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Coins better be the qualification

Looking for a career change? The position of American Numismatic Association executive director might just be the position for you. Then again, it might not.

The ANA posted the job on Friday. Candidates have until Jan. 11 to submit their applications and resumes.

All you have to do is straighten out an organization beset by lawsuits, alienated staff, bleeding finances and a board as much focused on 1968 as 2008.

Sound like the ideal job? Far from it.

The ANA’s track record in finding someone to manage the organization has been less than stellar. It first took a turn toward professional management instead of hobby management in 1987 when it decided to hire a retiring director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing at the Atlanta convention.

Professional management is all well and good, but with each succeeding candidate, the hobby connection seems to have been lost in the shuffle.

The ANA board seems to realize this – at least partially. The press release says candidates for the positioin “must have considerable knowledge of and interest in the subject matter dealt with by the ANA or a similar hobby field.”

What are we now, the hobby that dare not speak its name?

My view is the board has had its priorities precisely reversed. The single most important factor is actually being a hobbyist. Everything else can be taught.

The board’s philosophy has been to ask for a glittering management resume and the hobby part can be taught.

Well, the last decade of experience seems to indicate that it cannot be taught. We hobbyists have been treated condescendingly and we know it. We don’t like it. We are ANA members precisely because we are coin and paper money collectors and precisely because all other considerations are basically irrelevant.

The hobby qualification must be central in a new ANA executive director’s background. Other qualifications are significant but any one of them is not absolutely essential, unless of course you think that the next Vatican conclave to elect a new Pope should focus solely on management skills.