What has happened to coin shows of late?

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By Douglas LePre, Senior Portfolio Manager at Blanchard and Company, Inc.

I recently went to the American Numismatic Association (ANA) National Money Show that took place at the Dallas Convention Center over the March 4 weekend.

I opted to attend as a non-dealer just to see what was really happening in the market.

As a life member of the ANA, admission on Friday was free. Upon arrival I received an ANA member credential to gain access to the show, so that made it a bit easier for me to blend in as an attendee. Even though this show boasts about having more than 500 dealers in attendance, I still found myself leaving the show without having made a single purchase, and I was very underwhelmed. I went to the show with money to spend but ended up leaving with every last cent pun intended.

I also ran into a few issues that, quite frankly, I didn’t expect.

I took the time to walk the entire show, stopping at most all of the tables to see what was on display and what was for sale. Some dealers had items at their tables that they really just want to show off rather than sell, which means they are heavily overpriced!

A few dealers had some beautifully toned coins, but after inquiring about price I felt as though they should have been wearing a mask and six-shooter saying, Stick em up! The prices were ridiculous.

I did see a few other items that piqued my interest, but when trying to gain the attention of the dealers who rented the table, they were either not there or too busy talking to their show neighbor about things other than coins. The reason I know that is because I was standing there being ignored for a long enough period to listen to their conversations. On these occasions, I just moved on.

All in all, there seemed to be more dealer-to-dealer trading than there was selling to the public. That may be due to public attendance being pretty lackluster at least in comparison to shows Ive attended in the past. Or, maybe its yet another sign of how the market is changing.

The highlight of the show for me was having the opportunity to view firsthand some of the amazing coins that came out of the D. Brent Pogue Collection, and I can only compare that experience to walking through the Colosseum in Rome or seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time. It was absolutely like taking a trip back in time completely awe-inspiring! The Proof 1804 Dollar and 1822 Half Eagle were front and center along with many of the other coins from the same collection, and I must say they were some of the nicest coins that I have ever seen brought to market.

In addition, the ANA Museum Showcase display had many items of real interest. One of the many items there was the off-metal 1943-S bronze Lincoln Cent that recently sold at auction for $211,500. I quite frankly was very excited to see this rare error coin, but upon viewing the display, the coin had been mounted vertically underneath a very bright light shining down directly on the coin, which distorted its details. It was a real shame that such an interesting numismatic curiosity was displayed so poorly! This was a lost opportunity for the ANA to generate even more excitement for our hobby because visitors to the show couldn’t really get the impact of this rarity.

As I had not been to a show in a while, I have to say that attending this affair in Dallas reconfirmed that I am blessed to work for one of the largest companies in the coin market. The amazing number of rarities that come through our doors has never been more evident to me than right this very moment.

After walking the show and being privy to the amazing rarities that are still available for sale on any given day, Pogue Collection included, I have complete faith that this market is alive and well. I do, however, think that the market has changed in regards to how people are buying and selling coins. My suggestion to anyone looking to enter the rarities market is to find someone who not only knows the market but also loves what they do, and when you do, stay with them for those very reasons.

All markets over the past 20 years have changed evolution is natural. This market is no different; what some call advancement, others consider regression, so you have to be able to embrace the change as it happens in order to continue to grow with the market.

Auctions have their place, but they also have their shortcomings.

And coin shows seem to me to have become a dealer-to-dealer exchange for the most part, with some bullion trading hands.

While I dont want to be accused of judging a book by its cover, I do think its fair to judge a coin dealer on their available inventory! Quality coins are now where the smart money goes, and the question becomes: How readily can you find them?

Happy hunting!