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Hobbyists flock to Summer Seminar

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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Toward the end of June I embarked on a 10-day trip to participate in the record setting 42nd annual ANA Summer Seminar in Colorado Springs, a true melting pot of our hobby community.

Having departed home on the last Friday of the month, I returned home on July 4th. During my time there the days were spent busily and enjoyably immersed in exposure to the bountiful educational and interaction opportunities of the production.

My travels to Colorado Springs were roundabout. A 9:23 a.m. United Express flight out of Appleton conencted at O’Hare to another United commuter flight to Sioux Falls, connecting there to a mainline United flight to Denver. My arrival in Denver was at 2 p.m., about 15 minutes ahead of schedule.

Claiming an Enterprise rental car for the 80-mile drive to the Springs, I pulled up to ANA headquarters at about 4:30 p.m., where I found ANA numismatic educator Rod Gillis and former staffer and bibliophile David Sklow chatting near the entrance. Inside I was greeted by meeting services assistant Judy Newhouse, who was holding down the reception counter. Upstairs I visited briefly with executive director Larry Shepherd and his executive assistant, Ann Rahn, before heading over to a nearby Quality Inn to claim my accommodations.

After settling into my room, I headed over to the St. Mary’s Inn, about a 20-minute stroll away, for the 6 p.m. instructor reception. Over the next two hours I enjoyed mixing with the 35 or so instructors, staff and early arriving students in attendance. It was about 8 p.m. when I walked back to the Quality Inn to call it a day.

My Saturday morning began at about 5:45 a.m. with a constitutional up a pathway meandering north where I picked up the Pikes Peak Greenway trail, following it south through Monument Valley Park and returning to the Quality Inn at about 6:30 a.m. After enjoying the continental breakfast offerings, it was about 8 a.m. when I headed off hiking to ANA headquarters, some 10 blocks away.

At about 9:30 a.m. I headed over to the Loomis Hall lounge, where registration would be held. I was accompanied by Iowa dealer Brian Fanton, who would be serving as an ANA greeter at the airport for arriving students. This was his 19th consecutive Summer Seminar participation as a student, instructor and volunteer.

While waiting for activities to get under way I enjoyed an extended conversation with Richard Josefiak from northern Alabama. It was about 11 a.m. when registration formally got under way for the first session students, with marketing and education director Jay Beeton, project manager Susan McMillan and education assistant Emily Silver presiding.

Sharing in the buffet luncheon that was set up at Loomis for incoming students, I enjoyed extended conversations with Neil Shafer from Wisconsin and Dan and Kathy Freeland from Michigan, while exchanging greetings with many others.

Early afternoon found me absorbing the exhibits at the ANA’s Edward C. Rochette Money Museum. Among them was one featuring the McDermott/Bebee and Walton specimens of the 1913 Liberty nickel. I took note of the inclusion of the associated $46,000 check that Aubrey Bebee drafted in payment of his winning bid. It carried the date Aug. 11, 1967, a historic day in numismatics – by coincidence my birthday – on which I had been an observer of unfolding history, though that event’s confluence had escaped my memory!

The 42nd annual Summer Seminar opening ceremonies and orientation meeting was held at 4:30 p.m. in Colorado College’s Gaylord Hall in the Worner Center, just across from ANA headquarters. More than 200 students registered for the first session, with registrations for the second session just shy of 200. Sharing a short row of the assembly with instructors Shafer, Mary Sauvain from Colorado Springs, and roving instructors Ken Bressett from the Springs and Bill Fivaz from Atlanta, I was pleased to join executive director Shepherd in welcoming them.

The assembly moved on to dinner in the Rastall dining area of the Worner Center, where I enjoyed sharing a table and conversation with attendees Earl Coppersmith from near Fort Worth, Gerry Fortin from the Portland, Maine, area, and Clark Fogg from Beverly Hills, along with numismatic photography instructor Tom Mulvaney from Kentucky and Fanton. Following dinner most attendees returned to Gaylord Hall for game one of a “Numismatic Jeopardy” series, created under the direction of instructor Jeff Shevlin from California. It was followed by games two and three on Sunday and Tuesday, and on Thursday by a championship round.

The final scheduled activity on the first day was an 8 p.m. “Hidden Secrets of the Carson City Mint” program presented by Kenneth Hoppel from Nevada, restorer and current operator of the still functioning historic “CC” coining press No. 1, first installed at the mint 140 years ago. I was among 20 or so attendees who sat in on the presentation, following which I drove back to the Quality Inn at about 9.

Sunday morning got under way for me at about a 5:45 a.m., walking up Monument Creek Valley by way of the Pikes Peak Greenway and Monument Creek Park Trails on an extended constitutional from which I did not return until about 7 o’clock. Following breakfast, I drove to ANA headquarters, where I parked my car before heading over to Loomis Hall to catch a bus tour to the Mollie Kathleen gold mine outside Cripple Creek, enjoying extended conversations with long time collector, retired school administrator and now dealer John Dirnbauer from Maine’s central coast.

At the gold mine our tour group of 27 was treated to a vertical descent of about 1,000 feet from the mine head into the southwest slope of Pikes Peak, from where we toured a maze of mining tunnels. The Mollie Kathleen is a tourist mine in the summer and an operating mine through the balance of the year. While awaiting the reassembly of our group for the bus trip back to Colorado Springs, I enjoyed a conversation with young numismatist Samuel Ernst from Omaha, who was attending on a CONECA scholarship.

Getting back to the Colorado College campus at about 12:30 p.m., I joined Jim Petrow from Miami, Jerry Bobbe from Portland, Ore., Joe Paonessa from Wisconsin, and Joe Boling from Indianapolis, along with ANA staffers RyAnne Scott and Jay Beeton and others for lunch at the Rastall. Then, I spent the afternoon seminar session sitting in on Shevlin’s “Fascinating Field of So-Called Dollars” class, along with the six enrolled students, and David Perkins from Denver, who was a visiting instructor for the day.

At about 4 p.m. I stopped by to spend a few minutes taking in an “Art of Engraving” student exhibit reception in the Coburn Gallery of Worner Hall, viewing examples of their work in a variety of styles. I then drove back to the Quality Inn for a bit of relaxation. Henry Mitchell of Colorado Springs, son of the late Ralph “Curly” Mitchell of California, stopped by at about 6 p.m. to head off to dinner. Henry drove and treated at Biaggi’s, an Italian restaurant, where I spent a most enjoyable two hours or so in conversation with him and his friend Mara.

On Monday I didn’t head out for my morning constitutional until about 6 a.m., walking the Monument Creek Valley pathways to a point about half an hour south and back. It was about 7:30 when I headed down to treat myself to the Quality Inn’s continental breakfast, joining the Freelands. Following breakfast I hoofed my way the mile or so to the Summer Seminar venue, opting to get this seminar day started by sitting in with six students on the “Wonderful World of Paper Money” session at Worner Hall, instructed by a pair of Milwaukeeans, renowned world paper money authority Shafer and Andrew Keene, the latter at age 14 being the youngest instructor by far in the history of the ANA Summer Seminar.

My Monday morning was closed out with time spent sitting in on Boling’s “Detecting Counterfeit World Paper Money” seminar, an intense session held in Armstrong Hall. Following another daily lunch at the Restall, this time sharing a table with long-time ANA officer Adna Wilde’s widow, Joan, exhibits and volunteers manager Brenda Bishop and Boling, I began the afternoon by returning to Armstrong to sit in on a pair of sessions. The first was an exploration of “Colonial Americana,” by instructors John Kraljevich from New York City and Erick Goldstein from Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, with 11 students enrolled. I followed that by sitting in on a slightly larger student assembly, the largest of those I visited, for “CSI Ancient Coins: Forensics of Ancient Coin Collecting” conducted by ancient specialist David Vagi from Florida and Celator publisher Kerry Wetterstrom from Pennsylvania.

With seminar classes dismissing daily at 4 p.m., and having done a lot of sitting during the course of the day, I opted for a short break, walking to the Quality and back, prior to dinner at the Rastall. Following dinner, at 6:30 p.m. I joined perhaps 40 other seminar participants for the public forum meeting of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee, a session that included eight of the 12 panel members, including chairman Gary Marks from Idaho. By the time the session concluded about three hours later, with the audience having dwindled to about 10 p.m., the streets had darkened for the hike back to my accommodations.
It was about 6:30 a.m. Tuesday when I headed out walking to Worner Hall, there meeting up with Matthew Hutchisson from Illinois, Scott Morgan from Tucson and William Laney from Pennsylvania, along with Mulvaney and Shevlin for breakfast. Following breakfast we headed out for about a 45-minute walk – a door prize drawing for morning walks with the ANA president on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday had been held at Saturday’s opening ceremonies.

Following our return from the walk, I sat in on the session “Money of the World: Coins That Made History” with Ira Goldberg from California and Doug Mudd of the ANA staff as instructors, and a classroom of six. At morning break I moved just a couple doors down the way to sit in on “Classic U.S. Commemoratives: Bourse Secrets of a Pro,” conducted by Shepherd for a class of seven.

At noontime I shared conversation over lunch at a table that included Australians Tony James and Nick Sharplin, along with the Freelands. The afternoon was spent sitting in on the “Business of Being A Coin Dealer” course conducted for 12 students by Steve Ellsworth from Virginia, and a 4:30 p.m. bull session lead by Donald Scarinci from New Jersey on “The Sculptor’s Medal: The J. Sanford Saltus Award.” It was a thorough exploration of the background of the nearly century old recognition presented under ANS auspices.

It was about 5:30 p.m. when I moved on to a meeting at ANA headquarters with Shepherd and general counsel Ron Sirna from Michigan, discussions which stretched out to nearly two hours. With dinner at the Rastall no longer available, after walking back to my accommodations, I stepped across the street to a Denny’s for dinner before calling it a day.

Participating in Wednesday morning’s breakfast and walk with the ANA president were Jim Bucki from Buffalo, N.Y., Steve Strauss from Atlanta and David Welsh from Denver, along with Fanton and Vagi. My morning classroom time was spent again sitting in on the Vagi and Wetterstrom ancient coin forensics class, this time with John Nebel from Denver as the visiting instructor.

I had to skip lunch on Wednesday in deference to an ANA board teleconference meeting than ran from noon to 1 p.m. My afternoon classroom time was spent sitting in on ANA board member Scott Rottinghaus’ “Coins of the Roman Republic” class, which had drawn about 10 students, following which I returned to ANA headquarters for a visit with the executive director. At 5 p.m. I joined a Rastall dinner table that included Larry Keefe from Arizona, Gerry Fortin from Maine, Bill Fivaz from Atlanta, Mike Faraone from Huntington Beach, Calif., and Bressett.

Following dinner, I headed to Gaylord Hall, where lot viewing for the 7 p.m. Young Numismatists Benefit Auction was under way. The auction was an entertaining affair conducted by auctioneer Sonny Henry from Illinois. With perhaps 100 attendees gathered for the start of the session, bidding was widely dispersed.When the bids were totaled nearly $20,000 had been banked for YN scholarships to the 2011 Summer Seminar.

The third and last breakfast and walk with the ANA president on Thursday morning included the participation of George Biliadue from Connecticut and Ralph Winter from Michigan, Richard Giles from Houston and Brian Hunt from Chattanooga, along with Bruce Breedlove from the Springs. On Thursday morning I split time between a second visit to Boling’s counterfeits class, which focused on U.S. issues, and the “Meaning of Money: Coins and Currency in the Modern World,” conducted by Mitch Sanders from Rochester, N.Y., another of the smaller classes with just five students.

After enjoying conversations over lunch with David Stuppler from California, along with Bressett, Fivaz, Scarinci and others, I again spent a substantial slice of the afternoon counseling with Shepherd and Sirna. Walking back to my accommodations mid-afternoon, I spent some time relaxing before walking back to partake in the closing reception and banquet.

Sharing a table with Paul Gill from Missouri, Charles Levine from Arizona, Lee McKenzie from Utah, and Sanders, along with ANA staffers Barbara Gregory, Carol Shuman and Cydney Jones, the banquet also provided the opportunity to present a Presidential Award to Gerome Walton, a resident of the Springs who very ably serves the ANA in an assistant treasurer capacity. The evening was ably and cheerfully emceed by Don Bonser from Key West, an instructor, along with Sauvain, of the “Intermediate Grading” course.

At 8:30 p.m., following the banquet, the championship round of Numismatic Jeopardy got under way. The winner by a mile was dealer Rick Snow, the Indian cent specialist from Arizona. It was a bit after 9 o’clock before I found myself pounding the sidewalk back to the Quality Inn, closing out another enjoyable day.

My Friday morning constitutional got under way around 5:45, this time crisscrossing the streets of downtown Colorado Springs, returning to the Quality Inn at about 7. After showering and dressing for the day I enjoyed a quiet, relaxed and leisurely continental breakfast while digesting the contents of the day’s USA Today.

It was shortly after 9 o’clock when I put my rental car on the road for a drive of 10 miles or so to the northern fringe of the metro area, near the Air Force Academy reservation, to the Phil Long Expo Center where the Colorado Springs Coin Show was getting under way. After spending the morning there, I headed back into town to visit with Ed and Mary Ann Rochette. A pleasurable three hours followed, including lunch at Mollica’s Italian restaurant, near the Garden of the Gods, where I enjoyed a very hearty Italian salad.

Bidding farewell to the Rochettes at about 3:30, I enjoyed a brief visit to the Colorado Springs & Interurban Railway Museum before returning to my accommodations. A short while later I was hitting the road north again, this time to a destination a dozen miles or so northwest in the Popes Bluffs area. This outing was in response to an invitation extended by Mitchell to join in on an evening of camaraderie at a gathering of the Henderson Supper Club, an informal numismatic group, with no bylaws or officers, of about 20 local and Denver area enthusiasts who gather monthly.

This particular meeting was being hosted by Chris Marchase, a grandson of the late Bill Henderson, the Supper Club namesake who was instrumental in prevailing upon the ANA to commit to Colorado Springs for its national headquarters back in the mid-1960s. The location of the meeting, with about 40 members and guests in attendance, was at a home owned by Marchase’s parents. Situated at an elevated location in the foothills of the Rockies, from the home’s open deck attendees were treated to a spectacular evening view of the mountains to the west and the Monument Creek valley and Air Force Academy grounds to the north and east.

My Saturday morning walking regimen entailed a fairly arduous climb up and over a hill into the historic old Colorado City area, which served as the original capital of Colorado Territory. A reasonably flat route back tracked along Colorado Avenue to Cascade Avenue, which I then followed up to Bijou and back to the Quality Inn. By shortly after 8 a.m. I had returned for a second run at the coin show.

Shortly after noon I met up with Henry Mitchell again, this time for lunch at a nearby California Pizza Kitchen, this time being my treat, after which I returned to the show for another hour or so. Taking leave of the show at about 3 p.m., I pulled into the ANA headquarters parking lot about 15 minutes later. There I exchanged greetings briefly with incoming second session student Larry Sekulich from Michigan and “Detection of Counterfeit and Altered Coins” instructor Bob Campbell from Salt Lake City, before heading up for another brief meeting with Shepherd and Sirna.

At 4:30 p.m. students enrolled for the second week of the 42nd annual Summer Seminar assembled in Gaylord Hall, where I shared a row with former U.S. Mint sculptor/engraver Tom Rodgers, Bressett and Campbell, again joining Shepherd in welcoming them. After adjourning to the Rastall for dinner, I enjoyed table conversations with Brett Irick from the Detroit, who in 2011 will be chairing the RCNA convention just across the river in Windsor, along with John Rejitko from Ontario, Tom Flynn from Omaha and Fred Schwan from Ohio. Following dinner, at about 6:30, I drove back to my accommodations, oblivious of the fact that I was missing out on a session that I had intended to sit in on – “ANA History: You Ask, I Tell” – being conducted by past ANA staffer Dave Sklow.

On Sunday morning, July 4th, I was up early and on the road north to the Denver airport by 6:15. After surrendering my rental car, checking in at the United counter and working my way through security, I had about two hours to burn prior to my scheduled departure on a non-stop United Express flight to Appleton. By about 2:30 p.m. I was home, according the opportunity to enjoy the tail end of a family gathering for the balance of the holiday afternoon.

As I was driving home from the Appleton airport I found myself reflecting on how the ANA Summer Seminar activity has changed dramatically since my first attendance back in the early 1970s. Back then the event was just a week in duration, offered four or five class options and hosted in the area of 100 students. Today it has become a true melting pot of the hobby community, attracting some of the hobby’s leading dealers, numismatic authorities and technical experts as instructors, a wide range novice and advanced collectors and dealers as students, and a healthy contingent of young numismatist enthusiasts and disciples.

The ANA Summer Seminar has certainly made its mark on the hobby community, since 1969 when Rochette and the late Adna Wilde planted the seeds of this event with the participation of a score or so students and a handful of instructors, with many of the young numismatist and novice students of the past having through the years graduated to prominent numismatic involvements. Many have returned the favor in extending ongoing support and participation to the event. Like the ANA, the Summer Seminar is obviously a good thing that is here to stay.

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