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Milwaukee ANA convention a success

This year?s Milwaukee ANA convention was disappointingly successful!
If you were in attendance at the ANA?s World?s Fair of Money, or have read earlier published reports, my offering of that assessment may shock you. Before I explain, however, allow me to recount for you an overview of my experience.
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This outstanding virtually uncirculated example of a 19th century Mishler?s Herb Bitters advertising note was passed to me during the Milwaukee ANA convention by Ohio numismatic literature enthusiast Myron Xenos of The Money Tree. While I have accumulated a handful of other examples of this issue over the years, this one is by far the nicest.

For me, the 2007 Milwaukee ANA convention experience was a generally somewhat harried one. I found myself constantly on the move or engaged, finding little time to kick back and relax.

Serving the convention as chairman of the host committee, I headed down to Milwaukee on the Saturday prior to the convention, taking leave of Iola at about 1:30 after spending the morning in my office and arriving in the city at about four, following a drive of 140 miles. Having settled into a room at the Hilton Milwaukee City Center hotel, my home for the next eight nights, it was around 5 o?clock when I headed out for an evening constitutional. That exercise was cut short when it started raining; I caught dinner at the Applebee?s on Wisconsin Avenue prior to returning to the hotel at 6:30, where I spent the evening sorting through my chairman obligations and plan for the week ahead.

While I awoke at about 5:30 Sunday morning, peering out the window to the streets below, as the rain was still falling, I opted for more shuteye. At 8 o?clock I met ANA meeting services director Brenda Bishop, the power behind the throne, so to speak, where the conduct of ANA conventions are concerned, for breakfast in ?The Cafe? restaurant off the lower lobby of the Hilton. We lingered over breakfast for the better part of a couple hours, comparing notes on the upcoming implementation of the planning which was behind us. For those who have not had the experience of working with Brenda, I?ll tell you that she possesses a quiet confidence, resulting in the unruffled execution of both the planned and the improvisations.

At about 11 o?clock I accompanied Brenda in walking to a nearby Office Max outlet, where she had to pick up some supplies and get some last minute forms printed, before heading over to the Midwest Airlines Center. It was about noon when Chet Krause and his driver, long-time but retired Krause old cars division staffer Ken Buttolph, arrived trailering a vintage nine decade old Kissel ?Gold Bug? roadster, which was destined for display at the head of the escalator outside the third floor entrance to the bourse/exhibits area as a tie-in to the nearly 160 case Wisconsin?s Paper Money special exhibit mounted by Chet.

As the Stetson convention decorator team was in the early stages of doing their thing in the convention hall, I opted to head out at about 1 o?clock for a walk over to the Milwaukee Public Museum, situated about three blocks away. A special exhibit of about 200 items drawn from their 45,000 strong numismatic holdings, mounted through the sponsorship of a contingent of local clubs, had been opened there just days earlier and is to remain in place for the next year. Tucked behind the muskrat display on the first floor, it is a five case presentation which, unfortunately, is poorly lighted with the exception of the traditional money presentation. Still, while I was there, I noted that it captured the intent interest of quite a number of visitors.

Returning to the convention center after an hour or so, I happened upon California dealers Mark Teller and Gust Wing wandering through the convention hall, visiting with them for a bit as the convention decorators scurried about. Returning to the Hilton at about 3 o?clock I opted for a very late and light lunch at the Miller Time Pub, visiting with Dave Sundman of Littleton Coin. At 4 o?clock I joined ANA treasurer Adna Wilde in his room for an extended chat, following which I met Chet for dinner at The Cafe at about 6. I closed the day off with an hour long constitutional out Wisconsin Avenue to the lakeshore and back along Kilbourn Avenue, returning at about 8 o?clock.

Monday morning got underway with a brief visit to an 8 o?clock pre-con meeting convened by Brenda with the Hilton management staff. At 8:30 I was invited, as a newly elected ANA governor, to sit in on the morning?s executive session board meeting by outgoing president Bill Horton. With that meeting breaking up about two hours later, I spent some time visiting with Chet and Joe Boling from Indianapolis, they having also attended the meeting.

Having skipped breakfast, when noontime rolled around I was ready to gorge myself on lunch at The Cafe, following which I briefly poked my head into the convention hall to check out what was happening there. At 1:30 I sat in on the afternoon?s open session board meeting, which commanded the presence of less than ten non-board or staff members and adjourned at about 4 o?clock. The bourse was opened to PNG dealers at 5.

At 6:30 the first gathering of local and national volunteers, along with ANA staff in attendance, was convened by Brenda, with 50 or so in attendance and a light buffet served, for discussions and orientation tours of the facility following. My day closed out with attendance at the ANA President?s Reception from eight to ten; the host was among the missing, as his convention arrival was set back by an emergency back home.

I awoke early on Tuesday morning, but again was forced to forego getting the day started with a walking regimen as rain was falling. When the doors opened to The Cafe at 6:30 I was among the first to be seated for breakfast. At eight I sat in on the second open board meeting session, which adjourned at about 10:30. I spent the balance of the morning in the convention hall arranging the Join A Local Coin Club area, sandwiched between the bourse and exhibit areas, and lending a small hand with the setting up of the Wisconsin?s Paper Money special display.

I caught a quick bite to eat at the food service area on the convention floor before heading off to sit in on the third open board meeting session at 1:30, with president Bill Horton having arrived to preside, which adjourned into a brief executive session at about 3. Most of the balance of my afternoon was spent finalizing the JALCC area and scrambling to close off other last minute arrangements involving the host committee. I also had the opportunity to briefly chat with Leon Hendrickson of SilverTowne as bourse activity was winding down for the day, who offered his reaction to the day?s activity; ?PNG Day activity was really slow off the mark, but it ended up being pretty good, and I?m looking forward to a really good Thursday.?

At 7 o?clock I headed off walking up Wisconsin Avenue a few blocks to the Wisconsin Club, formerly the mansion of Alexander Mitchell, one Milwaukee?s driving forces of the 19th century, to attend the annual PNG Awards Banquet. There I shared a table with incoming PNG president Gary and Mrs. Adkins, Central States president Bill Brandimore, incoming ANA president Barry Stuppler and vice president Patti Finner, executive director Chris Cipoletti and Brenda Bishop. I had to excuse myself early, before the awards recognition program got underway, to honor a background meeting commitment I had made that stretched to a couple hours, not concluding until the midnight hour approached.

My convention day got started at 7:15 on Wednesday morning, with the first in a sequence of daily Volunteers Meeting sessions, this one with 60 or so in attend ance. The convention hall opened to dealers and exhibitors at eight o?clock, with the official opening ceremonies for the convention set for 9:30. In my welcoming remarks I observed that it was doubtful that anyone in the assembly before me had been in attendance at the first Milwaukee ANA convention in 1950Subsequently, I was apprised that I was in error, as past ANA president Ken Hallenbeck from Colorado Springs, who then hailed from Michigan and was attending his first ANA, the then youthful brother and sister duo of Chuck and Nancy Opitz from Milwaukee, who both now call Florida home, and Charles Ricard from Chicago, were attending their third Milwaukee ANA.

In addition to tending to my chairman duties as they unfolded through the balance of the day, there were a couple scheduled events on the agenda that I had highlighted for attendance. The first came at 3 o?clock, the annual World Coin News sponsored Coin of The Year award recognitions, which played to an audience of about 60, an event to which I have a tie dating back to its 1982 beginnings. It was about 5 o?clock when I headed off to the second, a cozy annual dinner hosted by Austrian Mint director Dietmar Spranz. While I?ve attended this event most years over the past decade or so, this year was special because two of my granddaughters had been invited to provide a bit of entertainment; Natasha on the piano and Samantha with the vocal. It was about 10 o?clock before we returned to the Hilton.

Awaking just before 5 o?clock on Thursday morning, looking out the window it appeared dry, so I headed out on a morning constitutional. Shortly after hitting the streets a light mist that eventually turned into a light rain started falling, so I opted to walk about the convention center area. Still, I got in a full hour regimen, but I was rather damp by the time I returned to the Hilton. The day?s 7:15 Volunteers Meeting attracted somewhat less participation than it had on Wednesday.

Next on the docket was the eight o?clock Numismatic Ambassador Breakfast sponsored by Numismatic News. With about 120 in attendance, Chet Krause was formally enrolled in the group, with the occasion marked with the handing out of specially struck medals commemorating the occasion. Following a tribute to his accomplishments and contributions delivered by Dave Harper, Chet?s acceptance was a brief response; ?I?m glad I did it.? Next up was the annual board meeting of the Token and Medal Society at 10, where the primary topics of discussion were the subjects of growing the membership and early planning for observance of the organization?s 50th anniversary in 2010.

It was about 11:30 before I found my way onto the convention floor, where I set out pursuing the filling of a trio of World Mints Passport units. The bourse appeared reasonably active ? daily registrations for the day were somewhat over 1,400, as they had been for the day before, and would be for the day following as well ? with the buying strength outweighing what was for most dealers a soft retail show. At 4 o?clock I was torn between stopping by the Krause booth to share a taste of a NN 50th anniversary cake or attending the annual ANA Life Member reception, so I briefly availed myself of the former before hiking off to the latter.

At the Life Member reception I joined around 75 to 80 others, sharing a table with a Colorado contingent comprised of Ken Bressett, Henry Mitchell, John Nebel, Bill Rosenblum and Ron Shintkau. Through the balance of the afternoon and into the early evening I spent most of my time surveying the offerings of the exhibit area, which were nothing short of spectacular.

In the evening I walked the few blocks to the annual TAMS banquet, held at the Cafe Vecchio, on North Old World Third Street, in the company of John and Nancy Wilson from Florida. There I shared a table with Dorothy Baber from California, Paul Whitnah from Texas, Ken and June Hallenbeck from Colorado, and Fred Holabird from Nevada. The 7 o?clock event drew the participation of about 30 members. Following this event, I closed out the evening taking in the annual NLG Bash. Before returning to the Hilton at about 11, I passed by the Heritage auction room where I overheard a dealer on a cell phone in the hallway remark to the party on the other end; ?It?s been a very active show; I?ve probably spent over $7 million.?

On Friday morning I didn?t roll out of bed until about 5:30. With the weather conditions having dried up, I pursued my walking regime a bit farther out, heading south to the Amtrak station area on West St. Paul, then coursing the streets between Plankinton and 6th before returning to the hotel about an hour later. My first meeting of the day was that of the ANA Advisory Council, a gathering of former board members and officers for the purpose of providing guidance suggestions on the direction and management of the organization, to which the newly elected board members were invited. Attendance at the session was about 35.

The afternoon was pretty much a blur. The annual ANA Membership Awards Presentations meeting was at 1 o?clock. At two a retirement salute for Fred Borgmann was hosted at the KP booth. At 2:30 an ANA membership reception was hosted in one of the meeting rooms, where I shared a table with outgoing board members Remy Bourne, Michael Fey, Alan Herbert, Don Kagin and president Horton, along with staffer Jay Beeton and the hobby?s video historian David Lisot. At 4 the board convened yet again for a brief meeting to review the financials for the year.

Friday evening started out with a 5:30 Patrons Reception hosted in the Mason Street Grill at the Pfister Hotel, which garnered a modest turnout drawn from the 40 or so individuals and businesses that provided financial support for the educational and exhibit programs of the convention at the $100 level or above. This was a first ever ANA convention event, from which I moved on to another modest event that was distinctive to Milwaukee ANA conventions, a Dinner with The Chairmen event at Mader?s restaurant.

The informal dinner was a fundraising event, with the proceeds benefiting the ANA Young Numismatist Summer Seminar scholarship program, that was actually a reprise of a similar outing previously organized Milwaukee ANA chairman Kurt Krueger at the 1986 convention, which had not been repeated in the interim. Participating were Brenda Bishop, Sandy Pearl from Florida, Lee and Joyce Kuntz from the Los Angeles area, Kay Lenker and Dorothy Baber from the San Diego area, Paul Whitnah from Texas, incoming board members Walter Ostromecki from California and Radford Stearns from Georgia, along with his wife, Mary Lu, in addition to Chet and myself.

Having returned to the Hilton by 10o?clock on Friday evening, I was raring to go when I awoke at about 5:30 on Saturday morning, heading out on a brisk hour long walk west along Wisconsin Avenue through the Marquette University campus to around 30th Street.

My convention day got under way at 8:30 with attendance at the annual Good Fellow Breakfast, having become a Good Fellow by virtue of my service in that capacity this year. At this session individuals who have served the ANA in the capacity of convention chairman share their thoughts on the direction of convention activities with staff point person Bishop, and the designated chairmen of upcoming conventions. Much of the discussion this time around among the 20 or so in attendance concerned the site selection and theme development processes.

Saturday was the busiest day on the convention floor from the attendance perspective, with the daily registration figure exceeding the 2,200 level. At about 11 o?clock I was paged to the message center, where I quickly learned that a pre-registered attendee who had arrived earlier in the week had belatedly discovered that he was the lucky recipient of a special pre-registration Wisconsin 50 States Quarter encasement bearing an extra leaf variety quarter. The recipient of this unique door prize was David Bailey from Staten Island, whom I learned is a retired history teacher and avid enthusiast of 18th century English tradesmen?s tokens.

Having availed myself of a quick lunch offering in the snacks area on the convention floor, as I had done on prior days as well, I spent from 1 to 2 o?clock sitting in on the exhibit awards presentations, being one of the few among the perhaps 75 in the room who were not on the presentation or receiving end of the recognitions. Later, I stuck my head in on the exhibitors and judges social hour, which garnered a smaller turnout.

Between those two events I spent my time floating around the bourse to gain a read on how the convention was perceived by the commercial sector. The consensus seemed to hold that it was a good, but not great show from an overall business perspective. The venue and facility received generally high marks, as did the facilities and ANA staff, the national and local volunteers for their courteous attention to needs that arose.

As I was taking leave of the floor with closing time nearing, I happened to cross paths with Leon Hendrickson of SilverTowne again, whose response to my inquiry was; ?It was a really great show. We were able to buy a lot of stuff.?

The ANA anniversary banquet on Saturday evening was a grand event that got underway at 7 o?clock with a reception in the foyer of the Hilton?s Crystal Ballroom. The overflowing foyer was accented by a large ice sculpture medallion featuring the obverse of the convention medal in combination with the official ANA emblem.

With the feasting, recognitions and installation of the new board out of the way, the banquet concluded at about 10:30, with each of the 370 attendees being presented with specially imprinted souvenir editions of the 2008 Red Book ? featuring a rendering of the Wisconsin quarter along with the reminder ?The Red Book Comes Home to Wisconsin? on the back cover ? courtesy of Whitman Publishing, an appropriate tie back to the 1986 Milwaukee ANA when the first of what has become a series of occasional special edition covers noted the occasion.

Immediately following the banquet I adjourned to my room, accompanied by Ed Craig, designated chairman of next year?s 117th anniversary convention in Baltimore, to share for his benefit my experiences, satisfactions and disappointments of this year. It was about midnight before we drained down and called it quits.

Being in no mood to pursue a walking constitutional on Sunday morning, I headed down to The Cafe for breakfast at about 7 o?clock, where I joined another early bird, Tom Sheehan from the Pacific Northwest, for some conversation and reflection over the next hour. The next hour was spent packing my suitcase and boxing up the residue of other materials that I had carried to the convention, along with the new stuff I had accumulated over the week, and stowing them away in the trunk of the Town Car. From 9 to 11 the newly installed board met in closed session on legal issues and a leadership development workshop conducted by Sam Deep from Pittsburgh.

Immediately following the closed board session, the new board went into open session for the final business meeting of the convention, about a 20-minute session that played to a packed standing room only house of more than 50, with announcement of the votes taken in the executive session to appoint a counsel to the president and board, to place the executive director on administrative leave, to appoint Ken Hallenbeck as acting executive director, to appoint Austin Sheheen to conduct a preliminary financial review and determine the need for a thorough compliance and procedures audit, and to share the actions, passed by unanimous votes, with the membership immediately.

From that point forward activities drained downhill. Day registrations were light and activity around the bourse negligible. By 2 o?clock the breaking down of exhibits and dealer tables was underway. At 4 I met over a late lunch with president Stuppler, vice president Finner, special counsel Ron Sirna and acting executive director Hallenbeck at the Miller Time Pub. By 5 I was on the road headed north, arriving at the Mishler Long Lake Retreat at about 7:30.

On Monday I spent the morning in my office, before heading out to join in on the Krause post-convention ?Rediscover the Magic? tour for lunch at the Iola Old Car Show Activity Center that adjoins the grounds of their offices. In the afternoon I joined perhaps 30 or so of the attendees on a two-hour cruise aboard the Chief Waupaca stern wheeler enjoying the nearby Chain O? Lakes and casual conversations with longtime friends and acquaintances. It was a great way to end an enjoyable ANA convention week.

So, why did I term this year?s Milwaukee ANA convention disappointingly successful?

Well, it fell well short of my attendance expectations of 12,000, with the final gross registration figure only mounting to a bit shy of 10,000.
Then, there is the fact that I was so involved that I found literally no time to go out scouring the bourse for goodies to add to my accumulations.

And, finally, it was an experience that I truly enjoyed and that I?ll not have the opportunity to repeat.

Those 10 days took a big slice out of August, but I certainly would not have wanted to have not had the experience … it?ll last a lifetime!

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