This past March proved to be a rather busy travel month for me, finding me away from home for all or a portion of every weekend. Actually, the run got under way over the last weekend of February with a driving trip to Chicago, while the following Sunday found me hitting the road again and spending the heart of the day in Oshkosh.
The next Sunday found me heading out again, this time to the Appleton airport for a flight to Washington. Returning to Iola on Tuesday, two days later I was putting the Town Car on the road to the Twin Cities for the weekend. Then, I wrapped the month up with travels to participate in this year’s ANA National Money Show in Fort Worth.
The Chicago trip was occasioned by a North American Numismatic Think Tank retreat, an initiative I had advocated seeking to draw the American Numismatic Association, the American Numismatic Society and the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association closer together in their pursuits of building the hobby community. Having spent a couple hours in my office on Friday morning, it was about 10 a.m. when I put the Town Car on the road for the 225-mile drive to the O’Hare area, arriving there at about 3 p.m.
The retreat was set for the new InterContinental Hotel on Des Plaines River Road in Rosemont, just steps removed from the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center where both the Central States and ANA World’s Fair of Money conventions will be hosted in 2011. The gathering included the presidents and executive officers of each organization; Roger Siboni and Ute Wartenberg Kagan from the ANS; Dan Gosling and Paul Johnson from the RCNA; and Larry Shepherd and myself from the ANA.
We assembled for a casual get acquainted dinner at 6:30 p.m. in the adjoining McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant, just across the hotel entry drive. I opted for their scallops entree, which was outstanding, topped off with a sundae dessert that was absolutely sinful. With our conversations winding down by around 9 p.m., we headed our separate ways, with Larry and I spending about an hour in my room discussing ANA business before calling it a day.
It was about 8:30 Saturday morning when we gathered in a small meeting room on the ninth floor of the InterContinental, getting our day started with some light breakfast treats. We spent the next nine hours or so, with an hour break for lunch, discussing various perspectives of how the three organizations might better cooperatively develop and apply their respective assets in building pathways to a larger and more robust hobby community and organizations.
While I don’t believe any shocking revelations materialized, nor did any concrete plans for joint efforts unfold, I came away from the retreat with the belief that we collectively better understood the interests and capabilities of each organization, with a spirit emerging of the need and benefit of working together in the pursuit of mutually beneficial goals.
With Siboni, Kagan and Shepherd catching early evening flights home, I invited the Canadians to join me for dinner. It was about six o’clock when I loaded them into the Town Car – Dan was joined by his wife Judi – and headed off for barbecued ribs at Wally’s Gyros a few miles away at Oakton and Northwest Highway, one of my favorite places to enjoy a thrifty and tasty no-frills meal. Paul turned the tables on me there, feeding some Canadian money into the local economy. Lingering over conversation, it was about 9 p.m. when we got back to the hotel, the outing having put a very relaxing cap on the day.
Having awakened very early on Sunday morning, it was shortly after 5 a.m. when I headed the Town Car north. I stopped about an hour and a half later for a sausage gravy and biscuits breakfast at the Cracker Barrel along the interstate just outside Kenosha. It was somewhat before 10 a.m. when I pulled into the garage at home, having driven some 210 miles, and with the heart of the day ahead of me to pursue the contents of the day’s papers and other reading.
The following Sunday I headed to Oshkosh to spend the heart of that day attending the 27th annual Wisconsin Coin Expos show organized by local dealer Randy Miller at the Oshkosh Convention Center. Joining me on this outing were former Krause staffers Joel Edler and Colin Bruce, who had driven down to the lake from Iola to meet up for an 8 a.m. departure.
Arriving at 9 a.m., the floor already was a beehive of activity, with buyers and lookers packed two deep at virtually every one of the 50-odd tables occupied by 45 dealers. Jeff Reichenberger, a local collector and writer, manned the registration table. A printer by trade, Jeff owns his own shop.
Shortly after entering the show, I also exchanged greetings with long-time collectors Tom Fruit and Bill Coppenon, both from Green Bay. Tom was a Numismatic News editorial staffer 50 years ago, back in 1959-61.
The dealer tables were largely occupied by the familiar faces I’ve come to expect at local shows around east-central Wisconsin. An interesting feature of this year’s show was a large round table piled high with typical circulated Lincolns, where youngsters were invited to sit down and see how many holes they could fill in their coin folders.
As I made my way around the bourse I also encountered another collecting old-timer, Larry Spanbauer from Oshkosh, who had laid out what might be called an interactive display of Oshkosh trade tokens and related oddments. Spread out on eight to 10 tables were several token filled albums for attendees to flip through – nothing was for sale – while Larry stood by to interact with them on the history and heritage of the issues. A very interesting approach to say the least.
At 11 a.m., with Colin continuing to forage his way around the bourse, Joel and I joined 13 other attendees, fellow Numismatists of Wisconsin board members, for the annual winter meeting called by President Thad Streeter from Wausau. Our discussions largely revolved around the organization’s financial status – some $35,000 in fiscal assets – and finalizing an annual budget, along with reviewing the status of its annual event for this year and future years. This year NOW will be observing its 50th anniversary, with the fifth show hosted in Iola over the past 10 years, this year on May 21 and 22.
With the meeting breaking up at about 12:30 p.m., we spent another half hour or so exploring the bourse, where the crowd had thinned but was still very solid, before taking leave to begin winding our way home. Looping home by way of Appleton, we partook of a late lunch at the Asian Garden Buffet.
The following Sunday I was hitting the road yet again, this time with a drive to the Appleton airport and a U.S. Airways itinerary to Washington, D.C., by way of O’Hare and Philadelphia. A 43-mile drive got me to the airport about two hours before a scheduled 1:13 p.m. flight time.
The balance of the afternoon and evening were spent traveling. It was about 10 p.m. when I arrived at Regan National in Washington. After placing a claim for my suitcase, which was misdirected somewhere along the way, it was about 11 p.m. when I arrived at my hotel.
My accommodations were at the Churchill Hotel on Connecticut Avenue across the street from the Hilton Hotel, where the attempted assassination of President Regan occurred in early 1981 shortly after his inauguration and where the ANA convention had been hosted in 1971. A traffic island across the street from the hotel hosts a statue honoring Civil War General George B. McClellan that was erected by order of Congress in 1907.
The objective of this trip was a Monday morning meeting with cultural properties officials at the Italian Embassy concerning the challenge that is being advanced by the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild against an initiative by the archaeological community to impose import restrictions on ancient coins of Italian origin with the U.S. State Department. Accompanying me for this mission was Peter Tompa, who advises ACCG, along with the PNG and IAPN on legal and legislative initiatives being pursued to forestall such an implementation.
Tompa treated me to a drive through the nearby Embassy Row area in the heart of the city’s northwest quadrant, before heading to the embassy for our meeting with the cultural affairs folks. A Washington lawyer professionally, he and I both serve on the ANS trustees board.
Our meeting at the embassy, located adjacent to the Naval Observatory grounds where the Vice President’s house is located, lasted for an hour or so. It was nearing noontime when Tompa returned me to the Churchill, where I set out exploring the duPont Circle area on foot for three hours or so.
Along the way I opted for lunch at the Sette Osteria restaurant located at the corner of Connecticut and T Street. Eavesdropping on the conversation at the adjoining table, between a pair of friendly political operatives hailing from the Midwest, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, I was drawn to the pragmatism evidenced in their discussions, wondering why our public figures can’t approach issues on such seemingly enlightened bases.
At Peter’s suggestion, I set out to visit a nearby Textile Museum and the Phillips Collection of modern art, but discovered they are both closed on Mondays, I then sought out the Woodrow Wilson House, where Wilson lived following his presidency, which is Washington’s only presidential museum. While it was also officially closed, a lucky break enable me to still enjoy a visit, as development director Claudia Bismark and historian “Tex” Gomez happened upon the scene, inviting me in and treating me to about an hour long exploration.
Returning to the Churchill at about 3 p.m., I treated myself to a late afternoon nap, with Peter then stopping by at 6:30 to take me to dinner at Clyde’s in suburban Chevy Chase. Clyde’s is a chain of about a dozen restaurants in the District area, each of them boasting distinctively different decors, the theme at this one being the romance of 1920s and ‘30s travel. And, the food was great, not to mention the conversation. I was dropped off at the hotel at about 8:30 p.m. and quickly hit the bed.
On Tuesday I was up and in a taxi on the way to the airport by 5 a.m., snapping up a cinnamon bun, bottle of juice and banana from the boarding area snack stand for breakfast. My return flight on Midwest Airlines departed at 7. With a three-hour connecting time in Milwaukee, it was nearly noon when I arrived back in Appleton.
Within 48 hours of returning to Iola, I was hitting the road again, my destination this time being the Twin Cities, where I would be attending the annual show of the Minneapolis’ Northwest Coin Club, hosted in suburban Brooklyn Center. I spent about three hours at my office before hitting the road around 11 a.m. when I picked up Joel Edler to ride shotgun. Some 85 miles down the road, at about 12:30 we pulled off for lunch at Abbotsford, enjoying jumbo hot beef sandwiches at Duke’s Alleys. Back on the road around 1 p.m., we pulled into Brooklyn Center’s Embassy Suites at 3:30 p.m., having racked up 242 miles.
With the Northwest show at the adjacent Earl Brown Heritage Center not getting under way with dealer setup until 11 o’clock the next morning, we relaxed in our suite until heading out for dinner at a nearby Perkins around 6 p.m.. On Friday morning we headed out on walking regimens at about 6:30 into a brisk breaking dawn, from which I returned about an hour later, before heading down to partake of the hotel’s complimentary breakfast.
It was about 10 a.m. when we made our way over to the Center’s main conference hall, finding NWCC President John Steinhoff, Vice President Ron Schmidt, Secretary Greg Schwinn and bourse chair Lee Quast polishing off final pre-dealer setup details. Assisting were members Barry Parrington, Dave Mangledorf, Dick Grinolds and Pet Smith, while Northern Illinois Coin Supply’s Jim Helin was busy moving in his inventory in advance of the secured setup.
By noon at least three-quarters of the tables were occupied and many of the dealers were circulating about the floor. Dealer and “Early Bird” business occupied the next two hours, as the rest of the tables were filling in. The queue of waiting attendees numbered perhaps 150 when the doors to the bourse were thrown open at 2 p.m., continuing to build steadily as the afternoon wore on. Although the crowd was thinning down by 6 p.m., the commercial buzz from the floor remained quite vibrant right up to closing at 7.
Having briefly returned to the Embassy Suites before driving across the Interstate for dinner at Barnacle Bill’s, where show dealers predominated on this evening, we found our way back and called it a night around 8:30. Saturday found me getting the day started at 6 a.m. with another morning constitutional around the well lit Heritage Center area. While conditions were again rather cold, but much more tolerable, and I didn’t have to push myself to put in a full hour as I had to the previous morning, the birds were happily chirping a welcome to this first morning of spring.
At 8 a.m. Joel and I headed down for breakfast, where we were joined by the NWCC crew of Steinhoff, Schmidt, Schwinn, Quast and Lee’s son Derrick. The second day’s opening queue numbered upwards of 200 by the 10 a.m. bourse opening, with a steady inflow continuing through the morning to the point that the aisles were truly packed by noon.
While I spent most of the day visiting with collector attendees who stopped by the ANA table, and those encountered during my frequent forays around the bourse, I also enjoyed working in visits with many of the tabled dealers. Along the way I managed to come up with a few acquisition opportunities that were of interest as well. During the course of my dealer visits, I experienced a fairly common refrain; business continues to be good at the lower and upper ranges of the marketplace, but highly selective in the heart, as it was at this show, where results were assessed as having met or exceeded expectations.
With the show closing down for the day at 6 o’clock, Joel and I opted to drive out I-94 10 miles or so, at the suggestion of Mangledorf, to the Arbor Lake shopping area in Maple Grove, where there are scores of specialty shops and restaurants in a meandering re-creation in the vintage “Main Street” style. We opted for Mexican at Don Pablo’s. By 8 we were back in our room at the Embassy Suites watching a couple NCAA “March Madness” playoff games endings, as we had the previous two evenings as well.
Sunday morning found me heading out into another still cold but pleasant dawn for my daily hour-long constitutional at about 6 o’clock. It was about 8 when we headed down for breakfast. Heading over to the conference center around 9 and witnessing little excitement in the air over the next hour or so, at about 10:30 we decided to hit the road for home. By 3 p.m. we had arrived back in Iola, having logged 245 miles for the day.
The weather conditions for this year’s NWCC show were certainly more accommodating than is typically the case in my experience. Having attended four or five of these events over the past 20 years, since they were moved from the downtown area to the Early Brown, in the past I have typically experienced frigid temperatures and/or snow storms, coming, going or during. Still they were in marked contrast to the very spring-like conditions the Upper Midwest had been experiencing for the previous week to 10 days, during the course of which all but the deepest snow banks and drifts had disappeared.
This year’s event was the Northwest Coin Club’s 76th annual show. Having had to decline an invitation to participate on last year’s 75th anniversary occasion, due to a scheduling conflict, I was pleased to be able to be in attendance for this kickoff event of their second 75 years. The experience left me with the expectation of promising prospects for club’s second 75 years; may they sparkle to the equal of its first 75 years.