Baltimore Coin and Currency Convention has seen tremendous growth since I have been attending the show during this decade. With greater interest in coins by hobbyists and investors, the gentlemen who operate the Baltimore show has allowed it to grow with this interest. To capitalize on the interest, the promoters added Hall C of the Baltimore Convention Center to the bourse space available. After two shows, Hall C was full for this past convention making it Baltimore’s largest numismatic show.

Realizing that this growth was inevitable, I went earlier than usual. Driving just over an hour from my suburban DC home, I arrived around 10:30 AM and met Zach (zrlevin from the Collectors Society’s Message Boards) and his mom in the lobby. They drove down from New Jersey to attend. Both are wonderful people and appears to have had a wonderful experience. Zach, being younger than I expected, is really into his collection. This is good since the hobby does need some fresh faces to carry on the traditions.

Since I have attended these shows before, I knew what to expect when I walked in. From the entrance, you see the rows of tables in Halls A and B. Hall C is to the right making the floor and “L” shape. As I expected, many regular dealers were in their usual position which allowed me to talk with and purchase from a number of acquaintances. Being a regular has the advantage of making better deals.

After a few years of doing some broad collecting, I am now focusing on a few items. One area of interest are early red Lincoln cents. Uncirculated Lincoln cents in red-brown and brown are relatively easy to find. But nice red cents prior to 1930 are difficult. And they are getting more difficult to find raw, meaning not slabbed. I would buy one or two coins at a time because of budget constraints, but I was able to find a good supply. However this and the last few shows have shown a drop in the number of red Lincoln cents available—even slabbed coins. Many dealers apologized and said that they have not had a high demand for early red Lincoln cents, which is why they had few. It is disappointing, but I am determined to find those to complete my collection.

One thing I noticed was a reduction of raw coins available for just about anything older than the clad-coinage era. There were very few vendors selling raw, uncirculated Morgan and Peace dollars as well as early Buffalo Nickels and Mercury Dimes. With few exceptions, there was a glut of slabbed coins. Since I am not a fan of slabbing (more on that at another time), I felt that the selection available to me was more limited than usual. I was able to purchase a number of items that I will resell on eBay, but I was unable to find the few coins I was looking for to fill my albums.

That is not to say I do not purchase slabbed coins. I purchased a nice 1986 American Silver Eagle graded MS-69 for a Registry Set I am putting together (more on that at another time). I also purchased a few MS-65 Eisenhower Dollars for another Registry Set. And I also dropped off a number of other modern dollar coins with NGC for grading that will be for Registry sets. Otherwise, I was looking for raw coins for my regular collection.

Another area that I like but seems to be reduced were the number of “junk boxes” on the floor. Junk boxes are either lower grade coins or coins that the dealer could not sell otherwise. Sometimes, I can search the junk boxes and find Barber Coinage that are considered very good (approximately VG-8) in grade. Or I can find coins that I know I could turn over on eBay. I noticed that the number of junk boxes were fewer and the quality of the coins were less than in past days. I also did not see many junk boxes with foreign coins. Since I have been working on a few lower denomination Canadian coins for fun, the junk boxes have a treasure trove of fillers for my albums. I was only able to pick up four nickels and two quarters for my Canadian collection.

In an interesting twist, there were more tables with non-numismatic items than in the past. Although many of these tables had jewelry, there were some antiques, memorabilia, and even a vendor for an item that keeps leaves out of gutters. It was an interesting discovery within a numismatic show.

In the past, I wondered if “the market for key coins going to shut out those of us who have to stick to a budget?” Considering the increased occurrence of slabbing and the difficulty in finding some of the key coins (e.g., 1921-PDS Walking Liberty Half Dollars), I wonder if I have to consider refocusing my collection goals. While all coins are increasing in value at a rate greater than inflation, slabbed coins are climbing even higher. I do not know if this is an issue caused by a lower supply and greater demand or the perception of prices as the spot price of silver increases, but I am concerned about being priced out of the market.

Although I was a little disappointed for this show, I still had fun and am looking forward to the next one in March. If you have not had a chance to come to this show, come to Bal’more and visit. Charm City is a wonderful place to visit especially with the Convention Center being next to the Inner Harbor. Come by and enjoy the show.

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