It’s election time

By now, American Numismatic Association members should have received their paper ballot or the email saying the electronic ballot is available.

Now is the time for all good members to vote for the sake of the association.

Thankfully, the state of the ANA is calmer than in the past. Finances are stable, lawsuits have been settled, upheaval in Colorado Springs has settled, and the ANA has a technology platform it could be proud of. I happy to have been a part of the technology upgrade process that made a liar out of a current member of the Board of Governors.

Both Tom Hallenbeck and Walt Ostromecki have done well as the last two presidents leading the ANA out of its problems. What I know about Jeff Garrett, the ANA should be in good hands. But that does not mean the rest of the Board of Governors can be ignored. As we have seen, there are good reasons to choose wisely.

Endorsements

Jeff Garrett is running unopposed for president and Gary Adkins is unopposed for vice president. Both are good people and will provide great leadership for the ANA. While I have no objections to either holding these respective offices, I wish they did have some competition. It has been a while since there have been choices for these offices.

Since the ANA Board of Governors includes the two executive offices and seven governors, it is my preference to see a turnover where new people have a significant presence over members who are being re-elected or have been governors in the past. New people come with new ideas. Keeping the ideas fresh with a tie to the past is the best way to go.

With Garrett and Adkins running unopposed from the current board, I will only endorse one member of the current board for re-election. To continue with the current leadership, I am endorsing Tom Mulvaney to return as Governors.

There are a lot of reasons to endorse every member who is not a governor for the four other positions. Each has their strengths, weaknesses, positives, and negatives. But when looking at the list of candidates, three jump out at me with different backgrounds who I think would be good to have as a member of the Board of Governors. These people are (in alphabetical order): Steve D’Ippolito, Richard Jozefiak, and Oded Paz. I have either met all three or met people who have wonderful things to say about them. All are worthy of an endorsement.

Christopher Marchase will be my last endorsement. I have not met Mr. Marchase and all I know of him comes from his online statement. But his online statement begins, “I believe the future of the ANA is the millennials and the young numismatists…” then talks about expanding the ANA online presence and expanding its technology. As a member of the Technology Committee, I am in violent agreement with everything he said in his first paragraph. How I could not endorse someone like this!

As you noticed, I did not endorse seven Board of Governor candidates. Although I filled out a complete ballot, I do not feel strongly in favor or against the other candidates.

Why I did not run again

Over the last three years working with the Technical Committee, I have learned a lot about how the ANA works and think I could make a difference. But as my regular readers have noticed, the amount of writing has declined. This is because I started a new business, Having-Fun Collectibles. Having-Fun is all about having fun collecting. We deal in collectibles of all types—all the fun items that remind you of yesterday. Having-Fun is on eBay and The Antique Center in Historic Savage Mill (Savage, Maryland). Starting a business takes a lot of effort and requires my personal attention that prevents me from committing the time necessary to be an effective Governor.

I am also proud of the work that the ANA Technical Committee has done in moving the ANA forward with using technology to create more outreach opportunities. The upgrade and moving forward of technology in support of the ANA’s mission was my primary platform. Now that the platform is there, the priority should change to expanding programs using the technology to create outreach to younger collectors.

The ANA continues to have issues that have yet to be addressed including personnel matters, highlighted by the transition of five executive directors in 15 years, and two lawsuits with the second recently settled. The next board must address these issues and ensure a level of management that may still be lacking.

I will continue to write about my numismatic experiences here and hope to return as an active member as soon as business allows.

ANA Settles with Shepherd

Larry Shepherd in 2014

Larry Shepherd in 2014

The American Numismatic Association announced that they have reached a settlement with former ANA Executive Director Larry Shepherd. Shepherd was fired by the ANA Board of Governors in September 2011 that resulted in a contentious back-and-forth with the Board of that time.

In June 2013, Shepherd filed a lawsuit claiming that the ANA violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) laws alleging that the ANA has committed are racketeering, theft, and fraud. Shepherd also alleged that a few employees of the ANA and members of the Board of Governors made up stories about Shepherd in order to find a way to relieve him of his duties for cause so they can invalidate his contract

Early in January, Mike Ellis resigned from the Board of Governors while the ANA continued to wrestle with this lawsuit. As part of the reporting, ANA President Walt Ostromecki was quoted as saying, “He realized he had made a mistake and chose to step down from the board.”

Mike Ellis

Mike Ellis

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.

The source was not sure whether Ellis initiated this or it was initiated by the ANA employees involved, but it was alleged that Ellis was the ring-leader from the Board’s perspective. It was also alleged that while Ellis was the most active it was suspected that other members of the Board had knowledge of his actions.

The same source also alleged that Ellis participated in creating the environment that caused Shepherd’s successor, Jeff Shevlin, to be fired using the same approach.

According to the source, the crux of the issue is that there allegedly was a faction at the ANA Colorado Springs Headquarters who did not want to work. Both Shepherd and Shevlin tried to reorganize the headquarters staff in order to create efficiencies that were not met with positive reactions. While the list of allegations were pretty comprehensive, it included claims that employees worked flexible hours against workplace policies, abused other workplace policies, and used ANA equipment for personal business including for outside income.

Ellis was only part of the problem. If the source is true, there are employees in Colorado Springs that should be disciplined for their part in creating the hostile environment for both Shepherd and Shevlin. We may never know what changes will be made in Colorado Springs because of both federal and Colorado employment privacy laws. However, the ANA Board of Governors should be open with the membership regarding how they are dealing with the ANA permanent employees.

While it appears the situation has settled with Kim Kiick as the Executive Director, the ANA has over 20 years of problems with Executive Directors. Maybe it is time for operations at the ANA Headquarters be revamped into a more professional organization with workplace rules and policies rather than being a club where people get paid.

Larry Shepherd image courtesy SIMCO Numismatics as published on YouTube.
Mike Ellis image courtesy of Numismatic News.

2014 Trick or Treat

Hobo Ike and JeffersonIt has been a few years since I did an All-Hallows-Eve numismatic trick-or-treat that it seems like a good time to do add one. Here are my numismatic tricks and treats for this past year.

Girl Scouts need a values adustment

TRICK: It was announced in January that the 2013 Girl Scouts commemorative coin did not generate enough sales for the U.S. Mint to provide a payout of seignorage. This is the first time this has happened. Part of the problem was that the Girl Scouts are stuck in the 1950s mindset that does not see collecting coins as a girl’s hobby. Although values are important, this shows that he Girl Scouts’ values are behind the times and will not be the catalyst behind helping expand the hobby. They should be ashamed for contributing to this failure.

ANA Willfully Gives up its Premier Status

TRICK:The Professional Numismatists Guild and the American Numismatic Association announced in January that “the first” PNG-ANA Numismatic Trade Show the weekend prior to the 2014 World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont that it will be open to the public. While making it sound exciting it made the entire show 8-days long. This was a bad move because of the length and because it makes the ANA play second to PNG. If the ANA wants to be the premier numismatic organization, the one that anyone wanting to learn about and be about numismatics, The ANA should not play second fiddle to any other organization.

There are coin treats!

TREAT:In creating a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Kenney half-dollar, the U.S. Mint has made a coin that is not really circulated into something interesting for the collector. The dual-dated gold coin became an instant hit before the price of gold dropped and the silver sets are reportedly selling well. This was a good move by the U.S. Mint.

TREAT:For the most part, commemorative coins are sales do not meet expectation. While there are a few exceptions like 2005 Marine Corps 230th Anniversary silver dollar, most commemoratives do not come close to their maximum mintage. But the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemoratives appear to have hit a home run. The combination of the subject and the curve of the coin may be a significant factor in the coin’s success. The $5 gold and silver dollar coins are both sold out. There are some of the clad half-dollars available.

TREAT:Speaking of cool stories, what about the Saddle Ridge Hoard? After a couple found the hoard of gold coins while walking their dog, it spawned an interest in metal detectors and searching for buried treasure. It was such an amazing story that it even found its way into the national news cycle. But like everything else, another shiny story diverted the media’s attention and the coins went on sale to the general public on Amazon.com.

Not all coins are treats

TRICK: Colored and coins with gimmicks are proliferating in the market. So far, the U.S. Mint and the Royal Mint are resisting colored and other gimmicks while the Royal Candian Mint and New Zealand Mint are at a race to the bottom for gimmick coins.

Numsimatics and technology

TREAT: The ANA launched its new website with new technology ready for growth on time and under budget. This is the website that ANA Governor Laura Sperber said, “I can’t wait to see what a disaster the ANA new web site will be.” So far, there has not been a follow up from Sperber while the new site has been a success.

TREAT: More recently, the U.S. Mint had a great launch to their new website. After years of frustration with the online ordering of what would be popular items, the new site handled the launch of the 50th Anniversary Kennedy 2014 Half-Dollar Silver Coin Collection with no issues.

Failure to launch

TRICK: The U.S. Mint launched the Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coin at the Whitman Show in March not anticipating its popularity with fewer coins that there was a demand. It was as if the U.S. Mint had a blind spot with how popular this coin would be.

TRICK: The dealers who paid less than desireable people uninterested in anything other than a quick buck to mob the lines at the Denver Mint and the World’s Fair of Money. I continue to belive that their ethics must be questioned and appropriate actions taken by the ANA even though I do not think that will happen.

TREAT: With the drop in the price of gold, the current price of the gold Kennedy half-dollar tribute is less than what is was at launch. Teach these greedy dealers a lesson and buy the coins for less directly from the U.S. Mint!

U.S. Government hands out coal

TRICK: Because the U.S. Mint can only do what the laws that congress pass tells them they can do and congress is so dysfunctional they cannot even pass laws for issues they agree on, the United States was the only country involved with the Allies on D-Day NOT to issued a commemorative to honor the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

TRICK: In the name of political correctness, the State Department’s Cultural Property Advisory Committee (CPAC) continues to make it difficult for ancient coin collectors to participate in its hobby by allowing countries to ask the State Department to overreach on the enforcement on the Cultural Property Implementation Act. It is turning ancient coin collectors into criminals even for collecting common coins. Their actions are rediculous.

CCAC is the CCAC

TREAT: The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee suggested creating American Arts medals that will feature the artistic ability of the U.S. Mint’s artist.

TRICK: The arts medals are medals, not coins. Even with the beauty of medals like the 9/11 silver medal, it did not sell like coins would. In fact, it grossly under performed without raising significant sums for the 9/11 Memorial at the site of the Twin Towers in New York. But this is what the CCAC is face with because of congressional dysfunction (see above).

So goodbye everybody, and remember the terrible lesson you learned tonight. That grinning, glowing, globular invader of your living room is an inhabitant of the pumpkin patch, and if your doorbell rings and nobody’s there, that was no Martian… it’s Hallowe’en.
— Orson Welles, The War of the Worlds, CBS Radio, October 30, 1938

BOO!

Hobo Ike and Jefferson courtesy of Darth Morgan posted at Coin Community

No legislative report this month

United States MintWhen the calendar flips to August, my wife begins to complain about the humidity and wanting to go “home” to Maine where she grew up. For me, the kid from south Brooklyn, August begins the last push to the end of the federal government’s fiscal year. With congress out of town, many agencies stop worrying about policy shifts and prepare for the new fiscal year. August is the calm before the policy storms.

This year has been unusual in that the weather has been more moderate than usual and world events have changed the tenor for those of us who work for the federal government. These events are not limited to areas of conflict. Those of us working in computer security have noticed an uptick in online criminal activity beyond what you read in the headlines.

With nothing happening on Capitol Hill, let’s look at the news generated by the U.S. Mint.

Following the issues during the sales at all locations for the Kennedy Half-Dollar gold tribute coin, the U.S. Mint suspended sales early and will re-evaluate their process for over-the-counter sales of coins. Sources at the U.S. Mint were surprised with the reaction since there are no mintage limits on the coin.

Subsequently, American Numismatic Association Executive Director Kim Kiick announced that sales of newly released coins by the U.S. Mint would be suspended indefinitely because of security concerns.

As an interesting side note, the price of gold has dropped and is close to the price that would lower the purchase price if ordered from the U.S. Mint.

Later in the month, the U.S. Mint announced that the Philadelphia facility broke a single day production record by producing 42.44 million coins for circulation. They beat their previous record of 32.28 million coins set in October 2013. The U.S. Mint produced a total of 1.33 billion coins for circulation in July with more than half of those being produced in Philadelphia.

The branch mint in Philadelphia is the world’s largest coin factory. No other mint in the world can produce the number of coins that can be struck at Philadelphia. The second largest coin factory is the branch mint in Denver.

Record production is more than an accomplishment for the U.S. Mint. They are being struck to fulfill orders for circulating coins from the Federal Reserve. This means that the Fed needs the coins to place into circulation which is a good sign for the economy. If the economy was slower, as it was a few years ago, the demand for coins would have slowed to where the U.S. Mint would have to reduce production.

The U.S. Mint has hired Naxion Research of Philadelphia to poll customers “to share [their] insights on new U.S. Mint products for 2015.” Customers were chosen at random to participate. Those who ordered products from the U.S. Mint via their website were sent an email invitation to take the survey. A separate group who ordered products by the telephone or by mail order was sent a paper survey form.

Survey results are due by September 15, 2014 regardless of the format used.

ANA must examine ethics of dealers

From the raw video of people dashing across the street at the Denver Mint

From the raw video of people dashing across the street at the Denver Mint

As a member of the American Numismatic Association, I call on the ANA Board of Governors to open an investigation for the purpose of taking action regarding the violation of the ANA Code of Ethics by the dealers who caused the dangerous situations at the World’s Fair of Money, the Philadelphia Branch Mint, Denver Branch Mint, and the U.S. Mint Headquarters during the opening sale of 2014 50th Anniversary Kennedy Half-Dollar Gold Proof Coin.

The media reported that those waiting for to purchase the coins were not collectors. Most were being paid by dealers to be on the line in order to get around the U.S. Mint purchasing limits. As part of their attempt to game the system, these dealers put collectors and the general public in danger by handing large amount of cash to needy people who did not conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with the ANA Code of Ethics. Since those behaving badly were being paid by the dealers, they are representatives of the dealers, making the dealers responsible for the action of those they employ.

In case those dealers have forgotten, according to the ANA Code of Ethics:

As a member of the American Numismatic Association, I agree to comply with the following standards of conduct:

  • To conduct myself so as to bring no reproach or discredit to the Association, or impair the prestige of the membership therein.

This applies directly to the dealers whose action caused problems at the World’s Fair of Money. Since sales of the coin were made at the U.S. Mint’s booth on the bourse floor, this is a case where the dealers who participated in this discredited the Association by creating an environment that potentially jeopardized the security of the show. By putting the security in jeopardy and bringing this negative publicity to the World’s Fair of Money, the participating dealers impaired the prestige of the membership especially when they had to put the U.S. Mint and the ANA Executive Director in the position to have to act as a parent to dealers acting like impetuous children.

  • To base all of my dealings on the highest plane of justice, fairness and morality, and to refrain from making false statements as to the condition of a coin or as to any other matter.

Although the launch of the 2014 National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coin during the Whitman Baltimore Expo was a success, there was a feeling that the sales format did not give collectors a chance to purchase the coin. In order to promote the broader sales of the coin, the U.S. Mint adjusted its sales requirement to limit over-the-counter sales in order to give more collectors the opportunity to purchase the new Kennedy gold coin. How could the U.S. Mint or the ANA know that the sales of a coin that does not have any mintage limits would cause problems when the sales of a commemorative coin with mintage limits went without significant issue?

Unfortunately, the intent of the U.S. Mint was impeded by some dealer’s plane of justice by their action. By immorally trying to get around the U.S. Mint’s sales limits by using questionable methods to unfairly stack the line against the collector, the dealers were making false statements to a government entity, and thus the public it represents, as to their eligibility to purchase the coin.

The appalling images provided by Denver television news (see below) of the behavior of those described as homeless on behalf of the dealers trying to get around the sales limits not only is not only unjust to legitimate purchasers and immoral, but as ANA members discredits themselves as ANA members.

Therefore, I am accusing ALL of the ANA members who hired these people that acted on their behalf of the ANA dealers with violation of the ANA Code of Ethics. The ANA Board of Governors must take action to restore the organization’s credibility by suspending those involved as per the ANA Bylaws!

Images of the shameful display caused by ethically challenged and greedy dealers courtesy of ABC 7News Denver.

Report to ANA Board of Governors on new web service security

ANA Member Logo

I was not able to make it to Rosemont for the World’s Fair of Money but wanted to deliver a statement about the security of the new money.org website and service. The following was the statement I sent.
I apologize for not being with you in Rosemont to deliver this personally, but I wanted to send this quick report about the security of the new website and the systems that support the website.

Since joining the Technology Committee, my goal has been to ensure that the underlying architecture, the computers and network that connects them, is robust enough to support anything the ANA would want to do and to make sure that it is secure so that the ANA does not add itself to the list of recent attacks.

From the beginning of this project, many decisions were made that has lead to the system being designed in a way that could support anything the software can accomplish. A company with an excellent industry reputation hosts the physical computers. Also, the architecture of the computers, the way they are setup and connected to each other, is done in a way to allow for growth while being able to maintain security.

As someone who has been working in computer security for more than 25 years, it was important for me to make sure that not only my information was kept safe, but that of all ANA members were also protected. I am happy to report that the systems and software supporting the ANA website are properly hardened to resist attack.

I understand that there will be the ongoing question “is the site secure.” The problem is that there are threats out there that we do not know about, threats that have yet to be discovered or created, accidental mistakes, and errors that can cause problems. I can report that this system is designed to protect against known attacks, it is also design to catch many errors and repel as many potential attacks as possible.

In computer security, we work on identifying the risks and what it will take the mitigate them based on how confidential the data is, the integrity that has to be maintained, and how it is to be made available. One area of concern was the personally identifiable information, or PII, of member data including their login information and the credit cards they use with the ANA.

You might have read the news were it was reported that overseas hackers stole over one billion passwords throughout the Internet. I can report that the method they used to steal all those passwords will NOT work on the ANA’s website. Those same protections will help keep the PII of ANA members safe.

Another area of concern what the safety of member credit card information. To protect the confidentiality of the ANA member’s credit card information it is important to note that anytime the credit card information is communicated from one computer to another, it is encrypted using state-of-the-art encryption. After providing the ANA with the credit card and is processed, the services the ANA use to manage member information will not keep the credit card information. The credit card information is deleted and all that the ANA keeps is a transaction number that can be used to verify the payment with the credit card processor.

My family and friends know that when it comes to computer security, I am very paranoid. Many resisted doing certain online tasks like e-filing their taxes until I was satisfied with the security of the site. If a member was to ask me if I would use and trust the website as designed today, I would give it a hardy endorsement and say that I would register even if I was not a member of the Technology Committee. I am convinced everything was done to maintain the integrity of the membership information while keeping it confidential.

Finally, I would like to congratulate everyone on a job well done. Specifically, I would like to thank Jake Sherlock for delivering this message for me and congratulate him on a job well done. I also would like to send my highest commendation to Ann Rahn, the ANA’s project manager, who not only did a fantastic job herding the cats but also put up with the special quirks of the members of the Technology Committee. The next time I see them, I owe them a beverage of their choosing!

Thank you for allowing me to be part of this process.

Introducing the new money.org

money.org screenshotThe future of the American Numismatic Association began on Friday, August 1 with the launch of the new ANA website!

What are you talking about, the ANA has a website.

This is the NEW website with a new look and new technology.

But it’s the ANA, the website must be like putting lipstick on a pig.

No, it isn’t. The website is a complete re-engineering of the ANA online and digital assets to move the ANA into the present and position the organization for the future. First, the computers that the site is running on are no long in the headquarters in Colorado Springs. The new computers are located in a world-class data center run by Level 3 Communications, one of the leading service providers in the industry. Level 3 has an impeccable reputation for being able to manage computers and networks that anyone with a technical background working with the ANA on this project did not question this as the choice for the hosting of the new website.

Supporting the website is a new membership management system that the staff in Colorado Springs has reported as being easier to use and makes it easier to support the members. Rather than having to work around the problems and mistakes of the older software, the new software allows the ANA to update its procedures to better serve the members.

Finally, the website is supported by a new content management system (CMS) that makes it easier to add and change information as necessary. A CMS is the software stores the information you see in your browser and is served up to you on demand. CMS helps keep data in a way to allow it to be more easily managed so that it can be displayed in the browser in a way that will help you stay engaged.

While it looks like the ANA just changed the look of their website, everything about the ANA web presence has changed. It is a new service that will allow the ANA to introduce and engage more members as the world shifts to being online.

Yes, it looks nice, but are they introducing anything new?

Looking nice is important but it is only the beginning. The first application that has been rolled out is the social engagement features. There’s a place to post articles to share with the community, a forum to chat with other numismatists, and a place to show off your collection. There are also ways to interact with the ANA, pay your dues, and read the online version of The Numismatist.

Social media already exists and several forums where people can interact. What makes this so special?

First and foremost, rather than trying to interact with Internet trolls you will be interacting with fellow members of the ANA. While they may decide to participate using an alias, you can be assured that only ANA members will be allowed to register and us the ANA’s system.

So what’s the big deal? There are other sites with numismatic content.

Remember those commercials that touted “membership has its privileges,” this is only the beginning of what will be available exclusively to ANA members. One of the first socialization features is for contributors to earn “coins” or electronic awards for contributing to the numismatic community. Right now, the coins only provide ANA members bragging rights, but in the future, the coins will include potential prizes, discounts with ANA member establishments, and other incentives.

So the ANA has turned the website into a game?

The ANA has turned their website into a one that is more engaging for the membership and to attract new members. The world is moving online and in order for the ANA to serve all members, the ANA has to embrace and expand its online presence. The ANA Board of Governors’ goal is to make money.org be the numismatic hub of the community. The place to go where is anyone has a numismatic question, they can start with the country’s premier numismatic organization.

Well… it looks interesting. I’ll give it a look and see what happens.

I hope everyone gives it a look and provides feedback to the ANA. A lot of people really did a lot of work getting this first release completed on time and on budget. And not only that, the areas where the ANA holds and processes personal information was secure from the beginning because one of the site’s advisors (me) is an information security professional in real life. There was no way I was going to jeopardize my professional reputation by being involved with something known to have security problems. Besides, as an ANA member, they are storing my information and processing my credit card, too!

Everyone please go to money.org and interact with the website. Engage in the forums. Let us know what you think!

Will you buy the 24-karat gold Kennedy half dollar tribute coin?

U.S. Mint mock-up of the 24 karat gold 50th anniversary Kennedy half dollar

U.S. Mint mock-up of the 24 karat gold 50th anniversary Kennedy half dollar

The U.S. Mint announced that the 2014 50th Anniversary 24-karat gold Kennedy half-dollar tribute will go on sale to the public at the American Numismatic Association’s World’s Fair of Money being held in Rosemont, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago not far from O’Hare Airport) on August 5-9, 2014.

This will be the third time that the U.S. Mint has launched a gold coin at a coin show. Last year, the U.S. Mint sold out of the 2013 Reverse Proof 24-karat Gold Buffalo coin at the World’s Fair of Money. They received a secondary shipment which also sold out. Similarly, the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative was sold at the Whitman Coin and Currency Expo this past March. It also sold out even after receiving a secondary shipment.

Although past performance does not guarantee future results, there is significant anecdotal evidence that the Kennedy gold coin will also sell very well.

So let’s see what you think. Will you buy this coin?

Are you going to buy the 2014 Gold John F Kennedy Half Dollar tribute coin?

Yes, I will buy the gold, silver, and clad set if it is offered (29%, 19 Votes)
Yes, I will buy the gold coin. (25%, 16 Votes)
No, a gold coin would be too expensive (25%, 16 Votes)
No, I'm not interested (20%, 13 Votes)
I don't buy any coins from the U.S. Mint (2%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 65

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For those who cannot afford gold, the U.S. Mint is planning on producing silver coins with just the 2014 date. The set will feature coins from all four branch mints and include a proof coin struck in Philadelphia, a reverse proof produced in West Point, an enhanced uncirculated from San Francisco, and an uncirculated coin minted in Denver.

Although the U.S. Mint has not announced the price of these coins, they plan to place order limits to prevent the situation that happened with the National Baseball Hall of Fame commemorative coin that appears to have been bought out by dealers.

As part of the design process, Frank Gasparro sculpted different variations of the presidential eagle in plaster.

As part of the design process, Frank Gasparro sculpted different variations of the presidential eagle in plaster.

Sperber: Get it right!

“I can’t wait to see what a disaster the ANA new web site will be.”

Laura Sperber

Laura Sperber

This statement is not from someone who is just a member of the American Numismatic Association. This is the statement of Laura Sperber who is a member of the ANA Board of Governors.

I am not taking the statement out of context. It is the first sentence of the paragraph that appears in her Hot Topics blog post at the Legend Numismatics website.

Prior to this statement, I tried to give Sperber the benefit of the doubt. I greatly respect what she has accomplished in a male-dominated industry. I also appreciate her fight against coin doctoring and shining a light on the problems with coin doctoring and the grading services because I think it has made a positive impact. Unfortunately, her statement appears to be like throwing a tantrum for the sake of being right and not getting it right.

There is a difference between having an opinion and arguing to be right rather than investigating the opinion to getting it right. If Sperber was interested in getting it right, she would speak with those working on the project from the ANA headquarters to see what they are doing. If Sperber was interested in getting it right, as a member of the Board of the Governors she could ask to see the contract, project plan, and records of the costs. If Sperber was interested in getting it right, she could have asked the chairman of the Technology Committee for a meeting with the committee members, who are ANA members and professionals in the computing industry, for a frank discussion on the project.

In fact, Sperber could have asked to talk with me at the Whitman Baltimore Expo where Legend Numismatics always has a prominent table. I attended the show on both Friday and Saturday providing ample opportunity to meet and discuss her concerns.

“There is no way anyone can justify the price paid.”

Other than throwing verbal stones at Board meetings or in her blog, Sperber has not reached out to anyone to make sure she gets it right. Not only is the price in line with industry standards but the team working on the project at the ANA’s headquarters have really worked to keep the costs down and prevent overruns. As a long-time critic of the ANA’s technical acumen, Executive Director Kim Kiick and her team has done a phenomenal job.

Sperber may be a good numismatics business person but she is not knowledgeable in the business of technology to understand how foolish she sounds.

“I know I have a far more reaching and complicated new web site that cost me MUCH LESS to build at LM Auctions.”

With all due respect, no you do not. Buying auction and shopping services off the shelf is not difficult or complicated. What is difficult and complicated is choosing amongst the dozens of vendors to provide the service. If you do an Internet search for “create an auction site” you will find the list of vendors and instruction as to how to go about doing this. If you have the technical background, you can build the site yourself using any of these services. Otherwise, there are plenty of people who can be hired to do the work for you.

In creating Legend-Morphy, Sperber and her business partners purchased technology for the auction services from Sebae Data Solutions of Ocala, Florida. Sebae may not be the company that did their integration, but it appears the Legend-Morphy site was built on top of Sebae’s Bidopia auction platform.

How complicated could creating an auction website for this company be when her partner, Dan Morphy Auctions, uses Sebae’s services to manage their auctions? Morphy Auctions is well known and respected in the antique collectibles business, thus it would make sense that if they were to branch out into other areas, they would use proven technologies they are familiar with.

The use of Sebae’s software and services is not a problem. What is a problem is Sperber’s misrepresentation of what it takes to build storefront and auction site. The difficult part is to create an experience to entice customers to bid and buy. From what I can see, the company they hired to integrate these services did a good job for what they did, but it is not complicated.

In comparison, the new ANA web presence is not about selling goods and services. The new ANA web presence is about education. It is about providing an experience to welcome people to enjoy numismatics on all levels. The new web presence has to be able to integrate the business of the ANA including processing membership requests, bring the library closer to the members, allow those from the web experience the exhibits of the Money Museum, deliver education, provide a forum for numismatists to meet virtually, facilitate virtual attendance of shows, and possibly be able to allow people to participate in live events such as the Money Talks sessions at the ANA shows.

If you want to compare what the ANA is trying to do with its website versus having a site that is a numismatic catalog such as the one Sperber thinks is so complicated, go to the website of any college or university and look at the content offered. Those sites offer online classes, registration, recruitment, information about seminars, and information about activities including athletics.

Unlike an auction or retail website, there is no commercial off the shelf (COTS) software to support the functions the ANA or any educational-based organization could buy. Rather, the ANA and the colleges have to buy services and pay to have them integrated. In this case, the ANA is buying the membership services and backend processing but it has to be integrated to support the ANA mission. The ANA will be buying other services that can be used to support the ANA mission, but you need something to bring those services to the membership and public.

Think about your car. The automobile manufacturer may buy parts to build an engine but it does not manufacture those parts. They will buy the door assembly because it is cheaper for them to hire a dedicated company to run the electronics or buy the seats that are built to their specification. But when it is all delivered, the automobile manufacturer integrates the parts into the one unit that appears on the showroom floor.

It is the same analogy in the website building business. Legend-Morphy’s business model allows them to choose one vendor with a few selected products that can be integrated without a lot of work as compared to the ANA’s model that has to provide very diverse services that cannot be purchased in one place but still has to be built to look like one product.

Based on my previous conversations with Sperber, I believe she has been in the business of numismatics as long as I have been in the computer and technology business. I respect her passion, knowledge, and accomplishments for what she has done in her career. But when she makes her pronouncements that the Legend-Morphy website is “a far more reaching and complicated new web site” when those of us who know better, then not only does she come off as foolish, but she proves that she is out of her league when it comes to assessing technology.

This initiative was started by then ANA President Tom Hallenbeck. Hallenbeck understood that the Board and the ANA headquarters were not technically savvy enough to do this without help, so he formed the Technology Committee consisting of members who are professionals in all aspects of technology. Current ANA President Walt Ostromecki, who will jokingly be the first to tell you he might be less technically aware than Hallenbeck, was insistent on keeping this committee together to ensure the success of the site.

When this started, the committee Chairman James Reinders reached out to me knowing that I was a staunch critic of the lack of technology used by the ANA. It was also clear that my background in building systems and computer security would be a benefit to this effort. Sure, they were hesitant in contacting me because I had not been exactly complementary to the ANA (examples are here and here).

This was essentially a put-up-or-shut-up opportunity. I could sit in front of my computer and kvetch or I could be part of the solution. I hope my input to the committee, headquarters staff, and Board has been helpful because as a member I am trying to do what is best for the organization.

Laura Sperber is no longer an outsider. Sperber is directly inside as an elected member of the ANA Board of Governors. She has access to the same information about this project as I do. However, she has chosen to throw verbal and written rocks at the issue in an attempt to be right rather than get it right.

Therefore, I challenge Governor Sperber to put down her verbal rocks and get it right. I challenge her to reach out to the ANA headquarters, the Technology Committee, and even participate in our weekly status teleconference to learn about the project. If she is serious about representing the best interest of the ANA as an elected member of the Board of Governors then this is the opportunity to learn about the project.

Portrait of Laura Sperber from the ANA website.

ANA technology update and a shout out

March 2014 edition.

March 2014 edition.

If you are a member of the American Numismatic Association, you should have received your copy of the March edition of The Numismatist. Those of us with Basic membership, who access The Numismatist electronically via the website or the app, should have access to the March issue.

Once you open your copy, you might want to check out the article on page 67. It is written by your favorite numismatic blogger talking about the work being done by the ANA and the Technology Committee on the new ANA website.

Please read the article, but I want to reiterate two points:

  1. The technology committee is made up of ANA members who are volunteering their time and expertise to ensure that everything regarding the building of the website is in the best interest of the ANA. Long time readers know that aside from my background in information security, I had been a critic of how the ANA was technologically unsophisticated. They benefit by bringing in members, especially those of us who have been critical, to help them move forward in a way to best benefit the organization.
     
  2. The work being done by the ANA staff in Colorado Springs has been tremendous. First, it was a great idea by then Executive Director Jeff Shevlin to hire (the now defunct) Amos Digital to really kick start the process. Amos Digital did an excellent job helping the ANA manage the request for proposal (RFP) process and coordinating the review and selection process. It is unfortunate that Amos Press disbanded Amos Digital because they had a great team.

    Since becoming Executive Director, Kim Kiick has really done a wonderful job in working with the Board, the Tech Committee, and the selected vendor. In fact, Kim and her staff has worked so well with the new vendor that they have found additional cost savings while maintaining the standards we techies want to ensure is maintained throughout this process.

Writing an article for The Numismatist is more difficult than a blog post because of space limitations. There is only so much that can be said in a limited amount of space. Since I do not have those limitations here, I want to take the opportunity to praise the work of the one person who has really done a tremendous job for the ANA.

For those who do not know, Jake Sherlock is the magician behind the scenes making the cobbled together technology work in trying to make the ANA appear technologically friendly. From helping to maintain the website whose software is sorely out of date to figuring out how to broadcast meetings from the ANA convention, Jake has worked hard with very little to do a lot for the association.

What makes this even more awe inspiring is that Jake does not have a technical background. I am sure he will correct me, but I think he told me his background is in communications and public relations. He should be commended by everyone associated with the ANA for stepping into this role and making a big difference.

Once the new technology is in place it will be fun to see what Jake can do with modern tools.

Thank you, Jake!

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