Attending Coin Shows

by Colonel Steven Ellsworth

(reprinted from TennCoin News)

Colonel Ellsworth


A lot of collectors and hobbyists ask me, "What is your advice on getting the most out of attending a coin show?" That is sometimes a tough question to answer, since numismatics is life-long study for some, and simply an interesting and diverse Saturday morning hobby for others. Most avid collectors feel that by far the best way to buy or sell coins is to regularly attend coin shows. Nothing beats holding the coin in your hand and giving it the eye! With that in mind, here are Ten tips to make your shows more worthwhile.

1. Organize prior to the show. That means that you must know what you currently hold, and what items you would like to add or delete from your collection. That sounds basic, but so many collectors attend a show, and forget their own collection list. If you don't have an inventory list, stop reading till you take inventory and complete one! Be sure to take any reference materials with you. Don't forget your magnifier or loupe. A shoulder pack or back pack is a good idea. Some use a set of wheels to carry a brief case. If you have a moderately priced collection, take a portion of it with you to shows and see how a potential new purchase may fit your own needs. If that's not possible, then the well organized and detailed list will do. Keep your items close to you, and don't leave items in your car... ever!

2. Focus. Limit your hunt to two series, and if it is a small show, perhaps three. Some collectors try to collect a little bit of everything and end up with a hodge-podge of just stuff. If you collect Large Cents and Buffalo's, then spend your time looking for Large Cents and Buffalo's! If the show has an information program or brochure, check off each dealer you visit, and make notes as to the items you're interested. After a couple of hours, it is hard to remember where and who had what. Avoid wandering the show aimlessly.

3. Meet the dealers. Visit lots of dealers. Meet new ones. Shop not just for coins, but for dealers as well. Get to know a number of different dealers. At nearly every show, there are dealers who may be from out or your area and can present you with new material that you may not have seen previously. At many small shows, collectors and part time dealers also display items for sell. Do business with those whom you like. If a dealer is impolite, rude, or offensive in any way to you,... go to another table! It always amazes me when someone comes to my table to complain about another dealer, and then shows me a coin they have purchased from them. This is a hobby, have fun and enjoy "the hunt."

4. Compare. Look carefully'at each dealer display. Don't be in a hurry to buy. Take your time to study and compare.. Compare the coin, not just the price. Since this is a life-long hobby, most likely your purchase(s) will be with you for a very long time. Be sure to check carefully, both sides (and the edges) of the coin. It is not impolite to ask a dealer if you can compare his/her coin with another dealer. Sometimes a dealer specializes in an area, but has a few "extras" that came with his last purchase. Don't be shy about asking if they have an item that you may not see. Many dealers have much more behind their table, than showing in their showcases.

5. Have choices. Some collectors go to a show to look for one coin. That one coin may not be available at the show you are attending. If you have attended three or four shows without finding that one coin, you may become discouraged and unhappy with collecting, by not adding to your collection. A good show is if you can make an addition to your collection, a great show is two or more additions or upgrades.

6. Time is money. Don't waste your time or the dealers. Remember, a dealer only has so many hours at a show to cover his expenses and costs and make a profit. Don't spread out your research materials on the dealer's table, covering his display. Be conscious that "the collector buying, has the priority." Keep personal visits brief. If you are only planing on looking, or doing research, let the dealer know so he can help you when he is not busy. Saturday mornings are usually the busiest and Sunday mornings the slowest. However, some dealers may have already left, and by late afternoon, most.

7. Buy. After you have all the information you can on a coin, buy or pass (not buy), on it. If you like a coin, but only at a lower price than it is marked, then make the dealer your offer. If the dealer is willing to meet your price, it is considered unethical for you not to buy it. Don't try to bargain on a coin that is less than $15. Most dealers will not want to take the time to do business with you in the future. Professional dealers will want to sell coins at lower than marked prices on longer held inventory. Part time dealers and collectors will sell based on what they paid. That may or may not be relevant to the current prices. Remember, a dealer is not obligated to a lower quoted price if it's lower than the one marked, once you leave his table. A final word as to a coin's price; buy the best grade coin you can possibly afford. I have never heard a collector say, "I wish I had a poorer example." Long term they are the best value.

8. Sell. Be sure to take along any duplicates or unwanted collections you have to the show. Usually the best person to sell to is from whom you buy. If a dealer is hesitant to buy back his own materials, something may be wrong with that picture. The dealer will need to cover his costs and profit margin on the purchase, but if he/she does not want to offer a price, find a new dealer. If you are selling a collection or large group of coins, then get a price from three different type dealers. If you are selling a collection, make sure that the dealer is willing to "Buy it All", not just cherry pick. Professional dealers are always buying.

9. Join. Attend and support your club and community shows. With scarce pieces, you may need to attend a regional or national show to locate them. Join your local coin club and the American Numismatic Association. They are a great place to view other collections, trade coins, or add to your collection. It's also a great place to meet others with similar interests in collecting and who are happy to share new information with you.

10. Attend and View. Be sure to attend the seminars and lectures, and don't miss viewing any exhibits. It is a great place and time to further your education. Experts and authors are often invited to a show for just that purpose. If the subject concerns an area of your personal interest, it is imperative you plan to attend.


Your thoughts and ideas are always welcome. Address them to: Colonel Steven Ellsworth, c/o BUTTERNUT, Post Office Box 498, Clifton, VIRGINIA 20124 e-mail:butternut@gslink.com.


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