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New venue, same great MSNS show

 

It seemed like it had been happening forever.

The Michigan State Numismatic Society held its convention over Thanksgiving weekend at the Hyatt Regency in Dearborn. And my tradition was to attend the event rather than relaxing at home with the family.

MSNS’s first Thanksgiving weekend assembly at the Dearborn Hyatt was in 1975, when the facility was brand spanking new, although the organization’s tradition of gathering around Thanksgiving in the Detroit area actually dates back to its 1956 founding.

For my part, I’ve attended the conventions without interruption since 1976, and prior to that attended many of the events dating back to around 1959; I became a charter member of the organization as a teenager in 1956.

While the references Michigan State and Thanksgiving weekend have been virtually synonymous in our community over most of the past five decades, that was not always the case. This spot on the numismatic events calendar was originally claimed by Kansas City’s now defunct Heart of America Numismatic Association. Also, in its early years the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists conducted a few of its conventions in Pittsburgh over the weekend. Now, for more than a quarter century, the sole claimant has been the Michigan State group.

This year MSNS found it necessary to abandon the venerable Dearborn venue after 36 years when it learned, about six months prior to the event, that the Hyatt would be dropping its management contract with the ownership group as of Nov. 1, 2012. With no knowledge or assurance of what might happen to the hotel subsequent to that date – there were reports that it might be closed permanently and torn down – the MSNS board chose an alternative venue.

The venue change commitment was made in early September to the Macomb Community College Sports and Expo Center in Warren, roughly 25 miles to the northwest. The successor management group has indicated a desire to resume arrangements for the event to be hosted in Dearborn but, at this point, MSNS is exploring its options.

While I have typically flown across the big lake to attend the annual show for the past 35 years, this year I decided to drive, a decision driven by two considerations. First, while the cost of my round trip ticket from Appleton to Detroit last year had been a hefty $425, I didn’t feel I could justify paying the nearly $600 fare posted for this year. Second, with the venue being roughly 35 miles from the airport and my hotel not being adjacent to the Expo Center, I figured I’d need to rent a car.

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Thus, having gotten up at about 5 o’clock on Thanksgiving morning, with a quick breakfast out of the way and having taken Snickers on his usual half-hour morning outing, it was right on 7 a.m. when I said good-bye to Sally after having briefly assisted her with some early prep work on the family dinner she would be serving later. Putting the Town Car on the road as the sun was breaking above the eastern horizon, with the traffic very light and smooth flowing, I’d logged 136 miles by 9 when I cleared the airport interchange on Milwaukee’s south side. Crossing over into Indiana at 10:40, a hundred miles later, having paused for a quick rest area break outside Kenosha, the drive had taken me through Chicago via the Edens, Kennedy and Dan Ryan expressways and the Chicago Skyway.

It was about 11 o’clock when I arrived at the Indiana Toll Road/I-94 split east of Gary. Having lost an hour on the clock and logged 360 miles by the time I reached Kalamazoo at 1:30, I stopped there for gas and a fish sandwich lunch break at a McDonald’s. Back on the road by 2:15, it was about 4:30 when I pulled up outside the MCC Sports and Expo Center in Warren with the sun settling into the western horizon. The 530-mile drive had been a pleasant and relaxing one, having even passed by the Chicago Loop without encountering the least bit of driving hassle.

After obtaining my bourse registration materials from MSNS secretary-treasurer Joe LeBlanc, and briefly exchanging greetings with Lansing world coin dealer Dave Harrison, I located my table and set up a joint Krause/ANA promotional display, my neighbor being mint error specialist Ken Potter from nearby Lathrup Village. I spent some time visiting with and coming away with a few selections of interest plucked from the inventory of exonumia specialist Bob Williams, who hails from Royal Oak, another suburb very nearby, at his table.

After claiming a room at the Holiday Inn Express, about a three-mile drive away along the W. P. Reuther Freeway, at the invitation of MSNS board member Brett Irick I joined up with him for dinner shortly before 7. With many of the area restaurants closed, we opted from the Lime Light Grill & Bar over on Van Dyke Avenue, which proved to be a good choice. My sandwich was good, the crowd was light and the noise subdued, providing a relaxing end to the day, returning to our accommodations at about 8:30, where I called it a night.

Rolling out of bed for the day shortly before 6 o’clock on Friday morning, I headed out for a four-mile long constitutional on a very comfortable spring-like morning.

At about 7 a.m., I visited the breakfast buffet before heading up to my room, visiting briefly with long-time elongated promoter Ray Dillard and his son-in-law Greg Weisgerber.

It was about 8:30 a.m. when I fired up the Town Car for the three-mile jaunt to the Expo Center. The bourse was already abuzz with setup and dealer trading by the time I arrived on the scenet. When the room opened to public registrants at 10 a.m., I was sitting near the front visiting with currency specialist Leon Thornton from Eminence, Mo. From there I witnessed an impressive inflow of the queued up attendees, one that in my opinion exceeded those witnessed at Dearborn in recent years.

The Michigan State organization had obviously done a great job of getting the word out on the change of venue, both to the numismatic community and in the greater Detroit area. In addition the mayor of Warren, James Fouts, had publicized the event in the city magazine, Newsbeat, and as a water bill insert, both of which reached audiences of 55,000. Then, in chatting with collector/exhibitor Steve Bieda, whose district as a senator in Michigan’s legislature is centered on Warren, I learned that he had also blasted the message to the upwards of 5,000 resident voters in his e-mail list.

Shortly after noon I headed off for lunch with Mark Askew, an acquaintance from my participations at the international Mint Directors’ Conference gatherings back in the 1980s and 1990s. Over the past decade or so our reconnects at MSNS on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend have become a tradition of sorts but, with a switch this year, as we were joined by his wife as well. Also, as the Expo Center featured only a snack bar we were obliged to drive to Andrea’s Garden restaurant a few blocks away, where I opted for a surprise, the “Cook’s Sandwich,” which proved to be both tasty and filling.

Returning to the Expo Center around two o’clock, the bourse was still abuzz, as it would remain until 3:30 or so, after which time the aisles thinned perceptibly and progressively. I spent much of the balance of the afternoon holding forth at the KP/ANA table visiting with the acquaintances and strangers who stopped by. Among them was Jeff Bercovitz from Indianapolis, with much of our interchange concerning the topic of art medals that were set into hard bound books in the early years of the 20th century. Bercovitz had mounted an interesting competitive exhibit focused on Indiana’s 1916 statehood centennial, one of the featured items incorporated being such an offering.

With the bourse scheduled to be locked down at 6 p.m., I headed back to the Holiday Inn Express around 5 p.m. to relax a bit before heading off to a dealer reception at the other designated host accommodation, the Holiday Inn & Suites over on Van Dyke Avenue, a couple more miles away. At the reception I shared a table that included MSNS president Andy Parks from Michigan’s UP, Al and Ann Bobrofsky from Battle Creek, Dave Hunsicker from the Milwaukee area, and his fellow traveler and exhibitor Bill Bierly from La Porte in northwest Indiana. It was shortly after 8 when I took leave and returned to my hotel.

On Saturday morning my walking regimen was a repeat of the previous morning, except this time conditions had turned bitingly windy. Following breakfast, I headed over to the Expo Center at about 8:30 a.m., where I found the tempo of activity much more moderated than it had been on Friday morning. When the bourse again opened to public registrants at 10, however, the aisles quickly filled with vibrant activity. My assessment again would be that the Saturday queue and turnout probably exceeded that experienced at Dearborn in recent years, or at the least were similar.

With the bourse being somewhat easier to navigate than it had been on Friday, I did a good deal of visiting with dealers around the floor during the course of the morning. That wandering included a stop at northern Maryland classic numismatics dealer Don Zauche’s table, where I ate some of his wife Marcella’s tasty chocolate pecan turtle candies, one of three or four to which I treated myself during the course of the weekend.

At lunch time I again adjourned to Andrea’s Garden, this time accompanied by Paul Johnson from the Toronto area, executive director of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association, treating myself to cabbage soup, which was outstanding, and a sandwich. Having lunch with Paul on Saturday is another growing MSNS how tradition.

After returning from lunch, I joined up with Johnson and Joe Boling from Indianapolis, in conducting the Best-of-Show exhibit judging exercise. Then, at 3 o’clock I sat in on the annual meeting of the Michigan Token and Medal Society with about a dozen other members, being enlisted to serve as the installing officer of the newly elected officers and board members. An hour later I sat in on the meeting of the Paper Money Collectors of Michigan held in the same room — I actually remained seated in the same chair as immediately upon the Mich-TAMS meeting being adjourned by president Kathy Freeland from the “Thumb” area, the PMCM meeting was called to order by president Karl Mark Paul who hails from Macomb County – where I was tabbed to serve in an out-of-state board member position.

It was nearing 5 o’clock when the PMCM meeting broke up. Shortly after I drove to the Holiday Inn to have a bite to eat at the invitation of the MSNS board prior to their 6:30 open session meeting. Seated at the table I joined were board members Al Bobrofsky, Brett Irick and Bill Ewald, along with president Parks, immediate past-president Ann Bobrofsky, secretary/treasurer LeBlanc and incoming board member Bill Anderson.

I particularly enjoyed visiting with Anderson, learning that within the past year he has been the driving force behind the reestablishment of a very active local club serving the Jackson hobby community. The club meets at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at the Jackson Carnegie Library. We also discussed his exhibit of 2-cent pieces, for which he was recognized at the Sunday morning recognition and awards breakfast as being the best first time exhibitor in the competition, and also as recipient of the Best-of-Show award.

When the Saturday evening board meeting convened at 6:30, there were about 20 members in attendance in addition to the 15 or so officials sitting around the board table. While the agenda proceeded slowy in the beginning, the pace picked up after about the first half hour. By the time 9:30 and the end of the open agenda rolled around, no more than five or six of us observers remained. My understanding is that the executive session following had dismissed by around 10, by which time I’m certain I was fast asleep in my room.

Sunday found me out pursuing my morning constitutional by 5:30, this time with the sidewalks and yards clad in a light covering of freshly fallen snow. By shortly after 7:30 my bags were packed and in the trunk as I headed off to the Expo Center.

At the 8:30 recognition and awards breakfast, I shared a table with a group of Michiganders, the Freeland’s, Dan and Kathy, Dany Rothfeld, Ernie Nagy, Mike Matlas and Anderson. With upwards of 100 attending the breakfast, 28 exhibitors were recognized for mounting 149 cases of exhibits. The session broke up shortly after 10, by which time the bourse seemed pretty lively with few vacated tables in evidence. My impression was that the picture for Sunday morning attendance and dealer presence were both somewhat more solid that it had been in recent years.

It was about noon when I headed the Town Car down the road toward home. Arriving in Cassopolis at about 3 o’clock, the next three hours were spent visiting with a cousin and his wife, Class of ‘57 high school classmates. From there I dropped down and picked up the Indiana Toll Road near Granger. Traffic moved smoothly from there to Chicago.

Having picked up an hour on the clock, at about 7 p.m. I tuned in to the pre-game radio broadcast of the Packers-Giants football game, as my drive progressed up the Edens Expressway through the northern suburbs. Unfortunately, I suffered through listening in on the Giants resulting 38-10 hammering of the Packers. Pulling into the garage at home at about 10:30, I’d logged 519 miles for the day.

For the weekend I’d racked up a bit shy of 1,100 miles on the Town Car’s odometer, but I saved some $500-plus in travel expenses. That more than covered the purchases I made around the bourse. And I maintained my connection with a hobby community tradition and acquaintances old and new during another most enjoyable MSNS Thanksgiving weekend.

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