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Busy fall itinerary on numismatic front

While I have attended only one coin show since returning from the annual ANA convention in Baltimore back at the beginning of August, even foregoing my typical Labor Day weekend jaunt out to Omaha for the annual NTCA national token show, my resulting travels accumulated in a heavy concentration stretching from the end of September through October. Over that five-week period I found myself hitting the road for the Appleton airport on no less than four occasions.

First up, however, was a driving trip to Okoboji, Iowa, for the Higgins Museum board’s annual fall meeting. That jaunt got under way on the first day of autumn – fall arrived in these parts at 10:44 a.m., Monday, Oct. 22 – with a drive from Iola to Waupaca where I joined Sally for a quick lunch at Culver’s before hitting road west at about 11:45 a.m., crossing the Mississippi at La Crosse at about 3 o’clock having logged 160 miles. It was about 7 when I arrived in Okoboji, having taken supper along the way, at the Pizza Ranch in Jackson, Minn., with a final mileage log of 387 miles for the afternoon.

The dawn of a very pleasant fall morning was breaking over the countryside as I headed out for a Tuesday morning constitutional at about 6:30, walking the bituminous surfaced Iowa Great Lakes Trail – developed atop the roadbed of the old Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad, built in 1883 and abandoned in 1974, between Arnolds Park and Spirit Lake. Only three other walkers and two cyclists were encountered along the way over the next hour, before returning to my lodgings at the AmericInn, where I treated myself to their continental breakfast offerings.

It was about 9 o’clock when I headed out for a couple quick stops to explore attendee accommodations for an August, 2009, National Bank Note Seminar to be hosted at the Higgins Museum for which planning is under way. It was about 9:30 when I arrived at the Museum, where I was immediately enlisted to provide taxi service for fellow board members Rick Hickman and Don Mark, transporting the notes to winter storage in the safe deposit box vault of a nearby bank.

The board meeting began a bit before its scheduled 10 o’clock start time. Our board is down to five members – only President Dean Oakes from Iowa City remains from the original 1978 board  with the recent passing of Bill Higgins’s nephew Mike McGinnis. The board’s topics ranged from facility maintenance issues to the acquisition possibilities for notes from the Chet Krause collection of Wisconsin National Bank Note issues, along with a report on the season’s activities provided by curator/docent Larry Adams, preliminary planning for the 2009 seminar, sale of a remaining farm property owned by the Higgins Foundation, options for filling the vacant board seat, and the usual fiscal and housekeeping issues.

With the meeting adjourning about two hours after it got under way, the board and curator subsequently opted for lunch at a nearby McDonald’s before heading our separate ways. On the road headed home by 12:45 p.m., it was about 4:15 when I again crossed the Mississippi at La Crosse, having logged 224 miles. Pulling off the Interstate at Tomah I opted for dinner at a Perkin’s restaurant at about 5, before heading cross country for home, arriving there at about 7:30, having logged 363 miles for the afternoon.

Three days after returning from Okoboji it was off to the Appleton airport, this time with Sally joining me for a quick trip to Washington, D.C., with our on-time United departures and arrivals putting us in the nation’s Capital somewhat before 2 o’clock and settled into our room at the historic Willard Intercontinental by 3. Thereafter we spent about three hours exploring the west end of The National Mall area, walking past the Ellipse and along the Reflecting Pool, taking in the World War II, Lincoln and Vietnam Veterans memorials, then looping back to the Willard by way of Lafayette Square and the White House, before calling it a day.

Our objective for this trip was a Saturday visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. After enjoying breakfast in the café at the Willard we walked down 14th Street across The Mall to the Museum, arriving there as it opened to the public at 10 o’clock. The next four and a half hours were spent absorbing the multitude of exhibits and hundreds of artifacts on display drawn from the Nazi genocide era, stretching from 1933 to the end of World War II, during which time roughly six of nine million European Jews were put to death. I found the overall presentation both very compelling and highly repulsive; the story of that repulsive time was compellingly captured in its presentation.

This visit was motivated by an expressed interest from Sally. While I would not have undertaken this trip of my own initiative, that I responded to Sally’s prompting proved rewarding. While I would not make a special effort to make a second visit, I would certainly do so if an occasion presented itself. There was much more laid out in history and compassion provoking viewpoints than I could absorb during our short visit.

It being mid-afternoon before we headed back across The Mall, we caught light snacks for a late lunch from a curb side vendor, Sally opting for a jumbo pretzel and I for a hot dog with kraut, before spending the balance of the afternoon taking a quick swing through the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. We then availed ourselves of the pizza offerings at a food court before returning to the Willard. With that, Sally called it a day, but I spent about an hour from 6 to 7 exploring the streets of the adjacent Metro Center area to get in an aggressive walking regimen for the day.

The present Willard hotel site, on 14th street between Pennsylvania Avenue and “F” Street, by the way, became the Willard Hotel in 1850 when it was purchased by brothers Henry and Edwin Willard, though hostelries have occupied the site since 1816. President-elect Abraham Lincoln and his family were resident at the Willard for 10 days prior to his March 4, 1861, inauguration, with Lincoln paying $773.75 for the family stay out of his first presidential paycheck. The 12-story New Willard Hotel was built as one of Washington’s first skyscrapers, the first phase opening in 1901, with construction being completed in 1904. The present renovated incarnation was opened in 1986, following an 18-year closure, with the Willard family having sold their interest in 1946.

Sally and I took leave of the Willard at about 7 o’clock on Sunday morning, providing us with ample time to catch a relaxing breakfast at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport prior to our scheduled 9:46 a.m. departure. As we taxied from our boarding gate for departure we took note that the presidential campaign planes of both John McCain and Barack Obama were parked adjacently on a nearby apron, the timing of our trip having been amidst the financial meltdown taffy pull. With both our departure and connection out of O’Hare operating on-time, we landed in Appleton somewhat before 1 in the afternoon and were back home at the lake by 2.

Four days after returning from Washington it was back to the Appleton airport, this time for a mid-morning Northwest routing to Charlotte, N.C., by way of Detroit Metro Airport. With a 3:10 p.m. touchdown in Charlotte – a quarter hour ahead of schedule – I had claimed a rental car and hit the road to Hickory within an hour. Situated roughly a one-hour drive, or 60 miles northwest of Charlotte, Hickory was the site of the North Carolina Numismatic Association’s 50th anniversary convention over October’s first weekend.

It was a bit before 6 o’clock, having claimed my room at the adjacent Fairfield Inn, when I made my way over to the Hickory Metro Convention Center where setup was under way for bourse dealers. The first familiar face encountered was that of Glen Jorde from Florida, manager of the Paper Money Guaranty grading service, who was arriving to man a table on the bourse and conduct a currency grading course for interested attendees. The second was that of NCNA President Bill Brewer from Statesville, followed shortly by long-time treasurer and convention coordinator Dot Hendrick, a long-time friend from Raleigh, and Forrest Michael from Lexington, who served as NCNA president in 1971 and is the oldest surviving past president.

Subsequently I also encountered another long-time acquaintance, NCNA treasurer Halbert Carmichael from Raleigh and enjoyed the first of several conversations with member volunteer Chip Furr in the registration area. While spending some time wandering about the bourse I also enjoyed brief conversations with several dealers of ongoing acquaintance, including North Carolinians Norman Boggs, Will Jordan and George Cash, along with George Decker from Tennessee and Steve Ellsworth from Virginia. I took leave of the show venue after about an hour, walking to the nearby J&S Cafeteria for dinner. Upon returning to the Fairfield Inn to call it a day, I encountered Randy Campbell, who hails from Austin, Texas, these days as a grader for ICG, but is perhaps better known for his longtime and ongoing FUN educational association.

Headed out to get my Friday under way with a 6:30 morning constitutional I encountered Dot and Halbert getting theirs under way in the Fairfield’s continental breakfast alcove, with the latter pointing me in the right direction for my walking regimen. Having put in an hour of walking, followed by the continental offerings and bathing and dressing for the day, it was nearly 9 o’clock before I got over to the convention center. A queue of about 100 had assembled for the 10 o’clock ribbon cutting formally opening the event to the public – I was invited to join Forrest and Dot for the cutting of a ribbon strung with “short snorter” $1 Federal Reserve Notes.

The bourse was active but not hectic on Friday, with nearly 400 attendees registering. That made for pretty strong activity, given a modest size bourse. One of the few dealers with whom I had the opportunity to chat on an extended basis during the course of the day was Barry Ciociola from Durham, NCNA’s immediate past-president. Overlapping the bourse activity was an afternoon – 3 to 7 p.m. – circulated coin grading course.

With the bourse closing down for the day at 6 o’clock, within a half hour I was headed out on an evening constitutional traipsing the roadways that wander Hickory’s rolling countryside. Happening upon a Cracker Barrel along the way, it became my option for dinner. Returning to the Fairfield at about 8 o’clock, I noted perhaps a dozen NCNA officers and others, including ANA vice president Patti Finner, who was the official ANA representative at this event, assembled for a dinner outing on which I had passed.

Yet another constitutional got my Saturday morning under way, heading out at about 6 o’clock on a regimen about an hour in duration. Another Fairfield continental breakfast followed, and by 8:30 I was back over to the convention center. Bourse activity was very vibrant by 11, remaining so until late afternoon with in excess of 500 attendees registered for the day.  At 1 o’clock I sat in on a Confederate depositories educational presentation by Philip Lamb, arranged by SPMC governor Judith Murphy from Winston-Salem, following which I was one of a featured pair of NCNA 50th anniversary speakers, my topic embracing an overview of the birth and development of the SCWC, following which Bob Schreiner delivered a presentation on North Carolina scrip.

It was nearing 5 o’clock before the run of these three presentations concluded, with attendance at each ranging from 10 to 20, by which time activity on the bourse was winding down. At six the 50th anniversary banquet got underway, at which I shared a table with Ciociola, Schreiner and Finner, along with a couple others. It was an enjoyable and well attended event, with perhaps 120 attendees, that broke up around eight, closing out my NCNA attendance for this year. Having attended NCNA’s annual gatherings frequently back in the 1970 and early 1980s – I’d probably availed myself of the opportunity on only a couple occasions over the past 20 years or so – it was great to have been invited back on this occasion.

At about 5:30 on Sunday morning I hit the road out of Hickory for the Charlotte airport, arriving there and surrendering my rental car about an hour later. That left lots of time to catch a sit-down breakfast at Chili’s after checking in for my scheduled 8:50 departure, which got off on time. Ending up with well over an hour layover at Detroit for my Appleton connection, I opted for a “Cuban” sandwich for a quick lunch from one of the concourse snack stands, with my change yielding my first encounter with an Alaska states quarter issue, it being a Philadelphia strike. Arriving in Appleton somewhat before 1 o’clock, it was about 2 when I got home.

The following Sunday I was off to the Appleton airport again, this time headed to Colorado Springs to attend the annual fall board meeting of the American Numismatic Association. Being resident at the Mishler lake home on the Waupaca Chain, this time out my drive was circuitous – 64 vs. 44 miles – to the airport, having offered to pick Chet Krause up in Iola, as we were both traveling on the same outbound flights, but returning independently, with Chet continuing on to the PCDA show in St. Louis to attend the sale of his Wisconsin National Bank note collection, while I would return home.

As our United Express flight was not scheduled to leave Appleton until 11:35 a.m., I didn’t leave home until about 9 o’clock, picking Chet up about half an hour later, and arriving at the airport with about an hour to spare. We had lunch at Chili’s Too on the “F” concourse at O’Hare between flights, then spent some time relaxing in the Red Carpet Club room awaiting boarding for our 2:50 departure to the Springs, which put us on the ground there around 4:30. ANA meeting services director Brenda Bishop met us, providing transportation to the Antlers Hilton hotel to claim our room.

After dropping us at the Antlers, Brenda headed off to pick up the fare for an Italian buffet the board and eight to 10 staffers would enjoy in the setting of the ANA Money Museum about an hour later. This accorded us the opportunity to view the newly mounted main gallery Money of the Civil War exhibition, which had opened the prior Thursday. I shared a table and delightful conversation with fellow board members Joe Boling, Alan Herbert, Walter Ostromecki and Ed Rochette, along with controller Carol Shuman, legal counsel Ron Sirna and Chet. The evening broke up at about 8:30.

Monday morning for me got under way at 5:30 with a constitutional walk west along Colorado Avenue into old Colorado City, in 1861 the capitol of Colorado Territory, to 15th Street and back, the duration of which was right on an hour. At 7:30 Chet and I headed down for breakfast in the Antlers Grille, then caught a taxi to ANA headquarters about an hour later. Our closed session board meeting began at 9, we broke for lunch with senior staff at noontime, then resumed with an afternoon session that extended to around 6 o’clock. I’ll not undertake to offer an overview of the day’s discussions, as any resulting actions taken that were not confidential in nature have been reported out.

The board assembled a short time later in a private dining room at the Grille for dinner, with three members of staff being invited to join in for another evening of pleasant conversation, with the party breaking up at about 8:30.

It was about 5:45 when I hit the streets for my Tuesday morning constitutional, walking down Cascade to Cimarron, then over to Nevada and up to Boulder, then over to Cascade and back to the Antlers, with the duration this time being only about 45 minutes. Chet and I again headed down for breakfast at about 7:30, where we were joined by Ostromecki, who subsequently joining us on a taxi ride to ANA headquarters. The day’s board meeting was an open session, except for a couple short executive session interludes, which again got under way at 9 o’clock, extending to about 4 in the afternoon, with a break for lunch again around noontime.

At about 4:30 the board and a couple senior staffers car pooled for a visit with former treasurer Adna Wilde, at an extended care facility at which he is presently temporarily resident, to visit with him and extend our gratitude for his more than 40 years of service to the ANA in various capacities, presenting him with the first Adna G. Wilde, Jr. Award for Excellence, a new service recognition unanimously created by the board during its Monday executive sessions.

After returning to the Antlers, at 6 o’clock Chet and I were picked up by Henry Mitchell, a local resident and long-time ANA member, son of the late Ralph A. “Curly” Mitchell from California who had a long history of ANA involvement, with whom we spent the evening. He drove us to Solo’s Restaurant, situated out in the airport area, where we took our dinner in its theme dining room – featuring booths lining the fuselage of a vintage Boeing KC-97, an aircraft that served the U.S. Air Force in troop, cargo and refueling tanker configurations commencing in 1944, the second largest American-built piston powered aircraft ever built – with my selection being the Reuben von Crashed sandwich, which proved to be very delicious, as Henry and Chet likewise reported their selections to be. It was again about 8:30 when we called it a day.

On Wednesday morning I hit the streets for my morning constitutional around 5:30, heading east on Colorado to Wahsatch, then north to Uintah and in to Cascade, passing ANA headquarters on my way back south to the Antlers. Heading up to my room about an hour later I met fellow board member Joe Boling at the elevator bank heading out for his early morning flight home. I briefly exchanged morning greetings with Chet, before he headed down for breakfast and a mid-morning flight to St. Louis. As my flight was scheduled for 11:33, by pre-arrangement I met up with ANA executive director Larry Shepherd at the Grille at 8, discussing issues of the moment over a leisurely breakfast, being joined towards the end by Sirna and President Barry Stuppler.

At 10 ANA controller Carol Shuman came by the Antlers to provide me with a ride to the airport, along with fellow board member Patti Finner, as we were sharing the same flights back to Wisconsin. While our outbound flight from the Springs was delayed a bit in its departure from the Springs and into O’Hare, a scheduled connecting time of somewhat under two hours stretched into a layover of nearly four due to adverse weather that had settled in over the Midwest. A scheduled 4:51 departure deteriorated into one of 6:51, which put me back at home around 8:30 instead of 7.

The following week,  at 7:30 on Thursday morning I headed to the Appleton airport once more. This time my destination was New York City to attend the fall trustee board and annual meetings of the American Numismatic Society. With my United flights departing according to schedule – in fact arrival, all but unbelievably, at the LaGuardia gate was about 25 minutes ahead of schedule – a taxi had delivered me to the Azure Hotel by 4 o’clock, having reached Manhattan across the Williamsburg Bridge. The Azure is a small boutique hotel boasting no more than 30 rooms, situated just off Canal Street, at Lafayette; while my room was clean and well appointed, it was about the size of a postage stamp and subject to a good bit of street noise.

As I’d not availed myself of lunch at O’Hare or in the air, after quickly unpacking I headed to the nearest subway station, catching the Broadway Line uptown to the Times Square area. From there I walked up 7th Avenue to the Stage Deli between 53rd and 54th for a tongue sandwich, opting for one of their “regular” offerings rather than a triple-deck delight, having been doing a bit of dieting over recent weeks. Thereafter I spent about three hours wandering the streets of Midtown, including a visit to the Rockefeller Center plaza where the ice skating rink was in place, soon to be followed by the 75th anniversary appearance of the traditional giant Christmas tree that has been erected in the plaza every year since the complex was completed in 1933. As it was a very clear evening, I also decided to take in the view from the 70th floor Top of The Rock observation deck before returning to the Azure at about nine.

While my Friday was open until evening, my morning got under way with a 6 o’clock constitutional stroll down Broadway to the Staten Island Ferry terminal area and back, which was roughly an hour in duration. Thereafter I spent much of the time from mid-morning to mid-afternoon pursuing an orientation exploration of the SoHo and TriBeCa areas, but also taking in the former World Trade Center site, where there was little to see aside from crane booms poking out above the construction site screening. I also visited the adjacent St. Paul’s Chapel, dating from 1764-66 and the oldest building in the city that has been in continuous public use since that time, which was undamaged by the fire that swept through Manhattan on Sept. 21, 1776, or the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

Following a late afternoon nap, I walked over to the new home of the ANS, situated on the 11th floor of an office building at One Hudson Square, at the corner of Canal and Varick streets, where a special reception and opening ceremony marking activation of the facility was scheduled for 6 o’clock. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held at about 7, for which ANS President Roger Siboni was joined by U.S. Mint Director Edmund Moy. In opening remarks, ANS executive director Ute Wartenberg Kagan reflected that the staff is pretty well and quite “comfortably settled into the new quarters,” which I found to be quite appealing and spacious.

Among the perhaps 75 to 80 present were numismatic author Dave Alexander and ANS administrative assistant Joanne Isaac, along with fellow trustees Peter Tompa from Washington and Daniel Holmes from Cleveland, with each of whom I enjoyed extended conversations during the course of the evening. At a subsequent celebratory 150th anniversary dinner garnering the participation of 45 or so, to which I shared a taxi ride with trustees Bob Kandel and Stan and Mrs. Scott, which got under way shortly after eight at The Harvard Club, I enjoyed sharing another extended conversation with Dr. Jay Galst, in 1988-89 president of the New York Numismatic Club, the members of which mounted a special lobby hall exhibit in the ANS quarters marking the centennial of its establishment. The party did not break up until around 10:30, and it was about 11 before I got back to the Azure by subway.

Saturday morning again found me out pursuing a walking regimen by 6 o’clock, along Canal Street east to Jefferson, then looping south on East Broadway to Bowery and back to Canal, then west past Lafayette to the Hudson River and back to the Azure about an hour later. At 8 Mark Anderson, an old friend and son of the late Burnett Anderson, stopped by and we walked to the Soho Grand Hotel, on West Broadway near the new ANS location, where we enjoyed a relaxing breakfast. My day was spent at the ANS meetings; at 10 it was the fall trustee board gathering, with 18 of 30 in attendance, followed at 3 by the 151st annual membership assembly, with roughly 40 attendees including board and staff members, which was down significantly from the norm over the past 12 years of my involvement. A reception followed, breaking up around 5.

The board deliberations resulted in extended discussions of fiscal issues relating to the current and ongoing health of the organization, directions that might be appropriately pursued for further de-accession of duplicates from the collections, possibilities for commercial engagement of the new quarters for receptions and special events similar to those entertained by similar non-profits on a fee basis, in addition to the more customary membership and housekeeping issues.

  After returning to the Azure, with the weather being very windy and a light rain falling, I decided to not venture far, walking four to five short blocks into the edge of Little Italy for dinner at the Benito II restaurant on Mulberry. The Azure is situated within an area that blends the Little Italy, Chinatown, SoHo and TriBeCa convergence. I called it a day at about 7 p.m., as I had a limo scheduled for a 6 o’clock pickup to the airport on Sunday morning. While my scheduled 8 a.m. departure did push back until 8:30 due to a maintenance problem with a malfunctioning systems light, and the scheduled 11:47 departure out of O’Hare was delayed nearly a half hour awaiting an inbound cabin attendant, the landing at Appleton was on-time at 12:36, so I was back home a bit before 2 in the afternoon as anticipated.        

Now I’m home for a welcome respite before heading off on my annual Thanksgiving weekend outing to Dearborn for the Michigan State fall gathering.

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