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COMPEX 2018: I Came, I Saw, I… Was Sorely Disappointed.

COMPEX 2018: I Came, I Saw, I… Was Sorely Disappointed.

I guess they all can’t be great shows. If they were, we wouldn’t appreciate the good ones as much!


I left the house this morning at 6:30AM for the 3-hour drive up to River Grove, IL. This was a new venue this year for COMPEX, after many many years at the Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights, IL.

The drive up was mostly uneventful, until the last 10 minutes or so. Unlike the old venue, the new one is hidden away and incredibly difficult to find, even with a GPS. Coming in from the south there are some complex split-second switches you have to make in terms of exits/roads that could EASILY have been a fustercluck. Several dealers who came in the night before without GPS mentioned they had a hard time finding the place.

Instead of a nice large lobby area with tables and chairs where people could wait for the show to open, this new venue had people jam packed in a small standing-room-only entry way that got warmer, the more bodies that got packed in. In another stroke of monumental stupidity, there were no restrooms accessible without having to go past the security guard. They were nice enough to let you go through and watch to make sure you came back, but what idiocy is this? Aging show demographic and no restrooms or chairs? Gimme a [CENSORED] break!

The bourse was split into 2 parts, with the post card dealers and cachet makers relegated to a gymnasium about 3 nautical miles from the main entrance and bourse room. They could not have been pleased.

The main bourse room was tiny compared to the old venue. The dealers were jammed together and there was virtually no aisle space. Large dealers like Michael Ball and Jerry Koepp, that usually had huge sprawling layouts, had to make due with much smaller booths than they were used to (and thus fewer customers able to pull up chairs at any given time).

The weather up there was absotively GORGEOUS, upper 60s and low 70s, and sunny… a full 20 degrees lower than it is down here in Humidityville. It’s amazing how much weather 150 miles apart can differ.

That said, even with the pleasant ambient temperatures, the room was AWFUL for the first several hours, as the air conditiong was set too low. I’m guessing that they didn’t set the thermostat lower to compensate for the large number of warm bodies in the room. It took a solid 2 hours for the room to become bearable. It felt muggy. Stamps + humidity = NOT GOOD!

Not a single dealer or customer I spoke with had anything good to say about the new venue. I hope that they go back to the old one or find a new one next year, or I may not go back. I never did get a definitive answer as to why the show moved venues. Some speculated that the new place was cheaper (it darned well better be!) and others said the old venue didn’t want the show back (the facility changed ownership in recent years, so that is plausible).

So how were the pickings?

In a word: slim.

I ended up making purchases from only 2 dealers. For anyone that knows me, that is virtually unheard of at a show, especially a larger show. I almost always exceed my planned show budget, but this time came back with a fair amount of money unspent.

As is usually the case, Denny Peoples was my savior. He’s been compiling material for NAPEX next weekend, where the annual ARA meeting is taking place, so he had some nice material. Unfortunately, since he knows he’ll have ready clientele next weekend, he didn’t discount as deep as I can sometimes convince him to cut.

Still, I purchased a small revenue stamp/document “anything and everything” lot from him to hunt through, some documents with great aesthetics including a great Lincoln imagery piece, and a lovely illegal usage of Scott #76 on an installment certificate for the purchase of stock.

From the other dealer I purchased a couple of proprietary cancels, cherrypicked a couple plate varieties, and found a Pacific Mail Steamship cancel that had it been my only purchase of the day, would still have made the trip worth making.

So yes, I got some goodies, but the overall experience of the day was incredibly underwhelming.

P.S. I was pleasantly surprised to see Rusty Shoaf (Boilermaker Stamps) back in the fold, no longer working for Harmer Schau. Apparently living expenses in California ended up being untenable and his wife hated living out there, so they moved back to Indiana and once he builds up inventory he’ll be doing shows full time again. He’s one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet.

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