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Hobby outings round out holidays

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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This commentary will primarily recount my experiences attending the 55th annual convention of the Michigan State Numismatic Society over Thanksgiving weekend in Dearborn.

This attendance has become a tradition for me over the past 50-plus years. While I was not among those in attendance at the first gathering back in 1955 – I believe my first year was probably 1959 – the string has been uninterrupted since 1977.

This is also a milestone commentary, however, as it closes out a 30-year lineage dating back to the Jan. 3, 1981, introduction of a column initially tagged Round ‘n’ About, which over time has offered varied observations on my hobby community interests, opinions, experiences and travels. In that first installment I observed that the subjects embraced were unlikely “to be of any particularly lasting moment  … (nor would the topics explored necessarily) have numismatic significance of one degree or another.”

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With that brief sidelight out of the way, I’ll turn to an exploration of my experiences in attending the latest traditional Thanksgiving weekend MSNS gathering in Dearborn.

Heading out from home at about 9 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, I picked up grandson Ryan and his father, Randy Thern, before heading to the airport to catch a 12:01 p.m. Delta flight. Our departure was out of Green Bay rather than Appleton – a 62-mile drive of significantly longer duration, arriving there shortly after 10 a.m. local time – the first time in several years that I have flown out of there to attend the Dearborn or other hobby events. And, as Randy is still hobbling around on crutches as a result of an unfortunate yardwork accident experienced 18 months earlier, we opted to work some extra time into our travel plan.

After opting for a light snack at the airport cafe, we headed to the security checkpoint, not knowing what to expect, given the metal pins that have been inserted in Randy’s legs and ankles. Our angst over the possibilities proved to be ill-founded, as within minutes we were cleared to the boarding concourse. With our assigned 150-passenger DC-9 boarding only  roughly 30 passengers, we were airborne on schedule and on the ground in Detroit by 2 p.m. local time, a good 20 minutes ahead of schedule, despite a very low ceiling.

We were in our rooms at the Hyatt by 3 p.m., having encountered and exchanged greetings with Floridians Mark and Merna Lighterman, convention coordinator Brian Malnar and registration chairman Don Charters passing time in the lobby area awaiting the 4 o’clock opening of dealer setup. After quickly settling into our rooms, we headed down to claim our badges for bourse entry at show registration from MSNS secretary-treasurer Joe LeBlanc and his wife, Lisa, who were manning the dealer sign-in counter.

With no table setup duties for either the ANA or Krause Publications, having allowed a discreet amount of time for exonumia specialist Bob Williams to get his table in order, I then spent a couple enjoyable hours visiting with him and occasional passersby while poring through his inventory. Among others with whom I exchanged greetings and brief visits was ancients dealer Don Zauche from Maryland, from whose wife, Marcella, I purchased a bag of her homemade chocolate turtles, with Don remarking; “She always gets the first sale.”

At about 7 o’clock I joined back up with Ryan and Randy for a quiet dinner at the Hyatt’s Giulio & Sons restaurant, then headed out for an evening constitutional. With a light rain falling I decided against walking along Town Center Drive around the mall, but I did put in one lap around the Hyatt before returning inside and doing four or five laps of the sixth floor hallway before cutting the regimen short at about half an hour and returning to my room for the night.

With conditions having dried out by morning, I opted to get my Friday started at about 6 a.m. with a walk along the drive around Town Center Mall, which takes about half an hour, but with conditions being quite windy and rather frigid, I again retreated to the sixth floor hallway to finish putting in an hour long constitutional. Following breakfast at Giulio’s, it was about 8:30 a.m. by the time I found my way into the bourse area where dealer setup and dealer-to-dealer business was being polished off in advance of the scheduled 10 a.m. public opening of the bourse.

The queue awaiting the opening of the bourse areas to the public was impressive as usual and by 11 a.m. or so the aisles in both the main and annex rooms were absolutely jammed. I did a lot of visiting during the day, including with an old acquaintance from world mint circles, Mark Askew, who has in recent years driven over from Windsor to share a noontime lunch at Giulio’s. Then there was Kenneth McLain, a local whom I believe is the only surviving MSNS member who was in attendance at the 1956 inaugural meeting. Yet another was with Sally Lusk, the wife of U.S. half cent specialist Jon Lusk, who was a member of my 1957 high school graduation class.

While attendance had started to thin a bit by 3 p.m., the bourse remained very active until the closing time of 6:30 drew near. My assessment of the day, frankly, was that the turnout was as good or better than it had been in several years, definitely being markedly improved from the year before, when it had still been very solid. Checking with several dealers around the floor on Saturday morning, their reactions were invariably that business had been outstanding on Friday.

This year the MSNS convention featured a small Friday evening banquet event, with the Token and Medal Society formally celebrating the 50th anniversary of its establishment, a special occasion organized under the sponsorship of the Michigan Token and Medal Society, which was coincidently marking its 45th anniversary. The TAMS organizational meeting was held on Nov. 19, 1060, during the sixth annual MSNS fall gathering hosted at the old Book Cadillac Hotel in downtown Detroit. The anniversary event filled the evening, having gotten under way at 7 p.m. and being about three hours in duration, complete with a fundraising donation auction called by Mich-TAMS secretary-treasurer Doug Jennings, with about 60 in attendance and me serving as master of ceremonies.

Having awakened shortly before six o’clock on Saturday morning and observing the flags in the Hyatt plaza whipping in the wind rather ominously, I decided to crawl back in bed for another hour or so rather than subjecting myself to the rigors of getting my day started with a constitutional. Ryan and Randy joined me in heading down for breakfast at Giulio’s around 8 a.m., so by 9 I was down circulating about the bourse, where activity through the morning and day appeared to be at comparatively moderate levels, whenever I had the opportunity to check them out.

Actually, my day was pretty crammed with activities elsewhere, starting with spending a considerable slice of the morning in the exhibit area judging for the Mich-TAMS Hartley-Holstine and the Paper Money Collectors of Michigan Dr. Wallace Lee awards, during the course of which I soaked in the offerings of the other exhibits as well. At about 11:30 I headed to lunch at Giulio’s with Paul Johnson from the Toronto area, executive secretary of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association. Paul and I have been enjoying casually discussing RCNA, ANA and related hobby issues over lunch at Michigan State for the past several years.

It was about 1 p.m. when I headed to the Bugatti Royale meeting room on the second floor, where I spent much of the balance of the day. First up was a special four-speaker, two-hour educational program moderated by Mich-TAMS president Kathy Freeland, another celebratory event marking TAMS’ 50th anniversary. That was immediately followed by the regular MSNS educational forum, which took the form of a panel conducted by board member and PMCM president Karl Mark Paul, with me and four or five individuals participating, who are presidents, or have served as presidents of one or more other coin hobby community organizations, that did not break up until about 5:30 p.m.

It was about 6 o’clock when I headed off to Giulio’s for the third time on this day,  joining Flint resident and ANA general counsel Ron Sirna for a quick dinner and casual conversation.

At 7 p.m. it was back up to the Bugatti Royale room where the annual MSNS board meeting was just getting under way as I arrived on the scene with Dr. Andrew Parks from Marquette presiding. The open meeting boasted an attendance of 16 members and observers, in addition to a full complement of board members and officers. They were still moving through a long agenda when a break was called at about 8:45 p.m., at which point I slipped away to call it a day. I understand the pace slowed thereafter, with the open meeting stretching on until well after 10 p.m., followed by an executive session, with the time pushing midnight before they called a wrap to the day.

With weather conditions having moderated, 6 a.m. Sunday found me heading out for a walking regimen on a still cold but pleasantly quiet morning, putting in an hour encircling the walkways around the perimeter of the Hyatt. At 8:30 a.m.  I headed to the De Soto room for the annual MSNS recognition breakfast, with Ryan and Randy joining me. We shared a table with Ray Dillard and his son-in-law Greg Wisegerber from the Flint area, Dany Rothfield from Lansing, Jack Huggins from St. Louis and Steve Bieda. During this past fall’s election Bieda was elected to an open Detroit area seat in the Michigan Senate, having two years ago been term-limited out as a representative in the lower chamber of Michigan’s legislature.

A two-hour affair with an attendance of around 100, the exhibit awards and membership longevity recognitions were presented at this event. This year’s honored guest was Dr. Wallace Lee, the long-time president and driving force of PMCM, who was presented a MSNS President’s Award by Dr. Parks. I was invited to present the Mich-TAMS Hartley-Hollstine Award, according me the opportunity to follow with the presentation of an ANA Presidential Award to a surprised Rothfeld.

After spending an hour or so floating about the bourse area following the recognitions session, I headed up for a brief visit to the hospitality room, my first of the weekend, which was in the capable hands of MSNS board member Julianna Wostyn. After dishing up a light snack, I became engaged in a brief but wide-ranging discussion with Bieda while downing it, discussing the political scene in Michigan, his coin design and exhibit interests, and his thus far unsuccessful efforts to win appointment as the successor to Edmund Moy as U.S. Mint director.

Immediately thereafter, at about 12:30 p.m., I joined up with Ryan and Randy, hailing transportation to the airport. We apparently beat the holiday travel crunch that we have come to expect in connection with catching our return flight to Green Bay. Having checked in and cleared security with roughly two hours to spare, we had ample time to enjoy a relaxing lunch at the Concourse A Chili’s, before heading to our boarding gate in Concourse C. Our departure was at 3:30 p.m. on a 50-passenger Delta Connection CRJ-200, which put us in Green Bay by 3:45 p.m. and home by 5:30 p.m.

For most readers, Thanksgiving weekend is probably a family affair. For many coin hobbyists within easy hailing distance of the Detroit area, it becomes a surrogate family affair of sorts. For me, it has long since become an enjoyable bit of both.

There were also two in-state outings on my docket for the November-December timeframe. The first was a second Sunday of November drive over to Green Bay to hit the fall show of the Nicolet Coin Club, hosted annually on the Packers bye week. The second was a third Thursday of December drive down to Milwaukee to attend the monthly meeting of the Milwaukee Numismatic Society, this being their annual holiday pizza party gathering.

My drive to the Green Bay show was somewhat roundabout, the 75-mile jaunt taking about 90 minutes. Leaving home at 7:30, I picked up Colin Bruce at about 8 a.m. at his home just outside Iola, arriving at the show shortly after 9. The event, hosted at the Rock Garden Comfort Suites on Green Bay’s northwest fringe, is a roughly 50-table affair. After enjoying the show for about two and a half hours, we were joined by Joel Edler for lunch and our homeward bound drive, with Joel treating at a Los Banditos restaurant on the west side. It was about 2:30 p.m. when I arrived back home, having dropped Joel and Colin off in Iola on the way, closing out an enjoyable and relaxing day of hobby camaraderie with time to relax at home.

My drive to Milwaukee would be direct but considerably longer; roughly two hours and 120-plus miles each way. The MNS meets monthly in a community room at the Mayfair Mall in the near western suburb of Wauwatosa. Attendance at the December meeting, the club’s 910th, was motivated by the need to deliver an ANA 75 years of continuous membership plaque, accepted on their behalf during the Boston convention this past August, into the hands of president Leon Saryan. The occasion also accorded me the opportunity to present an ANA Presidential Award recognition to Dave Hunsicker, who has been actively involved in the MNS and greater Milwaukee area numismatic activities for many years.

Inside a span of five weeks I managed to enjoy one gangbuster convention event, one down home local show and a friendly and relaxing coin club meeting. Not bad for sprinkling a bit of hobby enjoyment into a holiday period packed with family activities.

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