Dave and I flew out to Orlando on Tuesday, January 8th for the sunny climes of Florida. Although our winter has been mild, 70 degree temperatures are a nice change. We started out on Tuesday morning looking for show rooms where dealers were offering their wares. The show didn’t start until 2:00 Wednesday, so it gave me plenty of time to look at dealer stock and check out auction lots for customers. The pickings were slim for true premium quality coins, but we managed to turn over enough rocks to find a handful of nice pieces. We have about 60 new purchases for your perusal. They are typical soup to nuts offers. The one consistent is that they truly are premium examples for the grade.
We like to offer free services to our customers as a thank you. So I spent a few hours viewing auction lots and giving my opinion. Unfortunately, this is the first time that I viewed lots and could not recommend one single piece that I was asked to view for our clients to bid on. This also included CAC coins! Don’t get me wrong, this auction had great coins in it and many fetched record prices, however, none of the lots I reviewed were close to being worthy of my stamp of approval. I always try to employ technical strictness for grade and eye-appeal for any coins I recommend. I’ve been at this game now for over 40 years, so I’m not about to change.
The set up for the show was strong and there were many dealers looking for new inventory. However, the real proof in the pudding is the first day the public can come in, which is Thursday. I always used the first public day as a bellwether to gauge the market interest. If people are willing to take a day off and know enough to come to a show early to try and have access to material before it gets picked over, they are truly the most knowledgeable buyers.
Thursday was fantastic, there was a nice hum throughout the day and people were there to buy! It was a refreshing scene. I also noticed that the attitude of many dealers has changed dramatically. Dealers were spending more time trying to educate kids and their parents. They were also going the extra mile to be friendly to everyone that came up to tables and were all around inviting to all. It made me feel good and I would advise anyone that is interested in coins to attend a major show and go onto the bourse floor. I think you’ll be glad you did. I had one couple come up to our table that was intimidated by the size of the show and didn’t know what to do. Our table was the first they stopped at and I eased their fears by appraising their entire collection and gave them not just a value, but an explanation of each item. I told them to keep the collection because it should appreciate in value. They were so relieved and happy when they left, that I felt comfortable to tell them to feel free to see other dealers, they will be helpful and caring.
Many people believe that by bidding in auction, they cut out the middle man, by avoiding a dealer and have a truer sense of value. This is not true in most instances. Many collectors have no idea about protective or shill bidding and there is a tendency to get caught up in auction fever. I will reference to the Gene Gardner sale. Many items that were purchased by dealers and did not work for regrading were reauctioned in 6 months to a year and brought a fraction of the original purchase price. Many collectors feel that since there was an under-bidder they are value safe. This is wrong, there are many tricks and you do not know the objective of an under-bidder. Are they protecting a coin, running it up out of spite or hoping it may upgrade? These and other factors can contribute to auction prices not being a safe barometer. My suggestion is to develop a relationship with a couple of trusted dealers. They can go a long way to helping you avoid pitfalls and learning how to determine the true value of what you are acquiring.
I had many dealers and collectors asking for my opinion on coins at the show. Many more than ever before, but one example surprised me. A dealer came to our table and said that he needed me to look at 2 coins for a customer. The dealer said the customer would not buy a coin unless I approved it. The weird part was that I didn’t even know who the customer was! There were two 1889-CC Morgan Dollars both certified as AU-58 and MS-61 respectively. I told the dealer to tell the customer that I thought the AU-58 was cleaned and the MS-61 was an AU-58! If there were any questions, the customer could come to my table. He never did!
PCGS had an invitational luncheon at the show. Right now there are questions and uncertainty about the future of PCGS due to the transitions that are taking place. Greg Rohan spoke about his journey in coins and the new PCGS president told everyone about his trip to California. There was no question and answer session at all. There are many registry buyers that have millions of dollars invested in PCGS coins. At some point, a plan needs to be laid out and questions need to be answered! The new president made a statement about counterfeiting not really being that much of a problem. Tell that to the grading service and customers that were fooled by the fake Brasher counterstamped coins recently.
My final take away from FUN was that we could be in for a nice active market this year, if the economy and the world hold together. Unfortunately, I feel that tough times are destined to manifest themselves. Diversify into hard assets while you still can.