Quick. When I say American Numismatic Association, who do you think of?
If you have been a member for 40 years as I have, the first few individuals who pop into mind might very well be dead.
John Jay Pittman was Mr. ANA. He glad-handed his way across America for years promoting the benefits of ANA membership. He was well known for his frugality and the amazing U.S. collection that he possessed.
His big grin and rimless glasses made him resemble Teddy Roosevelt on the campaign trail.
I once transported a 1792 half disme of his to the Numismatic News office. As might be expected, I was nervous, but potential risks didn’t seem to worry John at all.
His polar opposite was Grover Criswell. Grover’s spending was legendary, both personally and on the ANA expense account. His specialty was Confederate paper money. If he owned anything of great value, it was probably mortgaged twice over. He was boistrously loud. If he greeted you on a bourse floor, everybody there heard it.
Yet the good times rolled for all of us under both men back in the 1970s. Each served a term as ANA president.
As different as they were, both were larger than life, and each made every ANA member feel important. However you might criticize them, and I have heard many stories over the years, they made the ANA seem like the best thing going.
Both ardently believed in ANA. They tirelessly promoted it among average collectors. Both were duly rewarded when the time came to vote in the board races every two years.
The introduction of term limits was in part due to the domination of the organization by a few stalwarts like Pittman and Criswell.
Yet can we actually say that ANA has been better governed since they left?
Adna Wilde kept an eagle eye on Grover’s spending. John knew more about the inner workings at ANA headquarters than an office manager would – but don’t quote him.
The ANA prospered and grew.
ANA has become smaller and duller since those two left the scene. Why?
Is it because the whole hobby has gotten smaller and duller, so there is no one like them around, or have we all gotten smaller and duller because there presently are no larger-than-life ANA promoters out there? It is up to all of us give the ANA a boost. Who will be the next Mr. ANA?
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today
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