Like a driver cutting you off in traffic, one bad experience at a coin show can ruin the time and throw you off your collecting mood.
At a recent coin show, I pulled out some $100 Confederate notes from a dealer’s box and set them aside on his table so I could look closer at them when another collector started going through them. Though the situation was easily resolved, it was a breach of basic coin show etiquette and one that unfortunately happens quite a bit.
But since there are no posted rules on a bourse floor, newcomers might not realize that what they are doing is a problem.
Harry Miller, owner of Miller’s Mint, Patchogue, N.Y., said one of the most basic rules on the bourse floor is to not interfere with other deals at a coin show.
“One thing that I notice quite often is someone will attempt to do business with a dealer, and a collector or another dealer standing by will butt in,” he said. “I just think that when people approach a dealer, they should be patient if the dealer is involved in a sale.”
Even more taboo is attempting to undermine their business, he said.
“Sometimes, when someone says that they’ll think about an offer on an item, another person will follow them and corner them to make a deal,” Miller said.
Julian Leidman, owner of Bonanza Coins, Silver Spring, Md., said selling to collectors on the bourse without buying a booth is just as bad.
“As an attendee, you can only deal with dealers who have booths,” he said. “Dealers pay to have their tables there.”
Since table space is limited, keep personal items like coin books and coats off the dealer’s showcases, he said.
“Keep them off the cases so other people can see in,” Leidman said. “It matters to dealers and public attendees.”
Greg Allen, owner of Greg Allen Coins, St. Paul, Minn., said coin shows see both the best and worst behavior.
“There’s collectors that display good etiquette, some that don’t know how and others that just don’t care how they act,” he said.
Most coin show attendees are good people and are willing to help others in collecting, he said.
“At the Central States show last year, I had a friend there with their 9-year-old son,” he said. “They visited a large, national coin dealer to look at some coins and he was very gracious with the kid. He showed him a $50 gold piece. That was a good example of inspiring the kid.”
Teaching a new numismatist at a coin show sets a good example for the hobby, he said.
“I had a guy stop by with a lot of money, but he didn’t really know what he was doing,” Allen said. “I took the time to teach him a little bit and show him some books.”
Miller said educating someone while at a coin show is both helpful and good for business.
“Oftentimes, I think dealers are too short and not helpful with beginner coin collectors,” he said. “Some dealers are inappropriate in the way they handle them. They realize ‘I won’t make a lot of money off this guy so I won’t put my time into it,’” Miller said.
Allen agreed. “I like to see a combination of making a profit and encouraging the collector,” he said. He illustrated his point by recalling the Bay State coin show on April 17 in Massachusetts.
“A 10-year-old collector was looking at a coin and he misread the price,” Allen said. “It was $16.95 and he thought it was $6.95. The dealer said he could have it for $15. The kid said that all he had was $5 and a collector nearby him laid down a $10 and said to let him have the coin.”
Most hobbyists would agree that this is an example of bourse show behavior at its best.
Behaving well at a coin show does not take a lawyer’s advice.
Allen said most coin show rules are just common courtesy.
“When somebody comes up looking, some dealers will say hello and others will say nothing,” he said. “I greet them when they come by, especially if they want to buy something. I always say thank you ... regardless if they buy or not.”
Pointing out obvious mistakes also is beneficial and keeps the deal from not going through when it’s noticed, he said.
“There was a dealer I went up to and I noticed he clearly had a mismarked coin,” he said. “It was a $150 coin labeled for $20. It was a very clear mistake and I think you have to warn them.”
He said there’s a system on how to act at a coin show that some ignore and others just haven’t been to enough shows yet to learn.
“It is important, not just in general, but a good attitude makes the show experience better,” Allen said. “I don’t see how a bad attitude will help sales.
“If I see someone with bad etiquette, I don’t really want to deal with them, whether they are a collector or a dealer,” Allen said.
Since the whole point of going to a coin show is to do deals, putting people off with bad behavior is not smart. abiding by the rules of a coin show keeps attendees happy and sets a good example for all numismatists.