While the tempo of this year’s annual American Numismatic Association convention was a bit laid back, it wasn’t due to a lack of activities. There were ample opportunities to buy and sell around the record-setting bourse.
I found the experience rewarding, but there can be no question that prevailing economic and marketplace conditions, along with venue considerations, possibly made for somewhat lackluster experiences for many participants.
The 118th anniversary convention was my 48th in 49 years, the string dating back to 1961 in Atlanta. It was broken only by having missed the 1970 convention hosted in St. Louis.
I arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday, Aug. 2, and headed for the Wilshire Grand where I saw Arthur Fitts III, general chairman of the upcoming 2010 ANA convention in Boston, at the registration counter. Later in the lobby I ran into convention manager Brenda Bishop from Colorado Springs, and long-time behind the scenes organizer Paul Whitnah from Dallas, and ANA executive director Larry Shepherd.
After walking to the Convention Center and taking a peek at the venue that would be serving the ANA convention starting on Monday, I stopped at the Pantry Cafe. I enjoyed a tuna salad for dinner at this landmark restaurant dating from 1924 – actually my first repast since breakfast at home about 14 hours earlier – before continuing on to the Wilshire and calling it a day well before sunset.
Six o’clock Monday morning found me energized for a walk along Wilshire Boulevard to Grand, ascending to the top of Bunker Hill and down First Street to Lucas Boulevard, then across to Wilshire and back to the hotel by around 7 a.m. Lounging in the lobby while waiting to meet Shepherd for breakfast, I enjoyed a visit with outgoing PNG President Gary Adkins from Minneapolis. Shepherd and I walked down Figueroa for breakfast at the Pantry, returning to the Wilshire at about 10 a.m.
Returning to the convention center, I spent an hour or so further exploring the venue and visiting with several staff in attendance from Colorado Springs to work the convention. There I encountered ANA convention floor manager Brian Miller providing direction for the stevedoring work of national volunteer Larry Gaye from Oregon in the distribution of cases, lights and such about the bourse. Others included Sandy Hill from the membership department, Judy Newhouse from meeting services and museum curator Doug Mudd, who was comparing notes with national volunteer Jim Majoros from New Jersey.
Returning to the Wilshire shortly after noon for a short nap, at the elevator bank I exchanged greetings with Kirstin Petersen, the Austrian Mint’s international marketing director. By about 2 p.m. I was headed back to the convention center, pausing along the way for a late lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen, where I enjoyed their version of a Waldorf salad. As I ate, it noticed long-time ANA registration volunteer Dorothy Baber and her daughter, Vicki Owens, undertaking a leisurely walk to the center.
As I was walking to the convention center following lunch I briefly encountered the Art and Prue Fitts, who were walking in the other direction in the company of Larry Gaye’s wife, Suzanne. Walking to and from the convention center and the Wilshire provided a good bit of exercise for many conventioneers, as the one way distance was the better part of a mile. In my case I never once availed myself of the available shuttle bus, so I slapped down a good many miles of shoe leather during the week.
The pace of activity had picked up significantly by the time I arrived back at the convention center. Among those on the scene with whom I chatted over the next couple of hours were national exhibit coordinator Mark Lighterman from Florida, exhibitor and Numismatic Theatre presenter Bob Fritsch from New Hampshire, 2010 Boston exhibit chairman Bill Harkins, registration volunteers Merna Lighterman and Cindy Wibker from Florida, and this year’s convention chairman, Lee Kuntz.
Early evening found me spending about an hour discussing some transition issues with President Barry Stuppler, general counsel Ron Sirna and Shepherd. Thereafter, Larry and I continued with related discussions over dinner at the Cardini Ristorante off the lobby of the Westin, before calling it a day around 9 p.m.
I was up and out getting my morning constitutional under way by 5:30 on Tuesday morning, exploring the streets of the downtown area for the next hour or so. It was about 7:30 when I availed myself of the continental breakfast offerings of the Wilshire’s executive level club lounge, sharing a table and conversation with incoming ANA Vice President Tom Hallenbeck from Colorado Springs. PNG day activities were under way by the time I arrived at the convention center at about 8:30, with activity appearing to me to be moderate at best.
At 11 a.m. I sat in on the convention volunteers orientation session. I took lunch at the Galaxy Court food service area, sharing a table with Fritsch and Dave Sundman, who heads up the Littleton Coin operation. At about 5:30 p.m. I headed back to the hotel, stopping off at my room briefly before walking the five blocks over to the Cicada Restaurant. This was the venue for the annual PNG banquet; my pan-seared halibut entree was outstanding.
Wednesday began with another early morning constitutional at 5:30, which included a brief encounter with exhibit enthusiast Halbert Carmichael from North Carolina. Halbert was absorbing landmark facts presented on a utility pole mounted signboard fronting a historic firehouse location, soaking in a bit of numismatic history with its recounting of how the firemen were paid in $20 gold pieces into the early 20th century.
It was about 7:30 when I met up with Sirna in the lobby of the hotel. We opting to walk to the Pantry for breakfast, a venue that by then had been discovered as well by many of our fellow conventioneers.
While preliminary events connected with the ANA convention had gotten under way on Monday, and PNG Day and dealer setup had occupied Tuesday, the event did not get formally under way until 9:30 a.m. Wednesday with the opening ceremony and ribbon cutting. I sat in on this year’s inaugural Numismatic Theatre presentation at 10 o’clock. Under the chairmanship of Michael “Stan” Turrini, Fritsch presented his “Evolution of a Collector” overview to very light attendance.
At 11 a.m. I sat in on an ad-hoc meeting of an anti-counterfeiting group, comprised of about 15 individuals, focused on addressing the threat posed by Chinese numismatic counterfeits that are appearing in increasingly difficult to discern qualities and quantities. This group included representative participation from PNG, ICTA, NGC and other interested parties, in addition to the ANA. The meeting lasted about an hour, with the upshot being an expression of great concern, but without a conclusive consensus of a clear pathway for pursuit.
Following a quick lunch in the Galaxy Court area, I headed to the Whitman booth to spend an hour in the author’s chair, which resulted in several enjoyable visits with collectors who happened by, but no sales for the recently released revised edition of my title Coins: Questions & Answers. Thereafter, I spent the better part of the next three hours absorbing the offerings of the Collector Gallery, featuring the competitive exhibits, and visiting Mint Promenade booths in pursuit of filling a 2009 World Mint Passport.
Having returned to the Wilshire, by way of the Sheraton Hotel at 7th and Hope for a quick visit to the annual Steve Middleton Cocktail Party, at 5:30 I joined a couple dozen others in being bused to an evening away from the convention hubbub, courtesy of the Austrian Mint, hosted by executive director Gerhard Starsich, who was accompanied by his wife Michaela. This year’s annual outing was to the Sony Studios in Culver City, formerly the MGM Studios, where we were treated to a behind the scenes tour of historic Hollywood sound stages, including a Foley studio where movie sound effects are created, and the studio in which the popular, long-running “Jeopardy” TV quiz show is created. The tour was followed with dinner catered by Wolfgang Puck, my selection being a delicious black bass entree, and return to the hotel around 10.
Thursday began with an 8 a.m. Numismatic Ambassador Breakfast sponsored by Numismatic News, which attracted an attendance well in excess of 100. There I shared a table with fellow ANA board members Alan Herbert, Walter Ostromecki and Chet Krause, along with Bob and Janet Leonard from the Chicago area – Bob has been selected as chairman of the 2011 ANA convention in Chicago – David Ganz from New Jersey, Kerry Wetterstrom from Pennsylvania and Whitnah.
Following breakfast I briefly stuck my head in on the Token and Medal Society board meeting before heading off to the closed session ANA board meeting at 9:30. The board meeting did not break up until just before 1 o’clock, which enabled me to respond to an invitation extended by Mel Wacks to stop by the meeting of the American Israel Numismatic Association, where I was the lucky recipient of a goodie bag containing a randomly placed example of Israel’s 1973 silver 5 Lirot Hanukka coin featuring a Babylonian lamp.
I spent much of the balance of the afternoon wandering about the bourse, including another stint at the Whitman booth. While traffic around the bourse had appeared relatively light and business rather lethargic the previous two days, the atmosphere did appear to be markedly more vibrant on Thursday. Still, as it was observed to me by a dealer acquaintance who was in attendance working the floor; “A lot of the Midwestern and East Coast dealers that you normally expect to encounter at ANA conventions are missing from the commercial mix this year.” Such a development certainly adversely impacted this marketplace.
It was around 6 p.m. when I returned to the Wilshire. At about 7 o’clock I joined Krause and Herbert for dinner at the Cardini Ristorante. At 8:30 I headed off to the annual NLG Bash, which was just getting under way in one of the second level hotel ballrooms, located nearby the Wilshire Ballroom, which a quarter century ago served as the regular coin show venue for the NASC and COIN conventions, both of which I attended frequently back in the 1960s and 1970s. I decided to call it a night shortly after 10.
Friday morning began again with an hour long constitutional wandering the streets of the downtown area, prior to a continental breakfast in the executive level club lounge, where I shared conversation with national volunteer Sandy Pearl from Florida. It was about 8 o’clock when I headed to the convention center, where my daily commitments started with the annual open meeting of the ANA board at 9, transitioning into a Town Hall meeting that broke up shortly after 10. There were perhaps 20 in the audience for the board meeting, with the numbers climbing to 30-plus by the conclusion of the Town Hall meeting.
The ANA Advisory Council, comprising elected board members and officers who have served the organization in the past, met from noon to 1 p.m. Then I again put in an hour at the Whitman booth. This time I did a little business – sold two books – including one that I signed to Sally Lusk, the wife of Jon Lusk from Ypsilanti, Mich., a very active EAC member with deep interests in U.S. half cents and English tradesmen’s tokens, Sally was the valedictorian of my 1957 high school graduating class. I also enjoyed a brief chat with Kane Auwater, a 50-year ANA member, who has attended our Iola Old Car Show and has ties to nearby Berlin, Wis.
It was about 2 o’clock when I stopped by the Galaxy Court for a light hot dog lunch, prior to heading up to the annual ANA awards presentation ceremony at 3. That was followed at 4 by the annual membership reception, both events drawing about 100 participants. It was about 5:30 when I headed back to the hotel, with Chet joining with me for a walk down to the Pantry for dinner at about seven. When we returned around eight, I stopped off at the Point Moorea Lounge to share a couple beers with collector Phil Carrigan from Chicago and auction cataloging specialist Mark Borchardt before calling it a day about an hour later.
My earliest morning of convention got underway on Saturday at about five o’clock, when I found myself headed out for a walk along the streets of downtown. I was on hand to participate in the 7 o’clock District Representatives Breakfast where I shared a table with Denny Bisqaard and Scott Loos from the Pacific Northwest, Rudy Valentin from Florida, Bernard Loeb from Texas and Simcha Kuritzky from Maryland. The annual Good Fellow meeting, a gathering of past ANA convention chairs, followed at 8 a.m. with about 20 in attendance.
I spent the rest of the morning and much of the afternoon inquiring about how the activity in the marketplace was being perceived. The general reaction was that business was slow, but not surprisingly so given the state of the economy and location, resulting in a rather lackluster week -- observations widely shared by the dealer, supplier and mint communities. From noon to 1 p.m. I did my final turn in the Whitman author’s chair. I then sat in on the Exhibit Awards Presentation session, which drew a gathering of 100 or so.
It was around 4 o’clock when I decided to head back to the Wilshire and relax before the evening reception and banquet. At the banquet I shared a table with several longtime friends, including Pennsylvanians Dick Duncan, Jerry Kochel, Farran Zerbe Award recipient John Eshbach, Judy Newhouse and Brenda Bishop from the ANA staff, and James D. King from Massachusetts and his wife, Ann. Jimmy being the recipient of 50 years of membership recognition from the ANA.
At the banquet I was honored and humbled to be installed as ANA’s 56th president by past board member and overall great guy Bill Fivaz from Atlanta. With my brief acceptance remarks having been delivered - “I look forward to working with you, the member, in making the ANA and our hobby community all that it can be.” – fellow board member and master-of-ceremonies Wendell Wolka dismissed the roughly 300 member gathering shortly after 10. Within the hour I had retired to my room.
Sunday was a busy but unharried morning that got under way at about 5:30 with another hour long constitutional, where I briefly crossed paths with past ANA president Ken Bressett, who was headed for a flight home to Colorado Springs.
After sharing breakfast in the Wilshire executive level club lounge with convention chairs Lee and Joyce Kuntz, exhibits chairman Virginia Bourke, fellow board member Joe Boling, NN editor Dave Harper and Howard Daniel from Virginia, I headed back to the convention center for one last time. At 9 o’clock the 2009-11 board met in closed session for the first time, followed at about 10:15 by a brief open session with a dozen or so in attendance, adjourning somewhat before 11.
Shortly before 1 p.m. I joined Harper and new board member Scott Rottinghaus from Connecticut in bidding adieu to the 118th anniversary ANA convention and hailing a taxi to LAX for our return flights. That provided us with a half hour or so to bat around our respective observations relative to the convention, the ANA and the hobby community at large before parting ways at the airport.