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Tale of two Central States

Dealers had two points of view about the Central States Numismatic Society convention April 28-May 1 in Milwaukee, Wis.

They either had a great show or were unhappy with low public attendance. There wasn’t much sentiment in between.

Dealers faced an experimental schedule that saw Wednesday’s Professional Numismatists Guild Day followed by Professional Preview Day on Thursday. On that Thursday the public was turned away as only people who paid $75 were allowed in.

The result on the bourse floor was predictable: empty-looking aisles. Many dealers left their tables unattended to walk the aisles in hopes of making business happen.

When public hours began Friday, dealers found that some would-be customers who had been present on Wednesday simply had gone home.

“I think it should have been opened up to Early Bird holders from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the public after,” said Owosso, Mich., dealer James Beach.

“I did have a little collector activity, but overall, I’m disappointed,” Beach stated.

“My show was actually OK,” said New York City’s John Kraljevich. “I only set up at this show in the Midwest.”

Of his Midwestern customers, he said, “I’m here to see them. They came by.”

Brian Kendrella, director of operations of U.S. collectibles for Spectrum Group International, which includes Bowers and Merena and Teletrade, said although the show got off to a slow start, “We’ve gotten a lot of good stuff, a lot of great consignments. We met a lot of people. I am looking forward to coming back to Chicago next year.”

A dealer who wanted to remain anonymous said, “It’s one of the worst shows I’ve ever attended. It’s the worst Central States I’ve been to.”

He said there was very little public attendance.

“I attended a small Milwaukee show three weeks ago and my sales were four or five times Central States. Sales are just dismal.

“Dealers should be refunded $300 or $400 because they weren’t open to the public Thursday,” he said.

Sebastien Firmenich of the Swiss firm Olivier Chaponniere Monnaies-Medailles attended CSNS to show auction lots.

“It’s successful,” he said. “We didn’t sell. We met a lot of people. A lot of people came.”

Another dealer who asked to be anonymous ticked off his complaints like a machine gun, “excessive price (bourse table fee), poor operation, poor attendance.”

But Jerry Binsfeld of J.B. Coins of Kenosha, Wis., said he had a good show.

“I thought it was really good. I sold a little bit of everything,” Binsfeld said. “Silver dollars were real good. I thought it was a very good show.” He also cited exonumia as a hot area.

Arnie Heller of Sun Prairie, Wis., said he sold a little bit of everything and had a great show.

“It was a lot better than expected,” he said.

Mid-range coins sold the best, he said.

“I’d say coins are strongest in the $500 to $3,000 range, a little weak on the real cheap stuff,” Heller said. “I didn’t have the real expensive stuff.”

Barry Stuppler of Woodland Hills. Calif., summarized his assessment this way, “There is a continued lack of high-end material. Moderately priced coins under $1,000 are still not selling. There is still strong demand for gold rarities. I’m still having a hard time filling want lists for high-end pieces.”

Neil Shafer, author and hobbyist who had taken a table, said of his results, “The show has been very successful for me in all ways, personally and businesswise.”

Charmy Harker, the Penny Lady of Irvine, Calif., said, “It’s been good. It’s been very good. I do only copper.”

Harker said she bought a 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent.

“There’s an abundance of them out there,” she said.

The show was good for Tim La Pointe, a wholesaler from Maumee, Ohio, who reported good activity the first few days.

“I don’t know how it was for the retail business,” he said.

Central States reacted quickly to objections to the Professional Preview Day. In 2011, the hours will be cut back to 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday and the public will be admitted 2 to 7 p.m., according to Kevin Foley, show chairman.

Foley also offered his observations of the show.

“It seemed to me to be especially active,” Foley said. “It began on a well attended PNG Day.”

He called public attendance on Friday “phenomenal” and said there were over 250 Early Birds on Thursday.

“At a convention center this large with wide aisles, even a large crowd looks sparse,” Foley said.

“Overall, we simply feel very good. The level of activity at this event leads me to a feeling of optimism.”

Foley also called the all-day Professional Preview Day an experiment that had been conducted at the request of dealers who had suggested that not enough time was given to this part of the show.

Announced over the public address system at the end of the show was a statement that dealers who had stayed three or more nights in Milwaukee would get a $100 rebate.

That might not replace sales to a public who didn’t show up, but it could be taken as a further sign that the experiment of 2010 will not be repeated at the Central States convention in 2011 when the organization gathers in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont.

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