2008 Central States Show Review

In my last blog, I predicted that the Central States show in Rosemont would be active. How did the show turn out and what are my current impressions of the market? Read on for all the answers...and more. After a lack of shows for over a month I knew that there would be a strong demand for nice coins and I was right. Every dealer I spoke to at the beginning of the show told me that they literally had to be three places at once to get a shot at the fresh coins that were available. For someone like myself who does coin shows without assistants, partners, lackeys or go-fers it can be very frustrating to try and buy coins, view auction lots, answer emails, make phone calls and more - often all at once. I can’t ever remember a time when I’ve had to work harder to buy!

I arrived in Chicago on Tuesday and began buying literally as soon as my plane touched the ground. Wednesday was PNG Day which meant that only a limited number of the table holders could set up. I got to wear some spiffy clothes and I got to focus exclusively on wholesale business which, for better or worse, is what shows are really about right now (I’ll explain a little bit more about this statement in a second).

There were a few very interesting deals that broke at the show. I was able to buy some nice early gold coins from an outstanding collection of pre-1834 gold that a West Coast dealer was selling. This was the sort of deal that usually sells at auction (all the coins were in old holders and many were significantly undergraded) and I believe that virtually the entire deal sold to the first three or four people who viewed it. I also heard about a neat collection of Bust Quarters by die variety that sold (I was able to buy a few leftovers from the dealers who handled it) and I was impressed that the collector who owned it didn’t place it in auction.

After lots of running around, I was able to assess what I had purchased and I was pretty impressed. I thought this Central States was the best buying show that I have had since last year’s ANA and I was able to purchase over fifty new coins and I spent north of $1 million in a few hours of frenzied buying. I have already listed many of my new purchases for sale on my website and some of the highlights are as follows:

  • A choice 1861-C $5.00 in PCGS AU58
  • A nice group of New Orleans eagles ranging in price from under $1,000 to over $10,000
  • A superb 1799 half eagle in NGC MS61
  • An 1812 half eagle in PCGS MS64
  • The Garrett 1886 $3.00 in NGC PR63CAM

I was also able to buy a couple of excessively rare coins (that I can’t mention here) for long-term clients whose want lists I have. I admit that I’m not as great at working want lists as I should be (again, this goes back to not having enough help at coin shows) but I will say this: if I know that you are looking for a special coin and we have a good relationship, the chances are a lot better that you will get a shot at this coin than if I have no idea what you are looking for (or who you are).

Thursday was a day that began with me focusing on selling some of the older coins that I had in inventory. I took a group of twenty or so coins around in a box, showed them to three dealers and sold 85% of the group with relatively effort; in many cases for the same amount of money that I had been quoting collectors on my website. My take on selling? It was very easy if you had nice coins.

I thought that the retail aspect of this year’s CSNS show was pretty disappointing. Granted, I didn’t have a great table location and I was away from the table 75% of the time as I was out buying coins. But it seemed that there wasn’t a great “retail buzz” and I only met a few new potential clients.

As I mentioned above, I am noticing that coin shows are more and more about buying and wholesale business. In a market like this when it is hard to buy and easy to sell, a coin show is a brutally competitive environment for specialist dealers. I don’t have the luxury of the mega-dealer who just sits at this table and wades through boxes of other dealer’s coins. And I don’t have the desire to spend four or five days at a show like I did a few years ago. Shows are now extremely intense two or three day affairs for me and I find it hard to spare fifteen minutes out of my limited time to schmooze with a collector who wants to view a coin. I would much rather sell coins to collectors from the saner environment of my office where I do actually have the time to discuss things. The one exception is at the larger shows like ANA and FUN where I am committed to staying for the entire week and don’t have to do four things at once for two days.

I’m sure you’re wondering what was hot at the show and I’m sure that my answer won’t surprise you. There were a number of dealers looking for early gold and Proof gold, particularly coins that were choice or rare. I sold a number of interesting double eagles at the show and that market seems as robust as ever (with the exception of generic Saints which you can’t give away right now..) I also noticed a renewed interest in Three Dollar gold pieces and I was surprised to sell a few Charlotte coins that had been languishing in my inventory for a while. The areas of the market that seemed slow included generic gold, commemorative gold and nearly anything that is ugly or has been recycled through thirty dealers in the past year.

Interestingly, there are no more shows for close to a month and most dealers will be staying at home until Long Beach at the end of May and Baltimore at the start of June. It will be interesting to see how this lull in the action affects the market.