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Numismatics strong in Canada

The fourth Monday of July I put the Town Car on the road to Winnipeg to attend the 60th annual convention of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association.

This summer’s first half found me sticking pretty close to home for the most part, keeping busy with Iola Historical Society, Iola Old Car Show and the Iola Lions Club River Walk development projects. In fact, from the time of my return from ANA National Money Show attendance during the first week of May and late July, my only numismatic outing was a late May overnight trip to Okoboji, Iowa, to attend the annual spring Higgins Museum board meeting.


The fourth Monday of July changed all that, as I put the Town Car on the road to Winnipeg to attend the 60th annual convention of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association. This is an event I’ve attended from time to time over the past half century, this being the fourth occasion over the past six years, the others having been to Ottawa, Edmonton and Windsor.

Before hitting the road out of Iola I spent the morning tending to pending tasks at my office to minimize the backlog that would greet my return. In doing so I was able to afford the luxury of stepping two doors down from mine for a mid-morning break at Chet Krause’s office as I do from time to time. There I shared treats and conversations with Chet; retired Krause editor and publishing staffer Bob Lemke, who served variously in the numismatic, old cars and sports card divisions; former Krause maintenance head Charlie Wasrud, and the Iola Historic Society’s stalwart historian Lyle Mork.

At noontime I walked across the street to the Crystal Cafe to share lunch with Numsimatic News editor Dave Harper, as I usually do on Mondays. We were joined by Fred Borgmann, as is often the case, who stepped down from the Standard Catalog staff a few years ago. Also joining us on this occasion was another former Krause staffer, Ken Buttolph, a walking encyclopedia of collector car knowledge, who contributed to Old Cars and its sister publications for more than a quarter century.

Hitting the road from Iola at about 1 p.m., my route of travel took me north and west on state highways 49 and 29 by way of Wausau to Chippewa Falls in western Wisconsin, where I picked up US-53 north to its junction with US-2 east of Superior. My trip meter had logged 289 miles upon crossing the bridge over the St. Louis River at 5:45 p.m., its waters serving as the border between Wisconsin and Minnesota at Duluth-Superior.

North American Coins & Prices is three books in one!

North American Coins & Prices is three books in one!

Continuing westbound it was about 7:15 p.m. when I arrived at Grand Rapids, where I took overnight accommodations at an AmericInn. After claiming my room and briefly calling home to check in with Sally, I headed off to a nearby Applebee’s for supper, returning to my room and calling it a day by 9 p.m.

Having put in about a 30-minute constitutional walking about the parking lots of adjoining businesses, and availing myself of the AmericInn’s complimentary breakfast offerings, by about 8 o’clock on Tuesday morning I was back on the road to Winnipeg.

It was about 9:15 a.m., having driven 75 miles, when I passed by Bemidji, which is frequently in the news during the winter as the coldest spot in the country, but on this day was enjoying pleasant high 60s temperatures with scattered clouds. Bemidji is also renowned from a tourism perspective, of course, as the legendary home of lumberjack Paul Bunyan and his Blue Ox, Babe, who are represented by outsized statues I did not pause to visit.

Continuing west on US-2 to its intersection with US-59, from there it was north through Thief River Falls to Lancaster, where I stopped shortly after noon for a gas and lunch break that was about an hour in duration. The local restaurant was Foxy Roxy’s Diner. One of the daily specials was an “Ufda Taco,” which given the Norwegian heritage environment I’ve been experiencing in Iola over the past 50 years, I just couldn’t resist trying. It wasn’t half bad, the taco “shell” being a deep fried bread shell.

Lancaster is a small rural community of perhaps 200 population about 10 miles south of the Canadian border. Passing through immigration was a snap and with Winnipeg’s mid-afternoon traffic flowing smoothly, I pulled up to the RCNA’s host hotel, downtown at the convention center, right at 3 p.m.

After settling into my room and taking a nap, I felt refreshed and ready to do a bit of exploring. It was about 5:30 p.m. when I headed off on a hike of perhaps 20 minutes to a nearby national historic park – The Forks – situated at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, which was the point of Winnipeg’s early settlement and development. I availed myself of an enjoyable crab stuffed Manitoba pickerel dinner at the nearby Beachcomber before returning to my room at the Delta around 8 p.m. and calling it a day.

On Wednesday my day commenced at 6 a.m., putting in an hour-long walk. It was around 8 a.m. when I headed down for breakfast. Soon joining me were old friends George Blenker from northwestern Wisconsin and northern Californians Lloyd Chan and Michael Turrini.

We moved on from there to attend the morning session of the RCNA’s annual educational symposium, where Chan and Turrini were to be speakers. Organized and moderated by Henry Nienhuis, the morning speakers were James Astwood, who explored early Manitoba banks and banking, Ian Laing, who shared his knowledge of British North America treaty medals, both being Manitobans, and Turrini, who delivered an interesting presentation suggesting how “Coins Do Talk.”

At noontime I adjourned to the hotel’s Elephant & Castle lounge/restaurant. Joining me for lunch and some extended conversation was Dan Gosling from Alberta, RCNA past president (2009-11) and Canadian Numismatic Journal editor.

From there it was off to sit in on the executive meeting of the RCNA, conducted by outgoing president Bill Waychison from Ontario. The topics of concern expressed during the course of the meeting were largely akin to those being expressed by most other organizations these days – membership declines, attracting youth, the impact and opportunities of the internet and financial stress.

Thereafter I briefly stepped into the bourse/exhibits hall where dealer setup had gotten under way, and then returned to my room for an hour or so of relaxation. At 7 p.m. I headed down to partake of the convention welcoming reception for early registrants, with the finger foods available there serving as dinner. Jointly hosted by the RCNA president and the host Manitoba Coin Club, it played to a packed suite. While the assembly had thinned a bit by 8:30 p.m., I opted to head to my room and call it a day at that time. Between bites I had enjoyed visiting with Richard Blaylock from Utah, incoming RCNA president Bret Evans, Stan Clute, another past president from Calgary, and Ed and Mary Ellen Herman from Mobile, Ala., and many others.

With Thursday morning dawning to dreary, damp and threatening skies, when I headed out for my morning constitutional at about 6 o’clock, I opted to content myself exploring the nearby streets for the next hour. As it turned out I just beat the onset of pouring rain. At 8 a.m. I headed down to the third floor and again availed myself of the breakfast buffet before heading over to the convention center.

Leading off my convention day during the bourse and exhibits “preview” hour that got under way at 9 a.m. was an extended visit with Mike Walsh, who recently acquired Canadian Coin News and serves as its publisher. The publication is presently observing its 50th anniversary, having debuted in June 1963 out of Iola as the News’ sister publication Canada Coin News.

At 10 a.m. I was invited to participate in the ribbon cutting ceremony that formally opened the convention floor to the public. This year’s convention was of rather modest size, with no more than about 30 dealers occupying perhaps 50 tables.
At noon I boarded a bus to participate in a VIP tour of the Winnipeg branch of the Royal Canadian Mint that was offered to attendees. My seat partner for the ride to the facility was a long time acquaintance, Ron Greene from British Columbia. At the Mint the group was divided into three sections, with Chan, Turrini, myself and Paul Johnson, RCNA’s executive secretary from Ontario, in the third section. With the sections being staggered for release in half hour increments, Johnson generously treated us to lunch in the Mint’s canteen.

Upwards of two hours in duration, the floor tour provided participants with up close and personal exposures to the minting process. I particularly enjoyed viewing the plating, automated planchet quality control selection and circulating coinage color printing stations, which I had not experienced in visiting other mints over the years. Today, the RCM in Winnipeg is certainly one of the most modern, technically capable and productive mints in the world.

Following the tour we were dropped off at the convention center at 4:30, which provided the tour participants with about a one hour break before re-boarding another bus for a return trip to the Mint. This time it was a larger contingent occupying multiple buses to enjoy a RCM finger food reception, which for me again served as dinner, from which we were returned at about 8 o’clock, at which time I again called it a day.

With clear skies on Friday morning, I again headed out at about 6 o’clock on a walk that took me along Broadway west to its’ intersection with Portage, then back east to Main Street, south to St. Mary and back to the Delta about an hour later. Portage is reputedly the world’s longest street extending some 1,500 kilometers from downtown Winnipeg to Edmonton.It tracks the Portage Trail, the greatest of Canada’s pioneer trails, which in modern times became known at the Trans-Canada Yellowstone Highway, passing the imposing Hudson’s Bay Company store, a business established in 1670 that today stands as the world’s oldest corporation. An announcement three days later revealed HBC was acquiring venerable U.S. merchandiser Saks.

At 8:30 a.m. I met up with Winnipegan Doug Andrews, who has over the years performed active roles with both the RCNA and the ANA, at the improvised Blaze breakfast buffet. Breakfast stretched out to about a two-hour long visit embracing a myriad of discussions ranging from hobby interests to business experiences, During my term as ANA president, Andrews chaired the committee responsible for re-structuring the ANA by-laws document.

I spent much of the balance of the day floating about the bourse and exhibits, enjoying casual conversations with the collectors and dealers in attendance. Among those was Devils Lake, N.D., dealer Glen Jorde, who had driven up to work the bourse. At noontime I did take leave to return to the hotel and again take lunch at the Elephant & Castle pub and restaurant, enjoying a chicken pot pie.

Returning to the convention center, the chatting continued until 4 o’clock, when I joined in on discussions with several RCNA officials in some preliminary explorations of the potential for developing some coordinated promotional and program initiatives tying the 2014 ANA and RCNA conventions together for consideration as joint destinations. The ANA is scheduled for Aug. 5-9 in Chicago, while the RCNA is set for Aug. 13-17 in Toronto. This confluence is reminiscent of 1954 when the first CNA convention was hosted in Toronto, immediately following the ANA’s 63rd in Cleveland.

At about 6 p.m. I joined some 60 convention attendees for a short bus ride to Fort Gibraltar, a reproduction of an early 19th century frontier fort of the North West Company, a Hudson’s Bay Company rival. There we were treated to an interpretive re-enactment of the life of a voyageur fur trader and an enjoyable evening meal and relaxing conversation. Darkness was descending when we returned to the Delta shortly after 9 p.m.

Following my Saturday morning hour-long walk, at about 7:30 I headed down to the breakfast buffet and then headed directly over to the convention center. While waiting for the day’s activity level to start developing, I enjoyed a couple extended conversations, one being with host club chairman Bruce Taylor of the Manitoba Coin Club, the other with an enthusiastic young collector, John Rutkowski and his father, Bogdan, who had driven to the show from London, Ontario.

Sitting in on the RCNA general membership meeting scheduled for 10:30, the participation was impressive, with nearly 50 in attendance, of which about two-thirds were not elected or appointed members of the official family. That 90-minute session was quickly followed by an appreciation and exhibitors award session. Among the exhibit award recipients was Krause staffer George Cuhaj, who pulled down a first place in the medals class and subsequently received the Sheldon Carroll “Best of Show” Award recognition at the banquet.

I took an early afternoon break from the convention hall to avail myself of a French dip sandwich lunch at the Elephant & Castle. Returning, I found activity through mid-afternoon reasonably buoyant; in fact, Saturday probably provided the most evident activity around the bourse, although the business volume was undoubtedly greater the previous two days. Not being an active collector of Canadian numismatic offerings, my contributions toward the result were minimal.

With the convention floor in pretty much break-up mode by about 4 o’clock, I took leave to return to the Delta and relax for a couple hours prior to attending the reception and banquet that closed the RCNA’s 60th annual convention. The banquet was a well-attended affair. Seated at the head table representing the ANA, I enjoyed sharing conversation with Margaret Taylor, wife of host committee chair Bruce Taylor.

One of the features of an RCNA banquet is the inclusion of a brief educational presentation. In this instance it was another presentation by James Astwood – “Three Mysteries Solved?” – during the course of which he revealed newly discovered details on a trio of token issues. The mysteries concerned the countermarks on the popular 19th century Hudson’s Bay Company “Made Beaver” token series, the nature of another early 20th century offering of similar purpose, and the third a Manitoba token mystery.

As the banquet did not break up until about 9:30 p.m., I opted to forego even a brief visit to the post-banquet hospitality reception in deference to my intentions to be on the road headed home by 5:30 Sunday morning. Having actually hit the road by shortly after five, as daylight was breaking on the eastern horizon, I had driven 67 miles and cleared immigration into North Dakota and onto I-29 by shortly before 6:30. About an hour later I pulled off at Grand Forks to pick up a couple sausage with egg biscuit sandwiches and an iced tea for breakfast at a McDonald’s, having logged 144 miles.

I’d recorded 399 miles by the time I pulled into the St. Cloud area shortly after 11 a.m., where I stopped at a Burger King for a fish sandwich and iced tea lunch. It was just after 1 p.m. when I got back on the road, having broken my travels to pick up a historical relic for the Iola Historical Society, a neat old tool cabinet from the 1920s that once resided in the R.I. Anderson Machine Shop in Iola, which was being gifted to us by his grandson.

By the time I arrived home at about 6 o’clock, I’d racked up 721 miles for the day. And, I was home in plenty of time to work in my constitutional for the day taking Snickers out for his evening exercise.

What with driving some 1,400 road miles round trip attending the RCNA in Winnipeg was certainly quite a journey, as expected, but one that proved to be a great experience, one of fellowship and enlightenment, both in very good measure.

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