I can count on one hand the number of coin shows that, after close to three decades in the business, I still enjoy. The FUN show is one of them. It is well run, well-attended, and even when the market is just so-so, it tends to be an excellent show for me. I'd like to share a few observations about the recently-concluded 2012 FUN show. Unlike the ANA show(s), what I like best about FUN is that it is concise and to the point. No pre-shows, no PNG day...the doors open on Wednesday and I stay crazy busy until I close up on Friday night. For someone like myself, who views coin shows as a work environment and not a place to schmooze, this makes me happy. I start working and then, typically, I say to myself: "I'm hungry." I look at the clock and its already 2:15; I've worked six+ hours straight without a break. I like that.
I found it hard to buy nice coins at the show but not more so than at other recent conventions I've attended. I look back at a show like FUN ten years ago and marvel at the great coins I would be offered for sale or stumble upon as I combed the bourse. As a dealer, I have to rely on good connections and lots of hard work to find one nice coin here and another there. I talked to a few dealers who told me it was one of the driest shows they have ever attended. I didn't find this to be the case. There were coins to buy, but they were hidden and you had to work like a numismatic banshee to find them.
I met a number of serious new or relatively new collectors at the show. Combined with the high number of new collectors that are contacting me through my website, I have the feeling that numismatics is gaining a lot of new advocates. After the economy went bad in 2008, the number of new collectors seemed to drop appreciably. Even though I don't think the economy is robust, I do see a lot of new interest in coins. That seems like a good thing to me...
Two types of coins that I actively make a market in but which seem to have suddenly all but disappeared are Dahlonega gold (especially nice EF45 to AU58 collector-quality quarter eagles and half eagles) and better date Liberty Head eagles. This isn't exactly a new observation; both areas are popular and have been hard to locate at shows for at least a few years. But at the FUN show I think I bought a whopping four or five Dahlonega coins (all of which are already sold, by the way) and maybe three Liberty Head eagles.
The Heritage sale was a highlight of the FUN show and the second Platinum Night, featuring gold coinage, was of particular interest to me. The session began with the sale of Dr. Steve Duckor's St. Gaudens double eagles. Steve is a good friend of mine and I was rooting for him to hit a home run. The results of the sale were probably just a bit disappointing for him, mainly due to one or two of the expensive coins which didn't do as well as expected. This isn't a reflection on the coins, which I thought were magnificent. It's more a reflection on the fact that the Saint market isn't that strong right now and the Magic Billionaire that Heritage had hoped would develop a sudden need for rare Gem Saints didn't materialize.
For me, the highlight of the sale was a date run of fat Head half eagles including a few issues (1819, 1821, 1828, 1828/7 and both varieties of the 1829) that come up for sale on average of once or twice a decade. The quality of these coins ranged from so-so to superb but prices were very, very strong. To me, this is a validation of a point that I've been making for years: these coins are extremely rare and they have been overlooked and undervalued in the past. I expect price guides to reflect significant increases in this series and deservedly so.
I personally had an excellent show. I made it back to Portland late in the afternoon on Saturday and by Sunday I had posted close to forty new purchases. In the last few days more than half of them have sold and this includes a few of the "big" coins like a PR66 1862 gold dollar and a PR65 1871 gold dollar. The market seems healthy right now and there is no doubt in my mind that good coins, in a variety of price ranges, are selling.