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A summer of cars, coins, college

Subsequent to returning from participation in the ANA’s annual spring National Money Show in Denver at the end of the first full week in May, until heading off to spend most of the first full week of August in Philadelphia attending the 121st anniversary World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia, I’ll not have explored so much as a single bourse, which means I missed several events that I have often frequented over the years.

The months of June and July were relatively quiet on the numismatic front for me. In fact, subsequent to returning from participation in the ANA’s annual spring National Money Show in Denver at the end of the first full week in May, until heading off to spend most of the first full week of August in Philadelphia attending the 121st anniversary World’s Fair of Money in Philadelphia, I’ll not have explored so much as a single bourse, which means I missed several events that I have often frequented over the years.


Those events missed include the annual International Paper Money Show in Memphis, the ANA Summer Seminar in Colorado Springs and the coincident local show, and this year’s Royal Canadian Numismatic Association convention in Calgary. That doesn’t mean I’ve been cooling my heels around home, however, although I certainly did savor the opportunity to relax over both the Memorial Day and July 4th holidays. Neither does it mean my days were spent completely devoid of numismatic connections. Most of the activity fell over a four-week June/July time frame.

First up, however, was an informal local historical gathering, the Waupaca County Historical Think Tank, which was hosted by the Iola Historical Society on the third Saturday of May. Inaugurated three years ago, this assembly convenes once or twice a year with a focus on building a greater level of interaction and visitorship between about a dozen historical units spread around our county. As the acting president of the local Society since last fall, it fell my lot to be responsible for the program on this occasion.

The next commitment didn’t unfold until the last Sunday of June, when the Society hosted its 28th annual Iola Strawberry Fest fund-raiser. Featuring antique appraisal fair and lost arts and crafts demonstration components, this is an ambitious event for our little group that has long been its biggest single fundraiser. This year it drew the participation of perhaps 400 or so of our friends and neighbors, and contributed upwards of $3,000 to our financial underpinnings.

The closing Friday of June found me hitting the road in the Town Car to attend a funeral over in Tomah, about 100 miles to the southwest in the rolling countryside nestled between the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers. Chet Krause joined me for this trip to attend the funeral of Arlys Steele, the widow of Bob Steele, a longtime collector who had owned an outstanding collection of small size Wisconsin National Bank Note issues. A collection formed by the late H.S. “Monte” Sherwin was the base of Steel’s holdings, which in turn were subsequently enhanced by Chet, with a fall 2008 Lyn Knight sale at the PCDA event in St. Louis resulting in the breakup of the collection.

We were joined at the funeral by Society of Paper Money Collectors president Mark Anderson, a longtime friend of the Steele’s and ourselves, with strong family ties to Wisconsin who lives in New York City. After paying our respects to the family, following visitation we adjourned for lunch prior to the funeral to the nearby Burnstad’s restaurant, a favorite of the Steele’s. My chowder and sandwich were outstanding. The funeral turned out to be a standing room only affair, so fortunately we had not returned from our lunch at the last minute.

The week following the July 4th holiday is Iola Old Car Show week here at home, an annual event that draws 125,000-plus visitors to our 1,301 population community, this year’s Iola ‘12 being the 40th anniversary event. Our visitors occupy nearly 4,500 vendor lots and 1,300 campground spaces, with many arriving in the nearly 2,500 collector vehicles that are on display. They are hosted and fed by nearly 3,000 volunteers drawn from about 125 organizations and service clubs. This event annually benefits worthy community projects and causes in the area to the tune of in excess of $300,000.

I’ve been involved with the event from its beginning in 1972, with the exception of 1975 when a numismatic commitment precluded my participation. That first year a few hundred attendees at the Iola Lions Club’s 1972 Chicken Barbecue fundraiser had the enjoyment of ogling a score of vintage pre-war vehicles. I honchoed the event for about 10 years, from the mid-’70s to the mid-’80s when it was managed as a KP appendage. I have served in an ex-officio advisory capacity on the board of the non-profit community based group that has operated it for the past 25 years.

The four-day event gets under way formally on Wednesday afternoon with vendor setup. My duties began at 6 a.m. Thursday for a four-hour shift representing the local Chamber of Commerce in the registration and food service area of the campgrounds. Adjourning to my office for the mid-part of the day, at 4 o’clock I returned to the main grounds of the car show, situated adjacent to the KP publishing building, where I remained on duty until about 8:30 p.m. running around the grounds in a golf cart with a fellow volunteer collecting cash from sales points and depositing it with an accounting crew in secured quarters.

As I didn’t have any volunteer duties on Friday, I started the day out by spending a couple hours in my downtown office. At mid-morning Brett Irick, who had driven over from the Detroit area in his ‘67 Mercury Cougar XR-7 GT, showed up at my door as anticipated, but without his vehicle. It had been his misfortune to have had his engine blow the previous day a few miles short of arrival at the International Mercury Owners Association gathering scheduled in conjunction with Iola ‘12.

Brett, in addition to his automotive interest, is an active coin exhibitor at Michigan State, Central States and Canadian events. He also serves on the board of MSNS and chaired last year’s Royal Canadian Numismatic Association convention in Windsor.

After conducting Brett on a tour of the Iola Historic Society complex and treating him to lunch, coffee and pie at the Crystal Cafe – he was taking me up on the offer I extended a couple years ago in The Numismatist as ANA president to stop by for a visit, a cup of coffee and a slice of homemade pie, an offer that is still open to all – we headed out to the show car area where he treated me to about an hour’s edification on the Mercury world of collecting.

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It is true, United States tokens prove big things do come in small packages!

On Saturday I spent most of the morning in my office, before heading over to the Iola Historical Society complex shortly before noon to do docent duty for those Iola visitors who could pull themselves away from the car show grounds. It was about 3 o’clock when I closed down the Society complex and headed out to the show grounds, calling it a day and heading home at about 8:30 p.m..

While Sunday is a show day for the Iola Old Car Show, like multi-day numismatic and other hobby community collector events, the vendor and show car grounds end up pretty decimated before the closing day is hardly under way. Thus, I opted to not venture forth from home.

The following Thursday I put the Town Car on the road for a one day outing that took me to Evanston, Ill., and Milwaukee. It was an opportunity to visit the campus of Northwestern University, which is where I spent my one year in college back in 1957-58. I hit the road from home at 7 o’clock in the morning; the 212-mile drive by way of Milwaukee found me pulling into a staff parking lot at the south end of Northwestern’s campus at about 10:50.

The next four hours were spent visiting with John Lavine, a professor and dean in the university’s Medill journalism school, who treated me to lunch and a tour of the campus, which has certainly changed dramatically since my year there. My association with John dates back to the mid-1970s when he acquired the Shawano (Wis.) Evening Leader operation, the printers of Numismatic News since 1960.

Involved in education for nearly 30 years -- I was a guest lecturer at one of his classes at the University of Minnesota some 25 years or so ago – John has been at Northwestern since 1989, where he is administrator of the integrated marketing communications school. During our visit he treated me to an insight into some eye-opening leading edge developments in the publishing realm.

It was about 3 o’clock when I hit the road north, my travels carrying me up Sheridan Road, which roughly parallels and provides a few brief glimpses of Lake Michigan’s shoreline. At its junction with Lake Cook Road, the border between Lake and Cook counties, I headed west to pick up I-94/Tri-State Tollway. My afternoon drive was one of only 87 miles but, with generally heavy traffic holding my average speed down to about 35 mph, it was about 5:30 p.m. when I reached my destination, the Mayfair Shopping Center in northwest Milwaukee.

The Milwaukee Numismatic Society holds its meetings on the third Thursday of the month in one of Mayfair’s community rooms. With this being the scheduled night for their 928th gathering, the occasion for me to attend one was opportune. While my sign-up number was not called for a door prize, I did have the opportunity to share in the Show & Tell exercise, avail myself of the evenings refreshments and enjoy an informative large cent collecting program presented by member Harold Kluender.

With the meeting not scheduled to get under way until 7 p.m., I had a bit of time to burn. I decided to treat myself to an original Orange Julius refreshment while spending about an hour absorbing the contents of the day’s USA Today. While reading through a graphic, I discovered a bit of numismatic trivia. It concerns NASA’s $2.5 billion Mars Space Laboratory Curiosity rover, launched this past November and scheduled to land on Aug. 6. On board is a 1909 Lincoln cent, what appears to be a nicely toned uncirculated example according to the photo reproduced in the graphic, which will serve as a “calibration target for the Mars Hand Lens Imager instrument.”

It was about 6:30 p.m. when I headed down to the meeting room to spend some time visiting with the early arriving members prior to the meeting being called to order by president Leon Saryan. With the meeting adjourning just a shade before 9 o’clock, I immediately excused myself and hit the road for home, pulling into the garage hard on 11 p.m., following a drive of 124 miles in light traffic. For the day, I’d racked up 424 miles on the Town Car’s odometer.

Now, given two quiet weeks to enjoy our home on Long Lake and in Iola, I’ll be rarin’ to head off to Philly to spend a week attending my third ANA convention in the city of “Brotherly Love,” the others having been in 1969 and 2000, both of which are remembered contentedly.

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