ago, as he quickly assembled his collection and then just as quickly decided to sell it. So a lot of that which was good wasn’t exactly fresh as a daisy.
In all, we found just a handful of nice pieces to bid on, we bid aggressively and we got them.
The bourse itself opened with dealer set-up on Wednesday at 2 PM with a dull thud. Nothing much exciting happened and, despite our best efforts to buy coins, we found very little worth buying. In all, we spent only about 25% of the total we planned for new purchases at the auctions and bourse combined. If there had been more choice material on the market, believe me, we would have bought it. As it was, we left with a large stack of blank checks.
Conversely, our sales were decent, mostly in the $1,000 to $5,000 range, but bouyed by a couple of pieces of expensive, high-end early gold. We sold about 50/50 to collectors and dealers.
Throught it all, Heritage’s various auction sessions went on. And on. And on, culminating with the Troy Wiseman Collection of Civil War Tokens at 3PM on Saturday as many dealers were starting to pack-up or had already left. That seemed a poor time for a sale, which certainly could not have helped the results.
In total, the show was mediocre, though this venue often is for us. Choice coins went very strong, when they were available. Average coins didn’t do much. No doubt some areas are weaker than in past months. But anyone who now believes all coins will be selling at ‘new levels’ is seeing something that we frankly are not.
We believe a good test for the market will be this week at Stack’s, as they have some interesting, choice pieces which haven’t been seen in years. I believe anyone going there anticipating buying coins inexpensively is going to be very disappointed.