Anyone who has followed the issues at the American Numismatic Association over the last few years does not have to be told that the organization has had its share of problems. While the economic problems appear to be settled for now, the ANA continues to have issues that have not been addressed by the current or previous Boards of Governors.

Recently, Dr. Lawrence J. Lee, the former director of the ANA Money Museum in Colorado Springs had an opinion piece published in CoinWorld basically saying that the ANA should be reorganized around the museum.

“What I find is that most people confuse the ANA organization, its structure and goals and board members and all of their ‘stuff,’ with the ANA Money Museum, as if they were one and the same,” writes Lee. “If only they were. One is the dog. One is the tail. The problem is that for many years the tail has been wagging the dog.”

With all due respect to Dr. Lee, the ANA is more than the Money Museum. The ANA is an association of collectors of all types and dealers of all sizes for the sole purpose of perpetuating and promoting numismatics as a hobby, investment, and business. To support its members, the ANA provides many services that members can use to enhance their collecting pursuits and enjoyment of numismatics. Along with the Edward C. Rochette Money Museum, the ANA publishes The Numismatist monthly, offers education through the Florence Schook School of Numismatics, provides research materials through the Dwight N. Manley Numismatic Library, and the offering of other group benefits available to all members.

In short, the ANA is, and should be, a comprehensive organization that should be focused on education where the Money Museum is only one attraction of the resources provided to its members and the communities it touches.

Lee, who worked with Executive Director Edward Rochette “to increase the level of professionalism at the museum” so that the Money Museum could be accredited by the American Association of Museums (AAM) and become a leader in numismatic exhibitions. However, even Lee admits that in order to become AAM accredited, the association must be reorganized around the Money Museum:

In an AAM model, most departments at the ANA that are now separate would be placed under the museum. Without doubt, the education functions of the ANA should already be under the museum, not a separate department. The same is true of the gift shop, the magazine and membership. Basically only the convention department should be a separate entity. The library should be co-equal to the museum as a repository of objects in a collection.

While the Money Museum is an important benefit of the ANA, it is not the reason for the ANA’s existence.

If the ANA were to follow Lee’s recommendation, the ANA’s charter and by-laws would require it being amended to include a diverse mix that would include those from academia and other nonprofit organizations while diminishing the role of coin dealers. While Lee appropriately notes that most Board members are from the for-profit world and try to manage a nonprofit with that mindset, it is the Board that the membership elected to run their organization.

The ANA and the Board of Governors has its problems. It needs strong leaders who can professionally lead a nonprofit and develop a cohesive professional organization in Colorado Springs that could run the organization without the micromanagement from the Board. The Board should be structured in a manner that would best represent all its members while providing the professionals in the Colorado Springs headquarters the support they deserve—including professional development, which seems to be lacking for the ANA’s professional staff.

Lee suggests that the library and museum should be staffed with properly educated and trained professionals, it would help the current staff maintain these jewels in the ANA’s crown for the benefit of its members.

“The ANA coin collection is more than the sum total of all of its individual coins,” writes Lee. But the ANA is more than the sum total of all of its assets and should not be defined in the terms of those assets.

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