The last show I was at a dealer complained to me that collectors who come to the show always went to two or three tables. What few collectors did buy from him were only interested in single type pieces and never spent a lot of money. He continued his rant by stating it’s the shows promoter that is also at fault for not providing better advertising to get more people into the show. He was an angry dealer and partially correct, when you looked around the room there were always crowds around three tables.
The remainder of people that wandered around were vest pocket players or other dealers looking for new material which sounded fine until it hit me. These tables that were suffering are small local dealers. They do not attend the major coin shows, tour the country, have the wealthiest clientele, or access to some of the larger coin auction houses. When a dealer or vest pocket investor approaches them with a coin for sale they hesitate with making a $2,000 to $5,000 investment and almost can never afford anything above that price range. To them this is a big investment; their ability to turn over high value coins is much less so their business has had to rely on the collector as much as dealer to dealer sales. Coin shows probably make up a decent percentage of their income. Now I’m starting to appreciate their anger or frustration.
So what is going on here? Is it collector attitude, the show sponsor, or dealers? The internet has been an information and point of sale boon. Millions of coins are available for sale with photos, there are specialty websites to assist almost any collector, forums to trade war stories, and even a place where you can sell your stuff at auction. This new technology without a doubt has influenced collector attendance at the local shows but it seems too easy to blame the internet.
I asked the dealer if he was interested in my opinions and he said he was willing to listen. So I explained from my perspective (nice word for my opinion) that it has nothing to do with collectors but the issue is with dealers and promoters.
1. Most dealers at this particular show price their coins incorrectly. When you ask how much for a coin most reach down grab a grey sheet and then quote the ask price and only come down a few dollars. Here is the reality check, as a buyer I can pay that price anywhere so why should I buy from you! Understand that collectors have internet access and can get as good or better pricing online. Dealers need to factor this in to create some financial motivation so ease up on the high prices.
2. Are you listening to your customers??? Each show location probably has different buyer habits so watch and listen to what they are buying and adjust your inventory. In this dealers case he said most buyers are interested in a single type of coin and not a whole series. So stop displaying 100 Morgan Dollars in a case and throw in variety.
3. Figure out how to accept credit cards. Coin shows are one of the few venues that still do not accept credit. Are you kidding! Most folks do not walk around with thousands of dollars in their pocket. How about creating a paypal account and advertise you accept paypal. Many people have smart phones with web access so this would open a whole new world for both the customer and dealer.
Well at this point the guy was pretty much upset but he didn’t stop me from continuing so I moved on
1. Most promoters do a darn good job of advertising and getting dealers to rent tables but that is usually where many small shows stop. You cannot stop there, as a customer I can go anywhere to buy coins so add something else to the venue. Most successful shows have some type of speaker or special learning sessions. One really good one I witnessed was at a Texas coin show. The promoter advertised a special session for collecting 20th Century coins. It was about an hour of powerpoint presentations and when they were done they handed out info pamphlets about 20th Century U.S. coinage and a checklist to make a set. He also announced that dealers had special sections to find these type coins and they could be easily recognized by a round green sticker on the coin holders at each dealers table.
2. Offer free wireless, this day in age how much does wireless access cost for a day? This would give dealers another resource to use at the show. You could use it to show customers additional content online and educate your customers that you do have an online presence. Or offer to let a customer use your laptop for that paypal customer without a smartphone.
3. What happened to door prizes and giveaways? I’m not talking about that free garbage from the U.S. Mint that’s handed out at the door but useful stuff; books, coins or supplies. There are still small shows that do this and benefit greatly but overall most small shows have dropped this to keep table prices down to attract dealers. My advice here is stop being so darn cheap!
4. Speaking of the door how about a greeter? It would be nice if someone said “Hi welcome to the… “ and then give you a map of the show/tables, a schedule of events and a list of dealers with additional contact info (shop location, website, e-bay, whatever). A friendly face still goes a long way.
At this point I stopped my rant and the dealer just shrugged and just said “yeah I guess so”. I think he stopped listening after I criticized his pricing and got him upset. What he probably heard was “your too expensive and you should give your coins away” and everything else just went in one ear and out the other.
Regardless of whether or not he listened I did listen to him and now appreciate the position of smaller dealers. At the same time I have seen good and bad shows and tried to share that experience. Hopefully there are some folks out there that get the message that coin shows need to be freshened up with new venues and a sprinkle of modern technology.