Baltimore Whitman Coin Show Report

Submitted by JonSullivan on Tue, 11/11/2014 - 08:43

Above: The inner harbor of Baltimore, near the Convention Center where the show was held.

It has been a little over a week since we got back from attending the Baltimore Whitman Coin Show, held Oct 30th-Nov 2nd in Baltimore, Maryland. There was a lot happening at the show, as is to be expected when you have a coin show consisting of a major auction held by Stacks/Bowers, 500 tables of dealers buying and selling, and the excellent location of Baltimore, all of these things make for a good show...or at least, that's the goal (more on that in a moment.) As an error coin company, we are a bit of an "outsider" at coin shows due to our error coin speciality being almost unique at most coin shows, with perhaps only 2-3 other error coin dealers being present, and all the other 499 dealers specializing in general U.S. coins, currency, world coins, ancients, or exonumia. Our clientele is different from the bulk of collectors at shows, and most people who stop by our table give a "wow" and "I've never seen coins like this before", before moving on to buy from the other dealers who deal in "normal" coins. Because of this, we are not as effected by things like "bullion prices", or what the latest Greysheet says the Bid or Ask is, nor are we effected much by the big marketing companies which buy and sell huge quantities of coins (creating huge surges in value in various coins.) No, the error market is a fairly stable market, with health ups and downs in values for the "meat and potatoes" kind of errors, with occasional flurries of intense excitement when a new error coin (e.g missing edge lettering Washington $1 coins) hits the market, but otherwise not a lot of volatility. So, I came to Baltimore with optimistic expectations despite hearing many rumors of a downward trend in "The Coin Market", and I was not disapointed--summed up, it was an excellent show.

Above: a small view of the large bourse floor of the coin show.

So what did other dealers think of the show? I almost always here dealers complaining at shows, but this show really was worse, with most dealers complaining that it was a "horrible show" or "worst Baltimore show ever"." Why was it bad for them? I couldn't answer that with certainty, since "normal" coins aren't what I do, but it seemed to revolve around:

1.Bullion prices dropping like brick off a 100 story building.

2.Too many huge U.S. coin collections coming on the market at the same time, and so drying up the money in the market both from collectors doing retail buying and dealers doing wholesale buying (this also seems to have led to dealers being stuck with lots of coins that collectors have passed on, and which they cannot wholesale or retail without taking a sizeable loss on.)

3.Dealer's having lost lots of money in bullion (yes, I said bullion already, but this is more specific.) 

Were there other reasons? Probably, but those are the ones I heard repeated over and over and the make sense. So why was the error market good at the show? Many of my "regular customers" didn't attend the show (no real reason, just busy with other random things--and I still sold to them, just not in person at the show), but despite that, I had a number of decent sales at the show and even more sales via the telephone/internet. Error collectors aren't nearly as concerned with bullion, error dealers are not affected by it, and unlike "normal" coins, there have been no "major" error collections hit the market for years now. Most error collectors have money to spend, same as always, and as long as they have jobs and the economy is doing ok, they're doing ok. 

Above: Buying and selling errors behind our table--it was pretty much non-stop the entire show.

How was buying at the show? There was generally a lot to buy. Normal coin dealers were trying to move what they could, and collectors were selling so they could have money to buy other error coins. Most of the selling at the show were not from error collectors, but from the non-collecting public or from "normal" coin dealers who were doubtless trying to raise cash. It was a super show for buying, and some of the new coins are now here on the website, while many others have already been placed in collections. 

Above: Sullivan Numismatics booth at the show.