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Collecting strong in Canada

I carved six days out of mid-July to attend this year’s 61st anniversary convention of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association. Hosted in Windsor, Ontario, the convention provided me with both a drivable destination and a change of tempo.
Similar to the annual ANA conventions, the annual RCNA gatherings are truly national events. The RCNA events are, however, significantly more social in nature, and on a markedly different scale to those of the ANA.

My drive to Windsor got under way with a 7 a.m. departure from home, and I picked up I-94 outside Milwaukee, Wis., just over two hours later. Traveling through Chicago by way of the Edens, Kennedy and Ryan expressways, and just over four hours on the road, I exited off the Chicago Skyway into Indiana. I pulled off I-94 at Benton Harbor to top off the car’s gas tank, and satisfied my hunger with a salad and chicken pot pie at a Cracker Barrel, happy with having logged 315 miles already.

Back on the road about an hour later, my trip meter had reached the 500 mile mark as I dropped off I-94 in Detroit, and crossed over into Canada on the Ambassador Bridge at about 5:15 p.m. With border crossing formalities behind me, I quickly located the Hilton hotel on Windsor’s riverfront, and completed check-in formalities for my room by 6 p.m. I headed down to retrieve my attendee materials at the convention registration area, where I was met by Windsor Coin Club member Gregg Platt from Detroit, among others.

It was about 7 o’clock that evening when I headed up to the hospitality room, where the opening evening’s gathering was just starting to assemble. Among the many with whom I spent a bit of time during the course of the evening were Les Copan and Norm Williams from British Columbia; Serge Lanteinge, John Deyell and Serge Pelliter from Ottawa; Lloyd Chen, Michael Turrini and Chuck Moore from California; Bret Evans from Toronto; and Phil Carrigan from Chicago. Along the way, I was invited to join RCNA president Dan Gosling’s wife, Judy, in cutting a cake prepared in celebration of the host club’s 61st anniversary.

Having called it a day around 9 p.m. on Wednesday, I was filled with energy when I headed out on my daily constitutional on Thursday morning, at about 6 a.m. I hiked the more than 3-kilometer long pathway along Windsor’s Riverfront Parks, walking along the Detroit River to the Ambassador Bridge, and back to the Hilton, a trip of about an hour. Through most of that time, I witnessed a seemingly endless stream of two-man fishing boats speeding upriver to Lake St. Clair.

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It was about 8 o’clock that morning when I headed down to breakfast in the Park Terrace Dining Room, where I enjoyed breakfast with Canadian Paper Money Society president Cliff Beattie, and fellow CPMS members Ron Greene and Ron Cheek. I spent the balance of the day sitting in on a string of educational programs. Most RCNA conventions commence with an Educational Symposium day, this one featured six speakers on exonumia topics ranging from narrowly focused realms, to an overview of the evolution of cataloging development over the past 125 years. The morning sessions attracted attendance of around 25 to 30 people, and those in the afternoon saw somewhat smaller numbers, around 12 to 15 people.

Sessions broke for lunch at noon, and I enjoyed sharing a table, and conversation, in the Park Terrace with long-time Canada Coin News editor and publisher Evans.

The Royal Canadian Mint’s annual reception, hosted at the RCNA convention, was held on Thursday evening, at the Art Gallery of Windsor, just steps down the street from the Hilton. It attracted the participation of virtually all of the dealers, organizers and collectors who had arrived on the scene in advance of the following morning’s opening of the bourse to dealers, exhibitors and other registrants. Getting underway at 6 p.m., with finger foods and beverages available in abundance, it started breaking up at about 7:30 p.m. That is about when I called it a day, noting as I returned to the Hilton, that many in attendance were continuing their walks up the street, likely to check out the opportunities at Caesar’s Windsor Casino.

Friday morning got under way at about 6 o’clock, with another pleasant, hour long constitutional along the Riverfront Parks pathway. At 8 a.m. I sat in on the RCNA Club Delegates’ breakfast meeting, which boasted an attendance of 30 or so people. I joined a table that included RCNA executive secretary, Paul Johnson from Toronto; incoming president, William Waychison from Timmons; incoming director, Regent St-Hilaire from Montreal; education chairman, Henry Nienhuis; seminar speakers Paul Petch and Ermin Chow; and Peter Becker.

A ribbon cutting ceremony in the convention center exhibition room opened the convention to the public at 10 a.m. The balance of the morning following the ribbon cutting was spent absorbing the offerings of the 100 cases of exhibits. They were generally of exceptional quality, being appealing and informative in presentation. I also enjoyed exchanging brief greetings with a number of familiar collector and dealer acquaintances: several Canadians who frequent U.S. shows, and a few border crossing Americans. The 70 or so tables in the bourse were occupied by roughly 40 dealers, who were, with few exceptions, Canadian.

At lunch time, I joined Steve Bieda and ANA executive director, Larry Shepherd, in walking a couple blocks up the street for lunch at the Loose Goose bar and restaurant. Bieda is a Michigan collector, an active member of Detroit area clubs  and a collector of Canadian coins. He is also the legal counsel of the Central States Numismatic Society, and currently serves in the state senate, representing a Detroit-area district. Later in the afternoon, Larry and I spent about two hours talking with RCNA president Gosling, incoming president Waychison and executive secretary  Johnson on ways the two organizations might interact beneficially. This discussion was an informal follow-up on the North American Numismatic Think Tank discussions we had in Baltimore earlier this year, which involved the American Numismatic Society as well.

The time was nearing 6:30 p.m. when I headed out, walking three blocks or so up river with Chen and Turrini, to board a riverboat for an RCNA dinner cruise event on the Detroit River. My evening was spent sharing a table, and conversation, with Don Robb and Mary MacTavish from Waterloo, and Rob Greene from Victoria. We absorbed the shoreline scenery as we ate, and cruised the river between Lake St. Clair and the historic River Rouge industrial complex. It was about 10 p.m. when the riverboat docked, with Shepherd joining me for the walk back to the Hilton.

Following breakfast at the Park Terrace on Saturday morning, I headed to the bourse, spending an hour or so there, and visiting with Tolling Jennings, mintmaster of the Lasqueti Mint. This cottage mint operation is located on British Columbia’s remote Lasqueti Island, situated in the strait separating Vancouver Island from mainland Canada. At 10:30 a.m. I sat in on the RCNA annual meeting, sharing adjacent seating with a collector friend from way back, Bill English from Ontario’s Georgian Bay region. There was a very spirited discussion among 40 or more officers and members in attendance, exploring possible changes in the area directors’ governing body structure. It was somewhat after noon when the meeting broke up, and I headed off for lunch.

I spent the afternoon visiting with dealers and collectors around the relatively languid bourse. About 6 p.m. I headed off to the pre-banquet reception in the Riverside Club room at the Riverside Hotel adjoining the Hilton. The reception and banquet stretched out over three hours, under the guidance of emcee Margaret Clarke of the WCC. Over the course of the banquet the RCNA’s top six achievement and contribution recognitions were awarded. Attendees were also accorded the opportunity to absorb an exploration of the pre-history, and historical heritage, of southwest Ontario, delivered by Dan Dupuis, based on his archaeological explorations and finds over the past 40 years.

The banquet was attended by roughly 100 convention attendees, a coincidental tie with the fact that one among those in attendance was Canadian numismatic icon James E. Charlton, who would be observing his 100th birthday in 10 days, joining fellow North American Eric Newman in observance of that personal milestone. Charlton’s milestone was observed with the serving of a special cake, frosted with his likeness incorporated on a representation of a Canadian $100 bill.

Following the banquet, yet another reception was hosted in the host club’s executive suite, which was overflowing with attendees who, like me, enjoyed sharing a few minutes of reminiscing with Jim. This event also provided me with the opportunity to bestow two ANA Presidential Award recognitions, one going to chairman Brett Irick, an active WCC member from Detroit, and the other to Canada Coin News editor Evans. While the reception was still going strong at 10:30 p.m., I decided it was late enough to excuse myself and call it a day.

I cut my Sunday morning constitutional along the Riverfront Parks pathway short at about 45 minutes, giving me time to get ready for the day, pack my suitcase and have breakfast at the Park Terrace. I was joined by St-Hilaire, prior to sitting in as an observer at the meeting of the incoming RCNA executive at 8 a.m. The executive team in attendance numbered 17 of its 19 members, and featured two hours of discussions, largely concerned with incoming president Waychison’s agenda for the coming two years, and the selection of Toronto as the 2014 convention site. That event will mark the 60th anniversary of the first convention of the organization now known as the RCNA, which was held at the old King Edward Hotel in Toronto.

Having quickly exchanged a few farewells following the meeting, it was about 10:30 a.m. when I put the car on the road, and headed for the Ambassador Bridge border crossing. It was around 3 o’clock that afternoon when I pulled up at my cousin and his wife’s Cassopolis, Mich., home, just five miles from my hometown of Vandalia, Mich., having logged 192 miles for the day. I caught up on the news of family and old friends still living in the area over dinner, and enjoyed a relaxing evening at their home.

It was about 8 a.m. when I hit the road for home on Sunday morning, after being treated to breakfast. It was about 4 p.m. when I pulled into the garage at home, with the day’s log at 353 miles.

Quickly recapping the experience of this outing, as the last miles rolled by, I pondered the trade-off I’d opted for in spending nearly 24 hours on the road coming and going, versus the hassle, time and cost that flying would have involved. That would have undoubtedly minimally demanded at least two-thirds as much time, and cost perhaps half again as much.

The bottom line? The experience was certainly enjoyable. The three-plus days spent in Windsor attending the convention were rewarding. The hours spent visiting with my cousin and his wife were a delightful bonus. And, the result is that I ended up with a few more loose dollars to spend on the pursuit of my hobby interests. Not a bad return on investment for having spent six days on the road.

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