By Dennis Halladay – VAMs and More….
Gold and silver prices rising, the stock market falling, cold weather nearly everywhere, and huge Heritage auctions made for a busy Florida United Numismatists (FUN) coin show January 7-10 in Orlando. And it was big. Really, really big as seen in the accompanying photo of most, but not all, of the bourse floor.
Hang on tight if this is what‘s in store for the rest of 2015.
There was already a buzz in the air before the 60th annual FUN show opened Thursday morning to the 10,000+ people who would attend. Credit may go to the two coins that sold for more than $2.1 million each in Wednesday night‘s sale. Five more broke the two commas barrier on Thursday, making for an incredible total of seven in all. Total gross of the Heritage auctions was more than $81.1 million.
One or two more VAM dealers than usual set up at the show, and had offerings that included key coins in grades never seen for sale before. The number of VAM collectors in attendance also appeared to be higher. Many old faces were seen from all parts of the county, and many new ones were finally connected to screen names on the VAM- world message board.
This abundance made for another successful Society of Silver Dollar Collectors (SSDC) VAM Thing meeting on Friday.
Always fun, informative and informal, the 12th such event did not disappoint.
John Coxe reported on the continued growth of both SSDC and its VAM Registry for Morgan and Peace dollars. Membership in the organization grew by 11% in 2014 to 163, registered set numbers increased 23% to 2,560, and total coins registered rose 12% to 36,485.
Former SSDC president Ash Harrison candidly discussed the current state of the VAM market. He pointed out that, like the coin market in general, VAMs seem to have taken on a two-tier structure, with ultra rarities and top pops continuing to increase in demand and value, while prices for low-grade and common coins generally languishing.
“This is a time where you can definitely get some bargains if you are willing to buy below the pop tops,” he said.
Current president John Baumgart gave a fascinating and impressively comprehensive “genealogy” of the currently known Micro-O counterfeit Morgan dollar dates. That list consisted of just 1896, 1900, 1901 and 1902 until last year, when new die marriages of spurious 1893-O and 1900-O/CC coins were also identified. That makes a six-pack of dates that presents a very formidable challenge for anyone wishing to assemble a full set.
David Close and Ray Sanchez shared some of the extensive learning and support from fellow collectors that they enjoyed when they did individual coin date studies. Close chose the 1923-S Peace dollar; Sanchez the 1883-O Morgan dollar.
Crae Morton‘s annual lite humor presentation was once again something that needed to be seen in person. This time the topic was “Hindsight is 50-50: What I Wish I Knew About Dealers as a Collector That I Now Know as a Dealer.” The talk was filled with several truth is stranger than fiction examples of what he has learned since becoming a dealer three years ago.
His biggest insight: Your relationships with dealers is more important than you think – and dealers respond more to gifts of food than you can imagine.
VAM collectors were the subject of item number 5: “The real reason dealers don‘t like VAMers is they don‘t want to be made to feel stupid by people who know a lot more something than they do.”
Such insecurity can lead to suspicion and resentment, so Morton made a recommendation that was no a joke at all: “Let‘s stop calling our VAM acquisitions ‘picks’, because that means there is someone who got picked and isn‘t happy about it.”
Door prize drawings at VAM Things have taken on a life of their own in recent years, with the ratio of prizes to people in attendance sometimes approaching 1 to 1. All are generously donated by SSDC members, friends, and companies that support the VAM hobby. Coins, books and free grading coupons tend to al- ways be awarded, but this year something new entered the mix that took an unexpected turn.
It started out as a booby prize: a circa-1980s Avon bottle of Liberty aftershave in the shape of an 1895 Morgan dollar. One whiff of its contents dis- pels any idea that many could have been sold. The “lucky” winner – me – immediately tried to give it back so someone else could become a lucky winner.
Instead, it prompted a spontaneous new bit of VAM Thing mayhem: an extortion auction. Entirely on their own and from out of nowhere, bidders offered progressively higher donations to SSDC in order to force a VAMer of his or her choice take home the “prize.”
Bidding started at $10 and climbed in $10 increments. Multiple names were named. Much laughter ensued. In the end, $50 for the SSDC scholarship fund was the winning bid to once again stick me with the bottle.
Next year‘s FUN show moves from Orlando to Tampa. Here is a heads-up for anyone who plans on attending VAM Thing #13: the aftershave will be there too. As such, you may want to consider NOT putting your name in the door prize drawing box!