By Vic Bozarth
The Dog Days of Summer are here and we are hiding from the heat in Colorado. Our home in Texas is hot, dry, and although lovely, pretty uncomfortable during the Summer. This Summer Sherri, my wife/boss and co-owner of Bozarth Numismatics, and I decided we would mix things up a little and take our travel schedule somewhere cooler. This evening I am writing my monthly Rare Coin Road Warrior column next to a Rocky Mountain stream in a condominium in Estes Park, CO. Yes, we are spoiled, but seriously we have taken two weeks of vacation between three shows.
Coin Shows are our life, but the travel and people we meet along the way are the reward. In this month’s RCRW I am going to write about some of our experiences along the way. Please bear with me, I will get to the coin show news.
Although we fly to virtually all the shows we attend, we decided to drive to Colorado this summer. The drive itself is pretty grueling, but we were amazed with the scenery and vistas we encountered on our trip. Contrary to what many would think, North Texas, Northwest New Mexico, and Southeastern Colorado aren’t ALL desert. We drove through some incredible farmland. One of the most surreal impressions from our trip was the wind farms we passed along the way. These wind farms are made up of HUGE windmills usually placed on a ridge to catch the dry hot winds of the region. The windmills themselves are over 100 feet in height and you can see them for miles and miles and miles. Unfortunately, several local residents we talked to along the way informed us that the primary reason for the windmills wasn’t power generation, but most importantly the control of water rights in this arid region.
When you first enter Colorado from the East you are on the high plains where the elevation is already around 4000 feet. The high plains are really scenic although very sparsely populated. Occasionally we would pass the drive to a big ranch although the homes were very rarely in sight from the road. Incredible vistas greeted us as we drove through miles of scrub brush, mesquite, and interesting rock formations. We saw deer, antelope, coyotes, fox, and lots of cattle. As we continued north into Colorado we saw the shadow of something far to the west. If you have ever driven west across Kansas or northwest from Oklahoma and Texas your first view of the Rockies is almost like a dark cloud on the horizon. When you first see this ‘cloud’ you are still nearly 100 miles away from just the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
During our trip we were able to ‘hit’ a couple of coin shops along the way. Towns and people are scarce in these parts, but the people we met along the way were very hospitable. Our destination was Estes Park, Colorado which is the gateway for Rocky Mountain National Park. Estes Park is at 8000 feet elevation and the area is picture postcard perfect. Our first night in Estes Park we had two huge bull elk on the patio of our rental condo lapping sugar water out of a hummingbird feeder! During our trip we also saw a cow and calf moose on the West side of Rocky Mountain National Park and more deer, antelope, and elk than we could count. Needless to say, the trip has been fantastic. Now let me get to the coin show news.
Although I try to avoid coin shows on both the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving weekends, we decided to attend the Colorado Springs Show held each year on the Fourth of July weekend. This is a well run show and there are a lot of varied collectors and dealers who attend. Not only are there attendees from the ANA Summer seminars, but there are also lots of dealers from across the country and the region. Ken Byrd and the Colorado Springs Coin Club held the show in a Crown Plaza just off I-25 on the Southern edge of the city. The location is new and the facility is convenient, clean, well secured, and there is plenty of parking. From what I understand the show is going to add some space next year for more dealers and dealers liked the new location.
The week following the ‘Fourth’ we attended the Summer FUN Show in Orlando, FL. The FUN organization is probably the ‘best run’ coin club in the U.S. Although the Summer Show is smaller and not as well attended as their winter extravaganza, the business was good and we were pleasantly surprised with our total sales as well as the coins we were able to buy. The great people with FUN-Florida United Numismatists organization, led by Cindy Wibker, are real professionals. After all, they have been running the largest coin bourse in the United States for quite a few years. This is the largest show for the month of July and most dealers I spoke with were pleased with the attendance. In fact, many dealers come early for the Fourth of July weekend and attend the Clearwater, FL show on Fourth of July weekend.
We also heard mixed to good reports about the new Summer Show held in Tinley Park, IL, a suburb of Chicago. The Illinois Numismatic Society has their annual show at this location in September and the facility and attendance there are good. This summer show is new and should prosper because it is filling a ‘void’ left when the Mid-America Summer Coin Show was discontinued. Personally I would like to see this show being held a week earlier to avoid conflicts with both the Colorado Springs and Clearwater Shows.
The middle of July we are attending the Ontario, CA Show. The Ontario Show is held twice a year in July and December and it continues to gain support. Although there aren’t a lot of East Coast dealers in attendance, the nice facility, reasonable bourse tables, friendly show staff, and cheap show hotel rates will help this show continue to grow. Ontario, CA airport is also a convenient option for those flying in because the show is just a mile away.
One of the biggest show successes of the last year or two has been the PCGS Trade and Grade Show in Las Vegas. The PCGS Trade and Grade Shows are held several times each year, the show itself is sold out as far as bourse space, and dealer reviews have been very positive. Vegas itself has never been a great coin show town-the public is busy with Vegas-but this mostly dealer oriented venue draws most of the major players in the country and dealer to dealer business is brisk. This month’s show should be very busy, and although we can’t attend, we will be at the next T&G.
The St. Louis Show at the end of July is a big draw for numismatists because of the substantial amount of dealers that attend and the good Scotsman Coin Auction. I have been attending coin shows in St. Louis since the mid-seventies and this show location in St. Charles, MO is in a very nice newer convention center connected to a very nice Embassy Suites Hotel. St. Charles is a Western suburb of St. Louis convenient to the airport. There are three larger shows in St. Louis each year and we are pleased to hear that the ‘February’ show will also be moved to the St. Charles Convention Center. The St. Louis Airport Hilton where the February show is held is short of space and parking, and most dealers not only dislike the facility, but also the area is just not very secure.
The ANA is fast approaching! Chicago is a logical and mostly equitable choice for the ANA annual convention. Although the Rosemont Convention Center is kind of ‘dumpy’ and many of the hotels are just ‘tired’ the close proximity to the airport, availability of flights, and most importantly central location are hard to disagree with. Frankly, I think this is one of the best decisions the ANA has made over the last several years. After the mismanagement debacles, lawsuits, and infighting of the last decade the ANA seems to be moving in the right direction.
Larry Shepherd, the ANA director and a dealer himself for decades, is a good guy who knows what works for dealers. Unfortunately he is just one man and he has to deal with the ‘board’ of governors who, for the most part, have never had to travel the bourse circuit. Tom Hallenbeck, the ANA President, is a great guy too and between the two of them, I am cautiously optimistic about the direction the ANA is taking as far as convention planning. Putting ANA conventions in major cities should help. Unfortunately the Sacramento show in March was horrible. The Fall Show in Pittsburgh will be interesting.
During our trip home we had a pleasant and bitter sweet experience when we stopped at a small BBQ restaurant called ‘Smokin Oak BBQ’ in the tiny town of Milano, TX about an hour’s drive South of Waco, TX. We eat out a lot and I love trying new foods, especially BBQ and Sushi (yea, quite a difference). We had stopped at this restaurant once before and really liked it. I know BBQ and enjoy smoking meat myself almost as much as eating it-HA! Rarely do I eat at a restaurant where I like the food more the second visit than the first, but….WOW! This place is the bomb!
The food was fabulous, but the story behind this cozy little BBQ joint is what really pulled our heart strings. We were the only people in the restaurant and the owner, Tammy Storey, and I exchanged BBQ stories. After a few minutes of getting acquainted, Tammy told us her story. A couple of years ago her husband had just about finished renovating and decorating an old building where they were going to open their new restaurant when he was tragically killed. Tammy and her husband have four small children. Tammy’s husband was a big good looking Texan and she showed us a family photo. You could see the love in her eyes as she told us about all the work he had done building the restaurant-it was his dream!
Tammy told us that she cried for six months after her husband was killed, but….she wasn’t going to give up. Her kids needed her and she knew how to cook. She opened the restaurant two years ago and is starting to find some success. Milano is a small town, but Tammy’s BBQ brisket is the BEST I have ever had! Once a big food channel personality finds ‘Smokin Oak BBQ’ she is going to be amazed at the success her little restaurant is going to achieve. I couldn’t help but think, as we walked out the door into the incredibly hot Texas sun, that her husband was upstairs smiling down on Tammy.
Each month I write the Rare Coin Road Warrior Column about coin shows held across the United States from a full time dealers’ perspective. My wife Sherri and I travel 200 days a year to all major coin shows and many larger regional coin shows. One of the things I have learned about coin show travel over the years is that you have to ‘stop and smell the roses’ along the way. July is for vacations, or so I have been told, but coin dealers are coin dealers and they just have to do ‘some business’. With the neat locations of some of the July shows you might consider combining a pleasure trip with a coin show trip. With shows in Chicago, Colorado Springs, Clearwater and Orlando, FL, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and St. Louis you have quite a few interesting choices.
Thanks and Best Regards, Vic Bozarth.