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Plenty of coin activity out West

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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My attendance at this year’s American Numismatic Association National Money Show event in Sacramento resulted in an enjoyable and varied eight-day adventure. It began with relaxing travels, though the ending was trying to say the least. Sprinkled between were sometimes hectic and tiring days, but all were filled with rewarding and unforgettable experiences.

I flew into Sacramento on Wednesday of the show week. Having a window seat, I enjoyed a wonderful view of the snow-covered Lake Tahoe area countryside about half an hour out from the flight’s slightly earlier than scheduled arrival at 1:25 p.m. By 2 p.m. I had registered for my room at the Sheraton Grand Hotel.

With time to burn prior to the 3 p.m.  opening of the bourse to dealer setup, I headed out for the Sacramento Convention just across the street to orient myself and check out the advance activity. Before exiting the Sheraton I had an opportunity to visit briefly with veteran Seattle dealer Gene Henry and Carol presented itself, as they were whiling away the time relaxing in the hotel’s atrium lobby.

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One of my first encounters upon arriving at the convention center’s Hall A/B lobby area was with Jeff Shevlin, general chairman of the event for the host Sacramento Valley Coin Club. I had forgotten my photo ID badge back at Iola, so I had to prevail upon ANA convention director Rhonda Scurek and Nadia Moskver of the staff to prepare a new one for me. The balance of the hour was spent visiting with dealers, including ANA Vice President Tom Hallenbeck and his father Ken, a past president, from Colorado Springs.

By 4 p.m. dealers were pretty well settled and the bourse was a buzz of activity. At 6 o’clock I joined a group of about 70 attendees in being bused to the NMS kickoff event at the Old Sugar Mill outside Sacramento. There I shared a dinner table with a quintet of Californians; Albertus Hoogeveen, Kay Lenker, Walter Ostromecki, and Barry Stallard and his wife.

The evening was a pleasant and relaxing one with lots of conversation, along with wine tasting for those who were so inclined. In addition to enjoying a very good repast, I contented myself with a small selection of wine flavored chocolate truffles. The winery occupies the reclaimed and resurrected structure of an abandoned sugar mill located in the historic Clarksburg area.

My Thursday got under way at about 5:30 a.m. with a walk through a portion of Old Sacramento, a tourist and entertainment district abutting the downtown area.

It was about 7 o’clock when I headed up to the Club Lounge to partake of the complimentary continental breakfast. Other early risers encountered included Ostromecki, along with national volunteers John and Nancy Wilson from Florida. Arriving at the convention center somewhat before 8, I encountered a steadily building queue of dealers awaiting the opening of the bourse. I participated in the formal opening ceremonies and ribbon cutting at 9 o’clock with Shevlin.

Substantial slices of time during the day were spent at the future conventions table in the ANA area for the Chicago Coin Club, enjoying many conversations with attendees from near and far. Along the way I also surprised Californian Ernie Low, one of the true grassroots supporters of the hobby as a dealer, with an ANA Presidential Award. At around 6 p.m. I joined up with Jim Marshall from the Stack’s organization, David Perkins from Denver, and Paul Gilkes from Coin World, in accepting the convention chairman’s invitation to an informal house party he hosted for about 30 attendees. With Jim providing the transportation, we returned to the hotel at about 11 p.m.

My Friday morning got under way at about 6 a.m. with a constitutional that was a repeat of the previous morning. It was about 7:30 a.m. when I again headed to breakfast in the Club Lounge, this time joining fellow board members Scott Rottinghaus and Wendell Wolka. This was ANA board meeting day, so I and the other board members spent virtually all of our time away from the bourse.

A closed executive session convened at 9 a.m. and extended until noontime. We did break for lunch at about noon, with general counsel Ron Sirna and executive assistant Ann Rahn running out and bringing in a selection of sandwiches and salads for our enjoyment. Back in session around 1 p.m., the afternoon was spent in open session until about 5, with a dozen or so members in attendance. The primary topics were consideration and adoption of a draft bylaws revision for presentation to the membership, and receiving staff presentations of a half dozen administrative activity overviews, with awards deliberations following during a second executive session.

It was a bit after 6 p.m. before the afternoon board adjourned. Shortly thereafter I joined Wolka and Ostromecki in heading off to a special banquet event organized by the host club, with transportation being provided by a club member. Hosted at the Delta King, a riverboat  restaurant docked in the Old Sacramento district, with perhaps 70 participating, it concluded around 10 p.m. Sharing a perspective on the coin slab phenomenon as banquet speaker was David Lang, research director at NGC. I shared a table with SVCC president John Owings and his wife, a mother and daughter pair from Reno who were attending their first numismatic event, and two or three other members of the local club.

Saturday again got under way at about 6 a.m. with another hour-long walk. Relaxing over breakfast in the Club Lounge from about 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., I enjoyed conversations with fellow board members Joe Boling, Alan Herbert, Hallenbeck and Rottinghaus. An exploration of the exhibits area followed, from which Simcha Kuritzy from Maryland carried away honors in four of the seven categories of competition. From 10 a.m. to noon I was among those who gathered for the ANA candidate forum. On the dais I was among six of the seven currently serving board members who are again standing for election, along with newcomers Gary Adkins and Greg Lyon, with the audience barely outnumbering the candidate lineup.

The snack bar at the back of the bourse area was my election for lunch on Friday. There I shared a table and conversation with a Vallejo Coin Club crew comprised of Harry Davis, David Thomas, Richard Belleau, Robert Sather, Robert Delgado and his son, along with others who came and went. The future conventions table again commanded slices of my afternoon, where I spelled Phil Carrigan o
f the Chicago Coin Club, who had been saddled with the responsibility on Friday.

With activity on the bourse having pretty well wound down, it was about 5:30 p.m. when I headed back to my room at the Sheraton. An hour later I met up with Doug Andrews from Winnipeg, who has been chairing the ANA Bylaws and Ethics Committee, for a walk down to the Old Sacramento area, where we enjoyed dinner at The Firehouse restaurant. The time passed quickly with our wide ranging discussions being quite engaging. With the time nearing 10 p.m. and rain falling when we called it quits, we hailed a taxi for our return to the Sheraton.

On Sunday, dawn broke to a very windy and misty first day of spring. Heading out for my morning regimen at about 6:30, I opted to stroll the nearby downtown streets for about an hour, putting in some of the time walking beneath the shelter of the convention center’s J Street overhang. After spending time chatting over breakfast in the Club Lounge with Wolka and national volunteer Greg Ruby from Maryland, I subsequently found myself engaged in conversation with James Hunt and Jim Wells from San Diego in the Sheraton lobby, while awaiting the 11 o’clock bus departure of the “Minting and Mining in Carson City” post-convention excursion.

Our route of travel for the day was to be up I-80 through the California Mother Lode region, across historic Donner Pass and through the Truckee area, with Nevada mining geologist and numismatist Fred Holabird serving as our instructor guide. With a late winter snowstorm having closed down traffic through the pass, however, we had to take an alternate route. After visiting the historic Empire/Star mine complex in the Grass Valley/Nevada City area, we looped to the north on California 70 through the scenic Feather River Canyon and Beckworth Pass, made famous as the Western Pacific railroad trackage route of the legendary California Zephyr through the Sierra Nevada range,  enjoying a box lunch along the way with my 22 fellow seminar/tour enrollees.

That set arrival in Reno back from 4 o’clock to about 6:30 p.m. for our overnight accommodations at the Peppermill Resort Spa and Casino. After quickly settling into my room, I headed down to the Peppermill’s Island Buffet for dinner, where I joined Hunt and Wells, along with ANA executive director Larry Shepherd and education project manager Susan McMillan. I called it a day around 9 p.m.
Monday morning found me heading out at about 6 o’clock for an hour-long constitutional walking the perimeter of the Peppermill property before getting dressed for the day and heading down to the Island Buffet for breakfast. There I joined a table that included Brett Irick from the Detroit, who this July will be chairing the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association convention in Windsor, Ontario, and Oregon coin shop operator Scott McLaine and his wife.

Re-boarding our tour bus at 9:30 a.m., our initial stop for the day was at the American Assay Laboratory in nearby Sparks, where Holabird and the owner treated us to a detailed inside look at the assay process for precious metals. From there we headed up to historic Virginia City and the Comstock Lode, our first stop being at the historic Fourth Ward School museum, where we enjoyed a catered lunch, my table mates this time being dealer Phil Plattner from the Fresno area, and his wife Janet, along with Hunt and Wells.

During the afternoon Holabird conducted the tour group on an exercise of creating crude three dimensional models of the Comstock, to enable us to better understand the exploration and development of mining properties. An afternoon drive took us through Gold Hill and Silver City, past Six Mile Canyon and along the Carson River mill sites area, with descriptive commentary provided detailing the historic sites. Our last stop of the day provided a tour of the Medallic Art Company/Northwest Territorial Mint facility in Dayton, with the group being greeted by Ross Hansen, who heads up the firm.
It was about 6 p.m. when we arrived at the Courtyard Marriott on Carson City’s southern fringe, our accommodations for the next two nights. Back on the bus within half an hour, we headed off to Red’s Old 395 Grill for dinner. Having ordered the “Steamroller Ribs” dish, with the ribs hanging over the edges of a very large platter, the serving proved to be both delicious and more than I could comfortably consume. It was only about 9 p.m. when we returned to the Courtyard, but I didn’t feel the least bit enticed to check out the casino next door.

Heading out at about 6 o’clock Tuesday morning, I put in an hour-long constitutional and took in The Courtyard’s complimentary breakfast buffet before boarding the bus at 9 a.m. for the Carson City Mint museum complex downtown,.

The morning seminar at the historic old Mint featured presentations by Bob Nylen, curator of history, and Gene Hattori, curator of anthropology at the Nevada State Museum. Nylen presented an overview of the history of Carson City and the Mint from 1870 until it became the state’s museum in 1939, providing a tour of the facility. Hattori explored the Chinese miner heritage and a historical overview of the discovery and record of a 1977 Chinatown gold coin discovery in Lovelock.

At noon the group adjourned to a buffet lunch at the nearby B’Sghetti’s Restaurant, where I was pleased to be seated at a table that enabled me to enjoy extended conversations with Jim Barmore, director of the Nevada State Museum, and fellow excursion participant Jeffrey Gaughan, from Plymouth, Mass., whose collecting interests include nationals. Like most of my fellow travelers, following lunch I stopped by the nearby shops of Dan Wilson’s Downtown Coin and Allen Rowe’s Northern Nevada Coin for brief visits.

The afternoon seminar session, which got under way at 1:30, was given over to Ken Hopple, a volunteer who operates the Carson City Mint’s historic “Coin Press No. 1” as chief coiner of the Nevada State Museum. His presentation detailed many hidden secrets of the Carson City Mint, how he came to be involved, and the incredible history of the press. Participants also examined the unique pair of canceled dies for the rare 1876-CC 20 cents coinage held by the museum.

Following the presentation, Hopple treated the group to an operational demonstration of the press, during the course of which 49 brass and 29 silver examples of a unique die combination were struck. Single examples of the brass strikes were presented to participants as souvenirs.

After having briefly returned to the Courtyard, we were bused back into the city for a 6 o’clock dinner in the Governor’s Mansion entertainment hall. The highlight of the evening was the appearance of the “Ghost of Mark Twain,” whose fabled American wit and wisdom first sprung from the Comstock, a nearly hour-long performance by McAvoy Layne, who has been dedicated to preserving that heritage for nearly a quarter century.

The occasion also presented me with the opportunity to present an ANA Presidential Award to Holabird. When the event broke up around 8:30, I bid farewell to my fellow seminar/tour participants and table mates for the evening; Bruce Baker from Virginia, Steve Smith from Pennsylvania, the McLaine’s from Oregon and John and Dusty Antol from Arizona.

On Wednesday morning I separated from the excursion group. While the others had another day of planned touring ahead of them over the Sierra Nevada range on US-50, along the American River to Placerville and Coloma, through the heart of the 1848 gold rush, I would head to Reno to catch a homeward bound flight.

My travel originated with an 11:35 a.m. United flight back to Appleton, with connections in Denver and at O’Hare. The first two flights operated with clock-like precision. At O’Hare, however, my scheduled
connecting time of under an hour stretched to more than five, but I was among the lucky travelers of the day. I got home, but most flights on the departure board for the evening were being posted as cancellations.

The culprit was a vicious winter storm that had blanketed the Upper Midwesty As I waited hour after hour with ever advancing “delayed” postings, I couldn’t help but ponder the fortunes of my recent travel compatriots on their bus trip over the Sierra Nevada. The United Express flight to Appleton finally departed at 1:30 Thursday morning – the scheduled departure time had been 8:03 on Wednesday evening – arriving in Appleton at 2:10, sans my suitcase.

It was nearly 4 a.m. by the time I pulled into the garage at home, having had to file a missing baggage report, having managed to rock the Town Car out of a plowed-in parking space, and having scraped its ice encrusted window surfaces sufficiently clear for driving. That was more than six hours later than had been my anticipation.

This all made for what was most definitely a very tiring end to an otherwise very pleasant experience!

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