Four Coin-Related Things You Should Do at the 2018 ANA Convention

Four Coin-Related Things You Should Do at the 2018 ANA Convention

So, you’ve decided to attend this year’s Summer ANA show (aka The World’s Fair of Money) in Philadelphia. I’ve never attended an east coast ANA show that wasn’t excellent, so if this is your first show or if it’s your 100th, you have very reason to be excited.

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Dallas Texas and the History of American Coin Collecting

I am headed to Dallas later this week to attend the upcoming ANA National Money show. Going to Dallas is always a little bittersweet for me. I lived in The Big D for a significant portion on my adult life (a little over twenty years, in fact, with a few diversions), and it's where I met my late wife and essentially learned to be a coin dealer. Dallas doesn't have the long numismatic history that New York, Boston and Philadelphia have but despite the fact that it is a comparatively new city, I'd venture to say that it is the epicenter of the modern coin market. The two most important coin dealers of all-time were located in Dallas and at least three to five of the greatest collections of American coins ever formed were created in Dallas as well. A little history follows...

B. Max Mehl, located in Dallas' sister town of Ft. Worth was unquestionably the most important coin dealer in America during the first half of the 20th century. What is so remarkable about Mehl was that he was an immigrant from Lithuania who despite no formal numismatic training (and, in all probability, a lack of all but the most basic English skills for the first part of his career) managed to build a dynamic coin business thousands of miles away from the traditional Eastern hub of the business.

Mehl built his business around clever promotions, self-promotion and using direct mail and advertising at a time when no other coin dealers were doing this, let alone doing this successfully. It is said that his advertising budget in the 1930's and 1940's approached $1 million per year and that at one time a significant portion of the daily mail that arrived in the city of Ft. Worth was addressed to Mehl.

Mehl was not a sophisticated numismatist but he was a wonderful popularizer of the coin hobby and I doubt if anyone who began collecting coins in the era between WW1 and WW2 didn't own at least a few of his catalogs and/or do business with him from time to time. If I'm not mistaken, his old building is still located in downtown Ft. Worth.

Heritage Rare Coins, located in Dallas, is to the 21st century coin market as Mehl was to the market in the first half of the 20th century. The internet has surely been one of the major factors in the changing of numismatics in the last decade and no one has capitalized on the new web-based technologies more than Heritage.

At this point, the rare coin market is as close to a monopoly as it has ever been and I attribute this to Heritage making many very smart decisions in the last fifteen years and their competition conveniently making many dumb decisions. Heritage now completely dominates the American numismatic auction business and they have essentially eliminated their competition save for Stack's Bowers. It is hard to remember that as recently as a decade ago there were at least five thriving competitors in the coin auction business.

The brilliance of Heritage's marketing strategy was to realize before anyone else the impact that the internet would have on the coin market and how being transparent would create a more comfortable bidding and buying environment for collectors. So many of the things that we as a hobby take for granted now (safe online bidding, a database of coin prices and populations, high quality digital images, etc) were either pioneered or perfected by Heritage.

As I mentioned above, many of the greatest coin collections ever assembled have been formed in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

The first great local coin collection in the Metroplex was formed by Amon Carter Sr and his son Amon Carter Jr.  The bulk of this collection was sold at public auction by Stack's in January 1984. I didn't attend this sale but the story behind it, as I recall, was that the weather in New York was awful and that it was not as well-attended with out-of-town buyers as it should have been due to this. The Carter sale was one of the really great auctions of the era even though it is not as well-remembered as Norweb, Garrett, etc.

The best-remembered coin from this sale was the finest known 1794 silver dollar which is now believed to be the first example struck. But there were many great gold coins in the sale including very high quality Liberty Head double eagles (Proofs and business strikes) that would generate considerable interest today if offered for sale.

The next great Dallas collection is a name better-known to gold coin collectors: Harry W. Bass. The Bass collection, which was mostly sold in a series of four auctions conducted by Bowers and Merena between 1999 and 2001, contained the most comprehensive date and variety set of Liberty Head gold coins ever assembled.

Bass became a serious collector of U.S. gold in the early-to-mid 1960's. This was an era in which gold coins were plentiful, inexpensive and under-researched and through hard work and good connections with dealers (primarily Mike Brownlee, Stanley Kessleman, John Rowe and Julian Leidman) Bass put together a really remarkable collection.

I attended the Bass II, Bass III and Bass IV sales in New York in 1999 and 2000 and, even then, I think I was sufficiently aware of their significance. In some ways, these sales were the defining moment of the end of the old-school coin market; the point in time just before the internet took , when dealers still attended sales in person and when a gigantic event like Bass II (over 2,000 lots and with thousands and thousands of interesting individual and grouped coins) could be "carved up" by groups of dealers and dominated by six to eight buyers.

There are two currently active collections in Dallas/Ft. Worth that deserve mention and they are clearly among the five greatest American sets ever formed. The first is the Pogue family. This set is not all that well-known outside of the "inner circle" of dealers and collectors but it is incredible. The scope of the collection is Gem quality U.S. coins struck from the 1790's until around 1900 with an emphasis on Gem early silver and gold.

I have never had the good fortune to view this collection in its entirety but I have had the chance to view it in dribs and drabs. The Pogues got really serious about coins during the Eliasberg sale in October 1982 and they bought heavily out of what was arguably the greatest collection of U.S. gold ever formed. They continued to buy aggressively in the 1980's and 1990's with the guidance of David Akers, Larry Hanks and others. I have had to compete against the Pogues at a number of auctions and when they want a really great coin, needless to say that are formidable competitors. From what I know about this collection, it is the single greatest set of its type ever assembled and it is certainly the one set that I would pay to be able to view it.

The other great collection in located in Ft. Worth and it belongs to Bob Simpson, the current owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team and the former CEO of XTO Energy. Simpson is much newer to the market than the Pogues but he has assembled an amazing, comprehensive collection in less than a decade. To his credit, he has done this in a highly competitive environment in which information is more accessible than ever, few coins sell under the radar and the average "Simpson-esque" coin is far more expensive than in past decades.

Before I end this blog, it wouldn't be right not to mention a few more of the great dealers and collectors from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Some of the dealers who I regard as major players in the market (past or present) include John Rowe, Mike Brownlee, Mike Follett and R.E. Wallace. You couldn't list four more different guys but each, in his own way, had an impact on the coin market that extended far beyond Dallas or Ft. Worth.

And no blog about Dallas/Ft. Worth numismatics could be complete without mentioning William Phillpot (a great paper money collector), R.E. Schermerhorn (one-time owner of an 1849-C Open Wreath gold dollar), John Murrell (owner of the greatest unknown collection of U.S. gold coins ever assembled) and others.

Se you at the show at Tables 217-219!

ANA (Mis) Adventures: 1982

As I get ready to head to Philadelphia for this year's ANA, I'm in a reflective mood. This is my 30th consecutive year of attending this show and my thoughts go back to my first ANA as a professional: Boston 1982. Let me set the scene for you. Although I had attended two ANA shows before (the hometown New York edition of 1976 and the New Orleans version in 1981), the 1982 ANA was my first show as a full-time professional numismatist. Bright-eyed and eager, I had recently moved to Dallas, TX to start work for Steve Ivy Rare Coins. My first task in Dallas was to help write the catalogs for the ANA auction; Steve Ivy Rare Coin Auctions had been awarded the official sale and put together a sale that, while not well-remembered today, was replete with amazing quality coins and numerous rarities.

What a lot of people forget about the coin market in 1982 is that it was dismal. After the amazing precious metals price run-ups in 1979 and 1980, the market crashed in 1981 and by 1982, you literally couldn't give coins away. More on that in a second...

Steve Ivy Rare Coins (which was to soon merge with Jim Halperin to form Heritage Rare Coins) was a great example of just how badly the coin market had been devastated. In 1979-1980, I believe that there were close to 200 people working at the firm. After the market tanked in 1981, most of the staff was let go. When I was hired, I think there were something like a dozen people on the staff. Amazing as it seems today, this small group of employees was tasked with the responsibility of putting together an ANA sale, selling the coins and collecting the money; not to mention the normal buying and selling associated with the show.

I vaguely remembered thinking that Steve would be relying very heavily on me at the show. I was certainly going to help with the auction and I assumed that he'd have me run around and buy coins for him.

Just before the convention began, I met with Steve and he gave me an idea of what my main goal for the show was. To say that my balloon was quickly deflated is an understatement. But let me set this Ego Affront up better so the punch line will make more sense...

As I mentioned above, the coin market in 1982 was appallingly bad. There were tons and tons of great coins around and, compared to the heady days of 1979 and 1980, prices were cheap; sometimes as low as thirty or forty cents on the dollar. The problem was that no one had any money or any confidence in the market.

But, there was, it turned out, one person who was buying coins. His name was Hugh Sconyers.

Hugh wasn't a real numismatist; he was involved in the investment world and he was known as being one of the smartest people to ever walk a bourse floor. He represented a group of investors who thought coins, in 1982, were cheap and he set out to buy millions of dollars of choice and rare United States pieces. His buying would peak at the Eliasberg sale in October 1982 where he spent millions of dollars on amazing coins.

I never really knew Hugh that well; just mostly by sight and by reputation. I was told his checks were good (no simple feat in 1982...), he was at the show solely to buy coins and this made him The Most Wanted Man at Boston ANA. There was a bit of a problem though. Hugh was a "personality buyer." What I mean by this is that Hugh bought coins mostly from people he knew and trusted. This meant that a number of dealers who would have given their first born child to have an hour with Hugh at the table buying their coins would never have the opportunity.

As soon as Steve Ivy found out about Hurricane Hugh, he called me over and gave me a new job at the show. The conversation, which lasted about thirty seconds, went like this:

Steve: I want you to stop whatever you are doing and follow Hugh Sconyers around the show and take notes about what he's buying. I want to know who he buys from, what he's buying, and how much he's paying. What are you waiting for? Go!

Me: Uh, OK.

So my first day at my first ANA show as a professional coin dealer went like this: I had a note pad and a pen and I followed Hugh from a distance. Let's say he stopped at Joe Flynn's table. I figured my job was to get just close enough that I could spy on Hugh and give a detailed report to Steve. So as Hugh was flipping through Flynn's double row boxes, I was at the next table pretending to look at coins out in the nearby case(s). Or something like that...

I think I did this for about thirty minutes until Hugh turned around and stared at me while he was at another dealer's table. He had to be thinking at this point: "who is this kid following me and what does he want?"

I don't remember how much longer I bird-dogged Sconyers or how my report to Steve Ivy went later that day. I do remember that something else came up within an hour or two that was even more potentially life-changing for the company and I was sent on my way to put out the fire.

Did Hugh ever come over to buy coins from Steve Ivy at the 1982 Boston ANA? I don't know the answer to that but I'd like to think he did. And I've got to think he was happy that the strange kid in the ill-fitting suit who was following him earlier in the show had disappeared.

Preparing for the 2009 ANA Convention

Amazingly, it’s time for yet another Summer ANA Convention. This year’s edition is going to be held on August 5th through August 9th at the Convention Center in downtown Los Angeles and if past shows are any indication, this will be one of the best coins shows of the year. If you’ve never been to a major coin show before, attending your first ANA can be pretty intimidating. The display area is enormous and there are hundreds of dealers from all over the world. What things should you absolutely not miss at the ANA?

The first thing I’d make sure to do at this year’s show is to view the exhibits. The competitive exhibits are always fun but it’s the Smithsonian’s display that has me very interested. This year’s star coin is the unique 1849 Double Eagle; a coin that, if it were to come to market, would set a record for the most valuable United States issue. There will be other amazing rarities on display as well but the chance to see the 1849 double eagle is just about enough to make any serious gold collector get on the plane and go to L.A.

The next thing I’d do is hit the Whitman Publishing display, buy copies of all their wonderful books and try to get as many as possible autographed by the author(s). Whitman is planning on having many of the authors attend the show and they will be signing their books throughout the show. I certainly wouldn’t miss any of the specialty club meetings in the area(s) that were of interest to me. As an example, the Liberty Seated Collectors Club will be holding a major meeting during the show and if I were a collector of Seated coins this would be an event I absolutely wouldn’t want to miss.

And, of course, I’d be going to look for coins. Even if you don’t plan on making any purchases, you’ll be amazed at what you see at an ANA show. Some dealers will have incredible rarities that they will be happy to let you hold and examine. Other dealers will have deep inventories of coins that you collect. If there was ever a place to find the proverbial “needle in the haystack” it’s at an ANA show.

I would suggest that as far as looking for coins go, you come prepared. Most dealers at an ANA are going to be reasonably busy (it gets more and more relaxed as the show draws to a close) and it won’t be quite the Mon-n-Pop atmosphere that you might be used to at a small, local show. Bring the pricing information that you rely on with you, don’t forget to bring a good glass (or even a lamp if you can ) and be ready to pull the trigger quickly if the coin(s) you have been searching for just happen to be at a dealer’s table.

The 2009 Portland Spring ANA Show

I’m guessing it’s been close to twenty years since there was a major coin show in a city in which I lived. That’s why I was really excited about this year’s Mid-Winter ANA being held in my home town of Portland, Oregon. Even if the show was crummy, I’d be able to sleep in my own bed. Plus, I could show off my Portland Expert status to friends and acquaintances and rattle off a list of obscure restaurants (Peruvian? Check. Malaysian? Do you want Northern or Southern?) without having to pull out a Zagat’s. Portland doesn’t have a reputation as a Great Coin Town and to be honest I had very little in the way of expectations for this show, other than it being well run. That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised that it turned out to be quite good.

I have to give some kudos to the ANA. There were articles in the paper about the show, ads on TV; even my neighbors knew there was a coin show in town. This excellent publicity meant that the attendance would probably be good and it was. More on this in a second.

The first day of the show was devoted to wholesale trading and, for me, the action was a little less than my last few shows. The main reason for this was that I didn’t have much generic gold and generic gold remains incredibly hot.

This is a good time to go off on a mini-tangent. With the almost total focus of the gold market on generics right now, this seems like a good time for people who care about legitimately scarce and rare coins to be buying. I had a few dealers comment to me at the show that they are so focused on generics that they are slowing down their “real coin” business. That means less competition for me when I buy and I can focus on coins like New Orleans half eagles and Dahlonega quarter eagles when many of my usual competitors are busy making MS63 Liberty Head double eagles.

The second day of the show was when the public was let in and I was amazed at the stampede of collectors that came through the door around 10AM. Yes, there were sixteen hundred Boy Scouts and Brownies playing the Numismatic Trivia game but there were also real collectors with real want lists looking for real coins. Unlike the recent Long Beach show where I don’t think I could have sold a collector a Saint Gaudens double eagle for $16, I was able to sell a number of coins in Portland. More importantly, I met a lot of collectors from the Northwest who I either didn’t know or who I knew only through emailing.

The weekend was a bit less active but there were still collectors at the show on Saturday. For the first time since I had a fade haircut and wore a jacket with big shoulders, I stayed until closing on Sunday and was able to do some business until the bitter end.

I’d like to thank everyone who stopped by and chatted and everyone who bought coins. And, no, I will not recommend any more places to eat in Portland.

So, how does the market look now that we are in mid-March?

In my opinion, things continue to be better than I would have expected. No, the market isn’t “hot” (with the exception of generic gold). But nice coins are definitely selling, albeit at new levels. I would expect that with all the money dealers are making right now with their generic gold business, some of this will spill into rare coins. I also think that some of the new people buying MS62 and MS63 Saints and $20 Libs could possibly start buying rare coins in the coming weeks or months. I’m not extremely optimistic right now but I am less pessimistic than I was as recently as mid-January.

The end of March will see an interesting test of the market with the Baltimore show and a number of auctions all occurring. My guess is that Baltimore should be pretty active. I will be very curious to see how the auctions do.

I’ve mentioned generic gold a few times and before I close, I’d like to strongly suggest that if you own any, you might take some profits and sell out of a part of your position now; especially if you own double eagles. The premiums for these right now are as high as I can ever recall seeing. As an example, MS64 Liberty Head double eagles are now selling for $2,700-2,800 (or more, in some cases). Last year you had to beg people to buy them for $1,500. If I had a bunch of these put away right now (and I wish I had been smart enough to do so...) I would take some of my profits and move onto more undervalued areas.

If you do want to sell any generic gold, I would be happy to assist you. Please email me at DWN@ONT.COM and I can make offers on your coins and suggest a strategy for the coming months.

Baltimore ANA Show Review

Being an eternal realist when it comes to the coin market, I wasn’t expecting this year’s ANA show to be a good one; let alone a great one. With the unrelentingly bad economic news in the United States (let alone the world) it seemed inevitable to me that most collectors would be slowing down. As usual, I was wrong. This year’s ANA was outstanding for me and many of the dealers that I spoke to (and who I trust) told me that it was a great show for them as well. The show began for me with the Stack’s sale of the S.S. New York shipwreck on Sunday. I had a feeling these coins would go strong, given the fact that the quality was far nicer than other shipwreck coins and the quantity was smaller. I expected that the typical “shipwreck premium” would be about 15-25%. In some cases this was true but in most, the premium was substantially higher; especially in the case of lower value coins that were being bought for their “knick-knack” appeal.

There were a few very important coins in the hoard and certainly among the best was the highest graded 1845-D quarter eagle, an NGC MS64. It sold to a very knowledgeable dealer for $63,250 which I thought was quite strong. Other Dahlonega coins in the sale went very strongly as well. Notable prices included $18,400 for an 1839-D half eagle in NGC AU58, $31,050 for an 1840-D half eagle in NGC MS62 and $51,750 for an 1842-D Large Date half eagle in NGC MS61.

Some outstanding New Orleans gold was featured and it brought remarkable prices. An NGC MS64 1844-O half eagle sold for $28,750, an NGC MS63* 1845-O half eagle brought $43,125, an impressive 1844-O eagle in NGC MS63 sold for a record $63,250 and an NGC MS62 1845-O eagle was bid to $54,625.

The show began in earnest on Tuesday with PNG day. I have never been a big fan of PNG day for one simple reason: because of the fact that only a limited number of dealers have tables, the cavernous bourse floor seems like a ghost town. I did some business but mainly concentrated on buying. As I expected, there was a shortage of interesting coins; a theme that you will no doubt read on other show reports from specialist dealers like myself.

The regular show started on Wednesday. With all of the dealers now set up, the huge hall felt more inviting. When the doors opened to the public, a stampede of collectors headed right towards my table. Could this possibly represent a tidal wave of Dahlonega collectors? A Tsunami of Charlotte aficionados? No such luck; all the collectors were headed for the Bust Half Dollar collection being sold by Sheridan Downey right in front of me.

I spent a good part of the show either at the table or out buying coins. My observations about the current rare gold coin market as are follows:

1. It is amazing how little nice material there is available. I would have been happy to have bought, say, ten interesting Dahlonega coins and a bunch of New Orleans eagles. I came home with very few of either.

2. CAC stickers are beginning to have a positive effect on liquidity, particularly in the high end of the market. As an example, I had three expensive pieces of early date gold with stickers on them and I wound up selling them to a collector who I have never done business with before. I fully believe that the stickers helped make the transaction happen.

3. Collector demand for interesting gold coins remains very strong. It seemed like every hour or so, another dealer would come up to my table and tell me that he had someone interested in some sort of gold issue. I sold a number of coins to dealers that I don’t do much—if any—business with at a typical coin show.

4. Without sounding completely self-serving, it continues to amaze me what so-so quality coins bring at auction. I expect great quality, one-of-a-kind coins and major rarities to do well at auction but I wonder why collectors are content to pay 10-20% more for average to above-average coins. Maybe said collectors should give more serious consideration to looking through dealer’s inventories.

One of my favorite things to do at an ANA show is to look at the exhibits. This year the Smithsonian had a small but awesome group of coins from the National Numismatic collection including an 1821 Proof set (the half eagle had to be seen to be believed), an 1843 Proof set (including all three denominations in gold) and an 1860 Paquet Double Eagle pattern in gold that, when viewed from the reverse appeared to grade at least Proof-68. There was also a group of Massachusetts colonial silver belonging to a well-known collector that was stunning.

Where does the market go from here? I think the next month or so will be interesting. There are no coin shows of note until Long Beach in September and my guess is that most dealers left ANA with money to spend. My guess is that there will be strong demand for good coins between now and then. Some of the money that is circling the market will get absorbed by the strong pre-Long Beach and Long Beach auctions that loom on the horizon but there will still be an excellent opportunity for collectors who have had coins for longer than five years to sell into the market.

In closing, I’d like to point out that this generally upbeat show report does not take into account one simple fact: to take advantage of this still-strong market, you have to have the right coins. At this point, you are probably sick of my saying this over and over and are wondering “what exactly ARE the right coins?” Check back later this week and I will be writing a blog that discusses what I think the right coins are. (A cliffhanger...I love it!!)

2008 Baltimore ANA Show Preview

Am I the only person who finds it astonishing that another ANA is upon us? Jeez, it seems like I just got back from last year’s Marathon in Milwaukee. But here we are already in late July and it’s time for the Battle in Baltimore. What can we expect from this bellwether show? If you are of a certain age, you remember when ANA was THE coin show of the year. It still is a critical event on the coin circuit despite being somewhat watered down; with pre-shows and a zillion auctions held before, during and after. This is my 26th consecutive ANA (I have attended every one since the 1982 Boston show) and I still feel a tinge of excitement as the days countdown.

My gut feeling is that this year’s ANA is going to be very strong from a wholesale standpoint and decent but not great from a collector standpoint.

With the uncertainty in the economy (and that’s putting it a bit mildly with today’s headlines...) I have the feeling that some would-be buyers are either going to avoid the temptation of the ANA or, if they do attend, it will be more for social and educational purposes than for buying.

Does that mean that there won’t be any action on the bourse floor? Hardly. Really good coins sell very well if the economy is soaring or circling the drain. The pool of potential buyers may not be as great in a bad economy but the number of great coins is much smaller now than in the past. Any dealer who has a case full of interesting coins at the ANA will certainly do retail business. Just not as much, I think, as two or three years ago.

Remember when I mentioned above that I think the show will be good from a wholesale perspective? Coin dealers making a living dealing coins and, at this point in time, nearly all dealers are short of useful inventory. Whether they can pay for these coins is an entirely different kettle o’ fish but I think the wholesale demand for coins right now remains strong.

What will sell at ANA? The Usual Suspects. Very high quality, choice original coins in nearly all categories will be easy sellers, as will key dates and rarities. Early gold and Proof gold continue to be in demand and examples for sale on the bourse should be very actively sought since the auctions do not contain as much of this material as usual. CAC certified coins appear to be readily gaining in acceptance and popularity and many dealers will have long want lists for CAC’d material.

What will sell at ANA? The Usual Suspects. Very high quality, choice original coins in nearly all categories will be easy sellers, as will key dates and rarities. Early gold and Proof gold continue to be in demand and examples for sale on the bourse should be very actively sought since the auctions do not contain as much of this material as usual. CAC certified coins appear to be readily gaining in acceptance and popularity and many dealers will have long want lists for CAC’d material.

For a number of reasons, I am not nearly as focused on the various pre-show and during-show auctions this year. The sales are not without interesting material. Stack’s is selling the S.S. New York shipwreck gold coins which include some great branch mint pieces and they have a Hard Times Token collection that—if I collected this series—would excite me greatly.

Heritage has their usual high value sale with a seemingly unlimited number of rarities. I found a few things of interest among the pages and pages of lots. Someone has been hoarding 1834 Crosslet Half Eagles and 1863 Double Eagles over the years and they have decided to sell their holdings. There are five 1834 Crosslet 4 Half Eagles ranging from VF30 to AU55 and I personally can’t recall having ever seen more than two examples in any one auction. Even more remarkable is the hoard of thirteen 1863 double eagles ranging from EF45 to AU58. I’m not sure if these all belong to one collector but even if they don’t, this is a remarkable aggregation.

If you are coming to the coin show, one thing I would urge you to do is look at this year’s Smithsonian exhibit on Proof coinage. Having just read about the coins in this exhibit even I am excited and look forward to seeing some of these priceless Gems.

2008 Baltimore & Phoenix Show Reviews

Two weeks. Two shows. Too much? Read on for a quick overview of the recent Baltimore and Phoenix coin conventions.

I love the Baltimore show. Unlike some conventions that feel like they are in a death spiral, you can clearly sense that this show is fresh, healthy and on the upswing. And this year’s first edition was excellent.

The only negative about this show, at least for me, is the epic day-long schlep that entails getting to Baltimore from Portland. If anyone reading this would like to exchange trips on their private jet for U.S. gold coins please feel free to propose a trade immediately.

I spent two full working days in Baltimore. The first, a Thursday, was essentially a wholesale-only day. As you will probably guess, the usual “it was hard to buy and easy to sell” mantra held to form. Except that this time it was exceedingly hard to buy and really easy to sell. Every dealer I chatted with, even those with reputations for exaggeration confirmed this. In the world of nice, interesting coins it’s as dry as the Mojave on the bourse floor!

My second day, a Friday, was more of a retail day. From the opening of the show until the end of the day I had a constant stream of serious buyers at my table. Most walked away with a new purchase or two and most seemed very enthusiastic about the show.

If I had to make one negative comment about this Baltimore show it would be that, while full of the usual Cast of Collecting Characters, there didn’t seem to be many new faces. I’m guessing that this can be attributed to the fact that many of the new breed of upscale collectors do not attend shows and acquire coins primarily through auctions or via the Web from dealers such as me.

The Bowers and Merena sale conducted at Baltimore had some nice gold pieces and prices for the most part seemed to be quite strong. My two favorite gold lots were a really fresh 1840-O quarter eagle in an old green label PCGS MS62 holder that sold for $20,700 and a seemingly way undergraded 1843-O Large Date quarter eagle graded MS61 that brought a robust $17,940.

What was hot at the show? Early gold and Proof gold were in great demand, particularly nice quality material. I noted a lot of demand for interesting, choice items in the $1,500-7,500 range but even in bad markets coins like this is always easy to sell. Without a doubt the weakest area of the market was low end generic gold. In fact, price premiums are so low on coins like AU55 to MS61 common date $20 Liberty gold that there is a strong possibility that people will start melting these soon.

After what seemed like 45 minutes at home I turned around and went to Phoenix to attend the Spring ANA. Note to ANA Officials: great choice of venue but bad choice of dates. If you want more dealer enthusiasm for this show in the future DO NOT hold it the next week after Baltimore.

Because of the fact that most major dealers had recently attended Long Beach and Baltimore, the Phoenix show had many no-shows from the East Coast. Not only was there little enthusiasm, there were almost no fresh coins. Which meant that I wasn’t able to buy much and which meant that I had minimal enthusiasm.

I wound-up leaving the show early due to a combination of boredom, fatigue and the fact that I am preparing to fly out of town to pick-up a nice collection that I just bought. This collection has nice runs of Carson City double eagles, New Orleans eagles and Three Dollar gold and I expect to begin listing these coins on my website within a week or so.

There are no other coin shows of note between now and the Central States show in mid-April so I expect that demand for nice coins will be extremely high within a month and that the result will be an exceptionally good show in Chicago.

2007 Milwaukee ANA Show Review

I went to this summer’s ANA Convention expecting a good but not great show. I left the show having had one of my better ANA’s in many years and I think most other dealers can honestly say the same. On the DWN grading scale, I’d have to give the 2007 ANA a solid A-. I decided not to do any of the pre-show activity. In my opinion, doing the extra three or four days leaves me too tired during the regular ANA week and this isn’t fair to my customers who are anxious to meet with me. Plus, to be perfectly honest, I just don’t have the unlimited energy I had when I was in my 30’s and could work for days at a time at an ANA level of intensity.

I arrived on Monday and attended the pre-PNG set-up for a few hours. My major goal for the week was to buy and I had decided to focus my energy on the bourse floor as opposed to the Heritage auction where I knew prices on the DWN-caliber material would be extremely high.

PNG day was Tuesday. I generally hate PNG day. It starts absurdly early (8 a.m.) and seeing other dealers in suits scares me. Plus I find this to be a generally lackluster day with little of interest going on. This year’s edition started slowly but it seemed to really pick-up steam after a few hours and by the end of the day, things were very active. I literally ran from table to table searching for interesting coins and was able to buy a number of really neat items. I had hoped to find at least one interesting deal and was disappointed that this didn’t really pan out but I was very pleased with what I did find; albeit one or two items at a time.

Wednesday was a little bit of a let down. There was not a very good turn-out as far as collectors went, so I continued to do quite a bit of wholesale business. I can’t recall a show where it was easier to sell nice coins than at this year’s ANA. And here’s something surprising: a number of formerly “dead” areas of the market are suddenly coming to life. There were numerous dealers looking for type coins, especially items like Proof-64 and better Liberty Seated silver, scarcer date Liberty Seated and Barber coins and even such perennially overlooked items as Liberty Nickels and Three Cent silvers.

What else was hot? Everyone (and I do mean everyone) was looking for coins that were either very pretty, very rare or very interesting. And early coins (i.e. those dated prior to 1835) were in huge demand. I bought and sold a number of interesting early gold coins; mostly in the $7,500 to $15,000 range.

Thursday was the best—and longest—day of the show. I started answering emails at 6:30 a.m. and didn’t finish until I left the Heritage Platinum Night sale at close to 11 p.m. I stayed busy the entire day meeting with clients, preparing coins for submission to PCGS/NGC, buying coins from other dealers, figuring bids, etc. I typically had two to four people at my table all day and I could definitely sense a real buzz in the room and from what I could tell, most other dealers were quite busy as well.

So what were some of the more interesting items that I bought and was able to bring home? A few include the following:

    An incredible original 1865 Proof set in an original presentation box, graded PR65 to PR67

    A glorious 1795 half dollar in NGC AU55

    A choice 1802 half dollar in PCGS EF45

    An Uncirculated 1861-D gold dollar (which is currently being graded at PCGS)

    An 1832 quarter eagle in choice original PCGS AU55

    A superb original 1844-C quarter eagle in PCGS MS61

    A select group of Carson City gold coinage

Some choice Liberty Head double eagles including a nice PCGS MS60 1861-S

One of the more interesting things that happened at the show involved a Midwestern investor/collector who brought a number of rare coins with him for sale. He placed his coins on display on Wednesday and there was a complete feeding frenzy as numerous dealers in upper-end coins descended on him. He sold well over $5 million in coins in two days including a number of very rare double eagles, choice early gold and a great group of choice early dollars. I was intrigued that this individual decided to forego the auction route and it didn’t seem to hurt him any as he got excellent prices for his coins.

Speaking of auctions, the Stack’s, Bowers & Merena and Heritage sales were all very strong. I attended only the Platinum Night session at Heritage and was amazed at the strength of the prices. I expect great coins to bring strong money at these sales but what surprises me these days is what the mediocre material sells for. As recently as two years ago, I could buy “product” at a Heritage sale and flip it to other dealers for a 15% profit the next day. Now, these same coins bring more than what I would sell them for. Clearly, auction prices now represent the new retail price levels for most series and I am convinced that, at least for me, I’d rather try my luck buying on the bourse floor.

My book “Gold Coins of the New Orleans Mint” was given an award for “Extraordinary Merit” in the field of United States coin books by the Numismatic Literary Guild. I wasn’t able to receive my award in person (I was too busy working!) but had it in my case for the majority of the show.

All in all, it was a tiring but very rewarding ANA. I think the strength of this show will carry over into the late summer/early fall months and we will continue to see a good market for the immediate future.