By Victor Bozarth and Mark Ferguson for PCGS ……
A few lessons have been learned during the absence of major, national coin shows during the “lockdown” periods of the COVID-19 pandemic. Already successful at hosting auctions online, prominent auction houses have recognized that they can produce effective auctions from their home offices, without the expenses of conducting them at national shows. Heritage Auctions and Stack’s Bowers Galleries have been conducting sales a week or two after major shows where they would normally occur.
Heritage has moved to a new building where the company can produce mini coin shows and major auctions, and Stack’s Bowers recently built their new Griffin Studio, where auctions are conducted and broadcast live. These days, travel costs have been mounting for auction companies, grading services, and coin dealers.
On the other hand, coin shows large and small have been well attended with brisk business. The Central States Numismatic Society Convention that was held in the Chicago area in late April was a prime example. On the first day, hundreds of people were lined up in the lobby to register to get into the show at the opening bell. The show chairman decided to bypass the normal registration process and just let everyone in after they paid their admittance fees. This was appreciated by the throngs of public attendees waiting to get in as well as by the dealers who were there to do business with these people.
However, many dealers are starved for inventory, and this has curtailed sales. Numerous dealers arrive a few days prior to the opening of major shows. They do this to make the best use of their time by viewing auction lots before a show opens and many of them set up trading rooms where they conduct wholesale business with each other. Reports are that trading was limited, due more to lack of material than demand. Dealers who typically arrive at a major show with boxes of merchandise to sell now have fewer coins.
PNG Day, conducted by the Professional Numismatists Guild (PNG) and held at the Central States Numismatic Society Convention, was busy by some reports, although the softness in precious metals prices during the show discouraged some buying of the more “generic” gold and silver coins. “Let’s see where this is going,” was voiced by several large market makers regarding generic gold. Even so, the rare coin market remains super strong.
While public attendance at coin shows — large and small — has been strong in 2022, most of the business done at shows is wholesale trading occurring between dealers. Perhaps most collectors, especially well-heeled collectors/investors, are busy people and prefer to be represented at shows by their dealers or agents. Many also want to remain anonymous, so they avoid shows and do business online.
Security is becoming a more important consideration in running coin shows these days. The smash-and-grab incidents engaged in by groups of people in jewelry stores, electronic stores, and the like are concerning for show staff. Rest assured, most show promoters are aware of this concern and are taking steps to keep shows safe.
While there may be fewer coin shows being conducted, they won’t go away. Shows are too important for the dealers, many of whom make their livings from doing business primarily at shows.
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