EAC 2009 Diary|
by Shawn Yancey
My story starts this year on April 1. Today we notified our employees that 2/3 of them were being laid off effective two weeks later on April 15. The economy has really battered our truck dealership, and after fighting as long as we could to save everybody's jobs, we had no choice but to cut down to the bare bones necessary to operate the dealership. I have never experienced something like this; in fact, most of the country can say that same thing right now. We know that the Lord will take care of the employees who are leaving, and that He will provide for us, too, but we just don't know anymore how that blessing will manifest itself. Maybe I will be a full-time coin dealer this time next year?
April 1 thru April 15 go by quite quickly, as there are income taxes, birthday parties, and preparations for EAC that make the time fly by. Wednesday, April 15 arrives and I cut final paychecks and severance pay to the employees who are leaving and praise the Lord that, for the time being, the ones who are still here have enough work to keep them busy. The Infrastructure Stimulus Package should really give our company a boost in truck sales, but until that kicks in, we are just going to pray and keep struggling until the economy turns around. I marvel at how much and how quickly the world has changed in the past year, and frankly I don't know how people who do not have the peace, grace, and hope of Jesus Christ are able to get through times like these. From where do they draw their hope and peace?
After saying my goodbyes at the dealership, I head home, pack up, kiss my family, and hit the road after 4PM. It's sunny and 69 degrees, and the Cadillac CTS rental car has a sunroof that stays down for the entire drive. I discover on the drive up that there is a new Christian pop song that is fantastic: "By Your Side" by Tenth Avenue North. I would encourage anybody who has not heard that song to find the lyrics online and give it a listen, because it's a beautifully-written song with an incredible message that I think a lot of people REALLY need to hear right now. Christian music has come a long way, and this song is one of the best. I don't know how many times I played it on the drive up, but it was too many to count.
I arrive in St. Louis around 8PM and get settled in for the night. My 9-hour drive is halfway over.....
Thursday, April 16, 2009
I wake up at 5:30 AM and realize that I will hit rush-hour traffic unless I hit the road soon. I jump up and manage to be driving by 6:30 AM, and fortunately, I miss ALL of the St. Louis traffic. It's another beautiful day, sunny and 69 degrees, and I get settled into the rest of the drive. Fortunately for me, my 9-hour drive is really an 8-hour drive, because my map program failed to mention that 1 of the 9 hours was the changeover from Central Time to Eastern Time. I arrive in Cincinnati at 1PM, just in time to find my roommate and tablemate David Consolo and get checked into my room. 2PM arrives and it's time for dealer setup. The Drawbridge Inn is an old but comfortable hotel, but the layout is very confusing and the hallways all look the same. The entire time I am here, I still fail to learn my way around too well, but nevertheless I manage to find the bourse floor and locate my table. David and I are sharing one table, and we manage to rent some extra space from a table to our left. We are really crowded because I am carrying a lot of inventory, and David is carrying a major half cent collection on consignment. His half cent consignment is an old, thorough collection that focuses on choice planchets, and there are some really nice coins in there. In fact, a few of them have made it into my own inventory, and were added to "Shawn's Secret Book of New Coins."
Speaking of which, the book was a Lighthouse album with 4 pages of 9 coins each, and it very quickly turned into TWO books of about 55 coins total that exceeded $150,000. However, the books wouldn't fit into the cases, so the new coins end up in two large single-row boxes. Lots of my customers came by right away and asked to see the new coins, and several of them are sold quite quickly. The idea certainly drew some interest to my table, but it turned out to be a little confusing and counterproductive because the new coins were not being displayed unless somebody asked for them. By Saturday morning the new coins have been mixed into the old ones so that EVERYTHING is displayed in my case. So the Secret Book was a fun concept, but probably not something that I will repeat in the future.
The dealer setup is 2PM-5PM, and it is the fastest 3 hours of my life. I did not leave my table and did not have time to look at a single coin in other dealers' cases. But I did get everything set up well and was able to say HI to lots of old friends and some new ones, too. But WOW, I hope it's not this crazy tomorrow!
5PM finds us at the reception, and I am curious to see how this one will compare to those sponsored by Heritage over the past few years. I am really happy to see that the room is large and spacious, that the tables are all nicely arranged, and that the food buffet and cash bar are top-notch. I am told that over $9,000 in donations were received for this reception, so of course it is first-rate. The buffet reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner with salad, vegetables, turkey and ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, and dessert. All of the food is outstanding, and the company is great. David and I meet Bryan and Nancy, and we all enjoy a nice dinner together. Like the dealer setup, the two hours spent at the reception are a blur, and it's already time for the Happenings.
Although I am an early date large cent guy, I immediately make my way to the Half Cents room. One of this year's varieties is the 1797 C3C, which is the famous "Gripped Edge" variety. In 12+ years of playing with early copper, I have never even SEEN one of these in person, so I am delighted to see FOUR coins on display. I take a close look at each coin, and promise myself to try and own one of these someday. To me, this variety is the equivalent to the 1795 S79 Reeded Edge large cent, and it's a coin that I would love to own. Who knows what the future will hold?
After drooling over the half cents, I make my way to the large cent room. The superstar in that room, in my opinion, is Walt Husak's 1797 S122 in a dramatic late die state with multiple cracks and rim breaks. Plus it's just a flat-out nice coin. Where do these guys find coins like this!?
After saying HI to lots more friends, David and I decide to retire to the room around 10PM. It's a gorgeous night, and we sit outside on our back patio and enjoy a drink. David is a connoisseur of Scotch, and I make up my own version: Scotch with Wild Cherry Pepsi! We have a good laugh as I inform David that that's the way that "Real Men" drink scotch! David and I are able to catch up and have a nice visit for a couple of hours before retiring around midnight in anticipation of the day to come. What will Friday bring?
Friday, April 17, 2009
730AM finds us having breakfast in the small diner inside the hotel. The doors open at 8AM to dealers, and we make our way in to get everything up and running. The regular membership comes in at 9AM, and from 9AM - 5PM, it's non-stop traffic. For the entire time, I am not able to get out from behind my table. I met lots of new customers, and sold several coins including a nice 1801 S218 3-errors reverse in a PCGS G6 holder to a good friend and long-time customer, Tom Deck. Tom and I met 10 years ago at this convention after I outbid him on a nice, low-grade 1793 Sheldon 14 that was auctioned by H. Craig Hamling in his USCENTS.COM auction. And I think back in 1999 I also bought another S14 out of the EAC auction. So when I think of the 1999 EAC convention, I think about Tom and those S14's, and that's funny because Tom and I are here again in 2009, and coincidentally I have THREE 1793 s14's for sale in my case!
Although I am busy all day, the sales are only moderate. There are so many dealers here and so much copper to be seen that it's overwhelming, and most people are circling the room 2 and 3 times to make sure that they see everything before they make any purchases. My sales are good but not great, and over the course of 9 hours, I am only able to peek at three cases on the same row as mine. I buy or trade for about 25 coins, but nothing that I am overly excited about. Where did the time go?
At last year's EAC, Mark and Nicqui are gracious enough to hold dealer lot-viewing on Friday night. There is just no time during the show to do that, and the Friday night session is a huge blessing for me. But unfortunately, there is no late session this year because everybody really wants to see the guest speaker, Beth Deisher from Coin World, who is going to speak on Chinese counterfeits. So at 5PM we are kicked out of the bourse, and we walk next door to the Montgomery Inn, which is famous world-wide for their BBQ ribs. I join a group of 15 fellow EAC nuts, mostly half cent guys, and we have a great dinner. I am not a fan of ribs, but how can you go to a rib joint and not order BBQ? I settle on a pulled pork sandwich, and frankly it's the best I have ever eaten. If you ever have the chance to eat here, do it!
After dinner, we head back to the Drawbridge and assemble for the keynote speaker. Beth has a wealth of information on the Chinese counterfeits, and it's quite scary. The quality is getting better and better, and non-specialists will certainly be easily fooled but a lot of what is coming out these days. The problem for us, though, is how do we inform and protect ourselves without educating the counterfeiters? When we broadcast that the 1877 Indian Head cents they are making have reverse centers that are way too strong in comparison to the real coin, then the Chinese learn from that and then go fix it. Ebay to this point has not been willing to do much to help, and our own government has bigger fish to fry, so they are not doing much, either. The bottom line is that it is up to US. It's our responsibility to spot the fakes, to educate as many as we can as discretely as we can, and to continue to press eBay and our government to do something before our hobby is ruined. I think that pedigrees and old-time collections will start becoming much more valuable, and that every new coin from now on will be immediately suspect. My advice is to consider any new discoveries to be a Chinese counterfeit until you can prove otherwise. CAVEAT EMPTOR!
After Beth's presentation, she is followed by Brad Kareloff who makes a request to the membership to donate some early coppers to the ANA's Young Numismatist auction, and also thanks EAC for making the John Reich Collector's Society (JRCS) a part of the EAC convention. It's been a great relationship the past few years, much to the benefit of both groups, and I think the relationship will continue indefinitely.
The next person to speak is our president, Dan Holmes, and it's appropriate to share some background information here. My first EAC convention was 10 years ago in 1999 at this same location. I was both a "Newbie" and a "Beginning Collector" at the time, but I did know that I was a large cent guy. I remember walking into the Happenings room on Thursday night, and seeing a man seated at the back of the room at his own table with a single coin on display. I walked up, introduced myself, and then inspected the coin on display. He asked me if I knew what it was, and of course I said I did: "It's a 1795 large cent." He asked me to look again, and to look at the third side of the coin. I quickly saw that the edge was reeded similar to our modern coinage, but the funny thing is, I STILL did not know what I had in my hands. By now you have figured out that I was holding a 1795 S79 Reeded Edge large cent, and that the man behind the table was none other than Dan Holmes. I will never forget how much I felt like an idiot, but more importantly, how much that Dan did NOT make me feel like one. That was my first introduction to Dan specifically but also to the kind of people within EAC in general, and what an appropriate time, place, and person. A moment I will never forget, indeed. Now flash forward several years to West Palm Beach in 2006. I am standing in the reception room, and am really excited because Dan has made some color plates of the four Strawberry Leaf cents. I thank Dan for giving me a copy, and the next thing I know, I have the ONLY example of the REAL 1793 NC2 Strawberry leaf in my right hand, and one of the three 1793 NC3 Strawberry leafs in my left hand! But this time I certainly DO know what I am looking at, and I enjoy the moment as long as I can! After wiping the drool off his coins, Dan casually puts them back into his pocket and I come back to reality!
Now fast forward back to 2009, and you will find Dan Holmes addressing the EAC membership regarding the recent hot topic of the A / B / C collectors debate. Dan very strongly disagrees with that point, and instead suggests that we should be talking about Beginning / Intermediate / Advanced collectors instead. After all, we all have different means, different goals, and different choices to make. If a new collector has only one coin, but it's the finest known mint state example of that variety, does that pigeonhole him into A, B, or C? What if he is a long-time, advanced collector that has just completed 300 of the 301 varieties in Plus or Choice AG3-G4? Would he be A, B, or C? Dan's argument is that there are no A, B, or C collectors, but instead Beginning / Intermediate / Advanced collectors, each with his or her own preferences and goals. And I agree with Dan, and also want to add this point. I think that much of this A / B / C debate is driven by the current market in early coppers. There is a lot of renewed interest in our series because of the economy, as well as a whole new influx of collectors from the Redbook / PCGS Registry Set worlds who are creating a higher level of demand, and by extension higher prices too. It's good and bad: good because we have new blood and a broader base for our coins, but bad because prices are going up and a lot of coins are leaving the EAC circles. I think there is a lot of frustration among our membership because it's just getting harder and harder to find nice coins at nice prices, and I think some of that frustration has manifested itself into the A / B / C debate. But all I know for sure is that I have NEVER met an EAC member that made me feel inferior in any way, so if any of this A / B / C nonsense has to do with social status or economic means, I can unequivocally state that I have never seen any evidence of those biases! In fact, if ever there was an A collector, it's Dan Holmes, and if ever there was a C collector, it was me that day back in 1999 when I first met Dan and his S79. And frankly I think Dan is the epitome of what EAC stands for and what kind of people make it up. Enough said!?
Back to Dan's speech at the Friday night session, Dan also formally announced to the membership that he was diagnosed with ALS / Lou Gehrig's disease 12-18 months ago. The disease is manifesting itself in Dan, and he announced that he was resigning as EAC President as of this convention. He has been replaced by Vice President Denis Loring, who in turn was replaced as VP by Bim Gander. It was a very sad moment for everybody in the room, and there were many tears in the eyes this night.
As a result of his illness, Dan's collection is being sold by M&G through Goldberg, beginning in September with the early dates at the Long Beach show. There will be future auctions for the middle dates, late dates, and his extensive collection of large cent errors. Dan's entire collection is on display on the bourse floor, along with the unique 1793 NC5 wreath cent that is on loan from the ANS. It's certainly the most complete collection ever formed, and among the finest, so this EAC represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the membership to see all the coins together.
After Dan's speech, he is followed by Bob Grellman who outlines the auction schedule and invites everybody to join them in Long Beach in September. It's been a long and emotional night; Friday April 17 comes to a close.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Saturday begins just as Friday did with early breakfast and an 8AM arrival on the bourse floor. I have quickly figured out that I will not be able to leave my table today, so I arrive at 8AM with the expectation to view the EAC auction lots. Unfortunately, lot viewing is not open yet, but I get there after it starts around 9:30 AM and start taking a peak. From the catalog, I am already disappointed with the early dates, but upon seeing the coins, many of them are significantly better than their photos. I spend a quick hour taking some notes and then head back to my table around 10:30 AM. I wish I could report something interesting from today, but there is not much to report. First off I mix in all the Secret Books coins into the rest of them so that they are all on display and all in the right order, and then I try to sneak out when I can to look for new purchases. I do manage to find some new coins to buy today, but believe it or not, I never even make it around to TWO-THIRDS of the bourse! The table keeps me pinned in so much that I just can't get away to buy coins for my want list customers. And finally after the same thing happening for about the past four years, I realized that this will probably be the last time that I take a table at EAC. Where I am REALLY good is making my way around the room with my box of coins, and picking off coins for my want list customers and for my website. I still manage to sell just as many if not more of my own coins, but when I have the freedom to walk around, I can really make some good buys on coins. Anyway, I sell some more coins today, buy some more coins today, but finish the day with an utter disbelief of how fast 5PM comes around, and also how I was unable to see MOST of the coins on display at this convention. Where did the time go? Although I consider my buying experience a huge failure this year, I was able to buy some great coins so far, including a 1794 S27 in choice AG3 and the nicest mint red 1857 large cent I have ever owned or even seen in person. There are lots of new purchases in between, and after I get home I find that there are 50-100 new coins. Hopefully I will make at least a few of my website / want list customers happy. But boy am I going to have my work cut out for me with stocking in those coins and taking all of the photographs!
David and I leave the bourse at 5PM and share another dinner at the Montgomery Inn. It's a beautiful night, it's a nice walk, and the food was great last night, so why fix something that's not broken? We laugh as we realize that we both order almost the same exact thing as the night before, and David and I share our frustration with each other over this year's convention. David also felt somewhat pinned down behind the table, and like me, he was unable to buy much. And neither of us was able to add a single coin to our own collections. Sometimes if you have a slow show in terms or sales or new inventory, a fantastic coin added to your own collection takes the disappointment away, but in this case, neither of us is able to buy a single coin for ourselves. But David and I have the same insight that next year would be much better for us if we put our coins in our bags and vest-pocket around the room. After all, you can't cherrypick a great coin or a great buy if you are not out looking for them!
If you get tired of me talking about Jesus Christ, you can skip this paragraph, but everybody else will appreciate this story. After dinner, David and I walk next door to the gas station with a Dairy Queen inside to have an ice cream cone. As David orders, I walk over to the convenience store section to buy some gum, and the lady behind the counter has a funny look on her face. She looked sad to me, or possibly upset about something that had just happened with a customer or something. I ask her if she is okay, and she just smiles right at me and says nothing. I present her the gum that I want to buy, and apparently she sees the cross around my neck that Kim bought me for CHRISTmas because she tells me that she was just reading the Bible and that it had made her cry a little bit. So of course I ask her if she is reading about Jesus, and of course she is - what else can make you cry after you read it? Instantly I ask her if she has seen Mel Gibson's "The Passion of The Christ," and she tells me that she has, and that she was even able to take her parents to see it before her father passed away. It changed her father's life, and gave all of them a revelation and a transformation. I shared with her how I cried through the entire movie the first time I saw it and every time since, and how I used it to show my 11-year old daughter Madilynn who Jesus is, why I am who I am, and who I want her to be because of it. If you are a Christian, you have an obligation to watch this movie. It's great to hear in Church that Jesus died on the cross for you, and that's a real nice story. But until you see what really happened, and how it happened, and why it happened, then you really cannot grasp what the story means to you personally.
(DISCLAIMER: OF COURSE THE MOVIE IS NOT EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED, WHEN AND HOW; IT IS AN INTERPRETATION OF WHAT HAPPENED BASED ON THE EVENTS IN THE BIBLE! DO NOT BASE YOUR FAITH ON JUST THIS MOVIE, AND DON'T ADD THIS TO THE BIBLE TEACHINGS OR CONSIDER IT A PRIVATE REVELATION TO MEL GIBSON, TO YOU, OR TO ANYBODY ELSE! BUT WATCH IT SO THAT YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF WHAT JESUS CHRIST WENT THROUGH FOR YOU AND FOR ME!)
If you know me at all then you know I am a Christian, but even so it's still hard to be a witness in everyday life. But sometimes all you have to do is ask about somebody you meet, maybe you can see they are suffering or maybe you can't, but just saying HI to the lady at the gas station might be all it takes to impact another life, and yours, too. There is a lot of suffering right now. Everywhere you look you can see that everybody has their own cross to bear. Jesus will carry your cross if you let him, and if you are one of the lucky ones and He is already carrying YOUR cross, then maybe it's time for you to carry somebody else's. Maybe they need to be told about Jesus, maybe they need a financial blessing, maybe they just need to share a common experience with another believer. Just say HI to that person that you pass on the street, and maybe you will find out that you are the one who God has made able to bear the cross that's too heavy for them to bear themselves.
My fellow Christians will know that my little connection experience at the gas station was one of the high points of my trip, and everybody else will think I am a nut, so let's get back to the story!
David returns to the room to appraise a half cent collection that one of my long-time customers brought in to sell today. He does not have any interest in the EAC auction lots, and this night is a good, quiet time for him to assess the collection. So as he spends the next several hours doing that, I make my way to the auction room and join Tom and Brett and watch the games begin. I tell both Tom and Brett that I don't have any lots in the sale that I really MUST win, but that I will be bidding and buying as I see any decent coins at decent prices. Well, it doesn't take long - I buy the choice 1795 C6a G6+ that I think is really a VG8. Great coin, decent price, so put me down for that one. As I mentioned already, ten years ago I bought an S14 in one of the EAC auctions, so to keep with tradition I also buy the decent low grade S14 in this sale. I hadn't had an S14 in years, and now I have three of my own plus another one on consignment. I also am able to buy the 1794 S27, which is a pretty nice coin with minor problems but with strong details and nice eye appeal. This coin is the SECOND 1794 S27 I have owned since going into business 12 years ago, and since I just bought my FIRST one, a Choice AG3 on the bourse floor, this G5 should be a nice complement to that coin. Hard to believe that I don't have a want list customer that has an S27 listed, but if I had to find one, it would be impossible so I decide I better get this one while I am able to do so. It's listed as an R5 but really has the feel of an R6 to me, based on how few I have owned or even seen. The overall bidding seems a little subdued this year. Some of the bidders who seem to buy every other lot are a little quiet this time, but there are also some new faces who are really getting in the mix and buying up some lots. It seems like many more collectors are winning coins this year, and fewer are going straight to the dealers. There is a nice S102 that is much better than its photo, so I am able to buy that one. I have several customers who are collecting 1796 draped bust large cents, and this S102 will join the S105, S111, and S116 that I found on the bourse floor. The S133 is a low grade coin that sneaks through at a ridiculously low price, so I buy that one, too. I finish up my buying with one of the early date group lots and decide to call it a night. Some of the middle dates are REALLY nice, but I don't think I will be able to buy them at my numbers, and I am ready to retire when the early dates end around 9PM. I rejoin David in the room and put a fresh set of eyes on the half cent collection that he is evaluating. We spend a lot of time looking at them, discussing the two rare half cents that were in the EAC auction (1795 C65 and 1806 C3), and before we know it, we have another midnight bedtime. My head is still spinning because of how fast this convention is passing by!
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Breakfast at the diner and we find ourselves at the Board Meeting at 9AM. Dan Holmes' retirement is made official, and Dan is saluted with a long standing ovation. Then it is announced that Terry Denman has just become the newest member to complete the Sheldon Set of early date large cents! Congratulations, Terry! I am able to congratulate him later on the bourse floor, and he tells me that the S37 is the last one that sealed the deal. For most it seems to be the S79, but the S37 is equally rare, although maybe not as famous. Once the meeting is over, we once again hit the bourse, and I make a desperate attempt to search the floor for coins. I wrap up a trade deal with one of the large EAC dealers, including a coin that I really did not want to sell: an 1803 S249 Corrected Fraction PCGS MS62. This is one of my favorite varieties, and also my first Mint State early large cent. It's a gorgeous coin and one that I will certainly regret selling, but it's also an expensive coin so away it goes. In case you are wondering if it's hard to balance being a dealer and a collector, IT IS! Every great coin that I really want to keep is also the first coin that everybody else wants to buy, so therein is the dilemma. But I have been able to handle some incredible coins and still managed to keep a few, so overall it's been an incredible experience.
After I wrap up the trade deal, I take some time to show David my very simple method for taking coin photos. I have an old camera and a Neanderthal method, but I have been told that my photos are some of the best on the web, so I am glad to share my methods with David and a couple of other members who take time to watch. In fact, if there is any interest, I have thought about giving a COMPLETE demonstration of the whole process as an educational seminar at next year's EAC convention. That's one more reason why I don't want to be pinned behind a table next year!
I go over to pay for my EAC lots and continue to quickly look at a few coins. I add a last-minute chain cent that's a pretty decent filler and will be somewhat affordable, but already most of the dealers are packed up and gone. I am not sure what time it is, but David is ready to leave and I realize that I think I am, too. I am resigned to the fact that I was not able to buy as much as I wanted to, and still cannot believe that I only saw 1/3 of the dealers' cases, but I have done all I can do this year. David helps me pack up my coins, I say my goodbyes to everybody that I see, and we make sure that we each get safely to our car.
Expecting a 9-hour trip and a 3PM departure, I had told my family I would see them at midnight. I don't even know what time it is when I leave, but once I turn on the GPS and remember that my 9-hour trip is really an 8-hour trip due to the time zone change, the GPS tells me I will be home before 8PM. I get halfway home before I call my family, which is about the time they were expecting me to get in the car. I casually tell them that I will be home "before midnight", but leave out the "four-hours before midnight" part, and the drive goes quickly and smoothly. A little bit of rain, but not much white-knuckle driving, and before I know it I am walking in my door. The looks on their faces when I walk in at 745PM were priceless, and praise the Lord I am home safely. It was non-stop from start to finish, and although there were a lot of things I did not get done, the trip was a success for me. I really enjoyed the people and the experiences, and I learned a lot this year that will really help me next year. Now the work begins on updating my inventory, stocking coins in and out, taking photographs, contacting want list customers, updating the website, and playing "Coin Dealer" in my home office. Maybe I COULD do this for a living, and maybe that is what the Lord has been preparing me for all along........