Chicago - The Windy... err, "Snowy" City

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November 22, 2015

I just got back from CHICAGOPEX about 2 hours ago. A wonderful weekend, made a bit longer than previous years...

I drove up on Thursday, the day before the show, as I always do. I met Bart Rosenberg at about noon. We've been corresponding electronically for years; it was great to finally meet in person.

Later in the afternoon I met up with Eric Jackson who brought me a carton lot to go through. We went to dinner at Shula's Steak House inside the Westin. I had the "Cowboy Ribeye" which was... ummm... phenomenal. Eric eats out a lot at high-end establishments, and has eaten at Shula's many times and he said the steak Thursday night was the best it's ever been.

I stayed up until about 1AM going through the carton lot, pulling individual items to purchase (unlike last year, I didn't feel the whole thing was worth my purchasing).

Friday morning the show opened at 10AM. There were probably 30-40 people waiting to get in, down from previous years in my opinion. After dropping off the carton lot with Eric and the items I wanted to buy for him to price, I made a beeline for Richard Friedberg's table, as he had several items from one of the Curtis Collection document balance lots that I had glanced at quickly during setup Thursday afternoon, a few that I desperately wanted.

Then it was over to Denny Peoples, who always has the most wonderful "oddball" material. Revenues, cinderellas, interesting covers, ephemera, paper, you name it. I bought a small box lot of stuff and several documents.

I hit various and sundry dealers throughout the rest of the day. Friday night I invited Bart to my suite and I ordered in Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza (YUM!), and we spent a wonderfully relaxing evening doing some revenue horsetrading, going through the material I had purchased, and just talking stamps. Very enjoyable.

Overnight, winter storm Bella dumped 5-15 inches of snow on the Chicagoland area. Normally I leave Chicagopex at midday on Saturday and drive back south, but since it weas expected to snow until 3-4PM and I had to tell the front desk if I was staying or checking out by noon, I said the heck with it and decided to stay until Sunday night. Spending $75 to have the suite an extra day was a small price to pay compared to possibly being out in that mess before the snow crews had a chance to do their magic, and it was forecast to be bright and sunny Sunday.

Also, it gave me the chance to really just take my time through the day Saturday rather than trying to finish up by midday. I think I may make this a regular practice.

Saturday was more of the same: hunting, scouring, hitting all of the dealers throughout the show. During the early afternoon, Eric called me over to his table to meet Scott English, the new APS executive director. He's much younger than his pictures imply; in fact he's younger than I am, and I'm one of the youngsters in the room.

The 3 of us had a nice 45-minute conversation sitting at Eric's table. As a result of that discussion, my opinion of Scott's hire has changed. Scott English is sharp... very sharp. He has some very good ideas and his experience running several major political campaigns are right on target for what the APS needs. He understands marketing, targeting audiences, analytics, fundraising, and advertising, extremely well.

Ken Martin is a great day-to-day operations manager. That is a completely different skill set from long-term vision and planning (think micro vs. macro). I now think that separating these duties is a smart (and necessary) move; it's too much to put on one person's plate and expect both aspects to be accomplished well. They are very different duties.

Only time will tell as to what the results will be. I've always been critical of the APS board and the end run around the bylaws, but now that I have a bit more firsthand knowledge, I think the current situation is a good one. I am much more optimistic than I was prior to meeting Scott.

I spent the last 3 hours of Saturday afternoon at A to Z Stamps. Michael Ball, the proprietor, is an extremely nice guy with a great sense of humor, and we threw barbs and jokes back and forth for the duration as I was going through the six (!) red boxes of U.S. revenues. Earlier in the day he had caught a thief red-handed and had him ejected from the show. Apparently it was a Polish collector that spoke no English, that tried to steal a $17 item. For some reason it seems to always be petty thefts that get caught, not people trying to steal major items... go figure. So that was the drama for the day. Apparently Michael has caught quite a few would-be thieves over the years. Of course he has lost quite a bit to pilferage as well, so he's vigilant about these things.

Saturday night I just relaxed in my room, watching college football and going through the material I had acquired, doing some research online, and then also went through Eric's website jotting down items to take a look at Sunday morning. A wedding reception 2 floors below me playing loud music until midnight was more than a little annoying. Note to self: While having a suite on a lower floor is convenient, it has its potential hazards.

It turns out that staying the extra day had an additional benefit: I rechecked a dealer's table first thing and saw a revenue bulk lot I had missed the day before: A bag of several thousand R44c (25-cent Certificate); a cheap stamp but at first glance quite a few handstamp cancels throughout and who knows what plate varieties might turn up. Also, the 25-centers are where you start seeing nice company manuscript cancels, as many were used on stock certificates.

Then Denny Peoples grabbed me in the lobby and said he had just purchased another box lot (from the very same dealer I purchased the above bulk lot from). A box full of various and sundry revenue stamps of all types in little envelopes, and wads of 1st issue 2-centers on document clippings, many with handstamp cancels. I ended up buying this one as well. Even though by buying though Denny rather than the first dealer I'm sure I paid a mark-up, it all was still dirt cheap.

Between the two lots, basically 5 pounds of U.S. revenue kiloware, the majority 1st issue material. All sorts of flyspecking fun ahead. So-called "garbage lots" can turn up some real interesting stuff.

I then stopped off at a dealer that I hadn't been planning to see, since he said he didn't have anything new for me since 2014. Since I had the time, I figured why not, as frequently a second (or third or fourth) look through a dealer's inventory can reveal things missed the first time. Additionally, once a dealer has had items for an extended period, they may be more likely to cut deals. And so it was with this dealer. I picked up a faulty but somewhat scarce stamp that I should be able to flip nicely, as well as a very expensive stamp with a tiny flaw that will fit well in my cancel collection.

Lastly it was back to Richard Friedberg's table and since I still had some unspent money in my pocket I picked up some nice cancels to finish up the weekend. I said my goodbyes to everyone and packed up the car to drive south. I am so glad I waited the extra day, as all the roads were clear, it was bright and sunny (although 28 degrees), and the drive home was completely uneventful... just the way I like it.

I picked up some wonderful material, although it will be weeks if not months before I can image it all and write it up for my website. Revenue stamps, cancels, documents, plate varieties, and a LOT of illegal/improper usage documents and covers. A few items that are truly scarce.

And now to repair the budget over the next 6 months... :)

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