What You Need To Know (WYNTK): 1st show as collector
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I’m basing this on my 1st show, my expectations, and what I learned. I hope those with vast experience will supplement with additional tips.

 

BACKGROUND: In the 50’s and early 60’s I collected coins the way I’d seen my dad collect/save them. Go through pocket change for all dates/mints of pennies and later working my way up to dimes in a Whitman book. I didn’t know that people actually bought coins then. There was no such thing as coin shows that I was aware of. Now, reviving my numismatic interest and starting new 40 years later, I find that things are different. There are “certified” coins, professional & semi-professional dealers, as well as clubs, shows, and (of course) the Internet where coins are bought, sold, and discussed.

 

PREPARING FOR THE SHOW: I made a list of the coins that I wanted, including the minimum grades and the prices I would pay (at a few different grade levels). I’m getting fair at grading Walkers and 3-cent nickels but I still made myself a personal grading “cheat sheet” for them. I also printed my Morgan inventory sheet to take along just in case. There is also the Fox book on WLH’s that I want as well as look at KonTain holders that I read about in the forum. I had this image of rows of tables and each dealer would have all the Walkers and 3CN in various grades and prices (raw as well as certified). Then, I would simply go through a process to select the best value for my collection. Saturday came and I went to the show, equipped with my lists, loupe, and grading cheat sheet.

 

AT THE SHOW: Even though I am older than most folks going to first show, I was still nervous/anxious. The doors opened and I could see that there were rows of tables throughout the main area and into the wings just as I expected. There were lots of people. Most were coming in with bags, briefcases, books, and coin world type newspapers. I decided to just start at the beginning (easing my way to the 1st table). Just as I thought, I could see that he had good many Walkers. But, upon closer inspection, the better grades were all 1940’s. There were some earlier dates though in lesser grades. I looked at a 1919-D labeled “VG” but, it was pretty beat up and I did not want it. I was really surprised that there weren’t any of coins that I actually needed. I spotted a 1939 WLH labeled XF that I thought was F12 or VF20 at best. Then another date. I’m new at grading but the forum has helped me (especially Supertooth on Walkers). He only had 2 common date 3CN’s in VG so I moved on. At the next table, there were only a few common walkers and no 3CN’s. There were lots of Morgans, slabbed and raw in many grades so I looked them over. I could not get through the lines at many tables so I had to bounce around while not finding what I was originally hunting. I was overwhelmed with so many thousands of coins and I felt I needed to buy some of them. I wished I had brought at least a grading book and a pricing guide with me so I would have some idea about coins other than 3CN’s and Walkers. There were large cents, small cents, dimes, quarters, half’s and dollars (especially Morgans) plus lots of modern sets to view. So very many types but I did not know enough about them to actually buy any. I’ve learned with Walkers that I can make some pretty expensive mistakes. There was one dealer with nice glass cases holding coins in slabs with “unknown” labels. Most of the slab coins that I saw throughout the show were NGC & PCGS though. There were very few 3CN’s so that part of my plan was out. At one table, I did finally find a 1935 and 1937 WLH that I was sure would improve the ones I had. I purchased them and a couple Morgans. Next, I went to purchase 3 more Morgans at another table and found the dealer did not take credit card. Then I found out that most, if not all, of the dealers did not take credit cards. I don’t normally carry any checks. Good thing the show was only a few blocks away from my bank. A few dealers had some basic supplies but one had broad selection of books, albums, boxes, and holders. Didn’t have the book I was looking for though (it’s out of print).

 

PEOPLE: The dealers seemed to be just as interested in buying as they were of selling. Individuals were selling (or appeared to be selling) bulk coins and collections to dealers. I had never given it a thought to sell coins at the show. That is why I saw so many people bring bags & briefcases (to sell & trade coins). Most everyone was talkative and friendly (as long as you didn’t tell them their coins were over graded). There were basically 2 dealer types. Those that were probably long time collectors that are dealers part time. Then there were those dealers that appeared to be fulltime with much larger inventories and more structured setup. Some had help selling pre-priced coins but the actual dealer concentrated on buying. Actually, many coins had prices on them. There were a wide variety of buyers from children to various collectors to 2 dealers that I met that came into town strictly to buy inventory for their shops. One of the best parts was seeing folks bring youngsters to view, discuss, show their coins off, and buy coins. I did find out that dealers had more time to talk later in afternoon and Sunday afternoon when things were not as crowded.

 

SUMMARY: Plan to see a lot of different coins, learn, and if you are fortunate, add key coins to your collection. Plan to “study up close” those coins that you may never be able to see elsewhere (e.g. very early large cents or gold). Do not expect to automatically find the coins you want for your collection (I even thought there would be multiple grades of coins on my list). Plan on making a full pass through the show first making notes about tables. Look (over and around people if necessary) and note if there are many of the types of coins on your list. I guess for space reasons, all coins are not on the tables so don’t hesitate to ask for specific coins. If you are fairly new at grading, sit at a table with a bucket of coins of a type you are familiar with grading. Grade them in the light and environment of the show rather than the comfort of your home. This finally helped me a lot toward the end of 1st day. Plan on spending more time when fewer people attend (ask dealers what is best day/time to talk). Plan a realistic budget that will get the coins for your collection AND one or more “fun” or “special” coins (in my case I bought my 1st and only commerative). Prioritize your spending regardless of your budget level. Plan on crowds, lines, and some inflated prices/grades. Look for bargains on coins that you can grade pretty well (other types may “not” be the bargain that they appear). Prepare for payment by cash and check (credit card may not be acceptable at shows). If your local dealer is there, you won’t learn anything new if you spend your time with him (I almost made that mistake). Visit him another day. Once you get a bit of a grip on the show, it will be over. Take your time and enjoy what you can see and learn because it is not likely that you will be able to see everything.

 

Hopefully some of the more experienced folk will reply and add other tips.

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Regis44, you made some excellent observations from a fresh point of view since this was your first show.

 

I, too, have learned that most coin shows do not have a ready supply of what is on our want lists. Therefore, it is best to keep your eyes wide open for other coins which may fit into your collecting interests.

 

I was/have been searching for a nice AU58 small planchet Bust Dime for awhile now. I went to a show in the Tacoma Dome in Washington looking to obtain this coin. Alas, all I found were not suitable. However, as a type collector, I came to a table of large cents. All were circulated with the exception of a beautiful specimen in the center of the display. I was captivated immediately and purchased the coin. The coin was a Randall Hoard 1820 Matron Head Large Cent. Even though I knew very little about early copper at that time, I had just completed an ANA Coin Grading Seminar so I had a keen sense of esthetics going for me. Three years later, I still really like this coin and have no buyers remorse whatsoever.

 

I still haven't found that Bust Dime I was searching for but I have no need to add the Matron Head Cent to my hunt since I pounced upon the opportunity when the chance presented itself.

 

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This is a really good thread. thumbsup2.gif Winston recently started a thread regarding coin show etiquette and the following quote is a copy-and-paste of what I wrote in Winston's thread.

Many people go to shows with significant sums of money while others simply bring checks. Quite a few dealers may be hesitant to sell you something expensive if you try to pay for it via check and you are unknown to them and to other dealers on the floor. If you expect to buy a four-digit coin with a check from a dealer you do not know, expect to provide one or two dealers, who are set up at the show and who are known, as references. This usually works well.

 

Alternatively, you may pay for a significant portion of the coin in cash and leave the coin with the dealer until you either return with the remaining payment or you write a check for the balance and allow the check to clear. In the latter case, the dealer can ship the coin to you. Generally, you will only encounter these issues if you go to a show looking sloppy or are completely unknown. Whenever I walk the bourse I am always clean shaven, neatly dressed and polite (imagine that), which may or may not help, but it can't hurt.

 

People haggle over prices all the time, which is something I do not like to do. Putting forth one or two counteroffers is acceptable behavior, but if you do it on multiple coins and then end up buying none of them you will soon find yourself with a reputation as a tire-kicker. I wouldn't counter any coin unless I was certain I was going to buy it at that price. I just don't believe it is polite or proper to engage in a negotiation if you are not ready, able or willing to complete the transaction.

 

Other points to consider, in no particular order other than that in which they enter my thoughts are as follows. Do not pick up a coin on a glass case that someone else is looking at unless you have asked first and have received clear permission from the owner. Never offer your unsolicited opinion as to the grade or value of a coin that a dealer and customer are discussing regarding a sale, only do so if you are asked. If you would like to see a coin in a dealer's case and he opens the case for you, do not reach in and grab the coin, even if it is right next to you and is in a difficult position for the dealer to reach, unless the dealer asks you to reach in or unless you ask the dealer first if you can reach in and take the coin out. If you tell a dealer that you are interested in a coin, but you would like to walk the floor more, and then you do not come back to the dealer there are generally no hard feelings; however, if you tell a dealer that you will buy the coin after you walk the floor but you do not come back then you risk being blackballed by that dealer and other dealers. If you counter with truly ridiculous prices you will find that the dealer may ignore you and won't show you more coins. Similarly, if you have the dealer take two dozen coins out of his case for you, one coin at a time, so that you can examine them and then you reject each coin based on price you should also expect to be ignored in the future as a non-serious buyer. Do not take the chairs away from one dealer's table so that you can have a discussion with a friend at another table unless you ask first. If you go to an empty table and start to make transactions be prepared to have security ask you to leave, you should either rent a table or do your transactions with friends elsewhere. Do not loudly badmouth a dealer who is in attendance unless you are prepared to be escorted from the venue rather quickly.

 

Pretty much if you are polite, show that you know what you are doing in your niche and are patient you will have a terrific time and make plenty of friends.

I will also add, as one who has both walked the floor and taken tables at shows, that generally the best time to speak at length with a dealer is in the afternoon because the mornings are typically the most hectic time for any show. The best and most expensive coinage is usually sold very early in a show, so if you don't get there right away there is a good chance that you won't find the difficult coins that you are looking for. Also, don't be surprised to find that the coins you are looking for are also being looked for by other people. This is why they are tough to find to begin with. 893scratchchin-thumb.gif

 

As a dealer, it has been my experience that for one day shows, which are usually held on Sundays here in New England and are open at 9:00 AM, people start to show up before the official opening of the show. The very tough coins are easy to sell at stiff prices and these usually are gone by 11:00 AM. After noon, the shows get very quiet and this is the time to be able to have a leisurely conversation with a dealer about anything.

 

At multi-day shows there is usually one day where the show is closed to the general public but may be attended if you pay a fee. For the large Baltimore show this is a fee of $100, which is worth it if you are looking for truly tough, choice coinage because many of these pieces are bought up on this "dealer day". Aside from the added benefit of seeing all the coins first, paying to get in on dealer day is nice because the bourse floor has very few people roaming it and there is a much closer "feeling" among the people in attendance since most know each other.

 

Lastly, please do not get flustered at a show. There is much to see at a larger show, but planning and execution will help you achieve your goals.

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For those of us who have been collecting for 30, 20, eight or even just two years, it can be tough to get back to the perspective of one's first show. My very first show was when I was about twelve, and I know that I was near trembling with fear. You see, all my experience up to that point has been collecting Jefferson nickels out of circulation, and seeing coins that cost as much as $3 (me entire allowance for two weeks!) make me to scared to buy anything and risk losing money on something I just didn't know much about. And of course, those $10 coins were waaay out of my league! I probably never bought a coin for the first ten shows I ever went to. Looking back, that's probably a wise thing (I was just lucky though, not wise).

 

I think that your thread topic is absolutely fantastic, and I'm proud of you for sharing your experience!

 

James

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Thanks Regis----It always interests me to read and hear how newcomers feel about the hobby. What strikes them the most. I also think that it can be of great benefit to others. I especially wanted to comment on your line--" I didn't know that people actually bought coins then"---in the fifties---sixties. I think this statement reveals a great deal about how the coin business has changed in fifty years. For, although I went to the coin shop in Baltimore in the late fifties, I also really never thought of coin collecting as "Buying Coins". Coin collecting was finding what I needed in change. We collected cent for cent and dollar for dollar. Take one out and put one back in its place. Or trading---like baseball cards. My grandmother bought me a 'good' 1932D Washington Quarter for 5 bucks. That was a major purchase back then.

 

Also wanted to bring to your attention a related thread on the PCGS boards. It's title is "As collector matures" started by Bochiman---posted on the 26th of August. I believe in learning from both boards. And this thread carries the same theme as Regis writes in our WYNTK thread. It brings out the "FUN" that the hobby can be for collectors. The friendships that can be made as a result of mutual interests in coins. The wanting to involve your children in the hobby. I know that my mom sat with me when I was 9----doing mostly stamps but coins too. It is a wonderful way to grow up. Coin collecting can make GREAT memories. I wish all of you to "ENJOY" the hobby. Collect what is fun and exciting for you. All the best to all of you. Bob [supertooth]

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Excellent thread.

 

I would only add a few points:

 

If you collect rare coins, nice coins, or nice coins, do not be disappointed if you do not have much to chhose from at a coin show. The smaller and more local the show, the less likely you will find something that fits your collection. Most of the inventory available at any bourse has quite a bit of mileage on it. For example, there is a scarce, raw branch mint gold coin that I have seen at shows in the same dealer's inventory every year since 2003. If it were desirable, it would have sold.

 

Don't force a significant purchase if you do not find something you really like. As time passes, during your time at the show, a sense of urgency sets in. It's like the two minute warning, you are down by fourteen and you have not put any points on the board. Instead of being forced to throw Hail Mary's, I like to buy an inexpensive coin very early, perhaps something for my son, or a modern commem proof, or something that breaks the ice (like a first quarter field goal). That way, it eases the mounting pressure to "go long". (Sorry for all of the football references blush.gif ).

 

I like the way you mentally prepared for the show, but be physically prepared, as well. Bring everything you might need: pricelists, your own loupe (I almost got burned viewing a coin with the dealer's loupe last show), water bottle, pen and paper, reference books, etc. I carry my material in a soft, brief case that has a shoulder strap. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. If you can, eat before you go to the show. The food available at most shows is unhealthy and expensive. Bring some healthy snacks.

 

Take a few breaks from the bourse. Step out for a while, read the paper, check with home/work, etc. You will be more refreshed.

 

Finally, and most importantly, BE SAFE. Park in a safe lot, walk out with others, make sure you do not get followed home, etc. These may seem like childish recommendations, but people get robbed at coins shows (er, I mean outside coin shows wink.gif ) all the time. Be aware of your surroundings, don't flash a lot of money, etc.

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Thanks everyone for taking the time to make this thread. I appreciate it.

 

Thanks again, Winston

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You know , every plan I ever had going into a show only lasted the first hour...with few exceptions . I ended up modifying it once I made a quick pass around the bourse and got familiarized with the lay-out of who was where and what was where .

This was my 'problem' until I started obtaining maps of the bourse and /or convention center where meetings/classes/displays/club gatherings were to be held prior to going.

Now , with a map from either the mail/downloaded from the show web site / or sent in the mail from the sponsoring organization / or from a pub like CW or NN , I am able to have a 'plan of maneuver' scratched out on the map with an estimate of where I should be at certain times ( allowing for time to chat and wait on dealers to finish with customers IE: fudge time built in) . The times are estimated and are not always even close , but it helps to help me keep track of events and where I am and the best way to get to these events from where-ever I am located on the floor - as well as a place to go back to and continue where I left off prior to leaving for an event or seminar and continue my search pattern (even to write notes ,phone #s on ,etc).

This is just a small way , and everyone does it different , of how I track my progress and maximize my time to be able to get more out of a major show .

 

Because I rarely go to obtain the ultimate specimen of a a key date or elusive rare tough date/types ( alot of folks do, but I do not as limited time available to me is spent doing what I do....not bad for everyone else , but not my particular thing), I am able to really have a lot of fun chatting and finding upgrades and even selling a few (yes , even as it is wise to buy from the right one , it is also wise to sell to the right ones as you learn who they are and what types they are looking for) . Two Indian head nickels I wanted one time were actually nowhere on a dealers table , but rather in one of his big trunks under the table and were produced when I asked about them (scored both at one shot!)

 

I kind of 'lone wolf' a lot and so, have not spent any time with other collectors , but have been doing so more an more over this last year and have found a new category to add to my map/planner -- fellow collector chat time...possibly over lunch nearby while on break from the place?

 

The major shows for me are for my fun and enjoyment and are not totally business trips , so I have a schedule to maximize my time , but my time schedule does not drive my agenda to the point where the trip feels like work and no fun....keep the perspective of what your trip is for...20% business / 20% learning / 40% fun / 20% social ...........or 90% business / 10% fun or whatever floats your boat and billows your sails...at any rate leave some flexibility in there or you could blow a fuse in the brain pan .

#1 rule : Always know where both the nearest exits and restrooms are .

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I've been to a few shows, so I will also add a few other tips.

 

Don't cover up a dealer's cases with a bunch of your paperwork, price lists, etc. They want to keep the viewing area as open as possible for other customers.

 

If you'll be looking through a lot of items, such as a whole box of 2x2's, try to move over to the side a bit to allow other customers access to the dealer's table. I even add a courtesy annoucement to the dealer, such as, "How about I look at these over here". It's a good way to allow the dealer to know what you're doing.

 

Speaking of courtesy and avoiding the appearance of theivery, I always keep the dealer's items at table level or higher when I'm looking at them. Otherwise, it might look fishy.

 

Hope my modest experiences help.

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I orginally posted this under the thread "Coin Show Etiquette but think it fits well here too.

 

1) I hate haggling too over buying coins. I appreciate dealers who give me their best price and then I either purchase or pass.

 

2) I've always tried to treat dealers fairly, like I would like to be treated and greatly appreciate those who patiently answer my questions and give me a reasonable amount of time to decide to buy or not.

 

3) At shows I don't like to ask dealers to hold coins back while I make a pass aound the bourse unless I'm 90%+ sure I will actually buy that coin or another in a similar price range from that dealer. I do not want him to suffer financial loss because of my indecision or greed. He's there to sell, if not to me than to another.

 

4) If I can discover which dealers will be at a particular show and they have a website, I inquire if certain coins a) are still available and b) if they will be at the show for personal inspection. Not every dealer brings all of their coins to a show, if they know someone is interested in certain coins they will add them to their inventory for the show.

 

5) After starting off at the beginning and then going through each table in a particular order, I have changed my philosophy. Say there are 5-6 dealers that I have come to know, like their product and appreciate what they sell. I will hit their tables first, especially if I have asked them have certain coins available for my in hand perusal. This way I don't spend my money first on junk and I usually come away with very nice coins. Afterward I will browse the rest of the bourse.

 

6) Politeness, courtesy, eye contact and civility are always in order. I strive to be as nice as possible even to the unfriendly dealer who is trying to pass off an inferior product at an exorbitant price. Some day he may have I coin I actually want.

 

7) Always return a coin to the dealers hand. I remember looking at one particular coin among many boxes the dealer laid out in front of me. As I completed the transactions on different coins, I couldn't remember what I had done with the one coin he especially showed me. I asked him if I gave it back and he couldn't recall that I did. I panicked and quickly went through the boxes he had showed me, found it and handed it over to him. He appreciated me doing that. I want to do nothing that will jeopardize my relationship with a dealer.

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Regis - great post. It brought back some memories. One thing I would add is that if you are fortunate enough to be attending a larger show with an auction, take time to sit down and browse auction lots. Not only will you have the opportunity to look over many different types of coins, but if you are perceptive enough you can over hear what dealers and other sharpies have to say. I learned alot (both good and bad) that way....

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