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Travels lead to Kansas, New York

This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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October found me on the road participating in a trio of quite varied hobby events, only the last of which was a show outing, the others being an educational seminar and a board meeting.

First up was the seminar,  involving a somewhat tiring drive home, but thoroughly enjoyable and stimulating results. The closing outing was to a show to which relaxing travels unfolded, providing an experience that was by similar measure rewarding and evocative.

My travels to the first event, the latest Central States Numismatic Society stand-alone seminar, this one hosted in Hutchinson, Kan., got under way from home at about 8 o’clock in the morning on the closing day of September. This was the ninth in CSNS’ ongoing seminar series, the first of which was hosted at the Higgins Museum in Okoboji, Iowa, in August 2006, with the next being set for April 2, 2011, in Fort Wayne, Ind., hosted by the Old Fort Coin Club with a focus on all things Lincoln.

Picking up I-39 southbound out of central Wisconsin about a half hour from home, it was around 9:30 a.m. when I reached Portage, dropping off the Interstate there and traveling southwesterly cross-country by way of Sauk City and Spring Green to US-151 at Dodgeville. Crossing the Mississippi at Dubuque at about 11:15, by then I had driven about 190 miles.

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It was about noon when I reached Anamosa where I pulled off for a Hardee’s lunch. Anamosa was the early 1940s birthplace of a hobby newspaper – Coin Collector – though not so titled until 1954, its original name having been Philatelic Press. Acquired years and an interim ownership later by Krause Publications, it was merged into the Numismatic News within two years, at the end of 1969. The founders and longtime publishers of the periodical were the Lawrence brothers – Ray and Roy – who were businessmen in that community.

Picking up I-80 west of Iowa City, I dropped off it at at Pella, about 35 miles southeast of Des Moines. This stop along the road to Hutchinson was due to an invitation extended some months ago by Michael Olson, who began serving as a member of the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee this past November. He realized appointment to the panel through the offices of Congressman John Boehner from Ohio, the House Minority Leader at the time.

A banker by profession, Mike’s coin collecting interest dates back to the Bicentennial era, but was relatively inactive for 10 years or so while pursuing an education and establishing his career, before returning to the hobby in the mid-1990s. He is in the USBank organization as a community bank president for Pella and nearby New Sharon. Entering his bank’s lobby, situated on Pella’s picturesque and historic town square, one’s eyes are quickly drawn to a display, maintained adjacent to the teller stand, focused on creating public and collector interest in Presidential dollar issues.

The bank’s origins date back to 1857 when it opened as the Central Exchange and Land Office, becoming the community’s first banking institution. Established by Dominie Hendrik Peter Scholte, who 10 years earlier had led a group of 800 Hollander immigrants to settle there, it served what was still a frontier area that had not been opened for settlement until 1843. Subsequently doing business under the identity of the Pella Savings Institution, the bank in 1872 received charter number 2063 as The Pella National Bank.

The Pella community takes its rich Dutch heritage seriously, having featured a highly successful civically promoted Tulip Time tourism festival annually since it was inaugurated in 1935 at the depth of the Depression. This early May event draws attendees from far and wide to enjoy varied holiday activities and streets accented with literally tens of thousands of bright tulips. This year there was the opportunity to participate in a Dutchmen wooden shoe dance of thousands around the square, an event that is expected to gain Guinness world record recognition.

During my visit, Mark treated me to a short late afternoon tour of the community, which included a visit to the Pella Historical Village and Vermeer Mill. The Vermeer Mill is the tallest working windmill in the United States, having been authentically constructed 10 years ago by a Dutch windmill maker in accordance with plans from 1850. It is equipped to grind grain into meal relying exclusively on wind power and traditional processes. At 124 feet tall, the tallest working windmill in the United States, it stands as the focal point for entry to the Pella Historical Village, a complex of some 20 buildings, including the childhood home of legendary Western lawman Wyatt Earp, filled with historical artifacts.

During the course of our touring we made a stop at the Jaarsma Bakery, a traditional Dutch family bakery dating from 1898, where Mike introduced me to Dutch Letters, one of a wide variety of tasty pastries produced fresh daily on site. I noted that he tendered payment in coin, the recently released Buchanan Presidential dollar issue, as he did for other purchases he made that day. During the course of our discussions I learned that Mike’s bank participates in the U.S. Mint’s direct ship program, enabling it to always receive such new issue coins on a timely basis for release to the public.
We parted at about 5:30 p.m. so I could briefly settle into my overnight accommodations at the Royal Amsterdam Hotel. The Royal Amsterdam is a delightful three-story hotel situated in the heart of historic downtown Pella, featuring spacious rooms with old world treatment. Room access is provided by keys suspended from oversized fobs, the once customary European style, whereby keys were typically checked and claimed at the front desk when residents ventured forth from the hotel.

Meeting up again about half an hour later in the hotel’s Monarchs restaurant for dinner, joining us was Mike’s young daughter, Jessica, whose lively presence was enjoyable and entertaining. My selections from the Dutch themed menu were a Dutch salad and a Molengracht sandwich, a takeoff on a traditional Reuben sandwich. With our dinner conversation being all over the map, before parting ways at about 7:30 I had learned that Mike’s leisure time interests roam well beyond coins to muscle cars and firearms.

Friday morning found me heading out at about 6 o’clock on what would be an hour long constitutional crisscrossing the streets of downtown Pella, which is dominated by Dutch style structures and facades. Having breakfasted on the continental offerings of the Royal Amsterdam, I was on the road out of town by 8 a.m., after making a quick stop at the Jaarsma, picking up a selection of fresh baked Danish pastries to see me through the day.

My initial route of travel was a winding 67-mile drive through the undulating countryside of south central Iowa by way of Knoxville – my National Bank Note collection of out-of-place cities includes a Third Charter plain back $20 on The Knoxville National Bank (Charter 1871) – to Osceola where I picked up I-35. It was about 12:30 at Kansas City when I crossed over from Missouri to Kansas, having logged another 150 miles, continuing on to Ottawa and stopping there at about 1:15 p.m. for lunch at Applebee’s. My route of travel out of Kansas City having roughly paralleled the historic Santa Fe Trail, the menu selection that popped out at me was a Santa Fe chicken salad.

Continuing down I-35 on a southwesterly tack following lunch, at Emporia I dropped off onto US-50 westbound across Kansas’ flint hills and tall grass prairies area to Hutchinson in central Kansas, arriving there at about 4:30 p.m., having logged 437 miles for the day. After locating what had until recent days been know as the Grand Prairie Hotel, but was being converted to a Ramada Inn, unexpectedly greeting me from behind while registering was Dave Sorrick from Pittsburg in the southeastern corner of Kansas, president of the Kansas Numismatic Association in 2006-07.

After opting for an early evening meal at the Grand Slam Sports Cafe in the facility, heading back to my room at about 7 p.m. I encountered CSNS board member Jim Moores from the Kansas City area. Jim’s focused board involvement is the organization’s educational activities. He was waiting to meet up with education director Ray Lockwood and his wife, Fran, with plans to head out for dinner elsewhere. 

At 6 o’clock on Saturday morning I headed out walking a few laps around the hotel complex, then up and down Lorraine Street on which it fronts, between 11th and 17th avenues, before heading off to the seminar venue shortly before 8 a.m. Dominating the skyline of downtown Hutchinson is the First National Bank building, where a second floor public meeting/dining room provided the forum for the day’s activities. This bank features a 42-note display providing an overview of the history of U.S. currency issues from 1862 to 1923. Available for public viewing during normal business hours, unfortunately it was not open for viewing during the seminar because it is mounted inside the safe deposit vault in the main banking area.

Being among the early arrivals on the scene, I had my pick of the continental breakfast goodies laid out for attendees, although there was plenty to go around. On hand to greet us were the Lockwoods, along with Moores from the Central States organization. Leading the reception committee for the host Hutchinson Coin Club were Francis and Karen Hawks. Settling down to a table with my breakfast treats, I was ultimately joined by attendees Harry Newsome from Salina, Glenn Perry from the Dodge City area and Wendell Levitt from Wichita, with whom some lively conversations were enjoyed during program breaks through the course of the day.

There were three speakers, with ANA past president Bob Campbell from Salt Lake City doing double duty in the morning starting at 9 o’clock, delivering informative and enlightening presentations on toned and counterfeit coins. Offering up an insightful and entertaining exploration of selected oddities encountered in the course of his collecting pursuit of obsolete and scrip note issues was ANA board member Wendell Wolka from Indianapolis. His engrossing presentation closed out the afternoon, following my sharing rationales for why supporting our hobby community organizations is important, with the gathering breaking up around 4:30.

Having been invited by the hosts to join them and the other speakers for a 6:30 p.m. thank-you dinner at the Airport Steakhouse, as I’d checked out of my room in the morning and was at loose ends, I arrived there well before the appointed time. A half-hour or so was occupied pursuing a walking regimen, during the course of which I observed unbelievably large flocks of starlings come and go, by far the largest I can recall having ever encountered, they all but turning the sky above black.

It was about 8 p.m. when I excused myself from that gathering, hitting the road to begin my homeward bound trek. These travels would pretty much reverse Thursday’s outbound journey. I’d logged about 160 miles before pulling off at Ottawa at 10:30 to overnight at a Comfort Inn.

Facing a rather long day on the road, I opted to forego starting Sunday off  with a constitutional. Having rolled out of bed somewhat before 6 a.m., it was around 7, with the sun having just started to break the eastern horizon, when I hit the road following a quick and light continental breakfast. I’d already logged 257 miles for the day when I pulled off for gas on Des Moines’ northeast fringe.

It was about 12:30 p.m. when I paused for a quick lunch at the Amana Colonies exit, opting for the signature sandwich and an ice cream shake while seated at the counter of a Maid-Rite outlet, a chain that originated in 1926 and has been enjoying a moderate renaissance of late.

Back on the road by 1 p.m., it was about 2:20 p.m. with some 450 miles logged when I crossed back over the Mississippi into Wisconsin. Arriving back home at around 5:30 p.m., with the sun starting to settle into the western horizon, I’d pounded the pavement at 637 miles for the day. As I settled into my recliner for the evening, I briefly pondered if driving in excess of 1,600 miles over four days for the primary purpose of spending one of those days delivering a presentation of an hour or so duration at a seminar attended by upwards of 50 could be really justified as a worthwhile undertaking? My conclusion? I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

My travels to the month’s closing event, a return to the traditional Halloween weekend gathering of the South Carolina Numismatic Association in Greenville for the first time since 2004, got under way on the last Thursday of October with a mid-morning Delta flight out of Appleton. This was the 38th annual SCNA convention, an event that I had attended on a pretty regular basis for nearly two decades, from 1981 through 1997, one that I’d been eagerly anticipating since receiving an invitation to participate nearly a year earlier.

My arrival at the airport serving Greenville was right on schedule at 4:23 p.m., with SCNA president Greg Stowers meeting me to provide transportation to accommodations at a Hampton Inn near the convention venue, our exchanges of observations on changing hobby involvement perspectives during the drive in being enjoyable.

Greg waited for me to claim my room and deposit my suitcase there, after which we headed over to the Carolina First Center a couple miles away, where SCNA dealer setup had just gotten under way. Over the next hour or so I enjoyed visiting with working volunteers and early arriving dealers who were already on the scene. At about 6:30 p.m. I was invited to join Greg and four SCNA couples – the Aiken group of past president Jim and board member Helen Barry, board member Dick and Sharon Smoot, and Arno and Vilma Safron, along with secretary Pascal and Judy Brock from the Camden area – in walking a few steps away to enjoy dinner at the Irashiai Japanese restaurant, lingering over conversation until near 9 p.m.

Friday began at about 6 a.m. with an hour long constitutional strolling the parking lots of the shopping area adjoining the Hampton, following which I treated myself to their continental breakfast offerings. Then I met up with SCNA treasurer Austin Sheheen from Camden, who conveyed me to the convention venue. Over the next couple of hours I enjoyed several extended conversations around the bourse, one being with Al Adams from Dahlonega, Ga., who has long specialized as a collector and dealer in the gold coins, scrip and related materials of America’s first gold rush. He handed me a copy of a just published book – GOLD! At Pigeon Roost – a study of America’s first gold mining scrip, of which he was a co-author.

At 10 a.m. I was invited to cut a ribbon formally opening the convention bourse to the public in the company of “Uncle Sam” and several SCNA officers. I would say there were upwards of 100 attendees queued up awaiting the formal opening. With the inflow of new attendees continuing steadily into mid-afternoon, there was a nice crowd milling about the floor well into the afternoon. Many enjoyable conversations ensued with acquaintances from past SCNA convention attendances, ANA members and News readers of these commentaries. The box lunches available to dealers and other participating attendees were tasty and reasonable.

With activity having turned pretty quiet, perhaps a third of the dealers had closed up shop for the day by 5 o’clock. With the bourse closing down for the day at 6:30, most of those who remained partook of a “Dealer Appreciation Gathering” buffet provided by SCNA. There I shared a table and conversation through the evening with bourse chairman Tony Chibbaro from the Newberry area, first vice president Erik Larsen from Charleston, Tom Wood from North Carolina, Tom Youngblood from Georgia, and the Tennessee trio of Mack Martin, Bob Hartje and Dennis Schafluetzel, following which Stowers was kind enough to return me to the Hampton at about 8:30.

Saturday got underway for me about a half hour earlier than did Friday, again with an hour long walking regimen about the shopping area parking lots, followed by breakfast and another ride to the Carolina First Center courtesy of Sheheen around 8 a.m. I again enjoyed visiting and prospecting about the bourse before sitting in on what was a rather brief 9:30 SCNA membership meeting that was about 15 minutes in duration with around 20 in attendance. The bourse again opened to public at 10, with the attendee push quickly building to a busy crescendo that easily exceeded that of Friday, the resulting business levels being good to strong from the reports that reached my ears.

Around noon I poked my head in on the young numismatist program, enthusiastically conducted by Hartje and assistants, which had gotten underway at 11 a.m. and was playing to a packed room. At one I joined perhaps a dozen attendees in sitting in on an educational program – “An Overview of South Carolina National Bank Notes” presented by Society of Paper Money Collectors treasurer Bob Moon. At two I sat in on another program – The World’s First Coins – presented by Chibbaro to somewhat smaller audience. Both presentations were insightful and thought provoking. As it dug deeply into the realm of the earliest ancient coins, rather than that of the focused exonumia arena with which I typically associate him, Chibbaro’s presentation caught me a bit unawares.

Attendance and activity on the bourse had thinned perceptibly by 3 p.m. By 4 p.m., at least a couple dealers were observed packing up to leave; by 6, probably a quarter or more of the 90-odd tables had been vacated. At 6:30 Stowers provided me with a ride to the Olive Tree restaurant where we met up with the Barrys, Brocks, Smoots and Safrons, along with Ernie and Peggy Turnes. Ernie has become very involved in the Myrtle Beach Coin Club and SCNA since moving there from the Baltimore area about five years ago. It was around 8:30, after enjoying a couple Greek dishes, when I was again dropped off at the Hampton and called it a day.

Halloween morning started around six o’clock with another hour long constitutional that trod the same ground as the previous two mornings, with Stowers stopping by for me and my suitcase at about 7:45. Before heading to the airport to begin my travels home, however, I would be joining him and upwards of 60 other convention participants for the annual awards breakfast and officer installation, I having been invited to be the guest speaker and installing officer. At the head table I shared seating with Chibbaro and Norman Boggs, the occasion also according me the opportunity to present an ANA Presidential Award to Tony in recognition of his outstanding and ongoing contributions in the interest of our coin collecting community in both South Carolina and the exonumia field.

It was about 10:30 when Greg headed to the airport with me. With both flights operating on schedule I was on the ground in Appleton shortly before 4 and back home by 5. While I’d missed out on enjoying the Packers defensive victory over the Jets, I was able to take in the last half of the late afternoon game and the first half of the evening game, before succumbing to the temptation of a familiar bed.

Slipped in between the Kansas and South Carolina outings was a quick turnaround jaunt to New York City to fulfill my obligation as a member of the American Numismatic Society’s trustees board, which meets three times annually in late winter, summer and fall. My travels there got underway from home at about 7:30 on the Friday morning before the South Carolina outing, a leisurely drive to the Appleton airport getting me there about an hour before the scheduled 9:23 United Express flight to O’Hare.

With the flight operating on time, I had the opportunity to grab a quick salad and chili lunch at Chili’s in Concourse F before hiking over to gate B-7 for a scheduled 11:03 departure to New York. It was around 3:15 p.m. when a taxi dropped me off at the Hampton Inn on Watts Street, where my arrival happened to coincide with that of a fellow trustee, Peter Tompa from Washington, D.C., with whom I enjoyed visiting a bit, following our having registered, before heading up to my room.

At 7 p.m. I headed off to Savore, just three or four blocks away on Spring Street, to join up with Society of Paper Money Collectors president Mark Anderson for dinner. Mark was accompanied by Maribel, his domestic partner, so we kept the numismatic discussions at a minimum over the next couple hours as we shared a bottle of wine. My dining selections were a tasty salad and a delicious Chilean sea bass entree, topped off with a rich chocolate dessert.

On Saturday morning I headed out walking at about 6:30, heading over to Broadway, which I walked down to Battery Park, returning along Trinity/Church streets back to the Hampton roughly an hour later. Stopping off in the breakfast area, I availed myself of its continental offerings before returning to my room. A half hour or so prior to the scheduled 10 o’clock start of the trustees meeting I headed over to the office building in the next block where the ANS offices are located.

The board meeting, which included a catered light working lunch, had approached five hours in duration before adjournment came. The morning session was largely concerned with deliberation of housekeeping issues, while the afternoon was devoted to preliminary discussions involved with the development of a strategic plan to serve the ANS through 2013. The organization’s 153rd annual meeting followed at 3 p.m. with president Roger Siboni, other officers and administrative staff providing oral reports of ANS activities over the past year for the 50 to 60 attendees.

I closed out Saturday by hopping a subway ride up to Times Square, enjoying a dinner of a couple street vendor hot dogs with mustard and kraut, along with honey roasted peanuts.  I walked the streets of Midtown over to the Rockefeller Plaza where ice skaters were enjoying a pleasant evening, before returning to the Hampton at about 8 p.m.

Sunday morning got under way with a 6:30 a.m. ride to LaGuardia for a scheduled 8:45 a.m. United departure. At O’Hare, a relaxing connecting time accorded time to enjoy another salad and bowl of chili lunch at Chili’s in Concourse F. An on-time departure put me on the ground in Appleton a bit ahead of schedule and home by 2:30 p.m., so I could settle in for a relaxing afternoon and evening in the company of our two youngest grandchildren.


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