Affect of Gas Prices on Coin Market

Energy Prices and the Coin Market - How are soaring energy prices going to affect the coin market? I got my first taste of the New Reality today when I decided not to attend a coin show because of what I thought was an exceptionally high price for an airline ticket. The other day I received an email from Whitman Expos regarding their August Atlanta show. I believe that this show is in its third year and I have attended the previous conventions. Even though it is a brutal flight for me to get to Atlanta from the Northwest, I’ve always looked forward to the show. I love Atlanta, I like the Whitman people and want to support their shows and I have some good clients in the Atlanta metropolitan area. So even though this had never been a “major” event on the coin circuit, I was still happy to attend it.

That is, until I went on my airlines’ website yesterday and looked up the price of a round trip ticket to Atlanta. Even booking the ticket more than two months in advance, the best fare I could find was close to $800—and that was with a lovely three hour layover on the way home in Dallas. To get a convenient round trip ticket was nearly $1,000.

Now I know that the airlines are hurting and that Americans have had the luxury of really cheap airfare for the past decade. But when I figure a $1,000 plane ticket on top of a $200 per night hotel (I don’t like to share rooms when I travel and I’d rather camp out under a bridge than stay at a cheap hotel), the price of a table at a show, meals, etc., a show like the Atlanta Expo suddenly gets expunged from my schedule.

I wonder how many other dealers are feeling the same way about non-essential shows. No matter how expensive airfare gets, I’m still going to attend the ANA and FUN shows and I will continue to attend West Coast shows because of the convenience factor. But instead of going to three Baltimore shows per year, I’ll probably cut back to two to reduce expenses.

I have a pretty fortunate set of circumstances when it comes to attending shows. I go by myself and generally split tables with other dealers so my basic expenses aren’t that high. I also have a small inventory so I do not have to check extra bags and get hit with all the new fees that make travel in 2008 so much fun. I wonder, however, about the dealers who bring two or three people to shows (or in the case of a firm like Heritage ten, twenty or even fifty) as well as supplies.

My guess is that you are going to see an immediate change at certain shows. Small, local shows that dealers can drive to probably won’t be affected and the large national shows should remain strong. But the medium size regional and national shows almost certainly will suffer. You might see a number of dealers from the West Coast at the aforementioned Atlanta show this year but next year I would think many of us who have a 4000+ mile round trip flight will punt.

I know there are other trips I’ll now think twice about. I often fly to Dallas to view Heritage auction lots a few weeks before a major show since I have trouble finding the time to look at these coins during a show. When airfare was $400 to get Dallas and I could book a ticket at this price at short notice, it was a no-brainer. When airfare is $800 and I have to book this trip a month in advance, I will think twice; especially if the sale isn’t of interest to me.

Yet I wonder if all of this isn’t somehow for the best. You can put me high on the list of dealers who have complained for the past few years about how grinding the coin show circuit can be. Trust me, five trips in five weeks isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, especially when the destinations include the various Numismatic Gardens of Eden that I find myself in on so many Wednesday and Thursday nights of my life. And, of course, I will be the first to admit that no one is holding a gun up to my head and forcing me to attend Long Beach or Baltimore (especially when they are held back-to-back). Maybe the typical coin dealer’s lifestyle will improve by not being on the road so often.

So here we go into another potential new cycle in the coin business. It will be interesting to see what changes the Era of the Expensive Airplane Ticket (not to mention the $4.50 gallon of gas) brings to the market. I expect they will be greater than we realize.