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Central States tradition gets new twist

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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Attendance at the 71st annual convention of the Central States Numismatic Society closed out my April numismatic travels. This year’s gathering was hosted in Milwaukee, the 12th time the organization has assembled there, commencing with the third in 1941.

My two-hour drive to Milwaukee got under way at about 9:30 a.m. on the last Wednesday of April, following a hearing test appointment in Waupaca. The 125-mile drive was broken with an early Cracker Barrel lunch stop––a salad and bowl of pinto beans––at the Highway Q interchange in the city’s northwest suburbs at about 11 a.m.

Pulling up in front of the Hilton Milwaukee City Center hotel at roughly 12:15 p.m., my arrival happened to coincide with that of Wendell Wolka and his wife, Linda, who were just arriving from Indianapolis. After quickly claiming my room and heading over to the adjoining convention center––recently renamed the Frontier Airlines Center from the Midwest Airlines center as a result of an airline merger––I joined the PNG Day activities which had been under way since 9 a.m.

Stopping at the CSNS registration counter to claim credentials for entry to the convention hall, I briefly chatted with President Don Charters from Michigan, deputy convention chair Patti Finner from Iola and Justin Perrault, who recently graduated from Milwaukee young numismatist ranks, before moving on. Encountered immediately inside the bourse area were former Milwaukeeans John and Nancy Wilson, who now hail from Florida, holding forth at the ANA table and visiting with Howard Daniel from Virginia, Thomas Van Zeyl from northern Illinois, who has taken over the role of being the Central States communications center voice from the late Rollie Finner, and Donald Young from Kentucky, who was anchoring the CSNS table.

As I was again committed to showing my “City Names ABC’s National Bank Note” display, first presented at last year’s CSNS convention in Cincinnati, I quickly headed back to the exhibits area, where exhibits chair Fran and education director Ray Lockwood were holding forth. Fran directed me to the three cases assigned for my use. There were a record-setting 274 cases placed by some 40 exhibitors. I was soon setting myself to the task at hand.

While setting up my exhibit one of the hobby’s top-notch exhibitors, Mack Martin from Georgia, briefly stopped by for a visit, as did videographer David Lisot from Texas and Leon Saryan, an active member of the Milwaukee clubs. Another of those who stopped by was CSNS convention chair Kevin Foley, who buzzed by on his mobility cart to kibitz with me a bit.

With my exhibit setup completed, I spent roughly three hours wandering about the exhibit and occupied bourse area visiting with many other friends and acquaintances before heading off to dinner at about 5 p.m. Joining me for the five- or six-block walk over to Mader’s on Old World 3rd Street were Michiganders Dan and Kathy Freeland, Ray Dillard and Ray’s son-in-law Greg Wisegerber.

At Mader’s we were joined by a fifth Michigander, Paul Cunningham, a former president of the Token and Medal Society and past long-time publisher of the TAMS Journal. We were gathering to not only enjoy an evening meal and conviviality, but to also formalize some planning that is unfolding for the formal observance of TAMS’ 50th anniversary at this fall’s 55th fall convention of the Michigan State Numismatic Society in Dearborn. The society was founded on Nov. 19, 1960, during an early MSNS gathering in downtown Detroit.

My dinner selection was Mader’s pork shank, as it nearly always is. While I’d not dined there since hosting a small fund-raising event during the 2007 ANA convention––Dinner with the Chairmen ––I found the selection to be every bit as good as I remembered, so I’m certain one still can not go wrong with any menu selection. Ray and Greg joined me in working our heavy dinners off a bit by walking back to the Hilton around 8 p.m.

Thursday got under way at about 5:30 with an hour long morning constitutional walk out Wisconsin Avenue east to the lakefront, then up to Wells Street and back West to 6th Street and returning to the Hilton. It was approaching 8 a.m. when I headed down to The Cafe to join ANA Executive Director Larry Shepherd for breakfast. Parting ways at about 9:30 a.m., I found my way over to the convention center where the CSNS dealer setup had gotten under way at 9 o’clock, with a Professional Preview session slated for the afternoon.

Thursday’s restricted admission session, given the PNG Day session of the previous day, resulted in what appeared to be very sluggish bourse activity. The result did provide ample relaxed opportunities for shopping and conversation throughout the day. One of the memorable conversations I enjoyed was with 12-year-old Taylor Elwood and his father, Mike, from Columbus, Ind. We conversed at the ANA table, discussing his youthful enthusiasm for our hobby community and his expectations of long-term involvement.

With the bourse area closing for the day at 6 p.m. I returned to the Hilton and then headed out on a four- or five-block walk to Mo’s Irish Pub, joining up along the way with the Florida contingent of FUN President Bob Hurst, Vice President Tony Swicer and Convention Coordinator Cindy Wibker. Our destination was the Central States’ educational exhibitors and program presenters “Thank You” reception, where I shared a table with Dillard, Wisegerber and ANA board member Walter Ostromecki from California. On my way back from Mo’s at about 8:30 p.m.,  I was accompanied by fellow Wisconsinites Bill Brandimore and Myles Fenske from Wausau.

Friday again got under way with another hour long constitutional at about 5:30 a.m. This time my walk was west along Wisconsin Avenue through the Marquette University campus 30 blocks to 35th Street and back. At 8 a.m. I attended the annual CSNS club breakfast in the Regency Ballroom at the Hilton, sharing a table with Kurt and Lee Kelley from the Quad City Coin Club, along with the FUN trio, Shepherd and Kim Kiick from ANA headquarters. This assembly drew the participation of 32 clubs, with about two representatives each on average, and broke up at about 9:30 a.m.

The bourse appeared to get off to a reasonably active start, building solidly through the day. At lunch time I stepped across the street to the Capital Grill joining Shepherd, board member Jeff Garrett from Kentucky and general counsel Ron Sirna from Michigan for some ANA discussions. While walking back to the Hilton for a mid-afternoon break, I became engaged in an impromptu discussion with collector and Washington lobbyist Nicholas Pyle, who has announced an initiative to establish a grassroots hobby lobbying organization, Numismatists United for Political Action, with a mission of educating and inspiring the coin collecting community to stand and be heard in Washington.

When the bourse closed at 6 p.m. I convened a two-hour personnel assessment meeting of the ANA Executive Advisory Committee in my room at the Hilton, with Vice President Tom Hallenbeck from Colorado, Past President Barry Stuppler from California, Joe Boling from Indiana and Sirna participating. My day drew to a close at about 9:30 p.m., following a visit to The Cafe for a late salad and sorbet.

Saturday, the first of May, yet again found my day getting under way at about 5:30 with another morning constitutional. This one was only about half an hour in duration, walking down 5th Street to the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, then east on St. Paul Avenue to Plankinton Avenue, following it and the River Walk up to Juneau Avenue, then walking west and down 6th Street to return to the Hilton.

First up on my agenda for the day was attendance at the 7:30 a.m. annual CSNS awards breakfast and brief membership meeting in the Empire Ballroom at the Hilton. I shared a table with Francis and Karen Hawks from Hutchinson, Kan., along with their friend Donna Nuss from Texas and George Fitzgerald from Fort Wayne. From the Milwaukee area there were also Darrell and Sue Luedtke and Bob Mathieu. As part of the proceedings I presented an ANA Presidential Award to David Heinrich, a CSNS hobby go-getter whose home club is the Cincinnati Numismatic Society.

It was about 9:30 a.m. by the time I made it onto a very quiet bourse, one that never did pick up any real steam during the course of the day. In retrospect, this convention was effectively all over, except for the shouting, as the saying goes. Based on the feedback I received from dealers, the show was not necessarily bad from a business perspective, but there was a lot of grousing about the format; two full days of non-public admission, they being PNG Day on Wednesday and Professional Preview Day on Thursday.

At about 2 o’clock I joined a gathering of exhibitors at a table in the lunch area at the back of the convention hall ––someone remarked that this was the “Three O’clock Table”––that being the time at which the Freelands, Wolka, Brandimore, Fenske, myself and others could start breaking down their exhibits.

Given the outstanding quality of exhibits competing for awards, mine didn’t garner any recognitions, although a handful of exhibitors who stopped to pass a few words while I was breaking mine down, related that it had garnered their “People’s Choice” ballots, but they were obviously in the minority, which certainly came as no surprise to me. That result didn’t bother me in the least either, as on the infrequent occasions when I bring it out, I do so because it is easy to set up and I enjoy sharing the fruits of one of my eclectic collecting interests with attendees.

By 3:30 p.m. or so I was on the road headed home, this time with Chet Krause in tow as a passenger, Joel Edler having been his chauffeur for the trip down. As we haven’t been traveling together much of late, or even reciprocating on office visits while in Iola, this was a welcome opportunity for some undisturbed conversations. The two-hour drive ended all too quickly.

Like all Central States conventions, and I’ve attended most of them over the past 50 years, this one allowed me the opportunity to renew many old acquaintances and friendships, while making some new ones, with enthusiasts from near and far. For me, that’s one of the truly redeeming attributes of traveling within this hobby community as I do.


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