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Philadelphia set exhausting pace

 

Having attended two previous American Numismatic Association conventions in Philadelphia – 1969 when the U.S. Mint and the Franklin Mint did battle with open house events at their respective new facilities and 2000 when the first Burnett Anderson Memorial Award for Excellence in Numismatic Writing was presented to Q. David Bowers – the morning of the first Monday of August found me heading off to a third in anticipation of an enjoyable and rewarding outing. I was not disappointed. Though my return home the following Saturday evening found me feeling somewhat dragged out physically, satisfaction reigned supreme in my mind as a consequence of my interactions and acquisitions.

It was about 7:15 a.m. when I hit the road Aug. 6 for the Appleton airport, arriving there about an hour prior to my scheduled 9:19 a.m. departure on a United Express flight to O’Hare. My connection there was commuter to commuter, requiring a hike from Gate 14 in the “F” concourse to Gate 5 in the “C” concourse. It was a leisurely stroll, however, as the connecting time was about 90 minutes. With both flights unfolding without incident, my arrival in Philadelphia was on time at 1:53 p.m.

Walking up the concourse to baggage claim, I unexpectedly happened upon dealer Greg Allen from the Twin Cities, who arrived at a coincident time on a Delta flight by way of Detroit. We shared a taxi and enjoyable conversation to the convention center area, where we parted. I stepped off at the Marriott and Greg went to the Pennsylvania Convention Center to claim his bourse table and secure his inventory. Setup was scheduled to get under way minutes later at 3 o’clock.

I settled into my room by shortly after 3 p.m. I headed over to the convention center by way of a covered walkway and the upper level of the historic and imposing Reading Terminal passenger station, which was tied into the convention center some years ago. As I made my way from the registration area into the bourse, brief encounters and exchanges with familiar faces rapidly unfolded; souvenir card guy John Parker from Georgia, national volunteer Sandy Pearl from Florida, dealer Craig Watanabe from Hawaii, ANA communications center anchor Greg Ruby from Baltimore, exhibiting chief judge Joe Boling from Indianapolis, Al and Ann Bobrofsky from Michigan (Al was to win the “People’s Choice” exhibit award for his “How Sweet It Is” candy money presentation), exhibitor Sam Deep from Pittsburgh, veteran dealer Richard Margolis from New Jersey, ANA past president Barry Stuppler from California, FUN’s convention coordinator Cindy Wibker, dealer Walter Holt from Australia. So it went through the balance of the afternoon, the materializing of a true community melting pot.

With the convention floor winding to a 6 o’clock close, I headed back to the Marriott, caught the evening news and rested for a bit before heading down to the lobby at about 7:30, where I opted for the convenience of taking dinner at the 13 Restaurant. As I was polishing off my meal, Tom Uram from Pittsburgh, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists, joined me for about an hour of engaging conversation over iced teas and coffees before calling it a day and returning to my room at about 9:30.
On Tuesday morning I was up early and out on the streets by 5:30 in pursuit of my daily constitutional. The walk took me up 12th Street to Race Street, then east through the Chinatown area and past the U.S. Mint to Christopher Columbus Boulevard., which fronts the Delaware River docks. At Walnut Street I turned west, walking past the vacated location of the original Bookbinder’s restaurant, then through the Independence National Historical Park area past the historical buildings that quartered the first and second Bank of the United States. Continuing west along Chestnut Street past Independence Hall, then up 12th Street, I arrived back at the Marriott about an hour later.

Because my room was on the 23rd floor concierge level, a complimentary breakfast buffet was just steps away. It was just after 8 o’clock when I made my way over to the convention center, where a healthy din of activity was already building up in the bourse area.

At 9:45 I joined the other ANA board members and officers in attendance for the ceremonial ribbon cutting to open the convention. While the ribbon cutting assembly was of a modest nature, I did note that a substantial queue had built up in the registration area by 11 a.m., which continued relatively unabated into early afternoon. During the course of the afternoon I probably spent upwards of three hours absorbing the offerings of the Collector Exhibits and Museum Showcase areas in snippets of time interspersed with visiting around the club tables area.

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With the convention floor closing at 6 p.m., I returned to my room at the Marriott briefly before heading off to attend the kickoff event, a feature that has been incorporated into the ANA convention format since the 2010 National Money Show in Fort Worth.

Unlike prior incarnations, this time bus transportation was not required, as the venue was only about a seven-block walk. My walk took me east along Race Street to the National Constitution Center, which occupies a two-block area across 6th Street from the U.S. Mint. The reception was well under way when I arrived at about 7 p.m. I casually explored a statuary hall, featuring three-dimensional likenesses of the signers of the Constitution, and enjoyed a short visit with Professional Numismatists Guild executive director Bob Brueggeman prior to the meal at 7:30.

The table I joined for dinner was dominated by the flavor of ancient coin collecting interests. Among those seated with me were Pennsylvania dealer Victor England and some of his associates, along with collector Peter Weiss from Rhode Island, with whom I shared a lengthy association as fellow American Numismatic Society trustee board members.

My seat mates were David Guest from England, another of Victor’s CNG associates, and Eric Werner, who heads up the Lighthouse hobby supply group in the United States.

This kickoff event is the venue for presentation of the Harry J. Forman ANA Dealer of the Year recognition, which this time went to Patrick Heller from Lansing, Mich., who has been serving as ANA Audit & Budget Committee chair in recent years. The time was nearing 9 o’clock when I took leave and walked back to the Marriott.

On Wednesday morning I again headed out on my morning constitutional at about 5:30, this time undertaking a somewhat shorter walk, one which carried me northwest out JFK Boulevard to 18th Street, then up to Spring Garden Street and east past the U. S. Mint’s third Philadelphia location (succeeded in 1969 by the present facility; it has been re-purposed as one of the buildings of the Community College of Philadelphia) to 12th Street and back to the Marriott. This is where I experienced my first visit to a mint, probably in 1964 or 1965. As I walked past on this occasion, my mind slipped back to that experience, when I came away amazed that superintendent Michael Sura, as he conducted me on a tour of the operational floor, seemingly knew ever press and machine operator by name.

Having dispatched breakfast by 8 o’clock, I then found my way over to the convention center where the bourse was relatively quiet, with no buzz emanating at the head of the second day. I enjoyed conversations with Dave Schenkman from Virginia, who would be receiving the annual ANA Lifetime Achievement Award later in the week, and Paul Whitnah from Texas, who retired a few years ago from annually shouldering the ANA convention communications table for nearly four decades.

At 9 o’clock I sat in on the Token and Medal Society board meeting, with outgoing president Peter Irion from Vermont presiding, which was nearly two hours in duration, following which I briefly returned to the bourse to discover activity around the floor appeared to have risen to a vibrant level.

Having contented myself with choking down a very disappointing Italian sausage sandwich from the convention floor snack bar on Tuesday, at about 11:30 I decided to head over to the Reading Terminal Market to select my Wednesday lunch. The marketplace features a wide selection of vendors offering up both raw and ready-to-eat produce and meats. I opted for a stand dispensing freshly made Philly cheesesteak sandwiches. On the way out, the coconut macaroons at another proved too inviting to resist.
The early part of the afternoon was spent exploring and visiting about the bourse, along with conducting myself through the World Mint Promenade, filling up a World Mints Passport at the 15 participating stations from Australia to the United States, including both Chinas. At 3 o’clock I briefly stopped by the World Mints reception hosted by ANA president Tom Hallenbeck, before heading off to a quick business meeting sandwiched between this event at the final gathering of the Old Timers Assay Commissioners Society, with bus transportation to and from this year’s event, hosted at the U.S. Mint, being provided from the 12th and Arch streets convention center entrance.

The annual OTACS assembly is an event that has been an ANA convention fixture since 1964. It is a gathering of those who served on the Annual Assay Commission, provided for by statute at the founding of the U.S. Mint in 1792, though the first meeting was not held until 1796. It was terminated by President Jimmy Carter in 1980 (really after 1976 when the last public members appointed by president Gerald Ford served), at which time it was one of the oldest functioning government bodies with public participation.

This year’s final OTACS gathering numbered about a dozen of the score or so surviving members, I having served in 1973 under President Richard Nixon. We met in the Philadelphia Mint’s richly paneled upper level conference room where the Assay Commission had met from 1970 through 1976, during which time its membership was dominated by appointees from the public and hobby community, and from 1977 to 1980 with only the nonpublic statutory members assembling.

With about two guests present for each commissioner in attendance, we were treated to a tour of the manufacturing floor, along with light snacks and beverages. We spent about an hour reminiscing about our service on our respective presidentially appointed annual panels and the OTACS experience over the past 48 years, before heading off on our separate ways. Philadelphia commissioner and dealer Catherine Bullowa, who served in 1965 under President Lyndon Johnson, was designated Chief Assayer in perpetuity by acclamation.

Upon our return to the convention center area shortly after 6:30 p.m., I immediately headed to the 13 Restaurant at the Marriott, where the annual TAMS banquet no-host reception was already under way. With about 40 members and guests in attendance, I enjoyed sharing a table with members Schenkman, Fred Holabird from Nevada, Jon Radel from Virginia and Ron Thompson from Georgia. Near the close of the evening I was called upon to provide the installation words for the coming year’s officers and board members, with John Mutch from Idaho the incoming president. The time was nearing 9:30 p.m. when I took leave and headed to my room.

Thursday found me again getting my day started with a walking regimen at about 5:30 a.m. This time my route was west along JFK Boulevard to the 30th Street railroad station and back along paralleling Market Street, returning to the Marriott about 45 minutes later. Once I’d showered and dressed for the day, I headed over to the convention center to join a hundred or so hobby community friends for the annual Numismatic Ambassador breakfast sponsored by Numismatic News and KP’s numismatic division.
Joining me as a guest on this occasion was David Cowen, president of the Museum of American Finance, whom I was pleased to introduce to the assembly, urging them to pay a visit to a most interesting and inviting interactive permanent exhibition situated on Wall Street in the heart of New York’s Financial District. Founded in 1988 by John Herzog of the R.M. Smythe organization, it has been operating in the present location since 2008. My other table mates included ANA educational programs operative Susan McMillan from Colorado Springs, Colo., and her husband, numismatic literature dealer David Sklow.

It was nearly a three-block walk inside the convention center from the Ambassador breakfast venue at its west end to the bourse/exhibits hall on the east end. While general access to the area was still nearly an hour away when I arrived there, a healthy buzz of activity was already emanating from floor. The next two hours or so I spent exploring and visiting about the floor.

One of the memorable experiences I came away with while in the collector exhibits area during this time was a casual but, extended visit with John Whitney, whom I observed spending much of this and the following day holding forth at his exhibit – “The Elusive 1943 Bronze & Silver Cents, Together With Their Many Wrong Planchet Cousins” – sharing knowledge and enthusiasm with viewers as they paused to absorb the presentation. Our visit was broken up when a couple youngsters approached inquisitively.

Again taking leave of the convention center in favor of the Reading Terminal Market for lunch, I again opted for a Philly cheesesteak, this one a bit larger and more flavorful than Wednesday’s selection. At 1 p.m. I sat in on an hour long ANA Advisory Council meeting, a gathering of former officers and board members which numbered about a dozen participants, including four members of the present board as observers.

Three o’clock found me participating in the annual ANA Awards Presentation session, followed by the ANA Member & Donor Reception at four, and the ANA board executive session meeting from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. or so. Thereafter I stopped by the tag end of the annual Numismatic Literary Guild Bash – the closing relay of an 8-hour marathon that ended at about 11 p.m., at which point I was more than ready to call it a day.

With no morning commitments on my schedule for Friday, I slept in for an extra half hour, not heading out on my daily constitutional until about 6 a.m. This time my walk took me east along Arch Street to 7th, then south past the site of the first U.S. Mint, recalled with a historical marker, to Chestnut. From there I walked west past the location of the second Philadelphia Mint, at Chestnut and Juniper just a block from City Hall. There I encountered another historical marker, this one marking not the Mint’s location, but noting the fact that in the mid-1830s this was the site at which U.S. Mint employee Joseph Saxton, using a cigar box and a crude lens, was the first person in the United States to take a photograph.

Continuing on out Chestnut to 17th Street before returning to the convention center area by way of Market Street, it was about 7 a.m. when I got back to the Marriott. After sharing some time with Greg Allen over breakfast in the Concierge Lounge, it was about 8:30 when I found my way back to the convention center. The morning was a blur of impromptu conversations related to ANA activities and collecting interests with dealers and attendees alike around what appeared to be a still reasonably active bourse.
It was about 11:30 a.m. when I again headed over to the Reading Terminal for lunch, this time being a bad boy by opting for a big dish of ice cream. In fact I returned with two big dishes of ice cream, one being intended for Boston paper currency dealer Tom Denly, who frequently chides me at conventions to go out and get some ice cream for us. While he declined to partake on this occasion, I was able to prevail upon fellow currency specialist and ice cream aficionado Glen Jorde of North Dakota to indulge.
At 1 p.m. I sat in on the convention Exhibit Awards Presentation & Reception session, at which 60 or so were assembled to witness recognitions of the 40 or so who placed in excess of 50 competitive collector exhibits. After availing myself of a small helping of the snacks laid on for the event, I took leave and hiked back to the bourse area. There I assisted editor Dave Harper in a 2:30 ceremonial cutting of a Numismatic News 60th anniversary cake at their bourse location that was then shared with passersby.

The open session ANA board meeting convened at 3 p.m., which was followed by a Town Hall meeting. With little more than twice as many in the audience as the 13 board members and officers arrayed along the U-shaped table at the front of the room, these turned out to be uneventful sessions. With the board meeting having adjourned and the Town Hall having concluded within 90 minutes or so, I returned to take a last turn about the bourse before it closed for the day at 6 p.m., by which time I found attendance was skeletal at best.

The banquet reception was well under way by the time I found my way there shortly after 7 p.m. Prior to moving on to the banquet at 8 p.m., I enjoyed casual conversations with several attendee groups, along with an extended one with Royal Canadian Numismatic Association president William Waychison and his wife, France, who hail from the mining community of Timmins in northern Ontario.

At the banquet I enjoyed sharing a table and conversation with Bob Hogue, an ANS curator and author, the 2012 Burnett Anderson Numismatic Writing award recipient, Claud and Judith Murphy from North Carolina, Cathy Bullowa, along with New Yorkers Len and Jean Glaser, Tommy Tesoriero and Mark Anderson, our host for the evening.

With ANA board member Wendell Wolka from Indianapolis doing duty as emcee, the program moved along smartly and the assembly was disassembling by about 9:55 p.m. Wendell even injected an impromptu Happy Birthday serenade into the proceedings, as a salute to my 73rd birthday, which was the next day.

Opting to forgo a morning constitutional on Saturday, it was about 7 a.m. when I took a seat in the 13 Restaurant for breakfast. Before I was finished my waitress was treating me to a birthday serenade as well, someone unknown having surreptitiously prevailed upon her to do so. Returning to my room and packing my bag, which I dragged over to the convention center with me, at 8:30 a.m. I sat in on the ANA Club and District Representatives meeting conducted by national coordinator Oded Paz from Idaho, with perhaps 40 in attendance, where the group broke out singing to me as well.

With the meeting breaking up after about an hour, I was eager to catch a taxi and head to the airport, lest I be mildly embarrassed with yet another serenade somewhere along the line. Within half an hour I had emerged from security clearance, by shortly after 10 a.m., which left me with roughly two hours to kill prior to my scheduled 12:16 p.m. departure on a United commuter flight and connection at O’Hare. With both flights operating on schedule and a 90-minute connecting time, my travels home were relaxed, arriving there shortly before 5 p.m. to enjoy a pre-supper evening walk with my pet Snickers, before sitting down to a simple birthday meal with some family members.

That did not, however, close out my weekend commitments. Sunday found me on the road to Iola before 8 a.m. to spend the morning and forepart of the afternoon tending to an Iola Historical Society promotional exposure at the 21st annual Iola Vintage Military Show. While other IHS members had provided coverage on the first two days of this event, joining me on the closing day was retired KP numismatic cataloging editor Colin Bruce. Like other hobby events, “finis” was written for this one by shortly after 2 p.m.; we’d broken down our display and I was home before 3 p.m.

Sunday was actually a relaxing close for an ANA week that went into the books for me as a full and enjoyable, though somewhat physically taxing run, one that was certainly in keeping with my expectations.

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