First Convention

Question: I am fairly new to coin collecting and have been working on a set of Morgan dollars. I am planning to attend the Whitman Coin Expo in Baltimore at the end of March. It will be my first coin convention and I was wondering if you had any tips for a first timer? I don’t have a lot of money to spend at this time, but I would like to try to find a couple of things for my collection. I would appreciate any advice you can offer. A.M.


Answer:  Dear A.M.: Welcome to the hobby! If Baltimore is going to be your first coin show, then you’ve picked a good one. Baltimore has one of the most active bourse floors among coin shows, and you should enjoy being there. The Morgan dollar series is a big one but there are numerous dates that can be had in MS-63 or MS-64 that can be purchased for way less than $100 each; dates like 1883-O and 1884-O come to mind. You’ll do best if you buy coins professionally graded by PCGS or NGC in particular, as they are currently the two leading services. The third-party holders take much of the guesswork out of buying coins. Not all MS-63 coins are equal in eye appeal, however, so don’t be afraid to examine lots of coins and then buy the best looking pieces you can find. As for tips, there are some all collectors should follow. One is having patience. If you see a coin you’re interested in and the dealer is busy, it often pays to wait a few minutes and have the dealer’s undivided attention when he’s done with the previous deal. Another is to make sure you have a pad and pen (or if you are more tech-savvy than I you can use your “device”), so you can write down table numbers in case you see a coin and want to check out others of the date around the bourse floor. By keeping track of the number you can always find the table again if you want to make a purchase.

Some general convention etiquette rules that I attempt to follow also make things nicer for everyone. Try not to lay your personal things on a dealer’s case, as when people do this it isn’t fair to the dealer or other collectors. Many times I see something in a case I might like to purchase, but a previous customer has blocked the view, which amounts to a no-sale on a coin I may have wanted if I’d only been able to see it. It is not advisable to move people’s things away to look into the case – you’d be surprised how offended some people can be if you move their “obstructions.” Don’t carry coffee or soft drinks around, but if you must, place the container on the floor when viewing coins, as no dealer wants a case full of liquid on his or her inventory. That about does it. A simple mix of courtesy and friendliness between you and a dealer can make all the difference in your show. So go out, make friends, buy coins, take in exhibits, and have a great time. I wish I was going to Baltimore in March!

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