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Rare Coin Road Warrior Market Report

By Vic Bozarth – Bozarth Numismatics

What’s happening on the rare coin show circuit?

The Whitman Baltimore Coin Exposition was really ‘cooking’! In my opinion the Baltimore Coin Expo is the hottest show on the rare coin show circuit. The folks at Whitman know how to run a show. The Fall show is the best of the three shows that Whitman Publishing holds in Baltimore each year. Attendance is always heavy and the Bowers and Merena Auction is a big draw. Business was brisk and gold was the major culprit.

I will talk more about the Baltimore Coin Exposition, but first let me tell you why I write the Rare Coin Road Warrior Column each month.

My name is Vic Bozarth and I am the Rare Coin Road Warrior. My wife Sherri and I travel over 200 days a year to buy rare coins for our customers. We attend all the major shows as well as most of the larger regional and state numismatic society shows. We own and operate Bozarth Numismatics Inc. and our website is I have attended coin shows since the age of 13 and set up as a dealer at my first show at the age of fifteen. Of course, I love coins, but shows are where the action is! Because many of you don’t have the luxury of attending many coin shows, I like to share with you the news and market trends I have witnessed while attending and working the ‘bourse’.

The October Show schedule was grueling. Although the only major show was the Silver Dollar Show in St. Louis we actually attended four shows in total flying coast to coast twice. After the stellar Philadelphia Whitman Coin Expo in late September/early October we flew to Manchester, NH for the NH Coin Show. Although bracketed by the bigger Philly Show and St. Louis Silver Dollar Show, the NH Show was both well attended and well run. Ernie Botte does an excellent job with this show. The show itself is growing and we are among many who really enjoy visiting the Northeast during the Fall.

The Silver Dollar Show in St. Charles, MO, a suburb of St. Louis, is well run in an excellent facility, but there are several problems with the show. Maybe it is the economy, maybe it is the city, but the show just isn’t what it once was in years past. The Silver Dollar Show also faces some major hurdles next year. The new Pittsburgh ANA Fall Show is scheduled the week prior to the Silver Dollar Show next October. The ANA is like the 800 pound gorilla in the room-they stomp around with no regard for anyone else.

The problem with the ANA Fall Show and the St. Louis Show comes down to proximity of dates. Like the Whitman Philadelphia Show and the Long Beach September Show this year, the grading services will with all likelihood opt out of one of the other shows. The ANA, the 800 pound gorilla, will probably win the grading war. The ANA Fall Show is the week prior to the St. Louis Show. In my opinion it is doubtful that both grading services will grade at both shows.

Logistically the grading services can move their equipment from Pittsburgh to St. Louis, but will dealers and collectors have material to submit for grading at St. Louis? Will the auction at the new ANA show overshadow the Scotsman Auction held in conjunction with the Silver Dollar Show? We will attend both shows, but on a personal note, I grew up in Missouri and my family still live there. I have attended shows in St. Louis since 1976 when the Central States Numismatic Society held a show there. I will continue to support and attend the show, but the ‘draw’ just isn’t there as it has been in the past.

This year we tried something new and attended the Willamette Club Show in Portland, OR instead of the PAN Show in Pittsburgh, PA. Why? you ask. Both of these shows are good shows, but some scheduling issues led us to try this show for the first time. I was pleasantly surprised with both the large number of dealers and the attendance of the show itself, but there were some problems with the set-up and the host hotel was completely sold out early. We will try this show again in the future. The show coordinator Scott Loos and his wife really work hard making this show work. We enjoyed meeting them both.

The Coinfest Show held in Stamford, CT is one of the best retail coin shows in the country but……the show itself probably won’t exist next year. The news from the show was really odd. The Coinfest advertising campaign has been one of the most effective show promotions I have ever seen. Stamford, CT is convenient to New York City, the upper Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. The hosts for the show tried to make people comfortable and the security was top notch. MOST IMPORTANTLY there are customers there who want to buy coins!

So what is the problem? The show has been moved twice. The facility used in years two and three was bigger and in my opinion nicer. The new facility in a Marriott in downtown Stamford was just too small. Because of the new facility many smaller dealers who attended in the first three years weren’t even sent contracts for the show? Table prices were also increased. Unfortunately this is one of the best shows in the country that is probably doomed. I fervently hope this show can survive, because the concept is sound, the advertising is good, and most importantly the customers are there.

One of the problems with the Coinfest Show is scheduling itself. So many people want to have their shows during the Autumn months. The Baltimore Show is the ‘King of the Hill’, so to speak. The Baltimore Show is both very well attended and well run. When Whitman bought the show a couple of years ago, there were some doubts that the show would continue to flourish. Not only has the show continued to flourish, but table space is very much in demand and there is often a waiting list for at least the Autumn Baltimore Show.

The Baltimore Show features a Bowers and Merena Auction. The location is fun and convenient with lots of lodging and dining choices. One tip: book your hotel room early, because we have heard rumors room availability will be limited in the Spring due to competing conventions. There are hundreds of dealers including virtually all the big dealers in the country. Whitman does an excellent job of advertising the show also.

The Boston Bay State Show followed the Baltimore Show during the second full weekend of November. Ed Aleo runs a good show and you should try and attend. We didn’t attend this year’s Autumn show due to a scheduling conflict, but we always enjoy Boston. There are lots of good coins that come out of the ‘woodwork’ in the Northeast.

The Santa Clara Coin Show is currently the second biggest show in November. Santa Clara has been shrinking. The attendance has really fallen in recent years. Dealers have cancelled their table contracts and many leave early. What is the problem? The overall economy has hurt this show. The Silicon Valley has felt the recession and that has spilled over into both slow sales and attendance. The loss of the Superior Coin Auction didn’t help either.

Ron Gillio, the show sponsor, is trying to entice new dealers into the ‘bourse’. He changed the show schedule roughly a year ago to set-up on Thursday versus Wednesday to encourage dealers to stay longer. He has also lowered some table prices. This year’s show was better than any we have attended in the last couple of years. There are still some ‘holes’ in the bourse floor, but the Bay area is one of the venues for a coin show in the country and we did notice some improvement in attendance.

There are two larger state shows on Thanksgiving weekend. The first is the very well attended Michigan State Show in Dearborn at what was once the Hyatt Hotel. Evidently the hotel ownership is changing, but the show location should remain in the same location. I have had good shows in Dearborn, but I decided several years ago that I won’t set up at a show on Thanksgiving weekend-family is just too important. You will enjoy the Michigan State/Dearborn show if you attend.

Fortunately we have an alternative for Thanksgiving weekend. There is a good show in Pasadena, TX held Friday through Sunday. Although this is smaller than Dearborn and it is not listed in Numismatic News Coin Show Calendar, there are lots of dealers who attend, parking is plentiful, and the location is conveniently located in a suburb of Houston. Although I drive in for the show on Friday, I don’t set-up. The only shortcoming for this show is that it is currently held the week before the Houston Money Show.

The Houston Money Show is growing. Of course, everything is bigger in Texas-right! Yes, I have some regional bias. We live in the Houston area. Karl Schwenker has done an extraordinary job in both promoting this show and scheduling a Heritage Auction and a PNG-Professional Numismatists Day prior to normal dealer set-up. We had an excellent Houston Show last year. Attendance is growing. The hotels and restaurants in Houston are.

excellent.December is a lovely time of year to visit Houston and indeed we have another dealer couple staying with us for a couple of days after the show. The first PNG day at Houston started last year and although it was relatively small, we were pleasantly surprised. This show is growing and you would enjoy attending.

What else is going on in December? We will be attending the Ontario, CA coin show during the third week of the month. There is also a PCGS invitational in Las Vegas. Frankly, I send coins to the PCGS invitational for grading, but I have found attendance at the PCGS Trade and Grade shows to be a waste of time-don’t make a special trip.

Last but not least, I wanted to mention the FUN Show being held in Tampa, FL this January. The Florida United Numismatists Show is the biggest show of the year. It eclipsed the annual ANA Summer Show in attendance several years ago. The move from Orlando to Tampa this year has been explained as scheduling conflicts with the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. Cindy Wibker, the show coordinator, does a fabulous job running this huge show.

The problem with the FUN Show is Orlando itself. The venue is dangerous. Robberies are a major problem. Yes, Orlando is a desirable venue for many dealers and collectors to bring their families, but this ‘place’ scares me. Take advantage of the show security facility. If you aren’t doing any business before the show, go directly to the security room, secure your coins, and go have some FUN.

I attend coin shows to buy coins for my customers. When we started our website several months ago we wanted to offer our new and fresh coin purchases to the general public. We currently list approximately 500 coins on eBay at any given time, but we wanted to list our best coins AVAILABLE TO ANYONE in a venue without the ridiculous eBay fees. Recently we have started to ‘batch’ our best new purchases to appear on our website twice a month. Most often our new listings will be ‘up’ roughly three days after a major show. Check us out.

Best Regards, Vic Bozarth,

The Rare Coin Road Warrior.

Upcoming Show Schedule:
Houston Money Show, Houston, TX: George Brown Convention Center
PNG Day: December 1st
Show: December 2nd to the 4th

SoCal/Ontario Coin and Currency Show, Ontario, CA: Ontario Convention Center
Show: December 16th to 18th

FUN/Florida United Numismatists Show, Tampa, FL: Tampa Convention Center
Show: January 6th to 9th

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