A Fair Deal?
Volume 40, Number 6, June 2003
A fair deal? Apparently organisers of one of this country’s best known and most popular Coin Fairs have decided that too many of the dealers who attend their events are leaving early thus not giving the “latecomer” collectors enough value for money. In order to combat this the organisers have told all dealers who wish to attend their shows that they must not leave before a certain time, if they do so they will be penalised at the next fair, either by being moved to a less popular position than the one they had hitherto occupied or in more extreme cases by being excluded entirely. They are not alone in this approach, in the Medal collecting hobby two of the main show organisers make it a stipulation of booking that dealers do not leave, except under exceptional circumstances, before a certain time, usually an hour before the official close. Many collectors will wholeheartedly agree with this move, after all there are few things more frustrating than turning up at a show only to discover half the tables empty and the other half being packed up. After all if a show is advertised to last until 4.00pm shouldn’t someone coming in at 3.30pm be confronted with the same number of dealers as someone who was there when the doors first opened? Granted a “latecomer” must expect the variety of coins on offer to be less, the choice pieces will inevitably have gone but shouldn’t he at least be able to visit a full complement of stands to see for himself what is left? On the face of it yes, but things are never that straightforward. The dealers, many of whom come from far afield and will have got up very early on their “day off” to be able to stall out in time, (one dealer who attends shows up and down the country survives on about three hours sleep a night in order to make sure he attends as many shows as possible!) will say that it is that very lack of variety that means they can go home earlier than the “official” time, they know that most “serious” collectors, the ones who will make it worth their while attending that show (after all collectors must always remember that dealers are in business they aren’t simply their to help increase an individual’s collection!) will have been waiting outside when the doors first opened, they will know that 85% or more of the money they take will be taken within the first couple of hours and their quite logical response to that is why should they spend four or five more hours in order to bring in that other 15%? On a purely business level, if they are costing their time as an expense, isn’t it better for them to leave early than later? The response from collectors and organisers is again perfectly logical, they say that there is a rush at the beginning of shows simply because the collectors know that if they leave it too late the dealer won’t be there at all and that if dealers stayed on until the close then they would find that more customers came in and thus more money would be made and so on. The dealers then counter with the sensible retort that whilst they might stay on their coins wouldn’t, the best pieces will all sell early not because the collector is afraid that the dealer will go but rather because he is afraid another collector will get there first. Both sides of the argument are perfectly reasonable – it is a shame to walk into a room hoping to find it full tables over flowing with the coins you have been searching for for some time only to discover it half empty but then as a dealer it is fairly soul destroying to watch the same two customers wonder around the room for the fourth time, know that no more are likely to come through the door and all the time a beautiful Saturday afternoon is going to waste. The problem seems to be in the best traditions of Heller’s Catch 22 “you can’t get the dealers to stay unless they know customers will come in and you won’t get the customers to come in unless they know the dealers will be there So is there an answer? One way might be to state that the show’s official end time should be brought forward, after all if a fair starts at Nine and ends at One then it is unlikely (although not of course impossible!) that a dealer will pack up early but that brings its own problems – will dealers travel to a fair that only lasts four hours? The Token Team might, we have to travel fairly long distances to get to most shows we attend but it is fairly depressing to spend twice as long in the car to get to a place than you do standing behind the table! We aren’t fair organisers but we do attend enough, both as dealers and customers to know that there is no immediate solution and we wish the organisers of all fairs the very best of luck with their balancing act. You can’t please all of the people all of the time but they do a grand job trying!
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