EAC 2010 Diary
by Tom Deck
May 2, 2010
You know EAC is getting close when you open your mailbox, and voila, the EAC catalog (along with PennyWise) is in there! One of my Internet buddies, Keith Ward, had emailed me the day before, telling me all about it. So I spend the next few weeks browsing the goodies, anticipating being able to bid on a few of the nicer ones at the convention. A few catch my attention early: 1794 S-38 in a nice VG grade, which I don't have, and 1798 S-158 in VF20, which would be a major upgrade. I've always liked this variety due to the wide spacing of A M E R I C A on the reverse.
Early Wednesday April 21st, my father-in-law Bob Hankins pulls up in my driveway at 0600 hours in a brand new rented Toyota RAV-4. Bob is a retired Naval Master Chief, and we've planned to make this drive to Annapolis for several months. I'm not a big fan of flying, and according to Google Maps it's only a 993 mile drive (which isn't so bad, right?) Plus Bob loves to drive and insists on doing most of it, so I'm not one to complain about that. The weather is extraordinarily nice, and this gives me a chance to go through the EAC catalog and write CQR values in pencil next to most of the auction lots. I remember last year when a few lots seemed to "slip through the cracks," so I want to be a little more prepared this year. We drive for over 700 miles and decide to spend the night in Durham, NC. I catch a little baseball on TV (we don't have Cable TV at home, so ESPN is a major treat.)
Up the next morning, showered and ready to go, and the sun's just coming up. That's the way I like to travel - get up, throw stuff in the car and let's GO! By early afternoon we skirt D.C. on the beltway (catch a glimpse of the Capitol building) and arrive in Annapolis and the DoubleTree Hotel not long after. The iPhone Google Maps app really comes in handy this last leg!
The first EAC guys I see in Annapolis are EAC treasurer Chuck Heck and Walt Husak, in the parking lot as we're getting our bags. Walt may have sold a $10,000,000 collection two years ago, but he's one of the most approchable and enthusiastic ambassadors of large cents that I know. A Brinks truck pulls up, and I comment to Walt that his coins have shown up, and we share a laugh. (Actually these are probably Dan Holmes' middle date coins, which are scheduled to be sold by Ira and Larry Goldberg in May.)
Time for lot viewing! I hadn't anticipated arriving in Annapolis until much later in the day, so this works out great. Sue Remekis is manning the sign-in table, and I pick up my name tag. (I actually forget to sign in, but I think Sue covered for me.) One of my favorite EAC buddies, Brett Dudek, is the convention chairman this year and I ask where he is (running around somewhere!) We both then realize that neither of us has brought a chess set. I tell Sue hopefully we can find one somewhere. (In 1999, at my first EAC, Brett and I played two epic games of chess, and, I won't say who won both games, but I know Brett wants a rematch!)
The lot viewing room is in a small room adjacent to the bourse this year. Mark and Nikqui Switzer are at their usual positions behind the table, and a small group of folks are already viewing lots. I sit down and start going through the early date boxes. I don't have a real scientific way of going through lots, but I make notes on lots I'm interested in. The S-38 and S-158 don't disappoint; both are nice coins. Many others are quite nice, moreso than the photos, and some are nice that don't have photos. The S-168 is one of these. I take several notes, with highly technical terms such as "ok", "nice", and my new one, "nice+". One coin is nice except for some scratches, and Mark Switzer mentions something about this coin's "affordability factor," which I find quite funny for some reason. Mark has a way with words. Soon I see my favorite EAC dealer, Shawn Yancey, who's sporting facial hair this year. He ask what lots I'm interested in, but I don't have a real game plan yet, so we decide to do what we've done the past two years and sit together so we don't bid on each other's coins. Finally Mark starts handing out bidder cards and says "who wants to be #1?" "Ooh, ooh!" I end up with bidder card #1, and also #2 for my good buddy Scott Enterline, who couldn't make this year's EAC and wants me to bid on several lots for him.
Time for lunch - I find Bob and we drive across the street to a large shopping center where there are tons of shops and restaurants. We stop at a Mexican place (I never turn those down) and on the wall is a large assortment of bottles of hot sauce, ranked 1 through 10. One of those ranked 10 is a bottle of "Dave's Insanity". I try a drop of this with my meal, and this is almost a mistake. I think a spoolful would probably kill an elephant!
Back at the hotel, a little more lot viewing; I have my catalog but my bidder cards aren't in it. Turns out I left them at lot viewing. When I get back, Mark offers to sell them back to me for $5. (As it turns out, he had tried to auction them off while I was gone, but apparently got no takers.)
A little time before the reception, and I spot two good buddies Eric Fix and Gary Hahn in the lobby. Eric hands me a coin that I got from him on eBay, an 1835 N12. (Saves on shipping!) They're part of the "younger" EAC crowd and we get along great. Eric and Gary's specialty is late dates, particularly die states. I also get to meet Fred Borchert, who, rumor has it, owns every die state of every large cent in existence. (Maybe a stretch, but it sure seems like it!) Mike Iatesta is also there - a great guy I had met a few EACs ago; he shows us all a 1794 S-20 he found on eBay with a virtually choice obverse.
At the reception I finally run into Brett Dudek, and we lament not having a chess set. (Ok, NEXT EAC I'm definitely remembering to bring one.) Brett comments on how great the seafood is, but I settle for other things, not being a seafood eater, which is just as well as I'm still full from lunch.) Lots of folks here and it's standing room only, which works out because I get to meet a bunch of folks this way.
After the reception the "Happenings" get underway. Most of the varieties I don't have, so I don't enter any coins this year. I enjoy the S-68 and S-192 tables the most, being early dates. I get a sheet and rank my favorite coins of each group one through five. One neat thing about the happenings is that you don't have to rank them according to the "finest" coin, but which ones you like the most. Eric and Gary comment on ranking two coins of one of the late date varieties #1 and #2 because they had cuds. 1846 N26 is one of the rare varieties this year; it's one of the Tall Dates and looks a lot like N13 due to both having a line through the 1 in the date, but I now know how to tell them apart. (You have to come to the happenings to find out things like this!)
It's getting late, but Bob wants a bite to eat, so we head down to the hotel restaurant. We're in a booth, but several EAC guys have joined tables and are talking copper. I say hi to a bunch of guys, including Brad Karoleff, our esteemed auctioneer. "Hey Brad, you doing the auction this year?" I ask. "Do you want me to?" "Yeah!" "Then I'll do it!" (We EAC guys can be so accommodating!)
Friday morning, and I have a breakfast meeting with Chuck Heck, Bill Eckberg, Craig Hamling and Denis Loring, about me possibly becoming webmaster for EAC. Craig had approached me about this a few months back, and I tentatively agreed, and officially took the position at the convention. One quick goal I have is to keep the website current. After breakfast time to hit the bourse! Outside the bourse Chris Victor-McCawley had provided free T-Shirts; this year's theme is Dan Holmes' early years hitching rides on trains. (If you look hard enough, you can spot a young Dan Holmes in a group of people in the background.) Thank you Chris! I locate John Wright and show him a coin that I had emailed him about, an 1836 N4 with an apparent (and unknown) reverse cud. We agree to meet up later so that he can examine it with his stereoscope.
Finally the bourse doors open; I barge in (ok, walk in with everyone else, but am excited,) and head straight for Shawn Yancey's table. Last year I did this and ended up with an 1801 S-218. This year Shawn has a group of consigned early dates, and I find six nice coins. He also has a nice-looking 1804 S-266a which I end up with. I drool over an assortment of PCGS-slabbed 1796 Draped Bust cents, but none really stands out and says "buy me," so I make a mental note to check these out later. Jim Long (of JEL coins) is nearby; I've dealt with him by mail several times, but had never met him. Jim has a lot of early dates, including an S-91 that I though was an S-90; the reverses are similar. Another learning experience. He also has a 1798 S-178 with an obverse much nicer than mine, but the reverse is mostly gone, so I pass on that one. (That's the only S-178 I see at the whole convention.)
Ralph Rucker is scanning coin envelopes this year for a major project he's working on; I go upstairs and fetch my PC and scanner to help with this. I then check out the exhibits, my favorite being Jim Neiswinter's complete set of 1793 Liberty Cap cents, including the NC, repros, electros, you name it! After glancing at lots of tables I make my way to Chris McCawley's table - I have an 1838 N15 VF30 coin to trade, and in the middle of Chris' bourse case is the most gorgeous 1807 S-271 Comet that I've ever seen, in a PCGS VF30 holder. Chris gets my 38n15 and cash and I walk away with the S-271. This is definitely a "wow" coin and probably my nicest draped bust of any year.
Lunch time, and several of us (Gary, Eric, Fred, and Mike) pile into Gary's car and go to Bertucci's Italian Restaurant across the street. Gary and Eric share a very large pizza; I get one called the "Big Gambini" that's made a different way in each quadrant which I can only eat half of. (And fortunately there's no Dave's Insanity lying around to tempt me.) A lot of the fun of EAC is just hanging out with the guys.
3:00 PM arrives, and the "Ask Bill" seminar is starting. Basically the whole seminar is people writing in question to ask Bill Noyes, but this was a great one and one I'll want on DVD. Chuck Heck would read the questions and Bill would answer them. The questions ranged from when he's going to publish new books to why proof and business strike coins are included in the condition census. One question was quite long and took several minutes to ask - and at the end I'm not sure what the question was. At the end, people in the audience could ask Bill questions. (One of the guys beforehand dared me to ask him "boxers or briefs," but I chickened out. Probably a good thing.)
The educational forum, with our distinguished guest speaker Q. David Bowers, is at 8:00 that night. I arrive late and have to sit in the back. I leave a bit early as it's hard to hear (and see) from so far back; wish I had gotten there earlier. Later that night Ralph Rucker drops by for me to take some photos of his coins. I get to one coin, and with coin in hand jokingly make an excuse to leave the room to take care of something. (The coin is an 1801 S-217!)
Saturday arrives; still much to do. Not really feeling too well, probably from staying up late, eating too much, seeing too many coins; not sure. Dan Holmes' coins are on display for viewing, and Dan is right there talking coins. Dan is one of the great icons of our great hobby, not just for his awesome collection but also as a person. And his middle dates, although they aren't my specialty, are a wonder to look at. The 1830 N6 small letters reverse in this year's EAC auction is amazing but Dan's coin is better. One box I look at contains the rarest middle date variety, 1822 N14. One coin I'll probably never own, but nice to look at! Bob Grellman is at Dan's table; I show him my 1836 N4 that I showed John Wright, and he confirms that my coin doesn't have a cud, but most likely a foldover lamination. The rough edge where the "cud" meets the field is the dead giveaway. So I don't have a previously unknown die state, but a neat coin nonetheless.
Gary finds me on the bourse and tells me that he has three new 1798s that he just bought from Kevin Vinton, a young EACer who's helping sell coins for Sam Sloat. I meet up later with Kevin and choose five coins from his box, including a few nice earlies and an 1825 N1 with two obverse cuds. I also catch up with Rich Weber, who has a few coins for sale, including a choice 1801 NC1! I almost buy this coin, not having an NC, but have decided to try to find a nice 1796 Draped Bust, which seem to be hard to find nice.
I visit Doug Bird's table; he always has a great selection. Doug has a rather nice S-116 that I come close to buying, but I decide to look at a few more tables. Col. Steve Ellsworth is right across from Doug, and he has some '96's in his case. One coin though jumps out at me right away; a S-94. This is one of the rarest varieties of the year and is usually not found that nice. I ask if I can see the coin. The front has a few marks but is really nice, so I expect the reverse to have problems. I turn it over andů shoot, the reverse looks even better! Holy cow. Col. Steve and I talk for several minutes about how important it is to keep pedigree information intact with the coins you buy, all the while I'm studing this S-94. This coin itself comes with a paragraph of previous owners, back to Chuck Furjanic in 1972, and sold as a VG10 in a Superior auction. Finally I get up the nerve to ask Col. Steve his best price on this coin ("egad, are you serious?" I ask myself. "You're really going to buy this?") He does quote me a better price, I write a check (ouch,) and walk away with the coin (in a daze.) Turns out Col. Steve had purchased the Dan Holmes example, so this was his duplicate. (Pretty nice duplicate!)
Still not feeling quite right; early afternoon and haven't eaten, so I drive over to Panera Bread by myself, return to the hotel room and crash for a little while. Bob's in the room, playing some sort of Tetris-like game on his laptop. I actually feel a bit better after getting something to eat. Back on the bourse, I catch up with Shawn Yancey again and buy an additional coin from him - a 1796 S-108. I have this variety but Shawn's coin is much nicer. This one's always easy to spot due to the wide date, with all date digits leaning right. Shawn is busy updating his website on a new iPad; I had never seen one, so he lets me play with it. One of his kids had put Rock Band on it, so of course I have to try that out. Brett Dudek has walked up and has a small box of neat coins in hand, including a double struck 1796 S-82 with a date on both sides. One coin that Brett has is a really nice 1801 S-219 with bold 3 errors. On the back of the flip Brett wrote "drove through a blizzard to get this one." I joke with Brett that if he ever sells that one, I have a few rare cud coins he might like. (But actually I'm dead serious!)
At some point I see Scott Barrett, Mr. 1794 (or so I thought.) Someone had told me that Scott had bought a doozy of a coin recently, and I ask Scott about it. "How did you know about that?" He goes back to get the coin, and all of a sudden I'm holding a S-79! Not a choice coin but easily identifiable. I know Scott has most of the Sheldons, so I ask how many left he needs. "This was the last one." Congratulations, Scott - Mr. Sheldon Series!
One of the neatest things on the bourse floor was at Mark Borckardt's table - a rare book with a gold George Washington funeral medal on the front, and to the right a personal, hand-signed letter from George Washington himself, from 1773! I ask Mark if I can photograph the letter, and he gets it out for me. (Now THAT'S HISTORY.) Thank you, Mark, for letting me do that!
Late afternoon, and I go back into the auction lot viewing room to look at a few more lots. Brad Karoleff is our auctioneer, and a few years back Mark Borckardt had brought a dessert to be auctioned off, and Brad hammered it to Mark (even though Mark wasn't bidding.) So someone got the idea to get Brad back this year by making up a bunch of bidder cards with Brad's bidder number on it and having several people hold them all up at the same time. Nikqui then proceeds to make about a dozen bidder cards, all with number 117. Mark Switzer, Steve Carr, and several of us are all laughing at this time. I take six of the cards and surreptitiously hand them out to several members in such a way that they'll be spread out all over the auction floor. We decide that we'll hold them up on lot #131, the 1793 Sheldon-1 AMERI.
Finally 7:30 arrives and it's time to get started. I still have an extra #117 card left and pull Brett Dudek aside, telling him what we're up to. "That's MY number!" Brett says. "What?!" Somehow, there was a mixup and instead of Brad's number, everyone's got Brett's number. But Brett definitely wants in on the joke, saying he'll just use his regular bidder card. So Sue gets the extra #117.
Brett, Sue, Shawn and I decide to sit together. Brad calls out for lot #1, and we're started. There's a really nice 1802/0 half cent that Shawn is going after, but this coin sells for very strong money. Shawn lands the first lot on our row just a few moments later though, with an 1803 C3, XF40. Later on I'm checking in my pencilled-in CQR prices, notice one of the 1828 half cent lots seems low, and decide to bid on it, winning an MS60 1828 C1. Shawn immediately turns to me and says, "you noticed the plug, right?" You know that moment of panic when you realize you've just done something really dumb? Then I notice Shawn laughing, and I want to punch him. But then I'm laughing too. (But I do go back and carefully re-read the lot description, just to make sure...)
Finally, the big moment, butů not yet. The half cents are done, but Brad is auctioning off stuff not in the catalog, including Dave Bowers' tie, and a bottle of scotch (I think.) Finally, Brad calls for lot #131, laughter erupts from the room as people realize what's going on. Lot #131 hammers for real moments later for $4700, which seemed a bit cheap for a Chain AMERI. Soon the S-38 is called; the S-94 from earlier really bit into my budget, so I half-heartedly tried for it and wound up as underbidder to Greg Hannigan. Shawn gets the S-58, then later the S-125. The S-158 comes up but hammers at $1900, well over my high bid. Finally I land one of the large cents with lot #220, a nice S-168 that wasn't plated. I get a few more earlies including a decent and rare S-195. The middle dates fly by; on one of the cheaper lots Brad breaks into a "cattle auctioneer" accent, which cracks us up. I text Scott Enterline later, letting him know he was successful on some of his lots. Really tired when the auction is over, but Brad calls a quick auction and it's over well before the scheduled 1:00 AM time.
Sunday morning; breakfast in the hotel restaraunt with Bob, Gary Hahn, and Rick Beale and his wife. Already kind of sad that things are winding down, because I had a GREAT time. A big thanks to Brett and Sue for putting on a fantastic EAC. Lot pickup's at 10:00, goodbyes are said, then Bob and I are headed back to Mobile. EAC 2011 is in Portland; would have to fly out next year if I go. But 2012 is in Buffalo - only 136 more miles from Mobile than Annapolis. Perhaps another long road trip is in the works...!