ANA Election: VOTE!

Earlier this week I received the ballot information for the election of the American Numismatic Association Board of Governors. There are two candidates for president, one for vice president, and eight for Governors which seven will be selected.

As some of you who are ANA member began to receive your ballots, I have received many emails asking who I support. Since the slate is smaller this year, there is not a big choice. But as a preliminary answer, I have expressed my preference for one of the candidates not be elected as ANA President. I continue to stand by that assessment. Even if Gary Adkins was running unopposed, there would be no issue with supporting his candidacy.

There is also no problem with Don Kagin becoming Vice President. I believe Kagin is the first person who has a Ph.D. in numismatics, is a successful dealer, and I believe is someone good for the ANA.

As for the Board of Governors, only seven of the eight will be elected to the Board. The anti-incumbent sentiment in me says that I should support all those running for the first time: Adam J. Crum, Brian Hendelson, John W. Highfill, and Thomas J. Uram. After reading their statements and watching the candidate forum video, all four will do well.

That means one of the four incumbents have to go. Trying to decide between Steve Ellsworth, Greg Lyon, Paul Montgomery, and Ralph W. Ross is not as easy as I initially thought it would be. I know where I am leaning and why, but I want to take some time to consider my position. I will make my decision sometime the beginning of June.

Until then, you may want to spend the hour-and-forty-seven minutes and watch the candidates forum:

Arguing about the ANA’s future

During my nearly 11 years of writing this blog, there has been criticism and compliments of the work done by the American Numismatic Association, its Board of Governors, and its staff. The organization has come a long way during that time and yet has had a lot of bad missteps over the years.

Any organization is not perfect as long as imperfect humans are part of its governance. Humans are imperfect beings and subject to imperfect thoughts, reasoning, and emotions. Emotional responses are human’s greatest strength while being their greatest weakness. Even when humans claim they have a dispassionate response there is a twinge of emotion associated with the final result. For a real-world example of the problems making these types of decision, “Who Gets What” by Kenneth R. Feinberg makes for interesting reading. Feinberg was the appointed Special Master of the 9/11 Victims Fund where his job was to try to dispassionately determine who gets what compensation, or anything at all.

These thoughts came to mind in a recent exchange between two members of the numismatic community over the upcoming ANA Board of Governors election. Published in Numismatic News in “Letters to the Editor” on April 4, 2017 (see the last letter on the page), Ronald Brown appears to make a case for a stronger line between the Professional Numismatic Guild and the ANA by being more of an advocate for the collector/hobbyist. In short, he advocates that if a dealer wants to serve on the ANA Board of Governors there be a sharper division between their business interests and the interests of the ANA.

In the third-from-the-end paragraph, Brown writes, “In my opinion, any person running for office in the ANA must pledge their allegiance to the ANA and void any other membership activity that has the appearance of conflict of interest.” This becomes a line of contention between Mr. Brown and Cliff Mishler, a former member of the Board of Governors and ANA past president.

In Mishler’s response (posted on April 23, 2017) he rightly notes that many ANA members, including those who serve of the Board of Governors are not members of one organization and that this should not disqualify someone from serving. I believe that Mishler is a member of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA), as I am. Like the ANA, the RCNA welcomes all members from around the world. They support numismatics of all types but their members concentrate on Canadian numismatics like the ANA concentrates on United States numismatics.

Should being an RCNA member disqualify either of us to serve on the ANA Board of Governors? It would if we were to follow Mr. Brown’s standards.

This question can be asked of anyone who is a member of any organization that may not be an ANA member or whose mission is somewhat different from the ANA and would prevent members of specialty organizations who could bring a different perspective from serving. It will do nothing to resolve the issue appears to have with dealers dominating the ANA.

A statement that appeared to irk Mishler was when Brown followed up separation suggestion with, “Additionally, stakeholders of coin businesses should put their business holdings into blind trusts for the duration that they hold office in the ANA, to again avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest.”

When I first read the statement, I rolled my eyes and wondered who would comment. Mishler, who can come off as a gruff and cranky old man but is really a sweetheart, appeared to have a button pushed and responded in a way consistent with our politically charged environment. Of course, this did not sit well with Brown and he responded.

Both have overstated good points from their perspective but neither addresses the issues in a manner that would let both sides think about why there is a problem.

From a collector’s point of view, the ANA appears to be run with the agenda to do more to protect the dealer than the collector. When there is an issue in the collector community, policies appear to favor the high-value collector. Since most of the members who run for the Board of Governors seem to be either these high-end dealers or collectors, it appears that these dealers and collectors do not understand most of the rank-and-file members. It looks like an exclusive club that regular members can join but are not allowed into the inner circle.

From a dealer’s point of view, many have been members of the ANA for quite some time. They may have started as a vest pocket dealer or behind the counter in another shop, but they grew up in this industry. These dealers have seen the pains the ANA and the hobby has experienced and seen how bad decisions have hurt everyone over time. In the process, they have cultivated good and profitable businesses understanding what the collector wants. After all this hard work, they are not going to give up the businesses that provide their livings because a “junk-box picker” thinks we don’t understand.

NOTE: I am not calling Ronald Brown a “junk-box picker.” I am using it as emphasis based on a conversation I had with a friend about the series of letters.

As always, reality is somewhere in the middle.

I do believe that the policies are a little slanted to the dealer, but not in the extreme Brown and others correspondents claim. Part of the problem is that more members of the ANA Board of Governors, presidents, and vice presidents come from the ranks of dealers, even though recent past presidents Mishler and Walt Ostromecki are not dealers. I believe that four of the nine elected members of the Board of Governors, including President Jeff Garrett and Vice President Gary Adkins, are dealers.

Why is it a problem that dealer have influence on the ANA Board of Governors?

Like anyone else serving on a Board, regardless whether it is a for-profit or non-profit, there will always be an agenda. You will not do anything to hurt your own livelihood nor will you do anything to damage your potential customers. While dealers have ruled the roost, it is difficult to see how everything they have done is bad for the ANA.

Unfortunately, I believe that their views do not consider the ordinary collector or the collector that may be out of the mainstream. I thought Mishler would be more understanding with his noted collection of stickered coins and a former editor at a major numismatic publication. But his response appeared to be more pro-dealer than understanding that there may be a perception of elitism.

Then again, there is the golden rule: He who has the gold, rules! You can see who has the most influence on the organization by those who spend the money for advertising and sponsorships. As we know, this is the way of the world.

The needs of the collector and the dealer can co-exist. While I may never be a customer of a higher-end dealer, I do respect their accomplishments and contributions to the industry. However, there are some who should stop looking down their noses at the junk-box diver or the blogger who will flip through red boxes of 2x2s looking for something new that says “New York.”

As a member of the Technology Committee, I know that there is work being done to try to bridge some of that gap by considering the rank-and-file members. It encourages more involvement to introduce and extend the hobby in a way that some of the older dealers have accepted, regardless of their phobia to technology. Even Mishler, who I heard recently purchased his first cell phone, supports the effort!

Of course, this is not enough but it is a start. Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

There have been a lot of single steps over the last few years and enough movement to show progress. Progress is not full success and there is a lot more to be done. The only way to move forward to be more responsive to the collector is for collectors to become part of the solution. Collectors should be encouraged to run for the Board of Governors. If you cannot run for the Board, try doing something on a volunteer basis. Work to make your local club successful because sometimes, one of the best solutions is to resolve the issues from the bottom up.

Come in with an agenda. Know what you want to see happen. In fact, if I should ever run again for the Board of Governors, here are some of the issues I would like to see addressed:

  1. Diversity. Face it, the vast majority of the ANA’s membership is white, male, and over the age of 50. The only time I have seen a diverse crowd at a show was at a FUN show. By diversity, I am also including women and younger people. The hobby has to start attracting a more diverse membership.
  2. Get Younger. While there are good Young Numismatist programs, they basically end when the YN graduates high school. The hobby needs to think about that gap when the YN drops the hobby for their life and picks it up again when they have their own YN to bring in. This is one area where the perceived elitism of the high-end dealers is hurting the hobby. We should be able to find some way to keep the YN interested all the way through their life without waiting for them to pick up their blue folders again when their kids become interested.
  3. Club Support. Numismatics is a hobby that can be built from the ground up. Part of that growth are the local clubs. More should be done to support local clubs. Ideas include meeting support where clubs that are getting staid can use the help to bring new ideas to their meetings; program support where the ANA can help arrange for speakers or support other programs that a club can use to highlight their meetings; and advertising support to help get the word out locally. There can also be a club program exchange portfolio where materials used by one club can be borrowed by another.
  4. Secondary and more accessible publications. Although I love the Numismatist, there is more information out there that needs to be publicized. For example, there used to be a YN journal. What happened to that? A YN journal needs to be brought back at least quarterly. Another idea is a monthly review of articles that appear in other journals. Nearly every regional and specialty organization has a newsletter, bulletin, or journal. Why not allow them to submit articles to be nationally featured?
  5. More Technology. Last, but not least, leverage the new technology to bring the ANA to the people. This is something I continually bring up with the Technology Committee, but I would like to see convention programs broadcast over the Internet and stored for later viewing. The technology exists to broadcast all of the Money Talks sessions and have it available for whenever someone wants to use it. In fact, those sessions can become part of the club support where instruction is given to the clubs how to use them during a meeting.

I appreciate Ronald Brown’s passion, but I think he needs to be a bit more realistic. This is not the federal government. Dealer’s should not be expected to make the Board of Governors a full-time job without compensation. But he does have a good point about creating more opportunities and adjusting policies for collectors. If he is not a candidate for the Board of Governors this time around, he should consider running in 2019. Maybe I will join him!

Looking for a numismatic job?

Looking for a job in numismatics? The the American Numismatic Association maybe can help. Earlier this month, the ANA launched an online job service. You can find the service at https://www.money.org/job-board.

The Job Board is open to everyone regardless of membership status. Although it would be nice if you were a member, non-members can visit the Job Board and look at the listings.

Employers looking to post a job can post jobs for free until June 30, 2017. After, listing created by members will cost $50.00 and non-members must pay $100.00.

Now that this resource exists, I would love to see jobs that do not require physical presence. For example, one of the job listings is for a Research Assistant. Does this person have to be located onsite? Can this person do research remotely? What about potential catalogers for auction catalogs, websites, and other documentation? Given the information, someone could do this writing remotely.

It is time that the numismatic industry tries to look for ways to expand its ways of doing business and think about how work can be done by hiring someone who can do the work but is not sitting in your office? Even the federal government utilizes telework when it can.

I know that some jobs cannot be done remotely like someone who can take pictures of the items for a catalog or website. But once the inventory is imaged, does the person posting them to the website have to be sitting on your proverbial lap?

I can tell you from experience that telework can make the employee more productive. With the exception of the times I was involved in classified work, I would work from home 90-percent of the time. This included the ability to teleconference. There is a reason why online teleconference services like WebEx and GoToMeeting are popular with business. It is very effective and you do not have to be in the same location.

Sometimes, it is not possible to do everything remotely. That is why there are local employees. But face it, you can hire a part-time employee to take pictures and email the pictures along with the price to someone that will post them on your website and social media.

Now that we have this resource, it is time for the numismatic industry to consider how they can better engage the broader community.

BTW: Has any dealer thought about contracting someone in another area of the country to bring your inventory to a show you would not normally attend? Maybe, if two-or-three dealers want to try this, I may be talked into setting up a booth at the Whitman Show in Baltimore. It is another outlet to market your inventory. Send me a note if you think that this could work and we can discuss details.

Image courtesy of the ANA.

About running for the ANA Board of Governors

In January, I reacted to the intent of one of the candidates announced to run for President of the American Numismatic Association. Since then, I learned there will be competition for that position. Last week, it was reported that Don Kagin will run for Vice President and the various numismatic outlets have been reporting on others interested in making a run for the ANA Board of Governors.

While reading the stories of the people who announced their intention of running for the Board of Governors, I have to admit that I do not recognize any of them. But that is great. It means that there are people who are working more on a local level to apply their knowledge nationally. It also means that there are new people to give the Board new life. I applaud those who have stepped up to run.

Since my missives about the ANA Board of Governors, I have heard from several members urging me to run. It is both humbling and an honor to hear from these members offering their support. Following a few conversations with past Board members and my family, I have decided not to run for the Board of Governors.

Although I remain committed to the mission of the ANA and would like to see the ANA expand to be more inclusive to every demographic other that old, white men, my decision is based simply on timing. I was presented with a business opportunity that will take a significant amount of my personal effort to launch, especially since the opportunity is based on my vision. It would not be possible start a business venture and appropriately serve the ANA at the same time.

Because of conflicts with my business venture, I will not be able to attend the National Money Show in March. This is too bad because I had a plan to use Mickey Mouse ears get attention and talk about the Board of Governors on the bourse floor!

For now, I will continue to serve on the Technical Committee as long as the President, Board, and the committee will allow me. I will also continue to write this blog and include any information and criticism necessary to further the mission of the ANA.

About running for the ANA Presidency…

In my blog post “About the ANA Presidency” I said that I would challenge Mike Ellis for the position.While researching what was required to run for President of the American Numismatic Association I discovered that, according to the ANA Bylaws, I would have to have served on the Board of Governors at least one term. Since I ran unsuccessfully in 2013, I am not eligible to run for ANA President.

NEWS UPDATE

I learned that Gary Adkins has announced he will be running for President of the ANA. Having worked with Gary as part of my participation with the Technology Committee, I believe that Gary is looking to improve on the work that has been done that has gone into fixing the ANA. He will not be looking for an unnecessary “fresh start!” While I applaud Gary’s decision to run, it will not affect my decision.

The decision to attempt to run for an ANA office is not made lightly. I continue to believe that Ellis is not the right person to be president of the ANA, especially since he wants a “fresh start.” A fresh start from what, the progress over the last few years from the turmoil and lawsuits that he is a likely contributor?

One of the problems with the governance of the ANA is that there are too many dealers and too many selfish people who run for the Board with a personal agenda and not an agenda that benefits the organization. I have nothing against dealers but I do not think they should dominate ANA governance. As for the others, some who say that are interested in the ANA’s well-being have agendas that are not broad enough to progress in a new environment.

Since my blog post I have heard from dozens of members supporting my decision to run. I am very flattered. Their words of encouragement and support has me thinking about running for the Board of Governors. If I make that run, I will be the voice for the average collector while considering what is necessary to keep the entire association from succumbing to the whims of a potential leader with an agenda that does not coincide with the ANA’s progress and goals.

When the decision is made, I will let you know!

About the ANA Presidency

Mike Ellis

I was reading Dave Harper’s recent blog post on the Numismatic News website and learned that Mike Ellis announced that he intends to run for president of the American Numismatic Association.

Last we heard from Ellis, he resigned from the Board of Governors during the time the ANA was attempting to reach a settlement with former ANA Executive Director Larry Shepherd. According to the quote from ANA President Walt Ostromecki, “[Mike] realized he had made a mistake and chose to step down from the board.”

Not so fast…. Mike made more than just a mistake. In my previous reporting on the matter, I wrote:

A source speaking on the condition of anonymity as reported that Ellis allegedly had worked behind the scenes against Shepherd to rally ANA employees to work against Shepherd in order to create a hostile working environment for Shepherd. The move was allegedly designed to make Shepherd look incompetent in order to get him fired.

According to my notes, following that blog post I was contacted by another source that not only confirmed the story but also said that Ellis did the same thing against Jeff Shevlin.

It has been confirmed by another source that Ellis was approached by the Executive Committee and ANA General Counsel Hollie Wieland about these allegations. The source said that Ellis was presented with evidence of contact with ANA staff which is a violation of ANA policy. Ellis agreed to resign from the ANA Board of Governors rather than face the scrutiny of damaging testimony that would occur during depositions. This opened the door for a settlement with Shepherd.

Although this has been reported in the past it is important to bring all facts to light since Ellis has declared his candidacy to be President of the ANA.

As part of Harper’s reporting, Ellis “objects to the role of the present legal counsel. He wants a new one.” Ellis claims, “She’s making a killing off us breathing down our neck 24/7.”

I have met and spoken with Wieland in the past (not recently). She is an attorney with an attorney’s attitude toward her client, the ANA. While there is not a lot of collective like for attorneys, I am not aware of any problems that she has created for the ANA. In fact, her ability to help unwind the ANA from the legal troubles that Ellis was likely a contributor says more about her competence.

When Ellis cites his troubles with the ANA, he mentions problems with Wieland. Given his history, there is little doubt of his contempt. However, it does not appear to be shared by the rest of the ANA.

Because of his past transgressions while a member of the Board of Governors that required his resignation, Mike Ellis should never be president of the ANA!

I had thought that current Vice President Gary Adkins would run for the president’s position. Adkins has said that he may run but has not decided. While I think Gary Adkins would make a great president for the ANA, something has to be done now.

Therefore, I am preparing to run for President of the American Numismatic Association. Although there are members more qualified than I am, I am more qualified than Ellis especially in the area of ethics and temperament. Should a more qualified candidate submit their paperwork to run for ANA President, I will withdraw from the race.

Image courtesy of Numismatic News.

Is numismatics really dying as a hobby?

Coin CollectionAlthough I owe you my impressions of the U.S. Mint’s Numismatic Forum, giving it the proper treatment I think it deserves has taken longer than expected. Rather, let me jump ahead to a recurring theme that takes over the conversation on the state of the hobby: Numismatics is a dying hobby of the old.

MYTH: Electronic transactions have taken over and hard currency is being used less.

FACT: Electronic transactions make up only 13-percent of retail purchases in the United States and 7.1-percent worldwide. Although the pundits like to point out that trillions of dollars change hands electronically, this includes non-consumer-related transactions such as bank transfers from one account to the other using the Automated Clearing House (ACH). If your paycheck is deposited directly into your account, it is transferred using the ACH system.

In real money, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the total costs for all goods and services, to be $18,561,934,000,000 ($18.561 trillion). If 13-percent of that is electronic retail purchases, that means that $2,413,051,420,000 ($2.413 trillion) is made not using cash. What about the other $16.1 trillion dollars?

WMATA Smartrip CardDepending on which report you read, electronic transactions should grow at a rate of 8-10 percent annually. Even if the U.S. GDP is on a pace to grow by only 1.4-percent, adding about $250 billion in electronic transactions will not make a significant dent in the rate of electronic transactions.

Of course, the U.S. are not spending $16 trillion in cash transactions, but both the U.S. Mint and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing are on course for record production years. Year-to-date, the U.S. Mint has produced $870,133,500 in circulating coins (not including half-dollar, dollar, and commemorative coins). For Fiscal Year 2015 (October 2014-September 2015) the BEP produced $166,302,000,000 ($166.302 trillion) in currency (not including $2 notes). Although some of the currency does replace worn notes (the BEP reports that 90-percent of $1 notes replace damaged notes) and a significant portion of the $100 notes are shipped to banks overseas, which represents quite a number of transactions.

Although electronic payment options make up 13-percent of all cashless transactions you have to remember that this market barely existed a few years ago. Even as banks and large retailers push to increase the number cashless transaction, there are problems that society faces when moving to a cashless retail system. The biggest problem is one of scale. The United States makes more money, spends more money, trades more money, and has more economic impact than any other country in the world. It is the world’s single largest economy with a strong capitalistic culture where most of the commerce is done with small businesses. Amongst all business, 55-percent of retail merchants are cash-only enterprises. They are too small to consider paying the 3-to-5 percent fees for using a credit card, known as the “swipe fee.” Of those that do take credit cards, at least 36-percent require a minimum purchase.

MYTH: The sharing economy is turning the economic world upside down changing the way we will pay for goods and services.

Sharing EconomyFACT: Human beings have been sharing and trading goods and services from the dawn of time. You killed an ox and have the hide left over. I have a lot of fruit I picked that I cannot eat. I will give you an amount of fruit and you give me the hide. Money was created as a medium of exchange when I did not want your fruit but wanted some of the goods someone else had. It was the pre-historic version of the three-way trade.

Some of us grew up trading. I remember trading a Mickey Mantle baseball card for a Jerry Koosman and two Donn Clendenon cards —one from Houston and the other from Montreal, just after the Mets traded for Clendenon. I thought I gave the kid a deal because 1969 turned out to be Mantle ’s last year.

What has changed since I made the trade? There has been a tremendous change in technology. While we set the price for the baseball cards we traded, now there are price guides, electronic markets, auctions, and online trading sites. Even in other categories, you might place a classified ad in a newspaper or an advertising rag like PennySaver or something like Uncle Henry’s in Maine. Now there are sites like Craigslist, AirBnB, Uber and Lyft that expands the market.

Pundits like to point to the sharing economy’s growth. The problem with the reports is that this version of the sharing economy has gone from nothing to something with a lot of press coverage. Anytime there is something shiny and new it grabs the attention of the public before they move on to the next distraction.

We share numismatics all of the time. We go to shows and display our collections for competitions. We enter registry sets to try to create a nice collection or even worst collection with the advent of “low ball” sets of coins of very low grades. We blog and read about other’s collections. We post finds to public forums and sometimes bring our collections to show off at club meetings.

Sometimes we even trade. Have you traded a few Barber dimes for a Barber half because you needed the half for your collection? How about three Morgan dollars for an elusive 1921-S Walking Liberty half-dollar?

The only difference between this and the new sharing economy is the lack of computer interface. Sometimes that human interaction is more fun than hiding behind a screen.

MYTH: People, especially millennials are not interested in collecting anything.

New Zealand Mint produces Monopoly coins for the Island nation of Niue. Did you pass Go?

New Zealand Mint produces Monopoly coins for the Island nation of Niue. Did you pass Go?

FACT: The Hobby and Toy industry is estimated to be a $20 billion business with an estimated growth of 1.6-percent over 2015. Not all of the emphasis is on electronic games and gadgets. One study found that more money is pledged for projects on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter than any other category.

One of the fastest growing sectors of this market is board games. While some games do incorporate electronics into their play, this new generation of gamers is finding that social gaming can be as much fun as their online endeavors.

Numismatics has never been a welcoming hobby for the mid-to-lower level collector. Dealers who are older may have a difficult time relating to younger and, frankly, a non-white demographic (see my post about one such incident here). It has created a culture of cranky older Caucasian collectors who think that their way is the only way to collect.

It is not just the dealers. Mainstream publishers put a lot of effort into creating references and collecting supplies that satisfy the market as being pushed by the dealers. Even worse, while the American Numismatic Association does recognize other aspects of numismatics, the fact that most of the Board of Governors are in the coin business with years of experiences in the coin business, that becomes the focus of the ANA.

It is time for the industry and its representative organization, the ANA, to remember that numismatics is more than coins. Currency, exonumia, scripophily, and even military medals are all part of numismatics. Concentrating on coins, especially coverage of high-value sales scares off many novices who may be willing to look at coins as a hobby. When I go out to schools in the Washington, D.C. metro area, I will bring enough Metro (the local transit system) tokens for everyone in the class. After buying a bulk bag of tokens, I have plenty to give away along with the story of how they were once used. But it allows me to show the students that numismatics is more than coins. I explain how I sit at junk boxes and at the tables of token dealers to find items from my hometown of New York. When I show them four pages of 2x2s with tokens and medals from New York and say that in three years I may have spent as much as $200, they seem to understand that you can have fun without spending a lot of money.

MYTH: We lost those who collected the state quarters forever.

State QuartersFACT: We also retained a lot of those collectors. Unfortunately, we damaged many others.

What made the state quarter program popular was that the way it was administered made everyone a stakeholder. Rather than dictating the design, states were encouraged to allow public participation to help decide on their quarter’s design. Contests and state pride went into the quarters that allowed each state to celebrate their home state. Ordinary people were brought into the process and ceremonies held in each state announcing the designs and on the release of the quarters.

Of course, the state quarters were also the hobby’s demise as television hucksters sold overpriced junk surrounding the sets. Colored coins and “special” sets were sold at high prices with the hint that they would only increase in value. When these people tried to cash in on their “investment” they found they overpaid, became angry, and may not come back. During this time, the ANA was nearly non-existent in the education process as it was undergoing its own internal political battles. Without someone to help stand up for the hobby to help educate the public, the industry suffered.

Although the ANA has improved in many areas, it continues to be about coins with a slant toward classic (pre-1965) and rare coins. The only modern coins that seem to get any amount of respect from the community are commemoratives, bullion, and errors. With the so-called modern era being 52 years old, it is time for the old and crusty of the numismatics industry to either get on board with that it is new to the new collectors or maybe it is time to consider retirement.

The lesson I have learned in numismatics as well in my business of buying and selling collectibles is that in order to expand any hobby it has to be made into something personal. Sports collectibles sell memories of your heroes. Space collectibles sell the mystique of outer space. Automobilia seems to have a fascination for a lot of people even as what was considered modern nameplates like Plymouth and Pontiac have gone the way of DeSoto and American Motors.

Hobbies have to also be interesting. Is it really interesting to collect a series of all of the same coins where the only difference is the date or mintmark? Again, why does a collection have to be biased for coins? Can someone have fun collecting So-called dollars, transportation tokens, or even unusual coins? I think about how much fun Charmy Harker might have had to put together her award-winning exhibit Penny Potpourri with things made out of pennies. If you have not seen her exhibit, you can find images here. It has to be one of the best exhibits I have ever seen because it is unusual. I like things that are different.

In order to get people interested in the hobby, you cannot introduce it to them by showing a 1909-S VDB Lincoln cent or a 1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo nickel as an example. Not only are these coins difficult to find and less affordable, but not everyone may be interested. I like to use my two-pages of 2×2 holders with a set of transportation tokens with every letter of the alphabet cut out of the center, except “Q” and “Z,” along with some that have shapes. When I tell someone I paid around $50 for the initial investment and can buy most tokens for less than $5 each, they want to know how they could get started.

Here are some ideas to help you start a new collection. You can only use these if you do so by recruiting a friend or relative who is not currently part of the hobby:

  • If you want to start with coins, go find a folder of currently circulating coins and see who can fill their folder first only from pocket change. I recommend either Lincoln Memorial cents, which can be interesting finding S-mint circulating cents on the east coast, or Jefferson nickels (for fun, use Whitman Jefferson Nickel folder #2).
  • Another idea for collecting coins is to make a collection based on a theme. Ideas for themes can be the year you were born, coins with an animal like buffalos, or create a type set that represents some of the subtle changes in a long series like Lincoln cents.
  • There are more to exonumia than transportation tokens. If your state issued tax tokens in the early part of the 20th century then how about finding examples for a collection. Tokens are still being created for gaming, casino chips, parking tokens, or store tokens the pre-cursor to paper coupons. Advertising tokens can be a fun way to collect your hometown. Tokens with themes, shapes, and cutouts can be a lot of fun.
  • Go beyond tokens to encased coins. Encased coins have been used as a private commemorative, advertising, and I even found one for an electric supply company that promised money off if you returned it to their store.
  • You can collect elongated cents, also called squished pennies, from almost anywhere. Recently, I found a machine in the Philadelphia Mint’s gift shop. For 51-cents, each I was able to buy two souvenirs. Collecting elongateds also helps you keep the record of where you have been.

And I didn’t mention currency or scripophily. One cool idea would be to collect stock certificates representing what you might find on a Monopoly game board.

If you have other suggestions, send it as a comment!

Now go out and start a collection. Recruit a friend and do it together.

Selection of my New York collection

Credits

125 Year Celebration

Dr. George HeathIt has been 125 years since Michigan physicist Dr. George Heath founded the American Numismatic Association in 1891. Heath, who operated a coin business on the side, began this journey by publishing his own magazine in 1888 called The Numismatist. He used the magazine as a call to other collectors to create the ANA.

The ANA will celebrate this milestone at the upcoming World’s Fair of Money. In an interesting coincidence, or maybe planning, the celebration will be help practically next door to the place called “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Irrespective of whatever issues anyone sees or perceives with regard to the ANA, you have to admit that an organization like the ANA to survive 125 years is pretty amazing.

If you are interested in a long-form history of the ANA, I recommend reading “125 Years of Collecting with the American Numismatic Association” written by Q. David Bowers. It is not a quick read, but 125 years of history was not easy to create. The current page is in seven parts with an eighth promised for next month. There is no indication if that will be the last part. Still, it is a recommended article.

Currently, if you become an ANA member or renew your membership for 3 years or donate $125, you can receive a 2016 American Silver Eagle graded MS-69 by Numismatic Guarantee Corporation with a special Anniversary Label. I there is a limit of 2,500 coins. If you become a life member or donate $500, you can receive one graded MS-70. There is a 250 limit on the higher graded coins.

There was also a set of coins created for the National Money Show with a special label. There was a renewal opportunity that allowed existing ANA members to renew and receive their coin with the National Money Show label. These were coins left over from the show in Dallas.

Not only did I take advantage of the renewal offer but added a donation to receive both versions of the coin in MS-65. Although I do not collect grading service labels, this was an opportunity to support the ANA. There may be a limited number of coins left. If you are not a member, you may want to consider joining. If you are a member, either consider a three-year renewal or donate $125 to help the ANA. I believe it is a good cause!

Image of Dr. George Heath courtesy of the ANA.

Time for Virtual Coin Shows

2016 ANA World's Fair of MoneyI received a note in my email from the American Numismatic Association asking for members to propose a Money Talks session at the World’s Fair of Money in August. Although I have several ideas for a Money Talks session, I will not propose a talk because I may not be able to attend the show.

Later in the list of incoming email was a note telling me that I can register online for Summer Seminar. I have wanted to attend the classes in Summer Seminar for some time. In this case, the problem is timing since it always is held at the end of June or the beginning of July, the change of a fiscal quarter.

I know that the ANA has to create a schedule that suits the greater organization and includes the availability of facilities for these events but there are some of us who will be left out because of scheduling conflicts.

There are also the travel issues. Aside the expense of travelling to Anaheim or Colorado Springs, there are people who cannot travel because of time, economics, or physical limitations.

Now is the time for the ANA and any other organizations that provides educational sessions to consider adding online access to their shows.

Anyone who has visited the new money.org has seen that the ANA has revamped the site and the services to be modern, flexible, and has new resources that were not available years ago. It supports a vibrant community and provides new resources.

webinarNow it is time to take the next step: Live coverage of shows, the broadcast of courses and lectures, and virtualize the conventions.

There are technologies that can help support the bringing the lectures, courses, and other activities to an online community. There are a number of web-based conferencing system that requires a minimal amount of technology to broadcast these activities to collectors everywhere.

This can also be employed for other shows. Convention centers, hotel conference rooms, and other venues are almost all connected.

I recognize that there are some courses that cannot be taught in this manner. Classes that require physical access to materials, such as coin grading, will have a difficult time in this environment. However, a grading “light” class using high quality images to show the differences on the screen can be taught.

In other words, instructors would have to rethink their approach to some of these classes.

Virtual shows cannot replace the advantages of being there. I like the ability to see and talk with the people and dealers; looking through some of the more esoteric numismatic items like medals and tokens; or just walking by a table to find something interesting and unexpected you would not find online.

Virtual shows can be recorded, stored, and enjoyed for some time to come. Classes and talks becomes long term references for the community and can be used to help promote future shows.

Although the ANA does have some recording of the Money Talks lectures its available after the fact at the will of the commercial organization that is providing the recording services. Not only should these videos be made available to members but should be broadcast live. If they are broadcast using web-based conferencing software, the online audience can participate.

Numismatics has the problem of being too young to have influence or too old to adapt to the new ways of the world. Moving more to online access will help bring in the that Lost Generation between those being a Young Numismatist and us older collectors

Looking at the demographics of the hobby’s future the first wave of the GenXers are now becoming AARP eligible with their children, the Millennials, 20 years away from being regular participants. Why not meet them where they hangout: online! Not only will virtual shows help those of us with travel and time restrictions but will attract new members.

Growing the hobby is like growing a business; you have to look at what your target market’s demographics are and figure out how to reach them. For hobbies like numismatics, the new target is online where the current generation is moving and where the next few generations will be. Not adapting to those new markets will hurt the numismatic market in a way that it may not recover.

Panorama of the 2013 National Money Show bourse floor at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans

Panorama of the 2013 National Money Show bourse floor at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans

Credits

Thank you, Jake!

Jake Sherlock

Jake Sherlock

Just before the World’s Fair of Money, I learned that Jake Sherlock was leaving the ANA Headquarters to take his talents to a new level. You might have seen Jake at the National Money Show or World’s Fair of Money working to help the ANA run those shows smoothly. But Jake has been behind the scenes working to help the ANA keep in touch with its members.

After years of complaining about the technology and communications that the ANA was not doing, I was asked to join the committee where I met Jake and learn what he was doing for the members from Colorado Springs. Even though it looked like the ANA was not doing a good job with communications, it was Jake keeping together what the ANA was doing!

Jake is not a computer person. He said that his background is in communications and public relations. But in that job, he was put in charge of the website. He was not a computer person in the way that someone like me has had an over 30 year career in computers. Jake was given the job because he was there and probably could spell “computer” faster than any other person.

Considering what the Technology Committee found when we began to look at what was available in Colorado Spring, the job Jake had done in keeping those systems together were nothing short of amazing! Even though the site had problems (not his fault) and various attempts to fix it had problems (definitely not his fault) and the pain in trying to provide extended web-based services was a bit disconnected (absolutely not his fault), you would never know that Jake’s first job was not in computers.

While a lot of people have helped with the transition to the new ANA website, Jake has to be singled out for knowing and understanding the processes that helped integrate the new services with the ANA headquarters. I am sure that some will point out the bumps in the road during the initial transition, it went a lot smoother than other integration efforts that I have been involved with in my long career in the computer business. I believe that everyone involved with the transition will credit Jake with success of the transition.

I would like to thank Jake Sherlock for his service to the ANA and hope he is successful in this next step in his career!

Image from Jake’s LinkedIn page

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