The May Long Beach Show: A Report

I have generally sworn off writing show reports as, to be honest, they are as boring for me to write as they are for you to read. At this point, I figured I’d do reports on the Big Two shows (FUN and ANA) and leave the other reports to my fellow Bloggin’ Numismatists. The recent Long Beach show, however, was interesting enough that I thought it required a little bit of ink.

As you may or may not know, Long Beach is a show that I’ve come to dislike in recent years. It’s become very slow from a business standpoint, I’m not crazy about the way its run and, quite frankly, if I hear them playing the Oldies soundtrack one more time I think I will rip out my inner ear canals.

But this Long Beach seemed a little bit different. Dare I say it actually had a bit of a buzz (?!?) and I think the crowd at the show, at least on Thursday when it opened to the public, was as large as any Long Beach that I can recall going back to the 1990’s.

Why was this Long Beach different from the last edition(s)? My guesses would be three fold. The first had to do with the fact that gold has risen around $50 in the past few weeks. There are a lot of bullion/generic buyers in Southern California and a strong gold market always seems to bring out these buyers. The second is better publicity. I don’t know this for a fact but I would assume that the show promoters tried something new to get buyers through the doors and it worked. Attendance was reported to be up by at least 30%. The third is renewed interest among collectors who have been on the sidelines for the last few years.

If you are a serious collector who has been in the market for at least a decade the last few years was the classic good news/bad news scenario. The good news was that the coins you bought in the early 1990’s probably increased in value. The bad news is that your market niche was probably flooded by deep-pocketed new collectors who trusted their advisors (be they auction firms, dealers or other collectors) but often got poor coins at inflated prices. Now that many of these new deep-pocketed collectors have fled the market, serious collectors can, once, again, buy coins without Nimrod Competition. This fact is, I believe, responsible in getting some of the collectors who had been on the sidelines for a while back in the coin game.

I’m not saying that the coin market has suddenly turned around and that the Good Ol’ Days are back. There is one major issue in the market that needs to be addressed before things become all warm and fuzzy again. There are a lot of truly awful coins overhanging the market. By this, I mean coins that are severely overgraded or coins that have really poor eye appeal or coins that have been laughably processed. Right now, it is hard to find anyone to buy these even at a major discount. This has created the sort of exaggerated two-tiered market that we haven’t seen in a while.

Let me give you an example. I saw Charlotte and Dahlonega gold coins at Long Beach in AU55 and AU58 holders that, in my opinion, are worth less than coins that are choice, original EF45 or AU50. This scenario is certainly not limited to the dated gold market. My point is, until some of the crappy low-end coins that seemed to be everywhere at Long Beach are taken off the market, they will act as artery cloggers that continue to make the coin market unhealthy.

That said, I thought it was a very pleasant surprise that the recent Long Beach show turned out to be as strong as it did. True, I came to the show with absolutely zero in the way of expectations, but it was nice to stay busy for a few days and sell a few coins.

It’s always been tough to buy at Long Beach and this show was no exception. After a few days of slogging and grinding, I was able to purchase a few neat items, including the following:

*One of the finest known 1854-O Quarter Eagles, graded MS63 by PCGS *A rare and choice 1798 half eagle in an NGC MS62 holder *A lovely, fresh 1840-D half eagle graded MS60 by NGC *The nicest 1884-CC double eagle I have owned in years, graded MS62 by PCGS *An interesting selection of affordable C+D mint coinage in EF and AU grades

All of these coins have been described and imaged and are on my website just waiting to go to nice new homes. Please visit me at and look for the inventory that is marked “new.”

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.

Long Beach Show Report Feb. 2009

Even in the best of markets, I go to Long Beach with limited expectations. I love the convenience factor (it’s one of my few sub-two hour flights) but this show has, in my experience, really lost its luster. Keep on reading for my thoughts on the Decline of Long Beach and a recap of the show. I think there are two significant reasons why Long Beach has gone from a great coin show to a so-so one. The first is the high price of the tables. Back when tables were more competitively priced, there were tons of small coin shops, Mom-n-Pop dealers and vest pocket dealers who had their own tables or shared them. This was a great source for fresh coins and it meant that there was a lot of coin trading as items went up the numismatic food chain. Now, these dealers no longer attend and this means that there is very little fresh material.

The other reason that Long Beach has suffered has to do with the draconian California tax laws. I’m not going to address these at length but let’s just say that Baltimore has become a great show in large part because Maryland’s tax laws are not quite as “zealous” as our friends in California.

As I said, I went to Long Beach with low expectations. I actually think the show was a bit better than I would have expected. The crowds were decent and my sales were not bad. I was happy with the limited number of coins that I bought and virtually everyone who I spoke with had a good—if not great—show. I think a lot of a dealer’s success right now has to do with what he deals in and his or her desire to sell older inventory at new levels. Simply put, if you have nice quality collector-oriented coins in your inventory, they sell. If you have a bunch of expensive, esoteric coins or boring widgets in stock, you aren’t selling much. If you have coins in stock that have been sitting around since June and you haven’t adjusted the prices downwards, you aren’t selling anything.

I have already posted descriptions and images of many of my new purchases. Some of the highlights are as follows:

-A superb 1897-O eagle graded MS64 by PCGS -A choice NGC MS63 1839 half eagle -A rare and popular PCGS AU50 1838-C half eagle -A very rare PCGS MS61 1846-O half eagle -An underrated and high end 1846-D Normal Mintmark half eagle graded AU58 by NGC

I still don’t think I have a really accurate handle on the coin market but given the awful state of the economy, I think things are holding up far better than I would have expected. Trust me, I have experienced some truly dreadful coin markets and we aren’t even close to any of these. Every dealer is feeling the effects of the economy and everyone is reducing (or wants to reduce) their inventory. But all things considered I am pleasantly surprised. At least so far...

The Heritage auction contained a boatload of rare date gold and I figured it would be an interesting test of the market. Some of the coins were not especially high end for the grade and there were certain dates that were represented by multiple examples. Given the fact that the traditional bottom-feeder buyers for coins like this are either saddled with large inventories, large debt, large headaches or all three I figured that there would be some very cheap prices. I was proven correct.

Many of the not-so-nice Charlotte and Dahlonega coins in the $5,000 to $10,000 range sold for the lowest prices I can recall in quite a while. There were instances where coins sold for less than half of Trends. But (and this is a BIG but) there is a good reason for this. Buyers of these coins have become sophisticated enough that they will not pay good money for a bad coin. If a coin is in an AU58 holder and it is a bright-n-shiny piece with the eye appeal of an AU50, that’s what it is going to trade for, regardless of the holder. That’s the beauty of knowledge. If you learn what a coin is supposed to look like you do not have to use the grading services as a crutch.

The irony of the sale was that some nice coins got dragged down with the not-so-nice ones. There were some exceptional Charlotte quarter eagles that were pedigreed to important collections such as Dingler, Elrod and Eliasberg and they sold for 15-25% less than what I would have thought. As I had expected, this sale represented a great opportunity for a savvy collector to get a great head start on a world-class Charlotte quarter eagle collection at prices that haven’t been seen since the mid-1990’s.

Not everything in the sale went cheaply. The New Orleans eagles were strong. An 1841-O graded AU55 by PCGS brought $25,300, the Bass 1847-O eagle graded MS64 by PCGS sold for a record-setting $51,750, an NGC MS60 1856-O set a record for this date when it sold for $15,525 and a PCGS EF45 1883-O brought an amazing $29,388 - far and away a record price for this date in this grade.

The affordable, collector quality coins in the auction that were nice did pretty well. There were a number of instances where a solid-for-the grade EF45 or AU50 brought nearly as much (or as much) as not-solid-for the-grade pieces in AU50 or AU53 holders. The market for solid $1,500 to $3,000 Charlotte and Dahlonega gold, in fact, seems much stronger right now than it does for the more expensive coins. The one exception is when the more expensive coins are popular, rare or just plain old spectacular.

2009 FUN Show Report

As I stated in my last Market Report (and you have no doubt read on many other numismatic websites) the 2009 FUN show promised to provide interesting insights into the State of the Coin Market in 2009. What happened and what numistidbits did I glean from my week in Orlando?I decided to arrive a day and a half earlier than usual this year for two reasons. The first was to get out of the awful weather we’ve been having in the Northwest and to get a little Florida sunshine and the second was to give myself a bit more time to get prepared for the show. When I arrive the night before an East Coast show starts it’s hard to face the first day of trading when I’m still on West Coast time and have woken-up at the equivalent of 4 a.m.

I went to the pre-show for little more than a cameo appearance and found it extremely depressing. I hate the FUN and ANA pre-shows because I think they mentally drain dealers. I understand why they exist. Wholesale-oriented firms like these shows as it gives them an opportunity to engage in some serious dealer-to-dealer trading. The problem is that encourages dealers to leave the “real” show early. For one-person operations like myself, the thought of attending a two to three day pre-show and following this up with a four to five day regular show is a bit of Numismatic Hell that I’d rather not subject myself to.

I also made a cameo appearance at the Stack’s sale and noted what seemed to be an inordinate amount of buybacks (i.e., coins not meeting their reserves and going back to their owners). I don’t attribute this to a weakness in the market as much as I do the auction firm not vetting the reserves as well as they should have. There were some great coins in the sale but many of them had been in other auctions within the last year and were reserved for numbers higher (or even much higher) than their last sale. In this market, that dog ain’t gonna hunt...

The show opened to dealers and collectors with early admissions badges on Wednesday. These opening hours were an interesting buyer vs. seller dance. Most dealers seemed unwilling to pull the trigger on any interesting coins but, conversely, there didn’t seem to be much available to buy and the consensus seemed to be “let’s wait until the Heritage auction(s) occur to see exactly how bad the market is.”

On Wednesday night, Heritage sold the Quellar-Lemus collection of Pattern coinage. While I don’t really deal in patterns anymore, I did attend the sale for a few hours mostly for educational purposes. I thought this was an important auction for a few reasons. It was a “fresh” deal, it was a highly specialized collection and it involved very rare coins in a very thinly traded market. The results were extremely impressive. The collection brought at least 20-30% over pre-sale estimates and the bargains that many bidders thought they’d be able to find in pre-sale discussions were, for the most part, non-existent. Something that I found especially interesting was the activity for the extremely rare but very esoteric patterns. There were a number of issues that weren’t especially attractive or historically important but they were R-8 (meaning that an estimated one or two were known) and buyers had to pay record-smashing prices for these. This proved to me that the market is still there when it comes to seemingly irreplaceable coins.

Thursday was the opening day for the public and, at least for me, I found it to be the slowest first day at FUN that I could remember. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the crowds were excellent and collectors were most definitely out in full force. The feeling I got from most of my encounters with collectors and dealers during the early part of Thursday was that their buying was curtailed but not necessarily for the “right” coin.

Something interesting happened to me later that day while I was looking through a dealer’s boxes. I pulled out about six or seven coins to ask for prices. As he was figuring out levels he said to me: “You’re one of the few people all day that has actually pulled out anything numismatic. It seems like all everyone wants to price is cheaper stuff.” This made me reach a conclusion: if this is indeed the case, the current market malaise is tailor-made for collectors who still appreciate rarity.

The Thursday night Heritage Platinum sale was interesting as it contained a mix of coins that ranged from fresh and highly desirable to not-so-fresh and not-so-desirable. For the most part, I’d say the prices and the sell-through rate were about what I expected. Coins that I knew had sold within the last year or so generally brought around 10-20% less this time. Expensive faux-rarities did better than I would have expected (these same coins were very, very hard to sell on the bourse floor). As recently as a few weeks ago, I had wondered if the Platinum Night session was going to be an unmitigated disaster. Because of Heritage’s exceptional Internet presence I’d have to say it was better than I would have imagined although still not the blockbuster extravaganzas of FUN 2006 or FUN 2007.

Friday was my last day at the show. And for some reason, the vibe seemed a lot more upbeat. I sold three expensive coins to collectors and had a few nice wholesale transactions. I left feeling a lot better than I had when I left the show on Wednesday and Thursday.

So what was my overall take on FUN 2009? I’d say that it was bit better than expected. All markets are psychological in nature and as long as the participants in the coin market are relatively upbeat, the market will be OK. Until the economy turns around (and I think we are looking at another year of Recession) people will likely cut back on their coin purchases. But most collectors are unwilling to totally give up their purchases. The bottom line was that at FUN, collectors were active but more selective than I can remember.

What sold and what didn’t sell at the show? For me, interesting coins in the $5,000 and under range were good sellers as was anything with choice, original surfaces. I noticed strong demand for CAC-stickered coins. And I was surprised at the number of people looking for New Orleans gold. Expensive coins were hard to sell. This wasn’t always the case at the auctions but on the bourse floor you literally had to plead with dealers to look at your “big boy” coins. I expect that this will continue for the next few shows as well, if not longer.

Eliasberg Redux

I recently returned from the St. Louis Silver Dollar coin show and the Scotsman auction, which was held in conjunction with the show on October 17th. I wasn’t originally going to attend this event as I’m not a big fan of St. Louis and wasn’t really anxious to travel right now. But the combination of a collection of superbly pedigreed gold coins (see below) and a desire to get a handle on this confusing coin market inspired me to make last second plans to go to the City with the Large Arch. First, let’s talk briefly about the show. The facility, in suburban St. Charles, is as nice as you are going to find for a medium-sized regional convention. The attendance, from a dealer perspective, was decent with many national firms manning tables. The public attendance was another story with a very small number of collectors in evidence.

My take on the activity at the show was that wholesale transactions were better than what I might have expected. There certainly weren’t a lot of five figure coins trading but I did see some good sized invoices being written. Yes, a lot of the coins that were selling were generics or bullion-related. But the market for reasonably interesting coins in the $1,000-10,000 price bracket doesn’t seem to be as adversely affected by the current economic slowdown as I might have expected.

The main reason I went to St. Louis was to attend the Scotsman auction. The lead consignment in this sale featured an intriguing group of 81 U.S. gold coins that had last appeared in the Eliasberg sale. For those of you that are not familiar with this collection, here’s a brief recap.

Louis Eliasberg was a Baltimore banker who, in the 1940’s and 1950’s, formed the greatest collection of United States coins ever assembled. The base of the collection was obtained from the Clapp family in 1942 and Eliasberg upgraded and filled-in holes for the next decade and a half. The U.S. gold coins from this collection were sold at auction by Bowers and Ruddy in October, 1982. That sale set countless records and is regarded as one of the most important auctions in the history of the American coin market.

I really had no idea which coins from the Eliasberg sale were going to be in the Scotsman auction until I arrived and, to be honest, the selection was a bit on the disappointing side. Around half of the coins were what I would basically describe as semi-numismatic (coins like an 1886-S eagle in NGC AU58) or off quality (an 1850-O quarter eagle that had been harshly cleaned). Clearly, the person who bought these coins from the Eliasberg Sale in 1982 was no connoisseur but he had still managed to acquire a few great pieces.

There were four great coins in the Eliasberg Redux sale. The first was an 1862 Gold Dollar graded PR67* Ultra Cameo by NGC. In 1982, it had been graded PR67 and it sold for $8,800. Twenty-six years later it sold for a healthy $48,875. The second great coin was an 1851 quarter eagle graded MS67* by NGC. In the 1982 Eliasberg Sale it was graded MS67 and it sold for a then-strong $7,425. In the Scotsman auction, it brought $28,750. The highlight of the consignment was an NGC PR66 1880 Flowing Hair Stella. In the 1982 Eliasberg Sale it had been graded PR67 and brought just $55,000. It sold for $494,500 in the 2008 auction which, I would assume, is a record price for any coin in a Scotsman sale. The last of the Big Four was an NGC MS65 1930-S $20 that had only been graded MS60 in the original Eliasberg sale. It brought $18,700 back in 1982 and it brought $195,500 in 2008.

But what about the lower priced coins in the sale—how did they do? I figured that there would be a considerable amount of interest and I was personally willing to pay a 15-25% premium for the coins that I liked on account of the fantastic pedigree. For the most part, my levels came up short. I did buy around a half dozen coins and was underbidder on another ten or so but on many ho-hum lots my bids were far too low.

I came away from this sale with a couple of Deep Thoughts. The first is that collectors DO care about pedigrees and there is still no pedigree that is more magic for gold collectors than that of Louis Eliasberg. There were dozens of collectors in the audience at the sale and bidding online who were willing to, say, pay $1,500 for a coin that was probably only “worth” $1,000 to $1,200. And I can absolutely see their point. As a collector myself, I find pedigree to be extremely important and a coin that combines good eye appeal and rarity (or at least scarcity) with an interesting provenance is pretty irrestible to me.

The second is that I was really impressed with the way Scotsman conducted the auction. I have never participated in one of their sales and I found them to be gracious, easy going and honest. In fact, I can think of a few older, more established auction firms that could learn something from the way that Scotsman promoted the sale, produced the catalog and made it a pleasure to do business with them.

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 Central States Show Preview

The 69th annual Central States Numismatic Society convention will be held in Rosemont, Illinois next week. What’s the buzz surrounding this show and are coin dealers excited about attending it? I regard the Central States show as one of the better coin conventions of the year. It’s not quite at the Summer ANA or FUN levels in terms of attendance or importance but I’d rank it up in the second tier along with the Baltimore shows, Long Beach and one or two others. Most dealers I know like this show and approach it with a good degree of enthusiasm.

I think this will be a good CSNS show for a variety of reasons. The first is the location. Chicago is traditionally a good coin show town and the convenience factor of Rosemont (which is about five minutes from O’Hare airport by cab) makes this a much better venue than some of the more recent Central States shows. Secondly, most coin dealers have not been to a major show since Baltimore in early March. Being home for over a month means that there will be a good deal of pent-up demand for coins. The third reason is that the coin market remains strong and this includes a better precious metals market than at any Central States show since the early 1980’s.

I go to coin shows primarily to buy and, as usual, I’m hoping that I can uncover a few interesting coins on the bourse floor at Central States. I’ve spoken with many of my suppliers and while no one is holding a collection of Carson City eagles in first generation PCGS holders for me, I think a few neat items may come out of the woodwork.

What will be in strong demand at this year’s Central States? I’m sure you’ll be absolutely shocked to hear me say this but most coin dealers at Central States are going to be scouring the bourse floor looking for nice coins. If you were to walk into the show with a group of choice, fresh, attractive coins and price them “right”, the chances are good that you would sell most—if not all—of your coins within an hour.

To be more specific, I think some of the areas that will experience strong demand include Proof gold, early gold, 19th century type coins and anything that is genuinely rare.

In my opinion, the CSNS auctions are interesting but they lack the impressive array of gold coins that have been included in past sales. I am quite interested to see Heritage sell the David Quellar specimen of the 1804 dollar. This exact coin last sold for $475,000 in 1993 and my best guess is that it will bring about ten times this amount today. If you are attending the show in person I’d strongly recommend that you watch the sale of the 1804 dollar but given the fact that the actual buyer is likely to not be in attendance I can’t vouch for how “exciting” the sale will be.

After Central States is over, there are no other major shows until Long Beach at the end of May; another reason why dealers are excited about Central States and hopeful that they will be able to spend some coin in Rosemont.

November 2007 Whitman Baltimore Coin Expo

Even though it involves a schlep of Biblical Proportions, I really enjoy the tri-annual Whitman Baltimore Coin Expo. I can count on three shows each year that will be professionally run, well-attended and extremely active from both a wholesale and retail perspective. In many ways, Baltimore is the new Long Beach. Prior to the beginning of the show, Stack’s conducted an impressive 3,800+ lot auction. I made the decision not to attend this sale in person as I did not want my Baltimore Experience to stretch into a nearly one week marathon. I did have a Trusted Agent look at a small number of coins for me and I placed a group of what I thought were strong bids. And I proceeded to get blown out of the water. While I can’t comment on the entire auction, the coins that interested me went for numbers that were pretty insane, to say the least.

The first day of the Baltimore show (Thursday) is dealer-only and, to tell you the truth, I like this very much. Having only wholesale business on this day let’s me get more done and it lets me focus strongly on buying.

But because of the fact that I had some interesting fresh coins with me, I spent most of Thursday selling. And selling. And selling some more. I had around fifteen CAC-stickered type coins and with the exception of two that I was asking very strong prices for, they all sold quickly. I can’t say for certain that it was because of the CAC stickers or because type coins are suddenly in demand. My guess is that it is a combination of the two.

So what sold? As I mentioned above, type coins that were attractive or scarce dates or, better yet a combination of the two were in great demand. I would look for this to be a very strong area of the market in 2008. I sold a number of great Carson City coins at the show including two nice AU 1870-CC half eagles, a Condition Census 1871-CC, a solid AU 1875-CC and a really cool secret coin from the 1880’s that I promised the dealer I sold it to that I wouldn’t tell anyone. I also sold a few big-time early gold coins, two proof gold coins and a group of New Orleans gold including some scarcer date eagles.

Generic gold was very active at the show. From what I could tell, demand was high but prices were quite volatile. As an example, at the beginning of the show on Thursday, MS65 Saints were bringing $1,400. But after a few people were short, prices slowly climbed and by the end of the show they were bringing $1,475.

The doors opened to the public on Friday and a Thundering Herd of Serious Collectors stampeded through the doors as the clock struck 10:00. OK, maybe it wasn’t a stampede but the room crowded up quickly and I ran into a majority of the serious collectors from the East Coast that I know by the early afternoon. People at this show definitely come to buy and not to tire kick and I sold a number of very interesting coins.

I typically leave a Baltimore show on Friday but business was so brisk that I rebooked my flight and stayed for the rest of the day. I continued being busy right up until the end of the day and left the bourse floor tired but very satisfied.

The good news about this show, as I mentioned, was that my sales were pretty exceptional. The not-so-good news is that my buying was good but not great. I loved what I bought but I would have liked to have spent a lot more money.

For me, the year is essentially over. I will still be buying and selling coins but my travel is done with the exception of a quick trip to Dallas before Christmas to view Heritage 2008 FUN sale auction lots.

My guess is that from now until the end of the year, things will be reasonably slow in Coin Land although if gold continues its upward ramble towards the $1,000 mark we might see some surprise rare coin activity.