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Viewpoint: We need everyone in numismatics

 

By V. Kurt Bellman
ana170I have just returned from the ANA convention in Rosemont, Ill., back into the halls of state government, where I work for a politically moderate and highly respected minority party committee chairman. We call them minority chairmen, in Washington they call the equivalent people ranking members.

My main vacation each year is reserved for the ANA convention from now on. I served with Host Committee Chairman Kerry Wetterstrom’s committee for the summer ANA convention last year in Philadelphia, and the ANA has now made me a National Volunteer. I’m hooked. I have tried to use my week away from government to take a break from partisan bickering and “us vs. them” nonsense. I need the change of thought process occasionally.

Lately in numismatics, it’s getting harder to find.

We all have read about the controversy surrounding dealers who leave major shows early. I find myself sympathetic to both viewpoints. Collectors with jobs that make weeklong attendance impossible deserve a functioning show when they get to the venue on the weekend. On the other hand, forcing dealers to lose an entire day because the last viable flight home is too early on the last show day, well, it isn’t fair to expect that of them either. Besides, some dealers don’t cater to Joe Average Collector.

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The controversies don’t end there. The names of the individuals referenced below are omitted because my intent is not to embarrass anyone, but to illustrate the dangers that lie beneath the surface that risk harmony in our chosen hobby.

I witnessed one of the top two or three names in numismatics, among the still living, get upset at the Board of Governors for spending too much time on the ANA website and association management software upgrades, and leave the board meeting in disgust. I witnessed a giant among paper money dealers publicly decry the “preferential treatment” given at ANA shows to the major auction houses.

I witnessed a member of the Board of Governors essentially promise to be a pugnacious contrarian for the next two years. I witnessed too many people with unalterable and not fully thought through opinions on topics concerning the most important segments in the hobby – auction houses, major dealers, common dealers, major investors, or collectors.

Well, surprise, surprise; we need them all! Rather, the ANA needs them all. To risk beating a “dead horse” line, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Like it or not, the major auction houses pay big bucks to get the rights to be the official auctioneer of an ANA show. The prestige it brings is palpable. In the last few years, one auction company figuratively plopped so much money on the table that the ANA decided not to even take competing bids. Just how much money is a closely held secret, and probably required to be so by the contract itself.

The ANA’s “Star System” for earning stars to get the most choice booth locations is quite public. In fact, it was the topic of a Friday morning Money Talk by ANA staff at Rosemont. Would you like to step up the ladder of booth choice preference? Do a sponsorship deal with the ANA for a show. Submit articles to the ANA’s magazine. Run big and frequent ads in the same magazine. Do a Money Talk. Sign up well in advance for a table at both the Early Spring and Summer ANA shows for next year. In short, it’s pretty much “them that pays … gets.”

How could it be otherwise? Conventions are unbelievably expensive things to do at the major venues in and around major cities. Somebody has to pay the bill. ANA membership is shrinking.

Auction houses are important, and so are dealers. But without collectors and investors, they are all expensive overstaffed coin museums. True, the collector does not pay so much directly, especially if he is an ANA member, to hold a show. But without him, whether his money comes from buying in attendance or over the Internet in an auction, the whole house of cards collapses. And without a full network of dealers and auctioneers, he won’t have much on which to spend his money.

Every segment has its role, and each is as indispensable as the next. Arguing among ourselves is too much like government service. I get enough of that the other 51 weeks of the year. We’re one symbiotic hobby, and we need not just each other, but more of all types.
This “Viewpoint” was written by V. Kurt Bellman, a hobbyist from Harrisburg, Pa. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to david.harper@fwmedia.com.

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