My favorite coin show event on an annual basis is most likely the Michigan State gathering in Dearborn over Thanksgiving weekend.
Thanksgiving Day found me taking wing to the Detroit area for the 33rd consecutive year to attend the 54th annual renewal of this hobby community tradition. Attendance for me has become a tradition as well. While I had missed 1975 and 1976 events, the latter having been first year it was hosted at the present Hyatt Regency Dearborn site, after having attended the annual MSNS anniversary fairly regularly from 1960 through 1974, I have not missed one since.
This year, however, with airlines having cut back on flights across the board, I opted for a mid-morning flight to Detroit, rather than late afternoon. Thus, it was about 7:30 in the morning when I said good-by to Sally and Snickers, the brown Lab we adopted a year ago, hitting the road from our lake house to Iola to pick up grandson Ryan Thern. His father Randy did not join us this year due to an accident he suffered earlier in the year that still has him pretty much housebound.
We arrived at the airport with plenty of time for a light snack in the terminal food service area before heading to the gate area for our scheduled 10:20 departure. With the 50-passenger regional jet boarding just 19, the flight departed about 15 minutes early. Arrival at the other end was at about noon, rather than the scheduled arrival time of 12:50. With light traffic in the terminal and on the highway, we registered at the Hyatt a bit ahead of that time.
The Detroit Lions traditional Thanksgiving Day game had gotten under way just minutes before, and with the Green Bay Packers being the opponent this year, we quickly settled into our room and witnessed the Packers’ solid dispatching of the Lions. Following the end of the broadcast, we headed down to Giulio & Sons on the second floor for an early dinner, feasting on the brunch buffet that was still up.
It was nearing 5 o’clock when we headed down to the lobby and the dealer registration area where MSNS secretary-treasurer Joe LeBlanc, his wife Lisa, and convention coordinator Brian Malnar were expediting dealer sign-in and set-up, which had gotten under way at 3 p.m. I spent about an hour in the bourse visiting with area exonumia dealer Bob Williams at his table, as I foraged through the offerings he had brought to the show. I came away with a varied selection of a dozen pieces.
It was just after 6 p.m. when I invited Ryan to join me in walking around the perimeter of the Fairlane Town Center mall parking lots, our destination being the Star Theater on the far side to see what movies were showing. We opted for “Old Dogs,” which proved to be an entertaining comedy. After the movie let out we continued our perimeter walk, getting back to the Hyatt at about 9 p.m. and calling it a day.
I got my Friday started at about 6 a.m. putting in a six-lap, 45 minutes constitutional on the sidewalks that encircle the Hyatt. Quickly showering and dressing, I was down to Giulio’s for breakfast by 7:15 a.m., pacing myself for the 8 o’clock opening of the bourse and exhibit areas. My first objective of the day was to set up an exhibit – “An ABC’s of City Names Collection of National Bank Notes” – that I had first created for the Central States convention this past spring.
Exhibit chairman Frank Passic was already hard at work, quickly directing me to the three cases set aside for my exhibit. Already working on setting up his exhibit nearby – “Copper Country Treasures” – was Lee DeGood. Encountered subsequently were Al Bobrofsky, Bret Irick and Dan and Kathy Freeland. There were 25 additional exhibitors, with the total number of exhibits placed being 43, six of which were non-competitive. The total number of cases on display was 95, of which 12 were non-competitive.
Having completed my task well before 9, I headed into the main bourse room to observe the level of dealer-to-dealer and early bird activity and do some visiting. At 10 a.m. the public came streaming in. With little let-up over the next two hours, by noon both the main and annex bourse area aisles were packed shoulder to shoulder as usual. At noon I headed up to Giulio’s for lunch with Mark Askew, with Ryan joining us. This lunch has become a tradition for me over recent years, Mark being an acquaintance from my international Mint Directors’ Conference days. He works in Detroit and lives in Windsor across the river in Canada, but was born and raised in South Africa.
It was around 1:30 when I returned to the annex room of the bourse, where I was tending to adjoining tables provided for the ANA and Krause Publications. By about 3 p.m. the crowd started thinning and by 4 it was dissipating rather quickly. With show activities closing down for the day at 6 o’clock, I availed myself of another tradition in the budding at this event, adjourning to an evening of dinner and conversation at Giulio’s for the third consecutive year with ANA general counsel Ron Sirna, who serves in a like capacity with MSNS. It was about 9 p.m. when we broke up and he hit the road home to Flint.
My Saturday got under way at about 6 a.m. with another six laps around the perimeter of the Hyatt. Breakfast at Giulio’s followed at 7:30, then it was off to the exhibit area about an hour later to do some judging. First up was judging four exhibits in the medals category for MSNS recognition. That was followed by judging five exhibits in the U.S. paper money category, having agreed to exempt my exhibit from consideration, for the Dr. Wallace Lee Award of the PMCM, recognizing the presentation that best epitomizes Dr. Lee’s lifetime commitment to the educational aspects of collecting.
Along the way I encountered MSNS past-president Chuck Fenwick, who was belatedly setting up his exhibits. Being well aware of my fondness for caramel corn, he quickly retrieved from his attaché case a box of “Cracker Jack” to see my reaction. Moments later he offered up a much more delectable large bag of homemade caramel corn prepared by his wife, Bert, who often so favors me at the fall show.
Public attendance got off to a slow start Saturday morning but it seemed moderately strong by noontime. Talking with dealers later in the day and on Sunday, however, the feedback I received was that business had been quite good both days. I had taken a break from the show late morning, walking over to the Fairlane Town Center mall to purchase a couple things, where I found traffic to be extremely light.
Shortly before 1 p.m. I met up with Paul Johnson, executive secretary of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association, for lunch at Giulio’s. We discussed the possibility of greater interaction among major hobby community numismatic organizations. At 2 p.m. I served as moderator of an hour-long paper money roundtable, featuring a trio of speakers and around 20 attendees.
The featured speakers were PMCM president Karl Mark Paul from New Baltimore, Mich., PMCM’s Rag Picker editor and Krause paper money pricing editor Bill Brandimore from Wausau, Wis., and military currency authority Fred Schwan from Port Clinton, Ohio. This was immediately followed at 3 by the group’s annual meeting which garnered the participation of about 15.
Following the paper money meeting, I immediately headed to the 4 o’clock MICH-TAMS meeting, which commanded similar participation. At this meeting one of the prime subjects of discussion concerned next year’s 50th anniversary of the national Token and Medal Society and 45th anniversary of the Michigan Token and Medal Society. Planning was set in motion for the formal observance of these twin events with an anniversary dinner to be hosted at next fall’s 55th annual MSNS convention, marking the Nov. 19, 1960, founding meeting of TAMS during the fifth gathering hosted in downtown Detroit at the old Book Cadillac Hotel.
There was about a one hour break between the adjournment of the MICH-TAMS meeting – a fairly quick turn through the bourse areas indicated little activity still going on – and the annual open board meeting of MSNS at 6 p.m. It carried on until about 10 p.m., with the exception of a short mid-session break.
Following the adjournment of this meeting, I joined Sirna in retiring to the Archimedes Lounge off the lobby for a late night snack, during the course of which we spent time reflecting on the deliberations we had just sat through and the exploration of some ANA travails until just a shade after midnight.
Deciding that rising early for a Sunday morning constitutional would make the night too short heading into a travel day, I didn’t roll out of bed until 7 or so. The day’s first activity was attendance at the annual fall MSNS recognition breakfast at 8:30 a.m. There I shared a table with Passic, LeBlanc, board member Dany Rothfeld and Paul Johnson, along with his wife Mary Ellen and daughter Lauren, among the 60 or so exhibitors and members who gathered for the occasion. Dany, Lauren and I were among the exhibitors recognized.
During the course of the program, I had occasion to make several trips to the podium. The first was to present an ANA Presidential Award recognition to the Freelands. Subsequently, I was called up to receive a 3-pound gavel presented to me as ANA president by Al and Ann Bobrofsky, both past MSNS presidents. Then I returned to present the PMCM Dr. Wallace Lee Award to Dan Freeland for his exhibit of “Selected Michigan Nationals from The Second National Bank of Saginaw,” which also won best of show. Finally, I was called up to receive the Bill Slate Memorial Award for the best topical exhibit, for my offering which had placed second in the paper money category.
With the recognition breakfast breaking up at about 10, I headed down to the show area, spending most of the next four hours visiting with dealers and attendees. Among the latter was MSNS charter member Kenneth McLain, who is approaching centenarian status, with whom I’ve enjoyed chatting each Thanksgiving weekend for the past several years.
He was among the attendees at the founding event of MSNS hosted in Detroit in the fall of 1956. Breaking away for about an hour around 11:30 a.m., I spent some time visiting and enjoying a light snack in the hospitality room, which is organized and provisioned annually under the direction of Rita Jene Sledz and Marge Stroshine.
It was just after 2 p.m. when Ryan and I took leave of the convention, catching a limo to the airport. Arriving there about half an hour later, we had plenty of time to treat ourselves to a late lunch at Chili’s Too in the main concourse of the Northwest/Delta wing. That left us with a couple hours or so to burn prior to the departure of our return flight to Appleton. With that flight operating on schedule, having dropped Ryan off at his home, it was about 7:30 p.m. when I arrived home.
The observance of traditions are an important ingredient, I believe, in the enjoyment of both life and numismatics. Thus, each year I return from the MSNS Thanksgiving weekend gathering reflecting on that tradition, along with my contributions toward and satisfactions gained from participation through the years. For me the experience has become doubly enjoyable in recent years, with my grandson having adopted it as a tradition as well, having developed a deepening fascination with coin collecting along the way.