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Slabbed token catches eye at Central States

My numismatic road-running for the month of April closed out with attendance at the 70th anniversary convention of the Central States Numismatic Society in Cincinnati, an outing that spilled over into the first days of May. This attendance, coupled with attendance at the Nicolet Coin Club’s annual spring show in Green Bay on the first Sunday of May, exposed me to an experience that presented striking contrasts.

Rather than spending the better part of the day traveling to Cincinnati on an air itinerary, I opted to drive, notwithstanding the realization that it would probably require spending upwards of 10 hours on the road. Thus, I hit the road from the lake house at about 7 o’clock on Wednesday morning, routing myself around Chicago on the Tri-State, logging 246 miles by 10:45 a.m. when I crossed over into Indiana.

Picking up I-65 southbound towards Indianapolis, losing an hour when passing into the Eastern time zone, it was about 1 p.m. when I made my first and only stop of the drive for gas and lunch a few miles north of Lafayette with 323 miles behind me and 193 ahead.

The day’s drive was pleasant nearly all the way. It was overcast but dry. The last 50 miles or so on I-74, commencing around Batesville, Ind., however, turned to generally scattered showers with occasional driving rain.

It was about a quarter to five when I pulled up in front of the Hyatt Regency Cincinnati, headquarters hotel for Central States, situated at Fifth and Elm streets, catty-corner from the Duke Energy Center.  There, I encountered CSNS immediate past president Bill Brandimore and board member Bruce Benoit, both from Wisconsin, returning to the hotel from their PNG Day activities.

Having registered into the Hyatt and settled into my room, which I would be sharing with Chet Krause who was arriving by air later in the evening, I returned  to the lobby at about 5:30 p.m. I first encountered U.S. paper dealer Jesse Lipka from N.J. at the elevator bank, then PNG president Gary Adkins from the Twin Cities at the bottom of the escalator.

At Adkins’ invitation, I walked a couple blocks to the Westin to participate in the PNG reception. There I enjoyed passing time with the likes of Mary Counts from the Whitman organization and Christine Karstedt of Stack’s, Gene Henry from Seattle and Don Brigandi from New York City.

Others included Jeff Garrett from Kentucky and David Lisot from Texas, Charles Karler from Albuquerque and  Glen Jorde, who manages the PMG operation, Patrick Heller and Dany Rothfeld from Michigan, Jim Simek and Tim Kyzivat from Illinois, and ANA executive director Larry Shepherd.

Returning to the Hyatt at about 7:30 p.m. I visited briefly with prominent Pennsylvania exhibitors William Coburn, John Eshbach and Jerry Kochel, before heading into the Champs dining room for dinner, being joined thereafter by Chet, who had arrived. I called it a day by 9 o’clock.

On Thursday morning I rolled out early – 6:15 locally, but with my body clock still on Central time, it was 5:15 for all intents and purposes. I headed  out on a constitutional that was an hour or so in duration, walking out Fifth to Broadway, then down to Third and back past Cincinnati’s downtown sports venue trio of the Reds’ Great American Ball Park, the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium and the multi-sport U.S. Bank Arena to Central, then up to Seventh and back on Elm to the Hyatt.

By 7:30 a.m. Chet and I were taking breakfast at Findlay’s dining area on the second floor, with Benoit joining us.

It was about 8:30 a.m. by the time I excused myself and headed over to the convention center, where I found Marlene Highfill and Don Charters holding forth in the dealer registration area.

With the hall having opened to dealers and exhibitors at 8 a.m., I was able to quickly claim my security pass and head in, with my initial objective being to set up an exhibit. This was the first time I had done so at a Central States convention, after having been petitioned to do so for the past several years by exhibit chairwoman Fran Lockwood and husband Ray, the CSNS education chair.

Setting up of my three-case exhibit, “National Bank Notes: An ABC of City Names Collection” was dispatched in about half an hour. I was one of 42 exhibitors from 16 states that placed 63 exhibits embracing 240 total cases.

I headed off to do other things. First up was the picking up of a bidder card for the evening’s Heritage Signature Currency Auction. As I departed the auction lot viewing area I happened to cross paths with Heritage co-chairman Jim Halpern. This encounter resulted in an extended exchange on ANA and related hobby community issues.

It was about 10:30 a.m. by the time I returned to the convention hall, where I spent much of the balance of the day circulating about with my ANA presidential campaign election brochures and fliers for an upcoming Higgins Museum “2009 National Bank Note Seminar,” scheduled for Aug. 12-13 that will feature James Hughes, Don Kelly, Allen Mincho, James Ehrhardt and Steven Sweeney as speakers.

I did take a break at about 3 o’clock for a late lunch from the snack bar in the hall. I was joined there by Will Rossman from Florida, a former ANA board member, with whom I enjoyed an extended exchange on the issues of the day.

Later in the afternoon I also enjoyed an extended visit with Doug Davis from Texas, who was set up with a table promoting the Numismatic Crime Information Center, an initiative to which he is dedicating a considerable amount of time as a former police officer concerned about the brick walls to which coin thefts are often subjected by the authorities.

It was about 5:30 p.m. when I returned to the Hyatt briefly before returning to the Duke Energy Center to sit in on the currency auction session that got under way at 6 p.m.

The lot of my interest was a couple hundred lots into the session – one of a pair of Marshalltown, Iowa, Brown Back notes offered – which I successfully bid in for the Higgins Museum. Its collection was missing this previously unreported bank. While waiting for the lot to be called, I briefly exchanged greetings with Francis Loo from Honolulu, who quietly treated me to a couple Hawaiian macadamia nut chocolates.

Returning to the Hyatt by 7:30 p.m., Chet and I again availed ourselves of Champs for supper. My selection was an offering described as an “English Club Sandwich,” which proved to be quite tasty. It was, I might interject however, the only time out of five experiences, three breakfasts and two evening meals, that I found a repast taken at the Hyatt to be appealing. This Hyatt is not a place that I would pick as a dining destination, or a future lodging destination for that matter.

With a light rain falling when I rolled out of bed shortly before 6 a.m. Friday for my morning constitutional, I opted for the cover provided by an adjacent largely vacant seven-level, 700-stall parking garage. I returned to the Hyatt at about 7 a.m. to shower and dress for the day.

Chet and I headed down for breakfast at about 7:30 a.m., and I headed over to the convention center at about 8:30 to mingle in the lobby a bit in advance of the 9 o’clock opening of the hall.

There was no rush of dealers, early birds or others squeezing past security at the entrance to the hall when it opened. Quite the contrary. As time wore on, activity definitely appeared to be languid.

Over the three days of my presence at Central States’ Cincinnati convention, it appeared that both activity and collector/public attendance was very light. Capsulated, the reaction to the event that was shared with me by most dealers in attendance, was along the lines: “The level of activity more or less met my expectations.” Left unstated was that their expectations, primarily due to the present economic picture and to a lesser degree to the location of the event, were modest at best.

Having found my Thursday snack purchase from the offerings at the convention floor snack bar less than appetizing, during the noon hour on Friday I opted to try the offerings of the Espresso Cafe in the lobby near the entrance to the convention center. I found them to be limited, but marginally better.

During the afternoon I spent a good bit of time surveying the exhibit area presentations, which were definitely of a high quality standard, with a near preponderance being new to my eyes.

Along the way I enjoyed a couple extended conversations with a couple of attendees of long acquaintance, author and early U.S. coinage and classic Russian authority Bob Julian from Logansport, Ind., and Bob Fritsch from Nashua, N.H, who has been a dedicated and inspired officer of several organizations over the years and is presently serving as president of the Token and Medal Society.

At 5 o’clock an informal assembly of the American Numismatic Association board was convened by President Stuppler,  which I sat in on along with vice president Finner and fellow board members Boling, Krause and Wolka.

As a quorum was not present, no actions were taken over the hour and a half we were assembled. It was about 6:30 p.m. when Chet and I met with ANA executive director Larry Shepherd.We enjoyed conversation and dinner at the Chart House, located across the Ohio River in Newport. He provided the taxi service to and from, dropping us off at the Hyatt at about 9:30 p.m.

With Chet heading to the airport on Saturday morning at 5:45 to catch an early flight home, I headed out on my morning constitutional at the same time. This time I walked down Elm Street to the Ohio River, then followed the pathway upriver under the Roebling Suspension Bridge – it served as the precursor to the Brooklyn Bridge, both having been engineered by Roebling – past the National Steamboat Monument to the Purple People Pedestrian Bridge, then up to Fifth Street and back to the Hyatt. For the third consecutive morning the duration of my outing was roughly an hour.

The CSNS general membership meeting, awards breakfast and presentation venue got under way at 7:30 a.m. in one of the second floor Hyatt banquet rooms. I shared a table with the Florida United Numismatists team president Bob Hurst, vice president Tony Swicer and secretary Cindy Wibker, and also ANA and CSNS legal counsel Ron Sirna from Michigan and Charles Rekow of the host Cincinnati Numismatic Association.

During the course of the morning I stopped by the CNA table for a visit, consequently enrolling as a member so I could begin receiving this venerable and very active group’s newsletter on a regular basis.

At about 12:30 p.m. I again subjected myself to the offerings of the bourse area concession stand – this time I opted for a hot dog, which was fine – sharing a table in the adjacent lounge area with CNA member Bill Bennett, Jim Cain from Louisville, Mack Martin from Georgia, and best of show exhibit award winner Steven D’Ipollito.

Shortly after 2 o’clock, I and others were allowed to break down our exhibits, with activity throughout the hall having begun to wind down towards the scheduled 5 o’clock close of this year’s convention.

Hitting the road for home at about 3 p.m., this time my only stop was after 172 miles, for fuel and dinner at a Cracker Barrel outside Lafayette. The mileage log had climbed to 349 by the time I crossed the border into Wisconsin and to 518 when I pulled into the drive at home at about 11:30 p.m.

Having regained the hour I’d lost outbound, when passing from the Central to the Eastern time zone, my comparative on the road time was about 45 minutes more, though traffic moved smoothly from start to finish.

Much of my road time both coming and going had been listening to and cogitating about a 16-lecture series of 45-minute CDs delivered by Princeton University professor Dr. Michael Sugrue on the topic of “Plato, Socrates and the Dialogues.”

They were sent my way a few months ago by John Nebel of Denver, a longtime supporter of the ANA, its headquarters and museum in Colorado Springs, with whom we recently settled a legal proceeding on an amicable basis.

This lecture series sets forth the professor’s assessment of the philosophical logic behind the sage thoughts of Socrates as set forth by the intellectual and poetic Plato. Listening to them, it was easy to relate many of their recorded 5th century B.C. Greek observations of human and political conflict in today’s world.

Having absorbed the first eight lectures on the way to Cincinnati, I passed them on to Sirna to occupy his time while driving home to Flint. I assimilated the last six on the way home, before passing them on as well.

With a decent night’s sleep behind me, by 8 o’clock on Sunday morning I was on the road again. This time my destination was Green Bay – just 66 miles away – where the Numismatists of Wisconsin group was gathering for the annual meeting marking their 49th anniversary. Next year they will be meeting in Iola for a special 50th anniversary event on May 21-22.

This year’s assembly was being held in conjunction with the annual spring show of the Nicolet Coin Club. The club also holds an annual fall show on a late fall or early winter Sunday that does not conflict with a Green Bay Packers football game . This year’s is set for Dec. 6.

The Green Bay shows have been held at the Comfort Suites Rock Garden facility on the northwest side for the past several years. Arriving there at about 9:30 a.m., the first person I encountered upon entering the hotel lobby was southern Missouri paper money dealer Leon Thornton, who had flown in from Cincinnati and had already worked his way around the floor. He was already picking away on his laptop in pursuit of ongoing travel arrangements. Inside the bourse – perhaps 40 dealers or so occupying 38 tables – the aisles were packed and activity appeared solid.

The NOW board gathered for its meeting at 11 a.m. with 14 of 19 present. In addition to reviewing the financial and membership health of the organization –  the former slightly improved upon the previous year and the latter down only very slightly – we also reviewed planning for upcoming annual gatherings four years forward, through 2013.

The NOW News writer awards for 2008 were also announced, the willingness of the present board members and officers to continue for another year confirmed, and newly acquired red team NOW shirts were handed out to all in attendance for wearing at future organizational events.

The general membership meeting convened at 1 p.m. and was quickly dispatched, with only two or three non-board members in attendance, following the sharing of summary reports and actions taken at the earlier meeting.

A half hour or so later I took leave from the Nicolet show, it having been a comparatively well attended and active event compared to the Central States convention.

My lunch was an “Original Italian” sandwich at Fazoli’s before leaving Green Bay for the drive home, arriving there at about 3:30. That left me with the luxury of a relaxing end to a somewhat tiring five days and nearly 1,200 miles on the road. u

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