Attendance at the 53rd annual fall convention of the Michigan State Numismatic Society highlighted my 2008 year-end travels, as has typically been the case for the past decade or so. The resulting travels there have generally occasioned an on-the-road Thanksgiving feast.
This year was no exception, with that journey getting under way at 11 o’clock on Thanksgiving morning, when I hit the road for the Appleton airport and a scheduled 12:52 p.m. Northwest departure to Detroit. Joining me once again were son-in-law Randy Thern and grandson Ryan, this being the fourth year he has joined us, with the offerings of the airport snack stand at lunch time providing our feast.
With our flight departing on-time with a light load – we three represented virtually half of the passenger load of just seven – which contrasted with the experience of recent years when I recall similarly timed flights having enjoyed passenger loads in the 20 to 30 range. Arriving at the Detroit airport a bit ahead of schedule, we were settled into our rooms at the Hyatt Regency Dearborn by 4 o’clock.
As we were entering the Hyatt, exonumia dealer Bob Williams from Detroit’s near north suburb of Ferndale was encountered as the weekend’s first familiar face. After having settled into our rooms we headed down to the dealer registration area behind the elevator bank to claim our admission badges, where MSNS secretary-treasurer Joe LeBlanc and his wife Lisa were holding forth, along with convention coordinator Brian Malnar.
Subsequently I exchanged greetings with many of the early arriving dealers – dealer setup had gotten under way at 4 – including Leon Hendrickson of SilverTowne, Al Boulanger from the Indianapolis area, Rick Mantia of Mastro Auctions and Alex Basok from the Chicago area. During the course of the next two hours or so I also enjoyed an extended conversation with Don Charters, who a couple years ago retired from many years of serving as convention coordinator for this event.
I also spent a good bit of time over that span at Williams’ table, enjoying the conversation while ferreting a few goodies from among his offerings. I was particularly pleased to come away with a small, but varied selection of automotive exonumia from a fresh batch of offerings that had not been picked over by others.
It was around 7 p.m. when I joined up with Randy and Ryan and we headed to the Hyatt’s Guilio & Co. dining room to feast on their Thanksgiving evening buffet. Following dinner I headed out to walk an evening constitutional of two laps along quiet Town Center Road encircling the Fairlane Town Center Mall, returning to my room and calling it a day just after 9 p.m.
It was a bit before 6 on Friday morning when I headed out on another walking regimen, with Randy joining me this time, adding two laps around the perimeter of the Hyatt to two laps along a now busy Town Center Road. Heading back into the Hyatt shortly after 7, I encountered Williams, yet again, arriving for the day. It was about 8, with dealer setup getting under way, when Randy, Ryan and I made our way to breakfast at Guilio’s, and about 9 before I reached the bourse area, which was a buzz of activity.
A healthy queue of eager customers had assembled by 10 o’clock when the bourse opened to general admission. By 11 the aisles were packed and would remain that way until very late in the afternoon. At noon, by prior arrangement, I headed off to lunch at Guilio’s with Mark Askew, an acquaintance from my international Mint Directors’ Conference days, who hails from South Africa, lives in Windsor and works in Detroit, being engaged in the metals trading/warehousing trade, an acquaintance that we have been renewing at this show on an annual basis, now for the past seven years.
Returning to the bourse at about 2, with the aisles still packed, at around 3 p.m. I decided to hike over to the mall and check out that scene. Concourse traffic was quite heavy and the stores appeared reasonably busy, while only a very few potential retail spaces were unoccupied, a condition that contrasted, to my recollections, from recent years. Personally, I had had a singular objective, that being to pick up a particular 2009 calendar, an undertaking in which I failed.
Returning to the bourse this time shortly after 4, traffic in the aisles had thinned somewhat, but business appeared to remain reasonably active. By 6 p.m. dealers were starting to close up in advance of the scheduled 6:30 close, and I was headed up to the MSNS hospitality room. With a MSNS board meeting scheduled for 7, I was invited to join the board members in sharing the offered vittles for my evening repast. The sandwich makings and accompaniments offered in the hospitality room, co-chaired by Rita Jene Sledz and Marge Stroshine, are generally retired by late afternoon.
The board meeting featured a lengthy agenda, but the officers and board moved through it smartly, with few instances of extended discussion. The session was dispatched in two hours and 35 minutes, to the pleasure of the assembled board members and 15 to 20 regular members in attendance. They did have to authorize the basis for breaking a voting tie for the 12th and last board position. There was also a hot debate on the topic of hotel room rates for the conventions. Another matter dispatched under special provisions concerned the execution of an ANA nomination for president.
Saturday morning again got under way with an hour long walking regimen, this time from 5:30 to 6:30, following which I met up at 7:30 in Guilio’s with Gary Adkins from the Twin Cities, president of the PNG, for informal discussion of hobby community issues of mutual interest. With the bourse opening at 9, we headed off in separate directions, Gary to the bourse and me to the exhibit area initially, but then on to the bourse to proffer my ANA presidential campaign brochures into the hands of the tabled dealers and early birds around the floor, this being the first public exposure of my run for the office.
Upon entering the exhibit area I had encountered Chuck and Bert Fenwick from Kalamazoo, with Bert providing me with a real treat, a large bag of fresh homemade caramel corn. There’s a story connected to this surprise. For many years, knowing I had a special liking for caramel corn, Bert had annually shown up at this show with her homemade treat. With Chuck – a past president and long-time award winning exhibitor – and Bert not attending for several years, this tradition had fallen by the wayside, but I had been chiding her about failing me the past two years since they resumed coming.
The better part of the hour from 11 to noon was spent judging the best paper money exhibit placed by a member of the Paper Money Collectors of Michigan, of which there were eight to 10 as I recall, a task shared with fellow members Bill Herzog and Doc “Wally” Lee. Shortly after 1 p.m. I headed up to Guilio’s to join Paul Johnson from the Toronto area, executive secretary of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association, for a discussion of issues of mutual interest where the RCNA and ANA are concerned, over an extended lunch of nearly two hours.
The 3 o’clock meeting of the Michigan Token and Medal Society was just getting under way in a nearby meeting room when Paul and I went our separate ways, I sitting in on the Mich-TAMS meeting that attracted about 15 members and was a half hour or so in duration. Following that meeting, I spent the better part of the hour from 4 to 5 judging the first place senior and junior exhibits for best-in-show honors, being joined in that task by MSNS past president Al Bobrofsky and MSNS legal counsel Ron Sirna.
At 6:30 I joined up with Sirna again, this time for dinner at Guilio’s. This was a leisurely, long and enjoyable session that stretched out to a full three hours. As Sirna also serves as legal counsel to the ANA, part of the time was spent exploring organizational issues, but most was spent in wide ranging collecting interest, hobby community, historical and political explorations.
Sunday got under way shortly before 6 with Randy and I walking a couple laps of Town Center Drive, to which I again added a couple laps around the perimeter of the Hyatt as well. At 8:30 I attended the annual MSNS fall awards breakfast, joining a table that included the Fenwicks, Bill Brandimore and Dave Hunsicker from Wisconsin, Jack Huggins, Jr. from the St. Louis area, who served the convention as head judge for the exhibits, Ray Dillard and his son-in-law Greg Weisgerber, the old penny smashers, and Randy and Ryan. Attendance was around 80, with the morning’s program ending shortly after 10 with the installation of the newly elected officers and board, which I was asked to officiate.
Activity around the bourse was very light throughout the morning. At noon I headed up to the hospitality room to catch a sandwich for lunch. Activity around the bourse continued to deteriorate through the early afternoon. It was about 2:30 when Randy, Ryan and I took leave for the airport.
While the weather had also deteriorated from a pleasant early morning to wet and blowing snow conditions, traffic was moving along well, conditions at the airport were unharried, and we were sitting down for an early dinner at Chile’s in the main Northwest concourse by shortly after 3 p.m. With the flight monitors devoid of flight delay postings, our flight departed at 5 as scheduled, getting us into Appleton at 5:30, having gained an hour on the clock with our time zone change. Even with looping home by way of Iola to drop Randy and Ryan off, I was relaxing in my living room chair by 7:30 p.m.
A couple other outings served as bookends to my Thanksgiving weekend travels to MSNS, the one on the front end being personal in nature, the one on the back end being hobby motivated.
The Thursday morning after returning from Dearborn, found me off to the Appleton airport again, my destination this time being to the West Coast to attend the 22nd annual joint Christmas party of the Fairfield Coin Club and the Vallejo Numismatic Society. This was my second participation in this event, the first having been five years ago when it was a break in my travels to a Christmas season vacation in Hawaii with Sally.
This time out I was embarking on a solo outing. It was about 5 a.m. when I hit the road to the airport, with temperatures hovering in the zero range, to catch a 7:05 a.m. Northwest Airlink departure to the Twin Cities. At the airport I unexpectedly encountered Wayne Youngblood, a former Krause employee who had headed up our philatelic effort starting in 1996, but who is now an independent consultant and freelance writer in the field, who was headed to St. Louis on the same outbound flight. We enjoyed an extended conversation awaiting the flight departure.
Arriving in MSP on a fully loaded 50-passenger CRJ200 at gate C-13, I discovered that my connecting flight scheduled in about a half hour would be leaving from gate F-10, which was a good 15-minute, roughly mile long hike away, leaving little time to spare. That flight arrived in Sacramento about a half-hour early and some 65 degrees warmer. After picking up a National rental car I headed down I-5/80 for Fairfield, stopping for lunch at a Silver Skillet truck stop restaurant along the way. Reaching the Fairfield area at about 12:30 p.m., I burned the better part of an hour seeking out my accommodations, thanks to the absence of directional instructions, a navigational aid or cell phone and a couple errant local tips.
Having finally located my accommodations at a Comfort Inn just off I-80 on the western edge of Fairfield by 1:30 p.m., I then connected with Michael “Stan” Turrini, at whose behest I was making this trip, who stopped by to pick me up at about 4 to head off to dinner. We joined up with Michael “Steamer” Stanley and his wife, Nancy-Jo, for dinner at the Black Angus steakhouse in Pleasant Hill. The prime rib was great, as was the company, with Stan dropping me off back at the Comfort Inn at about 8.
On Friday morning I headed out on an hour long constitutional at about 6, walking along Central and Pittman streets with a thickening early morning “tule” fog descending on the countryside. For breakfast I availed myself of the continental offerings included with my lodging. I also spent some time making a couple phone calls and outlining some thoughts to be shared at Saturday evening’s joint Christmas party event, for which I had been designated to serve as emcee. At about 11a.m. Stan stopped by to pick me up again, this time for a drive over to Santa Rosa, 50 miles or so to the northwest.
There we met up with Merle Avila and Lee Gong, at the latter’s G&G Supermarket, a 90,000 square foot operation at which we were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour and an impromptu cheese tasting session. With Avila doing the driving, we subsequently headed off to Occidental, a one-time lumbering town originally known as Howards, where we enjoyed lunch at the Union Hotel, dating from 1879 and offering up Italian fare. On the way back to Santa Rosa I was entertained by incessant, relatively animated, but good natured banter between Stan, Lee and Merle. It was about 3:30 p.m. when Stan got behind the steering wheel of his car and headed us southeasterly, back through Fairfield to Stockton, perhaps 110 miles or so away.
Our arrival in Stockton was at about 6:30 p.m., as the first December meeting of the Delta Coin Club – the club meets on the first and third Fridays of every month – was scheduled to get under way with a potluck meal. Regular meeting night activities followed in abbreviated form, and I was invited to extend a few remarks, with around 35 members in attendance. Having spoken to this club when visiting the area five years ago, I was pleased to renew several acquaintances, including that of patriarch Syd Kass. I was also treated to a surprise encounter with a complete set, sans gold, of my 1959 Alaska-Hawaii Statehood commemorative issue in a Capital Plastics holder, an acquisition made by member Ed Carman at this past October’s 44th annual DCC show. We were on the road for a very foggy drive back to Fairfield at about 0, arriving there around 10:30.
Saturday got under way with another constitutional at about 6:30 on a relatively foggy, even misty morning, this time walking out Pittman to Cordelia and back, following which I again breakfasted on the continental offerings of the Comfort Inn. At 10 I headed over to the nearby Cordelia Junction antique mall, spending about an hour there to no productive result. At about 11 I headed out east of Fairfield on Highway 12 to visit the impressive Western Railway Museum, featuring an interesting selection of operable electric streetcars and interurbans, spending about two hours there. Catching a “Big Fish” sandwich for lunch at a nearby Burger King, I then retired to my lodging for a short nap.
It was about 4 p.m. when I headed over to the joint Christmas party in the Budweiser Room within the nearby Anheuser-Busch Brewery, where the annual celebration has been held throughout its 22-year run, with but one exception. The evening’s program got under way at about 6:30, with about 90 members in attendance, with a very eventful three hours following. The program ranged from introductions of special guests to award and appreciation recognition presentations, to door prizes for everyone, a 50/50 fundraising drawing and a mega-drawing for collectible offerings, interspersed with remarks that I found pertinent to the occasion.
Wanting to get on the road for the 50-mile drive back to the Sacramento airport by 6 o’clock, I opted to forego a walking regimen on Sunday morning. With the fog being less intense than the previous two mornings, and traffic relatively light, I arrived at the airport at about 7. That provided me with ample time to relax with a light breakfast there prior to my 8:45 flight departure, which arrived at MSP gate C-12 just minutes behind schedule, leaving me with about a two and a half hour connecting time for my scheduled 4:50 departure.
With so much time on my hands I decided to walk up the C concourse to the main terminal shopping concourse to catch a bite to eat and do a bit of window shopping. Axel’s Bonfire restaurant caught my eye, so I opted to give it a try. Going with a salad and a bowl of white bean chili, which was very good, I was pleased that I did.
My onward bound connection out of gate B-6 was subsequently subjected to weather delays, deteriorating to 6:50, resulting in an Appleton arrival some two hours behind schedule, but absent my suitcase, which had been misdirected to Green Bay. By the time the skeleton crew on duty had turned the inbound aircraft around for its return to the Twin Cities and entered my lost luggage claim, I didn’t clear the airport until 9:15, and it was a bit after 10 p.m. by the time I pulled into the driveway at home, rather than around 7:30 as planned.
My other bookend travel fell in early November when Sally and I spent 11 days enjoying our first motorhome junket since returning from our second trip to Alaska back in mid-summer of 2006. Our travels took us down through central Illinois to Cairo and from there to Memphis, then across Arkansas by way of Little Rock and Hot Springs. From there we looped over into eastern Oklahoma, then back across northern Arkansas to the Mississippi River valley. From there it was up I-55 to the St. Louis area and on north by way of Bowling Green, Hannibal, Keokuk and Burlington to Davenport, then along the Rock River to Rockford and home.
Aside from passing through Vandalia, which served as the first capital of Illinois, and Jonesboro further to the south, the scene of one of the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates and the resulting Abraham Lincoln connections, there were few even indirect numismatic connotations experienced during the course of our journey. Another of those indirect connotations developed when we had lunch the first day out, while having service issues addressed on the motorhome during a Rockford stop, at a restaurant called the “5 Coins,” an identity the origins of which I was unable to determine. We did very much enjoy driving the Talimena Scenic Drive transiting the crest of the southern Ozarks between Mena, Ark., and Talihina, Okla.
During the course of my fall outings to hobby community destinations, by the way, a few regular readers took note of the fact that these commentaries as published earlier this year jumped from attendance at the California State Numismatic Association’s annual educational symposium at San Diego in mid-March and the annual Numismatists of Wisconsin event in Iola two months later, wondering if I had been Iola bound over that time. Actually, that was a pretty busy travel-span, as in April I attended events on four consecutive weekends; the 44th annual South Shore Coin Club show in Milwaukee, the 52nd annual spring convention of the Michigan State Numismatic Society in Dearborn, the 69th anniversary Central States Numismatic Society convention and the 33rd annual Chicago International Coin Fair in Rosemont in order.
Unfortunately the commentary that I drafted covering those attendances fell victim to the cutting room floor due to publishing space and timing considerations. If you would still like to read my observations from having attended those events I will be glad to forward the text draft of that commentary to you in response to any e-mail request directed to; mish@EclecticPursuitsIola.com
And, with that, I am closing the 2008 book and set to open another for 2009, one which I am certain will unfold unforeseen but enjoyable experiences for all of us who enjoy pursuit of the pleasures and rewards of the coin collecting hobby community.