Baltimore Show Report

I went to this the November 2008 Baltimore show with limited expectations. Having spoken with a number of dealers whose opinions I respect, I knew the buzz wasn’t exactly encouraging. I would say that my overall impression of the show was that it was a little better than I expected but had I gone with normal expectations I would have returned disappointed. You can’t fault Whitman for anything that went wrong as the show was very well run (as usual). But collector attendance was unquestionably lower than what I would have expected for the last major show of the year and many familiar faces were either absent or were speed-walking through the aisles trying not to be tempted by the coins in the cases.

What was most noticeable at the show was dealer uncertainty and a clear dichotomy in market savvy. While most dealers did want to purchase coins, they were extremely cautious with their purchases. If a coin was fairly priced, something out of the ordinary or appeared on a valid want list, it probably sold. If it was priced at summer levels, not especially attractive or rare and not terribly desirable, it might have been used as a Numismatic Frisbee.

I mentioned a “dichotomy” among dealers. What exactly does this mean? There are a number of dealers (currently around 20-30%) who understand that the economy is lousy and that coins are harder to sell and have adjusted their prices accordingly. But there are still many dealers who appear to be in denial and are either not willing to sell old inventory at lower prices (and take losses) or are pricing new coins based on what a comparable piece might have brought at auction earlier this year. These dealers will either learn the hard, cold realities of a new market or they will be supersizing your value meal by the spring.

How much is the market down since the heady days of late spring 2008? I’d say in many cases between 20% and 30% and in some cases a bit more. But not all coins are down. In fact, I think there are areas of the market that are just fine. As an example, I would be happy to purchase as many nice EF40 to AU50 No Motto New Orleans half eagles and eagles as I could find at levels comparable to what I was paying four or five months ago; as long as the coins are choice, attractive and dates that I consider to be desirable.

Clearly, the real test of the market is going to be the 2009 FUN show. It looks like a potential perfect storm where there are going to be a bazillion coins for sale at the various auctions, numerous cash flow issues with dealers, a clearly Recessionary economy, a new Presidential administration and a clear schism between those dealers who “get it” and those that do not.

My November Baltimore show was, as I mentioned above, not really all that bad. I was able to purchase some really exceptional coins, all of which are already posted on my website ( My wholesale sales were lower than usual for a Baltimore show but I did sell three mid-five figure coins and have strong interest from dealers in two other relatively expensive pieces. I should also point out that I was extremely selective with which dealers I showed coins to as there are certain firms whose checks seem potentially bouncy to me and the last thing I want to do over the Thanksgiving week is explain to my banker why so-and-so’s check was returned for insufficient funds.

As I was flying back from the show, I read the New York Times. It’s probably a real sign of the times that we live in that instead of turning right to the sports section, I read the business section first. One story, in particular, made my neck hair stand-up: a report that the stock market is experiencing its worst year since 1931. Most blue chip stocks are down 40% and many have lost 60%, 70% or even 80% in value. This really makes me believe that collectors who have a little discretionary cash right now might do a whole lot worse than considering buying a few nifty coins. My guess is that the really neat stuff is going to remain hard to find and it won’t be a whole lot cheaper than it was a few months ago but the level of competition among buyers has certain dropped, creating an excellent opportunity.

Hopefully you have had a chance to check out all the new features of my improved new website. I would greatly appreciate your feedback and am always looking for ways to make your web experience with DWN more pleasant and user-friendly.

Have an excellent Thanksgiving holiday!