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Coin Show Report: Baltimore Whitman Expo April, 2016

This coin show held every Spring, is one of our regular shows which we attend every year. It is typically one of the very best coin shows of the year for both buying and selling, and we look forward to it to do business, see customers, and also to take the “pulse” of the market. This year we saw a few things stand out, which we will talk about in this report. The show began for us on Thursday and ended Saturday, leaving slightly early since the show goes on through Sunday (although most dealers leave by Saturday afternoon since they have work to get back to on Monday.)

This was a fairly typical show for us in terms of buying, and we picked up a number of rare errors as well as some less expensive error coins. Perhaps our largest purchase as the show was an 1862 Indian cent obverse die cap, which was somewhere south of $20,000. A very nice coin, and it went to a happy customer. The more common stuff included cheap off-center Lincoln cents, planchets, minor brockages and the like, which typically are brought to the table 3 or 4 at a time by dealers or collectors trying to get rid of them. Some other coins, including a very rare off-metal showed up as well, which we promptly purchased and sent off to PCGS for grading.

We had a number of sources for buying, which we consider to be a good thing since it indicates a broader overall market of material, as opposed to having one collector bring in their collection, and that be the only purchase at the show—that indicates a small market. So we would summarize buying as being good overall at the show, and there wasn’t anything of note on this front in terms of more inventory or less coming on the market for sale.

Sales were slightly off at the show, and we sold mostly wholesale and did very little retail. Most of the collectors we see at shoes either did not show up, or had brought some “non error” coins to sale at the show, and “might be back” if they could sale them. But overall, there were not many error collectors at the show. We sold far more over the phone or internet during the show, than we did at the show itself, and the $20,000 error went to someone not in attendance at the show. This is often the case, and not unusual.

The fact that the regular U.S. coin market is slow may have contributed to a lack of error coin retail sales. Many non error collectors and dealers are “upside down” with their inventory or collections, and cash is therefore somewhat missing from that area of the coin market from what we hear (we are not dealers in non-error coins, and so are not very involved in that area of the market.)

Overall we would say the error wholesale market is good. Considering there were no other dealers at the show who deal exclusively in mint errors (as we do), we did a surprising amount of wholesale, and wholesale represented the vast majority of our sales at the show. Why is this? We believe it is in part because the error market is doing quite well, and those dealers (who all do buy and sell errors from time to time) are still moving their error coins. Also, error coins are “something different”, and in a world were non-error coins are generally weak, error coins represent something that collectors feel more comfortable buying since values are more stable and tend to move slowly overall.

We talked to non-error coin dealers at the show, and overall it was mixed from what we heard. Some dealers had a good show (one dealer said he had his best show ever, selling to many retail customers.) Other dealers said they were having a lousy show with very little business of any kind. The show did not seem very enthusiastic, but seemed to be healthy for a down coin market. We were pleased with the state of the error coin market, and although the non-error market is down right now, there’s no doubt it will rebound sooner than later since as with anything economic in nature, there are always cyclical ups and downs.

This is our opinion on the show, and other dealers would have a different view, so take it for what it is — our opinion. Thanks for reading.

coin show


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