Egret and crab

Monday, January 29, 2024

Viva Las Vegas

I am back from my show in Las Vegas. It went pretty well for me. 

This was the first time that the Old West Show has been held in Las Vegas. 

There were some logistical nightmares but I guess you are always going to have that in a new venue. 

I am happy that I exhibited.

There is an ongoing consolidation in the auction business, like many businesses. 

Big guys are swallowing up little guys.

The show was originally owned and promoted by High Noon Auctions, very good friends of mine. 

It accompanied an auction, which was the real source of income for the promoters, not catering to a bunch of irritating western and antique dealers.

The show was held in Mesa, Arizona. Joseph and Linda ultimately sold the show to another solid friend, Brian Lebel and he operated the show for quite a few years, both in Mesa, Ft. Worth and Santa Fe.

The people that own the convention center in Mesa got very greedy and jacked their rents up so high the thing didn't make any more financial sense. Brian sold out to Morphy Auctions, one of the nation's largest, which had also fairly recently swallowed James Julia auctions in their native Maine.

Morphy has ran one of the oldest gun shows in the country for many decades in Las Vegas, the Antique Arms and Armor show, and they decided to consolidate the Old West show and bring us Western and Native dealers and the gun guys under one roof for a show. 

I think that it came off fairly well although the attendance did not match Mesa, which is more closely located to the epicenter of interest in the western/native genre, which is Arizona and New Mexico, with the Californian and Texas buyers coming in from either side of the aisle. The show didn't seem to have a lot of local traffic and I never quite figured out if they did much local advertising.

The auction did very well, the show was more spotty. Some dealers did well, some did not, as always. The Antique Arms was tabletop dealers in a hall across the way, really not my thing. Some of them brought good Indian but either put ridiculous prices on it or forced people to bid on things. This sucks, the first guy bidding never is rewarded. If you go to a show, know what you want for things and don't use people.

I've owned guns my entire life but don't obsess about them. Walked the hall but it was pretty boring for me personally.

The Japanese swords and armor were cool.

Our show was beautiful. Business is tough in today's climate, with so many collectors aging out and not being replaced by a mostly disinterested millennial x to z generation.

So the dealers that have managed to survive tend to be really good at what they do. The quality of their material was actually quite amazing. 

I saw better Indian baskets than I have ever seen at a show, some priced at many hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

It was a treat for a person like me who really loves the material.

Ari, McGarry and Manifort all brought exceptional basket material.

Best in class.

I take a slightly different approach, trying to have affordable items mixed in with the big dollar trophies.

Too much high end intimidates people and makes your booth more like a museum.

You have to have something for everybody.

I tend to have more art than most western dealers and it seemed to serve me well.

The hotel itself, the Westgate, was not optimal.

I never had a hot shower in four days, the central tower somehow bereft of a modern plumbing system.

I had not done the cold shower thing for a long time, took me back to the eight months I spent on the Israeli border in the 1970's.

Thankfully the toilet paper was better than the sandpaper we used back then.

I complained to the manager, they said they would send someone up, but nothing ever changed. No sign anybody ever showed up. Place needs a facelift. I thought I was shedding hair in the sink but it turns out they were just cracks in the porcelain. Towel hook ripped off the door, looks like somebody has a cash cow and they are just milking it rather than putting in the money to bring it back up to grade.

I told them I was disappointed when I checked out, they just smiled, not like they really cared. Place ain't the Hilton any longer that is for sure. Read the reviews, it ain't just me...

The view of the beautiful sunrises was gorgeous though, I will tell you that. 

Wish I had brought a camera, was all business this weekend and left it at home. Had to settle on the phone.

The full moon danced on top of the neighboring skyscrapers.

I wish I had taken pics of other booths, really was too busy for three days.

Abe Lincoln was there as well as race car legend Peter Brock.

I only bought two things at the show, these two beautiful Pomo feathered gift baskets. 

They are so precious, hard to resist.

I met some truly wonderful people, including a Mountain Maidu man buying for the tribe.

I sold him a basket. Met a Hopi and an Apache too. 

Grabbed a picture of my pal Ron Munn seeing his new great grandchild for the first time. 

That was great!


The show was a nightmare logistically. Inadequate communication, mixed instructions. 

There was nowhere to park, people were nervous about leaving stuff in their rigs the night before.

You had to go to an overflow lot a quarter mile away to park, load in was staged.

I am sure it will be better next year with the kinks now worked out. Hope so anyway.

I would like to return, many were grumbling. 

The auction took place with an hour to go for our show to be over. 

This was difficult for two reasons, in the first place it instantly sucked all of our potential buyers out of the room and secondly, dealers, often times the best customers, could not attend the auction either.

That was not well planned. How tough would it have been to shut us down an hour earlier or move the auction up?

All in all it was a positive and financially rewarding experience. Higgins, Haskell and Jeter were behind me and it looks like they sold a lot of incredible stuff too. Kim sold some nice things on the other side of me.

Dealers are a bit spoiled, one bad show and they won't go back. But we need markets and there are fewer and fewer of them. We need to take care of the ones that are left and look past an occasional bad show or we won't have anything remaining. I hope people give Vegas another chance.

That's about it. I was up every night gambling, generally did well, until the last night when a loud drunk guy was screaming in my ear. I moved but I had more stupid people splitting tens and holding on 16 against face cards sitting next to me and I finally gave up.

Had a nice breakfast with Joseph and Linda, dinner with Ben and Dain, the Blackburns and the Munns. The food court had great carnitas, I will give them that. Cheesecake good too.

I liked the load out. Since I was staying over, I boxed everything and moved it out in the morning, when I was fresh. I heard rumors of a security person caught stealing jewelry from cases. I haven't checked my totes but think I am okay. That is, thankfully, very rare.

Stopped off at Barstow for a Tommys chili burger on the way home.

Traffic was not too bad but still got home exhausted.

Couple more weeks and I go out on the road and get to do it again.

Now I get to unload the van.


Blue Heron said...

Easier to read compared to depression personified. Many thought show was a shit storm. Manic broke or riding the crest. Tough ride.


Diane O said...

I'm glad it was a good show for you.
Diane O

Ken Seals said...

It's nice to hear that it was a good one for you.

Blue Heron said...

Don Roberto a very comprehensive evaluation on all levels of the Las Vegas Show. I knew you would be the most aware and best honest judge.....thank you.
Get your test before your next big show!😉👍


Blue Heron said...

I'm a whiner and I honestly did very well. Very glad I went.


Blue Heron said...

It’s not the money it’s just the bull shit of having stuff locked and covered - who needs that?
People are not happy about LV.

anon dealer