American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money, 2013 Coin Show Report

By William Shamhart – Numismatic Americana …….

I thought I’d take a proactive approach this time and write my show report while the event is still fresh in my mind. As you read this, and my opinions flip flop between positive and negative, I’m doing this not to attack anyone, but to point out areas that could stand to be improved. So bear with me…

First off I’d like to complement the ENTIRE ANA STAFF on a job well done. They in their own right have got this show thing down to a science. They’re a well oiled machine doing a thankless job. I personally had no complaints about that end of the show, but there are always dealers and collectors who find something to bring up. Keep up the good work!

1788 mass American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money, 2013 Coin Show ReportI decided to skip the pre-show and arrive on Monday morning for a late afternoon set up. I personally think that the whole pre-show thing is a waste. In my opinion it is an attempt to get more money out of the dealers by playing on their fear of missing out on some deal; and from what I heard more and more dealers are taking that approach, too. Let’s hope that something can be done about that in the future.

As I said above, set up was Monday afternoon (at 3:00). I got in Chicago early that morning because…TADA…I had some appointments with dealers who were also coming in that day. After about six hours of looking at coins in my hotel room, and buying some really great pieces (aren’t relationships great!), it was off to the show!

This year I decided to do a little something different than in the prior years. I got a “super” booth and invited some of my clients to join me by setting up and displaying items from their collections. I came about this idea awhile back when talking to a customer who commented that there weren’t any really “cool” coins on the floor “just for display”. After thinking about it I realized he was right. So I decided to do something about it. I asked a few clients, who had varied collecting interests, if they would care to participate. Imagine my enthusiasm when they all said yes! Below is a list of displays that were available for the public to view:

1) The Ray Levoi Collection of Half Dollars. A phenomenal set of Bust, Seated, and Walking halves painstakingly put together by a very fussy collector. Many of the viewing public kept asking for prices on pieces, even after they were informed that they weren’t for sale. Unfortunately the owner wasn’t able to attend the show. I wish he had just so I could see his face when the attendees viewed his collection.

2) Big Moose’s collection of Christian Gobrecht’s Transitional Head Middle Date and Early Late Date Large Cents. An unbelievable group of incredible large cents. The owner, a friend with a wild sense of humor, has brought these together, over a long period of time, waiting on just the right coin, with that right look, before making any additions. A GREAT collection displayed by a true coin weenie! (And he’s a pretty good painter too!)

3) The Bay Area collection of U.S. Gold Coins. While trying to assemble this set, this collector passed on many coins waiting on the ones that spoke to him. His diligence paid off. An amazing group with outstanding eye appeal that created quite a stir. Virtually every dealer and collector who stopped to view them started his/her dialog with “I’d like to see…” before being informed that they weren’t for sale. I sort of felt bad seeing their faces go from delight (as in they just found that “right coin”) to depression (as in sorry these are for sale). But I like to think that at least they came away realizing that there were coins out there that they’d like for their collection.

4) So what do a Continental Dollar, an 1868 Aluminum $20, and a 1907 Wire Edge $10 have in common? Each of those was on display, on different days, by this eclectic numismatist. On one day he had a complete 1868 Aluminum set of coins (along with their original period box), the next a collection of pieces with the “Mind Your Business” motif (complete with Fugio and above mentioned Continental Dollar, as well as a denominational type set of Continental Currency), and then a display of Saint Gaudens 1907 coinage along with the beautiful paper money that complements them. Many a collector came by the next day for a second look at his stuff, only to see something totally different. Seeing these pieces (with their off the chart eye appeal and colors) was like looking at a Sherwin Williams paint chart…sensory overload to say the least!

5) When you get the bug, you got it. Not even a physician can cure it. So when this collector put out his display of Pioneer coinage and related ephemera many a viewer was spell bound and oblivious to the outside world. California, Colorado, Utah, you name it…they were all there. A passionate collector (as was evident by his case) who’s interests are as diverse as could be. From Pioneer Gold to Sample Slabs, this gentlemen hunts them down like there’s no tomorrow. And his eye for quality doesn’t stop with coins. He even bought an antique bookcase at the antique show in the adjacent hall! But that is what these displays were all about…FUN! And sharing your joy with others.

So set up was at 3:00 and as usual there was a lot of handshaking and pleasantries exchanged all the while trying to get those fresh coins. There was a buzz, but not one that was defining. Many of the people there had arrived the week before for the pre-show and were already worn out. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, those pre-shows have got to go.

In addition to the collectors mentioned above, Tom Bush was with me and we proceeded to set up. That isn’t really all that easy when everyone wants to see your coins before you put them in the cases. But we managed to get through it without any SNAFUs. Before we knew it six o’clock rolled around and the bourse floor was closed. It was then off to dinner at the best restaurant around, “Gibson’s”, and a good night’s sleep before the opening bell at 8:00 on Tuesday.

Tuesday morning was kind of like late December and holiday shopping. Dealers were jumping from table to table looking for that right “gift”. Or perhaps one that might get a gift from the grading services. By mid-day, when the public was admitted, it was more like mid-November holiday shopping. Collectors took their time asking questions and prices, politely replying “I might be back”.

It was at this time that “C.J.”, a YN who I met at the ANA’s Summer Seminar, arrived and joined our team. To say that he is enthusiastic is an understatement, and his grading skills consistently put him at the top of my class. Between Tom, C.J., and myself I think we pretty much had it under control. We bought quite a few coins from dealers and collectors alike, and by Tuesday afternoon had submitted them to PCGS. More about that later…

Having the “Collectors Displays” as well as my own inventory meant that there was always a constant flow of people coming by. A busy show makes the time fly (Fugio!) and that’s always better than boredom.

So here is my first gripe. On Tuesday I looked in the “official” ANA program for food options for lunch. It showed the location of a snack bar in the convention hall. Well…that was closed. I guess nobody told them about the show. There was however a “food court” WAY in the back of the hall. And that would be okay if you were starving out in the wilderness because their selection SUCKED! I find it hard to believe that with all the money and wealth in the coin show that we have to eat food that’s primary purpose is to cause health issues. So…back to Gibson’s for take-out lunch. Guess I wasn’t the only person that thought that way as the wait time for carryout was over an hour! Mmmm…not good. Folks, in this day in age there has got to be a better way. Let’s work together and figure this out. Please!

By Wednesday the show was in full swing. We were expecting to start getting our grading back later that afternoon but it seems that PCGS got overwhelmed. As in one or two submitters clogged up the system. But, being the troopers that they are, PCGS worked at making it work. A big “Thank You” goes out to David  and his crew. They’re great!

Wednesday night I had the pleasure of dinning with a friend/client at…Gibson’s! Gibson’s is a great place, but as with all good things, sometimes too much isn’t a good thing. My friend and I had a nice (not so quiet) dinner talking about cars, dogs, and of course coins. It is evenings like this that makes spending so many nights away from home tolerable. Unfortunately my buddy had to leave the show the next morning. I would have like to have spent more time talking with him.

Thursday…

By this time pretty much everybody had settled down into a routine. Dealers were hunkered down at their tables waiting for the influx of collectors. I can’t speak for anybody but myself but it seemed like we were busy all day long. No frenzy, just nice and steady. As you know, that’s how I like it. Looking in the safe I could tell by the number of new purchases as well as the number of invoices that it was going to add up to a decent show, despite what other dealers may have seen. Throughout the day we did our best to help each and every collector who stopped by. Sometimes we had one or two wanting to talk to us, or look at a coin, but usually there was just that steady flow of potential, and established, collectors coming up to the table. Again, it seemed like the day flew by and before we knew it six o’clock rolled around and it was off to a special dinner honoring the survivors of the Shanghai Ghetto. It was a wonderful venue and I had the honor of spending dinner talking to two different survivors. If you aren’t familiar with the Shanghai Ghetto; Google it. Their story is amazing.

Thursday night was also the Stacks Bowers Rarities session of the official ANA auction. As I was at the Shanghai Ghetto event, I wasn’t able to attend but a friend offered to bid for me. I had spent many hours last week in New York viewing selected lots for clients, as well as looking at a few last minute possibilities. Well, the auction was VERY strong and I was only able to win one lot for a client. But, one is better than none and the collector was happy to get it.

What about the buying and selling going on at the show you ask? Quite a bit actually. From the number of inquiries at our table, between my inventory and the displays, we saw lots of interest. Without a doubt the coin market is very much alive. The only problem is finding the right coins for the right people. And sometimes you don’t know that you have the right coin. What? One example would be Saturday afternoon. Some of you might realize that I also deal in medals and tokens, not just Gem quality rare coins. I’ve had a few medals/tokens from Colorado for awhile. I even had them at the Colorado Springs coin show in late June (kind of thought that’s where they might sell). Anyways, right after lunch time a gentleman came up, saw them, looked at them, asked a price, and then bought them. Lock, stock, and barrel.

In addition to the tokens/medals above we sold quite a few really GEM type coins. You know the type. The ones that you ask yourself “how did this ever survive?” We also had the privilege of selling a couple really cool items that we can’t really talk about (to protect client interest). Again, all of these coins had a common denominator: EYE APPEAL!

As I write this report Tom Bush is busy photographing our new purchases and getting them ready for the website. A few of my favorites are:

1855 Large Cent Upright 55, PCGS MS66RD…An unbelievable piece that quite frankly defies existence.

1909 Lincoln Cent, PCGS PR66RD CAC…As fresh as the day it was minted.

1885 Seated Liberty Dime, PCGS PR67+…Amazing color and worthy of any cabinet.

1935-D Walking Liberty Half, PCGS MS66 CAC…Not your typical 35-D, as this piece has a strong head and intense luster. Best looking piece for the date I’ve ever seen.

1946-S Walking Liberty Half, PCGS MS67 CAC…Phenomenal concentric rainbow toning that must be seen to believe.

1882 Gold Dollar, PCGS MS67…One of the coolest 1882 gold dollars I’ve seen. Blazing luster with a blanket of copper color. Breathtaking.

So there it is. I’m sure I missed something important, but hey this report has taken three hours and 4 shots of espresso to get done!

Check back often this week, and if you see anything you like email me or better yet, call me.

Remember…I love to talk coins.

About the Author:

I am known within the industry for having a “great eye” for both beauty and technical aspects of coins. It is through this trait that John Albanese enlisted me to put together Numismatic Guarantee Corporation’s (NGC) grading set back in 1987 as well as becoming one of NGC’s first graders. And twenty years later, with the inception of Certified Acceptance Corporation (CAC), I was again recruited to be one of three graders. My love of coins has led me to appreciate all coins, in their natural state, with a serious distaste for “coin doctoring” and fraudulent practices. Website: Numismaticamericana.com

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