Tips for Collectors – Small Coin Shows and Smart Phones

Small Coin Shows and Smart Phones by Dan DuncanPinnacle-Rarities ……

Dealers at coin shows have prattled on and on about the lack of fresh material. The downturn in the economy and impending inflationary cycle have taken many of the high-end scarcer coins and pushed them deeper into already deep pockets. There were a number of articles last week that hinted that the coin market may be heating up.

But with the lack of fresh material, everyone is scrambling to refill their coffers. For us there are only two real solutions, buy more from our collector base, and attend more smaller coin shows to purchase from the shops and “vest pocket” dealers in a grassroots effort to refill the wagon.

Coin shops are also having trouble keeping the shelves stocked, but are enduring slower retail sales on normal mark-up items. The rising metals values and increased demand for bullion are welcome supplemental sales albeit at low margins. Another benefactor of this fresh material drought is the local coin shows. As rare coins begin to heat up along with the red hot metals markets, they gain in attendance of both collectors and dealers alike. For Pinnacle Rarities, our biggest local coin club is the Pacific Northwest Numismatic Association or PNNA.

Living in Washington State and selling only high-end rare coins, coin shows worth attending are usually outside of driving distance. That is true except for one. The PNNA has been putting on solid conventions for decades. A long-time regional collector favorite, the bourse has until recently been devoid of many of the dealers that actively travel the national show circuit. This is beginning to change. The secret is out and the number of out-of-state dealers is beginning to grow. The local collectors have responded with a steady flow of attendees streaming through the door. There were a few dealers from the northeast, and a number of booths with dealers from California, along with the usual suspects from Washington, Idaho, and Oregon.

Sometimes dealing with small-town dealers opens your eyes to some of the modern conveniences we may take for granted – like my smartphone. While in Tukwila, I used my iPhone to view pricing information. The older gentleman I was working with was astounded by the sheer volume of information provided by the dealer network we subscribe to. His comment was, “Remember those two-inch printouts you guys used to carry?”

“Yes, we’d carry the CCE printout and the normal array of price guides including Greysheet, Monthly, Quarterlies, and Bluesheet. Sometimes we even had Coinworld Trends and a Red Book.”

All of this information (and more) is available now with a couple of “clicks” on my cell phone. In fact, I can communicate with my office, answer emails, refer to a couple of different dealer networks, check my inventory and research auction records, even view the images all within seconds on my phone. Just a few short years ago, I would have brought to a show a briefcase full of price guide paraphernalia – laptop, Red Book, etc. Now, just the phone. And while the electronic age has made the bulk of guides easier to manage, it has increased the need for information to make sound purchases. No one guide pins it down, and actual values are determined by a loose algorithm of price comparisons. Simpler and harder all in one – at least the information is accessible with a device not much bigger than the slabs we sell.

With the dwindling amount of inventory available to us, along with an increasing demand for quality examples, we need fresh material. We’re taking a back-to-basics approach and look to some of the smaller regional venues to flush out the few premium rarities available. I enjoy the pace of the smaller shows, and without a table one is free to roam. Ultimately you examine more dealer inventories who are set up and trapped behind the table. This year, we’ll be heading out to more shows, armed with a checkbook and, of course, our smartphones.

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