The Florida United Numismatists Coin Show
Major Coin Shows always draw a lot of interest from the casual collector to
the hard core collector. If you go to a major coin show, one can find it a
little overwhelming at first, but if you just take a little time to allow
yourself to become acclimated, you soon find yourself going with the flow.
So it was with the 51st Annual, Florida United Numismatists Coin Show held
January 5th to the 8th of 2006 at the Orange County Convention Center in
Orlando. This convention is known within the industry as the F.U.N. Show.
It is one of the biggest Coin Shows in the country, and is always well attended.
This article will not be a fluff piece about the show, but rather a chronicle of
events of what I, as a Coin Dealer, encountered at the show. It will be a
great learning experience for you, as a collector, in what exactly goes on in
the forefront and behind the scene at a large show.
Even though the actual Coin Show did not open to the public until Thursday,
events began on Monday with the viewing of coins to be auctioned by Heritage
Numismatics. The viewing continued through Wednesday when Coin Dealers who
were exhibitors at the show were allowed to set-up their tables. It is
during this set-up period, the dealers are running around not only setting
up their tables, but are buying and selling coins from each other. If you
would be allowed on the sales floor, called a bourse, at that time, it would
look like a movie running at twice the normal speed. Everyone needs to
know who is selling what, and what the competition is offering that they are
not. It is a very intense period for all the Coin Dealers who will be
Thursday, the opening day of the show, enters yours truly. I am at the
Minneapolis airport at 4:00 am to catch my flight to Orlando. I have two
agendas for the Coin Show: (1) to buy a few select coins for some of my
customers, and (2) what I consider the most important item, to gather sponsors
(advertisers) for a new coin magazine website I am opening called
CoinTrades.com. I should be arriving in Orlando around noon, and that I
figured it would give me about five hours of working time for that day.
Well, the plane is late arriving, I should have expected that; it took longer to
get my luggage than normal, I didn't expect that; and, it took longer to get my
rental car then I expected. So, once I got the rental car I decided to
head straight to the Convention Center rather then to my motel to change my
clothing. Now, I am off schedule. What do I do? Design a new
plan of attack of course.
Arriving at the Convention Center at 3:00 pm, it was time to register, pick
up the convention guide, and find a place to sit down. The plan is to look
up old friend and new acquaintances, visit their tables, exchange a little small
talk, and possibly make a purchase or two. It was a real shock to find
there were over 1,100 tables on the bourse. After plotting out the
tables to visit, I headed for the sales floor. Entering the bourse was
like a visit inside an ant hill. Coin Collectors were meandering in every
direction at different speeds. Pages (children who run errands for the
exhibitors) are scurrying here and there. Announcements are being made
over the public address system. Coin Dealers running at top speed trying to
finish up purchases with other Dealers. Everybody is talking and the hum
in the room is just short of what you would expect at a rock concert. The
air is electrifying, and my adrenalin is pumping. It is time to go to
Lance Tchor with Federal Coin & Bullion was the first stop. Since he
has been helping me out with CoinTrades.com, we needed to talk, and make plans
for who to visit as potential sponsors for the website. The next couple of
visits were to some of my mentors in the coin business, Ron Karp with New York
Gold Mart, and Fred Weinberg of Fred Weinberg & Co., an error Coin Dealer.
With the first very necessary visits completed, it was time to make a few more
stops. I saw Beth Casper of the Pobjoy Mint, then headed over to see if
Ron Guth, the president of PCGS was available to talk. Ron was at a
meeting, and would be back soon. Nearby was a special display of three gold
Brasher Doubloons and a Standish Barry Doubloon, an exhibit worth well over $10
million, and this I had to see. These rare coins are a very important part
of American colonial history, and could be viewed under the close scrutiny of a
guard. When Ron Guth returned to his station, I paid my respects, and was
off to spend the final half hour of that day's show walking the floor and
looking for coins. It didn't take long for me to spot the 1904 $20 Liberty
Head gold piece. I had been looking for a certified PL (Prooflike), and
there it was Mint State 63 PL. The coin was taken out of the case and
handed to me for inspection, as requested, and just before being told the price,
I handed the dealer my business card and introduced myself. It is almost
amusing to watch how the dealer's posture changes from one of an authority to
one of a collogue. We bantered around for about 20 minutes, first
discussing price, then I changed the subject and we talked about friends, in the
business, we may have in common, then back to price, arriving at a somewhat
mutually agreed to sum. It was time for me to check-in at my motel, get
something to eat, soak in a hot tub, and plan for the next day. No
partying tonight. Tomorrow was a full work day, and I would need my rest.
Friday would be a very busy day because many of the bigger Coin Dealers start
to pack-up their wares about noon time on Saturday, and the entire face of the
show changes on Sunday. On Sunday morning smaller local dealers replace
the larger ones, and they are only interested in selling or trading coins, so
Sunday will almost certainly be a lost day to me unless I can identify which
will be leaving and which will be staying. That is the first thing to do
on my agenda. With that done, I start of to make calls on potential
sponsors for CoinTrades.com. I knew it would be tough going at the show
because I would have to talk to these Coin Dealers between customers and
questions from Coin Collectors. The first call I made at the show resulted
in a sale, but it took almost two and a half hours to do. Time was not on
my side. I needed to change my strategy. The Coin Industry is just
like the diamond industry. Your word is a binding contract. If you
break your word, everybody knows it, and one doesn't do business for long on
broken promises. That is how I would work. I would get the verbal
commitment, and the final paperwork and payment would be clean-up work for the
week or two after the show. Oops, I also have to get my coin purchases
done as well. Now, it is time to kick it into high gear. On my way
to the next call, I happen by the booth of a Currency (paper money) Dealer I
know. What caught my eye was a $1000 Gold Certificate certified in a grade
of 63. It was a beautiful note. We greeted each other, and the bill
was taken out of the display case for me to see. I asked, "What's my
price?" Before he could speak, I added, "Look, I am really in a rush, so
give me your best price the first time so we don't have to play games." He
replied, "It could go easily for 115 (that is $115,000), but you're my friend so for you
That was a fair price, and I told him if he still had it by next Friday, I would
let him know one way or the other. I had to call my customer to see if he
would be willing to spend that much to complete his collection of Gold
Certificates. As a Coin Dealer, you learn to scan the display cases very
quickly, and the coins for which you are looking just seem to jump out at you,
and if they don't, then they are not usually worth buying. You also learn
from experience which dealers to ask about coins not out on display. If
they don't have them, they usually can direct you as to whom you need to see.
It helps eliminate wasted time.
With coin information in hand, it is off to make purchases. Most of the
coin purchases go well. It is the usual kind of dickering back and forth.
Discuss the coin. Talk price. Subject change to ease the tension in the
air. Talk price. Another subject change to mentally regroup, and
then back to price to close the purchase. Those of you who are in sales,
recognize the technique. It works equally well in purchasing as it does in
selling. It is called the closing wheel, and if you become good at
using it, even a well polished salesperson never sees it coming until the sale
is completed. I'll give you a good example of what not to do. I am
sitting at a table looking over a group of eight coins I want to purchase.
The Coin Dealer needed to wait on another group of customers. Since I am a
dealer and he knows me, he leaves me with the coins to inspect while he waits on
others. Along comes a young lad of what I would estimate at the age of 15.
He looks over the coins in the display case, and I ask him if he is a collector.
He tells me he collects "Merc Dimes" and that he thinks those graded at Mint
State 65+ with Full Bands are under valued right now, and he is out to make a
killing. He pointed to a very nice, beautifully toned one in the
case, and pulls out a copy of the grey sheet (wholesale pricing guide) and looks
the coin up. Well, grey sheet says it is worth $400, and I'm going to get
for that, he tells me. I am amused. I want to sit back and watch
this deal. Maybe I can learn something. Nicely toned coins usually
sell for much more over grey sheet price, and in most cases, when one is talking
about coins with great toning, you can just throw any pricing guides away.
The Coin Dealer walks over to me to see what I think of the coins, and I tell
him to help out the boy first, and that I can wait. The boy asks to see
the dime. Looks it over briefly, and acts rather bored with the coin.
He sets the coin down, and reaches into his pocket emerging with four $100 bills
that he has pulled off a roll that would have chocked a horse, before the
dealer came over to help him (what is a boy doing with that kind of money).
He threw the money on the table and said, "I'll take it! Grey Sheet says
it worth $400." I wondered if throwing money at a Coin Dealer works.
Remember, $400 dollars may be a lot of money to most people, and in a Coin
Dealers private life it is a fair amount, but in our surreal world of coins, it
isn't. Most of these Coin Dealers have several hundred thousand dollars
worth of coins or more at these shows. The Coin Dealer looked at the
money, and replied, "Look son, I like to encourage young collectors, but that
coin cost me $500, and I like to make about 10% on any coin I sell. I
don't think that's asking too much." There was the boy's opening to
negotiate, how would he handle it? The boy's reply floored me.
"What's the matter with $400! Do you get some kind of thrill by taking
advantage of a kid!," the boy shouted at the top of his lungs. The Coin
Dealer very calmly pushed the $400 back in front of the boy, and said in a very
low restrained voice said, "I don't want to do business with you, please leave."
Then he turn his attention to me.
Since I am 55 years old, I didn't think shouting at the Coin Dealer would
work, "What are you trying to do? Take advantage of someone who is almost
a senior citizen!" So, I asked the dealer how much each of the coins would
cost me individually. He gave me the price for the eight coins
individually. I ran a quick total in my head. I told him, I wasn't
really impressed with three of them (two were the most expensive, and one was
the least expensive), but I would take the five, and what could he do for me if
I took the five coins. He gave me a price, and I thought I shouldn't push
him too much after what he just went through with the boy. No, I wouldn't
push too hard, yet. I ask the dealer to write the order. As he
finished, and wrote down the final total I said, "You know, I'm not sure I could
get rid of these other three very easily, if I took those, too. It would
certainly be a hard sell if I did take them (I already had customers for all
eight of the coins). What kind of magic could you do for me? Let's
make it an all or nothing kind of thing. Could you do some kind of cost
averaging for me?" The dealer picked-up the other three coins and started
to look the coins over. He picked-up the coins -- Bingo! I had him.
We completed the transaction, and I was happy.
Now that I was finished with my coin purchases, it was time to get back to
finding sponsors for CoinTrades.com. It is really interesting. Coin
Dealers do not want a lot of competition on a website like this. Knowing
the market, I knew this. That's why I am keeping a magazine look to the
whole site with other kinds of sponsors as well. Don't worry, dear
readers, I will fill you in on the site as we get closer to launch. The
day ended up with another new sponsor. I was exhausted. Nine and a
half hours of work with a couple of ten minutes breaks. My feet were sore,
and it was time to get something to eat. After that, back to the motel;
take a hot bath; plan my Saturday; and get some rest. Party?! Not a
Saturday was pretty much like Friday. I talked to a lot of potential
sponsors for the website, but I didn't buy any more coins. I met with Prue
Fitts, the President, of WIN (Women in Numismatics) for a future article on
BellaOnLine.com, and at the end of the day I went to dinner with two potential
sponsors of my website. Sunday would be a little more relaxed. I
worked only from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. Then it was off to the airport to
return my car rental; have a bite to eat; and, catch my flight home. The
flight to Minneapolis was on a different airline then when I went to Orlando.
It was the first time I flew on Midwest Airlines. The flight was
uneventful; on time; and, all passengers were served hot chocolate chip cookies,
too. It was a pleasant end to a wonderful experience.
I hope this article has given you a little insight, as to the workings of a
Coin Show. There were many other things going on while I was at the show,
for example, the auction of coins, a whole host of seminars, and many displays
to see. As I stated in the beginning of this piece, the intent was not to
give you a fluff story, but rather a good insight as to the behind the scenes
working of a Coin Dealer at a major coin show. From this you should take
away a couple of negotiation techniques, how to plan working a coin show; that
if you are a serious collector, a coin show is work, enjoyable work, not play;
and, how to utilize Coin Dealers to minimize wasted time. When we learn to
make the most of our hobby, we have a greater respect for it, and a greater
appreciation for our accomplishments.
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