Coin shows offer the unique ability of visiting the equivalent of dozens of coin shops in a single day. At the largest coin shows, you’ll encounter people from all over the world negotiating the buying and selling of rare coins.
Preparation and Enjoyment
With so much electrifying energy in the air, a large and well-attended coin show can be a lot of fun – but it also has the potential to be overwhelming. As exciting as the thrill of the hunt may be, this world can also be very difficult to navigate, especially if you consider yourself to be a beginning coin collector.
How can you get the most out of attending a coin show? It starts with preparation. Before you arrive to the show, it’s wise to make a quick checklist of the coins you’re after. This sounds basic, but it’s hard to remember which years of a particular coin you’re after when you run into dozens of them in a single morning.
Know what you are looking for and what they usually cost. You may want to pick up a price guide, though avoid bringing it out in front of the dealers, as this will peg you as a beginner. Don’t forget a magnifier or loupe for examining potential purchases. On the day of the show, make sure you bring cash and locate the nearest ATM, because many dealers do not accept credit cards at shows.
Etiquette and Purchases
Once you arrive, always remember that there is coin show etiquette to be followed. Even some long-time coin show shoppers regularly break these rules by doing things that aren’t “dealer friendly.” To get the best deals – not to mention making lifelong friends in the numismatic hobby – put yourself in the coin dealer’s place.
Many dealers bring their best coins to the shows, since they’ll be seeing lots of customers that day. Given the financial value of rare coins, dealers are understandably nervous about potential losses. Make the dealer comfortable by keeping bags and purses away from the table and always be aware of what your hands are doing and how it might look to a coin seller.
Once you’ve found a coin you’re interested in, take your time to study it. Don’t feel rushed by the dozens of other coin collectors hurrying past the booth. Take a close look both at the coin and the price. If you’re only planning on browsing or doing research, let the dealer know so he can chat with you when he’s not busy with a paying customer.
If you’re just there to look, go later on the day on Saturday, or on Sunday. Saturday mornings tend to be the busiest, and dealers might not have the time to explain the nuances of a particular coin to someone who’s not ready to buy.
At coin shows, you’ll see plenty of boxes and trays full of coins. As you rifle through them, be aware of where they came from, and return the leftovers to the right spot so you don’t get the coins mixed up. There’s nothing more disappointing than thinking you’ve spotted an amazing find in the $5 box, only to be told that it was really a $50 coin that a previous customer had misplaced.
If you do find a coin you wish to purchase, consider coming back for it later. At a large coin show, you’re likely to run into the same types of coins again and again. Many coin collectors will visit each booth at least once before making a single purchase.
Some wait even later, to the final hours of the show, in the hopes that dealers will be eager to make sales so they don’t have to pack and move all their coins. If you’re looking to buy multiple coins from the same dealer, ask if you can negotiate for a bulk discount.