This year’s 58th annual Florida United Numismatists (FUN) convention was an enjoyable and active event.
The theme was “Buffalos and Hobos, A Centennial Celebration,” with elongated coin commemorative giveaways provided by the venerable Raymond Dillard of Fenton, Mich., and encasements that captured circulated, but clearly dated Buffalo nickels that were available to attendees.
Bill “Zemo” Fivaz, an emeritus board member of the Original Hobo Nickel Society (OHNS), delivered Thursday morning’s kickoff educational presentation – “Grading Buffalo Nickels.”
My travels to this year’s FUN event commenced with a 7 o’clock Wednesday morning departure from the Appleton airport on Delta. I made a connection in Detroit where I met up with Numismatic News editor Dave Harper who was flying out on the same itinerary. Out of Detroit we unexpectedly shared seating in the same row enabling us to exchange lots of insights on hobby topics through the roughly 2 1/2 hour flight.
Dave and I also shared a taxi ride to the convention center area upon our arrival, I being dropped off at the Rosen Centre at about 1:30 p.m. and Dave continuing on to the nearly Rosen Plaza directly across International Drive from the south concourse of the Orlando County Convention Center.
By the time I had settled into my room and walked over to the convention center, it was about 2:30. While dealer setup had gotten under way at 2 p.m., there were still long lines at dealer registration. Stepping down to the FUN operational office to allow the queue to dissipate, I exchanged greetings with board member Fred Lake, his ever present camera in hand for recording convention activities, president Tony Swicer, who was heading out with a trolley loaded with properties, and others who were scurrying in and out. By around 3 o’clock, having obtained the requisite photo ID, I had found my way down to the bourse area where activity was humming.
The bourse was an expansive layout of 614 sold-out tables, the largest in the history of FUN. Off to the side was a 250-case collector exhibits area under the charge of Fran Lockwood from Marion, Ind., as it has been for the last several years, though I understand that starting in 2014 that task will be taken over by Floridian and FUN board member Bob Russell. Located nearby were a dozen or so club table setups. My first encounter there was with OHNS president “Rollie” Taylor who gave me a pair of special convention elongateds rolled on Buffaloes, as contrasted to the cents regularly received by attendees at registration. I also visited with OHNS treasurer and ANA national volunteer “Slip” Pearl.
After spending a couple hours orienting myself to the bourse and briefly visiting along the way with dealers and others in attendance, I found myself back in the club table area. There I visited the Georgia Numismatic Association table and President Greg Ison, Vice President Tom Youngblood, Governor Chip Cutcliff and Ralph Gentry. As late afternoon became early evening a noticeable drop in the activity level around the bourse became evident. By around 6:30 the floor was mighty quiet, to the point of near desolation by the time the 8 p.m. closing was nearing. Walking back to the Centre I wondered if this might turn out to be a quiet FUN; as it turned out this one was anything but quiet from the standpoint of business.
At the center I chose the Cafe Gauguin for dinner. Opting to be served a soup and salad, by 9 p.m. I had returned to my room to call it a day.
The air was laden with humidity when I ventured out for my Thursday morning walking regimen. My one hour stroll took me up along International Drive to Sand Lake Road and back. At 8:30 a.m. I was in the lobby to meet Ron Sirna from Michigan, who has been serving as the ANA’s general counsel for the past five-plus years, and we headed off for breakfast at a nearby Denny’s.
It was somewhat after 10 a.m. by the time I found my way back to the OCCC, Heading directly down to the bourse floor, I found the aisles filled and the hum of commercial activity vibrant. I spent the next couple of hours in the collector exhibits area. At about 12:30 p.m. I joined up with Barry Stuppler, my predecessor as ANA president, for a walk over to the attached Hilton hotel where we enjoyed a wide ranging conversation over lunch, my selection again being soup and a salad.
It was around 2 o’clock when we returned to the convention floor, where activity appeared unabated from what it had been in the morning. While enjoying many impromptu conversations and a moderate amount of shopping through the balance of the afternoon, it was evident that buyers were generally eager and sellers quite happy with the resulting interaction. Hanging in there until the scheduled close of the bourse/exhibits floor at 7 p.m., on this day business appeared robust virtually to the last minute.
After returning to my room at the Centre, at about 7:30 I headed down to the lobby for a bite to eat before retiring. Opting for their Everglades dining room, I enjoyed a relaxing, quiet dinner. Within an hour I had caught the elevator up to my 21st floor room to call it a day.
Friday morning again found me heading out for my constitutional at about 6 a.m., but this time around the conditions were pleasantly comfortable. Heading down for breakfast at the Cafe Gauguin at about 8:30 a.m., finding fellow ANA board member Walter Ostromecki already enjoying his, I invited myself into his company.
The tempo of activity on the FUN bourse appeared to have picked up on Friday morning where it had left off on Thursday evening; the aisles were once again packed and much scurrying about was in evidence. It was about 1 p.m. when I met up with fellow ANA board member Scott Rottinghaus over a gyro at the concession stand. With the pace of activity around the bourse retrenching somewhat over the next three hours, it was somewhat more inviting, from my perspective, to undertake some casual conversations and acquisitions with dealers around the floor.
At 5 p.m. the ANA board convened for a scheduled executive session. Going out of session about two hours later, we broke for about 40 minutes to partake of a dinner that had been catered. Reconvening in an open session that had been declared at the 11th hour, with some eight to 10 members in attendance who had been waiting outside the closed doors for nearly two hours, we dispatched several issues in open debate on which media reports have been published. It was about 9 p.m. when President Tom Hallenbeck called for adjournment of the session, at which time I called it a day and headed directly back to the Center.
Having not set a wake-up alarm for Saturday morning, and oversleeping as a result, I didn’t roll out of bed until 6:30. That was too late for me to extend serious thought to a morning walk, as the ANA board was scheduled to gather for an informal meeting at 8 a.m. in a back corner of the Cafe Gauguin over breakfast. Our informal meeting was a lively give and take on the needs, tactics and prospects for developing capital fundraising infusions to provide the means for developing enhanced nurturing of the hobby community.
After returning to my room briefly and securing my suitcase with the baggage check room in the lobby before returning to the convention center, I was left with four hours or so to continue enjoying my 2013 FUN experience before heading to the airport. This accorded me the opportunity to stroll through the collector exhibits area to view the offerings one more time, this time with the blue, red and white ribbons in place symbolizing excellence as divined by the judges. While attendance was certainly lighter and activity around the floor more muted than it had been on Thursday and Friday, solid activity was evidenced in most respects. Before taking leave of the convention center I stepped into the FUN operations office briefly, according the opportunity to pass a bit of time with convention coordinator Cindy Wibker and immediate past president Bob Hurst, who had dialed up their relaxed mode with the end in sight.
It was shortly after 1 o’clock when I headed back over to the Centre to reclaim my suitcase and catch a limo to the airport. Having cleared check-in and security for my 3:15 p.m. Delta flight north, by two I was on my way to the boarding gate area, where I availed myself of a burger at the Outback Steakhouse for lunch. My homeward bound travels transpired smoothly, with a change of planes in Detroit again, and arrival in Appleton about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Before hitting the road for home, however, I had to endure a half hour wait for my suitcase to appear in baggage claim.
It was about 9 p.m. before I was behind the wheel of the Town Car. Eagerly tuning in the Packers/49ers playoff game on the radio, I was pleased to discover that it was a close contest. After listening to the radio broadcast of the third quarter, concern was starting to settle in, but that was nothing to compare with the disappointment of witnessing the 49ers dismantling of the Packers watching the TV broadcast of the fourth quarter at home. That certainly provided a souring cap to what had been a great outing to FUN.