November Baltimore Show Review

Great crowds, a strong gold market, a daily ration of Lobster rolls from the nearby Legal Seafood Restaurant, amazing Spring-like weather…what more could you ask for at the third and final Baltimore show of the year? It was an excellent show and one of the few in some time that had me wondering if I wasn’t leaving too early when I boarded the plane at BWI airport late Friday evening. Baltimore has clearly become the #3 coin show, trailing only the FUN and ANA conventions and the Fall edition is, in my opinion, easily the best of the three held each year. Thursday was a day given over primarily to wholesale trading and it was one of the busier days I can remember having at a coin show all year. From the minute the show opened until it closed that day, I was busy buying and selling. In the course of one three hour burst in the middle of the day, I sold three six-figure coins including a Stella in PR66 and a very rare piece of Proof gold.

It was really easy to sell coins at this show, provided that the coins were interesting or fresh. Given the fact that I had a number of interesting, fresh coins in my inventory, it was clearly a great selling show. Buying was another story altogether. There were just not a lot of interesting coins at the show. I spent much of Friday pounding the pavement looking for interesting gold coins. I did find a few great items (all of which are listed on my website with descriptions and images) but would have liked to have purchased more.

If you collect Carson City gold coinage, I have a major announcement to make. I am working on acquiring two important collection of Carson City gold with an emphasis on eagles. I hope to have these available in a few weeks and when I do, you will have the opportunity to acquire numerous important coins including a few Finest Knowns and many Condition Census pieces. For more information, please feel free to email me.

The Stack’s/ANR sale held prior to the show did not contain much in the way of rare date gold coinage. It did contain some amazing Washingtonia from the fabled Norweb collection and prices were, in most cases, remarkable. Still think that a good pedigree doesn’t make a difference to buyers? Try explaining that to the room full of buyers at this sale.

One of the most remarkable items in the auction was a unique presentation medal awarded to Zachary Taylor and struck from the first gold found in California in the original Gold Rush days of 1848. It was massive (weighing a pound), it was gorgeous, it was fresh to the market (having been consigned by descendants of President Taylor) and it was accompanied by its original presentation box. It sold for $460,000 which is almost certainly a world-record price for a United States medal.

I did not participate in the Bowers and Merena auction held during the sale because it contained virtually no gold coins of interest to me. I was told that a number of Registry Set quality 20th century coins sold for very strong prices including a PCGS MS67 1941-S half dollar which brought an amazing $90,800 (!). Its probably not my place to comment here about this purchase and I’m certain that the new owner is happy with his coin but $90,800 is A LOT of money for a 1941-S half dollar, especially given the fact that a nice MS66 can be readily bought in the $2,000-3,000 range. This is an example where I think two bidders kept pushing and pushing in a display of who is more macho and the winner may well have been the loser. (But you have to think the consignor, at least, was thrilled…)

Gold jumped up quite a bit right before the show began which gave generic issues a nice little upward push. The generic market is still not exactly healthy but buyers were more active than at any show since ANA in this area and this translates to greater overall liquidity in the market with more money available for rare coins. It will be interesting to see what generics do in the next thirty days and if they continue to trend upward, I can’t help but think this will be a good thing for the coin market in general.

For me, the 2006 edition of the coin market is pretty much drawing to a close. I am not attending any more shows until FUN in January 2007 and plan on taking some much-needed vacation time in December. I do plan on going to Dallas in mid-December to look at FUN auction lots in what, rumor has it, could be the most valuable coin auction of all time.

Getting back to the Baltimore show for a second, I’d like to answer a question someone asked me the other day. Why has this show grown and prospered in the past few years while the Long Beach show seems to have lost some its luster? I think the Baltimore show is doing a great job of promoting itself and it has, at the very least, doubled in size in the past year or two. In addition, it is now for all intents and purposes the only show of any consequence on the East Coast. When I was growing up in New York, there were major shows in New York, Philadelphia and Boston every month or two. Today, all these shows have fallen by the wayside and the many thousands of serious Eastern collectors are left with Baltimore as their closest convention. One has to wonder if someone isn’t missing the boat not trying to put on a good another good show on the East Coast; perhaps in Philadelphia or a site close to Manhattan.