This year the time from late winter through early spring found me spending a good bit of time on the road, attending seven drivable show destinations over that time – logging over 2,800 miles – plus throwing in Portland as a flying destination for the ANA National Money Show. Six of those destinations were spread through the five weeks of April; actually four weekends, as Easter provided a stay-at-home weekend.
First up was a mid-February drive down to nearby Oshkosh to participate in the annual winter board meeting of the Numismatists of Wisconsin, hosted there during the 26th annual Wisconsin Coin Expos one day show organized by local dealer Randy Miller. The string was broken, however, by my vacation trip to Hawaii and the ANA attendance, the latter hobby outing having been covered in a previously published commentary.
Joining me for the Oshkosh outing was Joel Edler. Arriving at the show at about 9 a.m., I immediately encountered Jeff Reichenberger, who was holding down the registration table. He had served as a co-chair of the pre-registration committee for the Milwaukee ANA in 2007. I was also pleased to once again encounter Jim Goaziou from Indianapolis, who has for several years been making this event a destination, offering himself up as a volunteer stevedore for setup and teardown of the event.
NOW board members filtered in over the next couple of hours, over which time I enjoyed chatting with them and mixing around the bourse, with a dozen or so in attendance when the meeting convened at 11. The meeting agenda was pretty much routine, with finalization of this year’s budget included. It ended shortly after noon.
This year’s event was hosted in the LaSalle Ballroom of the Park Plaza Hotel rather than the customary location in the adjacent convention center, which was undergoing renovation. Dealers and attendees were packed in more tightly than normal, with attendance and business both appearing quite solid.
Joel and I took leave of the show at about 1 p.m., stopped for lunch at Perkins, and I was back home by around 3 p.m.
The string of drivable outings started unfolding in earnest the first weekend of April with two shows, the 45th annual South Shore Coin Club show in Milwaukee on Friday and the 54th annual Fox Valley Coin Club show in Appleton on Sunday. Joining me were Joel and recently retired longtime Krause world coin and paper money catalog department anchor Colin Bruce.
For the South Shore outing Joel and Colin met me at the lake at about 7:30 a.m.; we pulled up at the Wyndham Hotel Milwaukee Airport show site at about 9:45, with the bourse scheduled to open to the public at 10. There was a nice little queue awaiting the opening, with club president Joe Bartoszewicz, Tom Casper and Lee Hartz, each of whom served as co-chairs of Milwaukee ANA 2007 committees, and longtime stalwarts Walter and Phyllis Weis tending to duties in the entry area. Activity in the 60-plus table, 52-dealer bourse built progressively through the morning.
At about noon I responded to a solicitation from exhibit chair Betty Patruvick to take the time to participate as a member of the judging panel for the eight to 10 competitive exhibits. I also engaged in an extended discussion with one of the exhibitors, Darrel Luedtke, vice president of the South Shore group and president of Bunyan’s Chips newsletter for the International Organization of Wooden Money Collectors, concerning the merit of the recent restructuring of ANA member and club dues.
At about 2 p.m. I gathered Joel and Colin for the trek home. Stopping about a half hour later for a very late lunch at the Cracker Barrel at the Highway O expressway exit in the northwest suburbs, it was about 5 p.m. when we arrived back at the lake. Many thoughts were exchanged during the ride on the interactions we had enjoyed during the four hours at the show.
Following a free Saturday, on Sunday I headed off with Joel and Colin it to Appleton, a drive of only about 46 miles, to attend the Fox Valley Coin Club show.The event at the Wave Ballroom was organized under the direction of local dealer and longtime club mainstay and bourse chairman Jim Bayer, President Jerry Roberts, and Secretary-Treasurer John Boyce. This time we didn’t have to hit the road from the lake until about 8 a.m. to arrive in time for the show’s formal opening at about 9.
In recent years the South Shore and Appleton shows have been held on the same weekend, resulting in much of the dealer participation being repetitious, but with relatively little overlap where attendees are concerned. The size of the Appleton bourse and attendance both seemed typical for this show. My reading of business activity, in talking with several of the participating dealers, was that the level of activity was quite moderate and selective, but meeting their expectations given the general economic picture. We stuck around until about noon, stopping at the nearby Asian Garden Buffet for lunch before heading back home.
Having spent Easter weekend at home, the following Thursday morning found me hitting the road early again. This time it was about 6 a.m. when George Cuhaj, who serves on the Krause cataloging staff as editor of the Standard Catalog of World Paper Money and Standard Catalog of World Coins editions, showed up at the lake to join me, he having driven down from Iola, to share my drive to Port Clinton, Ohio, for MPCFest X. It would be my first attendance at that show, but the second for George, who had also attended the event three years ago.
Hitting the road under cloudless skies, which remained so throughout our day of travel, our route took us around Milwaukee and Chicago, then on I-80 across Indiana on the tollway to exit 91 from the Ohio Turnpike. From there it was just a few miles up state Highway 53 to Port Clinton, near Sandusky on the shore of Lake Erie. Our only stop was at the Knute Rockne service area west of South Bend for a lunch break and fuel at noontime after logging 298 miles. It was about 3:30 p.m. when we arrived in Port Clinton, having lost an hour on the clock when we crossed from the central to the eastern time zone, with our travel log having climbed to 506 miles for the day.
The MPCFest is the brainchild of Fred Schwan, co-author of the comprehensive World War II Remembered numismatic reference. It has grown from a gathering of 12 enthusiasts in 2000 to a modest, but very active event attracting about 80 attendees. While the emphasis of the event is focused on Military Payment Certificate and related issues, the educational presentations and bourse embrace all sorts of related military monetary memorabilia. Compared to a coin show, local or otherwise, it was definitely a very low key, most entertaining and relaxingly sociable affair.
The first familiar faces encountered upon arriving at the Holiday Inn Express, at which the event is hosted, were those of dealer David Seelye from New York state and collectors Dan and Kathy Freeland from Flint. A bit zapped from the day’s drive, I immediately retired to my room for a couple hours of relaxation.
I spent about an hour mixing with other attendees prior to the first organized activity of MPCFest X weekend, dinner at Big Boppers, with the roughly 60 participating attendees present gathering up at about 6:30 p.m.. I shared a table with the Freelands, Dave Frank from St. Louis, Robert Drew from New Hampshire and Brett Irick from Dearborn. Another, with whom I particularly enjoyed chatting, was new acquaintance Bob Olson, who hails from just down the road at Fond du Lac, Wis., and whom I learned has family ties to Iola.
With dinner out of the way, at about 8:30 p.m. many of those in attendance adjourned to a nearby bowling alley, about 20 of whom took to the lanes, I not being among them. However, during the course of the evening I did enjoy sharing conversation and a couple beers with Mike Buckley from Tallahassee, by way of Oklahoma, with the beer being underwritten by John Regitko from Toronto, who failed to have his challenge coin at hand when the call went out. Honors as top bowler of this event were pulled down by Jim Downey from Sturgeon Bay, Wis., with the evening wrapping up at about 11 p.m.
I got Friday started at about 6:30 a.m. heading out walking a couple miles north along Highway 53 – the Lake Erie Ohio Coastal Trail – toward Catawba on a very pleasant morning, returning about an hour later. It was about 8 a.m. when I headed down to avail myself of the Holiday Inn’s continental breakfast offerings for morning chow, which included a very good sausage gravy and biscuits offering every day, where I shared a table with the Freeland’s and Frank.
The 10-table bourse opened to attendees at 10 a.m. It appeared quite active for its size and considering the attendee/dealer ratio. At noon I walked over to the nearby Dianna’s Restaurant and Delicatessen to enjoy a fresh salad and perch sandwich. Being registered as a first-time attendee, at 5 o’clock the schedule called for me to attend a training session with 14 other first-time attendees. I was given a personally assigned military style MPCFest X Individual Pay Record, entitling me to receive pay in Military Fest Currency, which could be tendered in pursuit of some event activities, traded or saved. There has developed quite a collecting interest in these annual issues and other associated offerings created in conjunction with other MPCFest related events hosted around the country during the year.
Everyone sat down for a catered chow banquet at about 6 p.m., followed by a fourth wedding anniversary reception for Joe and Louise Boling from Indianapolis.I shared a table with Bill and Kathy Myers and Randy Poe. This was followed at about 7:30 by the formal opening ceremony, at which five of the original 12 festers were recognized, including Schwan as the organizer and chief entertainer. This was immediately followed by the first two rounds of an all attendee March Madness elimination quiz game. It was broken by the appearance of 87-year-old Hans Walter, an Auschwitz internee who escaped extermination to become centrally involved in the Nazi counterfeiting scheme “Operation Bernhard” at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He is one of three remaining survivors of that operation. Walter emigrated to the U.S. in 1950 and now lives in Mansfield, Ohio. The quiz game carried on to about 10:30 p.m., at which time a “pay call” session provided attendees with their MFC allotments for the event, with me calling it a day shortly thereafter.
It was about 6 Saturday morning when I got the day started with another constitutional out Highway 53, returning to the Holiday Inn about an hour later. It was about 7:30 when I headed down for morning chow, this time sharing a table with Louise Boling and Dean and Gerda Shelton from Maine. The day was pretty much dominated by more than 30 attendee show-and-tell presentations that got under way at about 9, including one I presented shortly before its close at 4 p.m. At lunch I shared a table with Bill Haines and George Fitzgerald, active members of Fort Wayne’s Old Fort Coin Club.
The intermediate March Madness rounds followed, concluding around 6 p.m. when evening chow was served, with an attendant Fest engagement reception for attendees Rachel (Ray) Feller and Michael McCloskey, at which I shared a table with Irick and Fitzgerald, along with John Watta from Milwaukee. At 8 o’clock the March Madness finals were conducted with Neil Shafer from Milwaukee prevailing over Jim Downey, who had come out on top the previous two years. A brief awards session followed. At about 9:30 p.m. the gathering dispersed, with two options available, viewing a movie based on Operation Bernhard or playing poker with MFC. I decided to choose a third option, calling it a day in deference to having a long Sunday drive home ahead of me.
My Sunday morning got under way at about 5:30 a.m. with another hour long walk the two miles out and back on Highway 53, with weather conditions having become rather brisk and windy. It was somewhat after 7 when I headed down for morning chow, this time enjoying it solo, as only a smattering of attendees had apparently determined to not get in a bit of extra shuteye. At 8 the annual MPCFest auction opened, with the offering of some 200 lots, got under way with upwards of 50 in attendance. The auction session lasted until about 11:30, during which time I bid out a half dozen lots of interest. George and I then availed ourselves of a sandwich buffet lunch that had been set up, before hitting the road.
The day’s drive turned out to be rather damp and dreary all the way, with conditions deteriorating to a very steady rain north of Chicago. We had logged 342 miles by 5:30 p.m. when we pulled up for dinner at Apple Holler, situated along I-94 at the Kenosha-Racine county line. It was about a 8:45 p.m. when I pulled into the drive at the lake, having logged 497 miles for the day in a bit less than 10 hours. While the mileage was about 10 less than it had been outbound, as I had opted to route us through Chicago by way of the Skyway, Dan Ryan, Kennedy and Edens expressways, traffic congestion ended up adding about an hour to what the outbound travel time by way of the Tri-State had been.
Next up was a quick turnaround run down to the Chicago area to take in a day of the 34th annual Chicago International Coin Fair. This time out I was planning on a full passenger load, with former Krause staffers Randy Thern, Joel Edler and Colin Bruce to be joining me for this outing, but Colin had to bow out due to a personal development. With Randy and Joel meeting up with me at the lake for a 6 a.m. departure, it was only about 9:20 a.m. when we arrived at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O’Hare, following a 206-mile drive, with the traffic flow having been unbelievably smooth all the way.
As we were pulling into the parking area behind the Crowne Plaza we encountered the Chicago Coin Club trio of board members Carl Wolf and Marc Stackler, along with treasurer Steve Zitowsky, wheeling in a cart loaded down with supplies for presenting the CCC story – the club celebrated their 90th anniversary in conjunction with the show – to attendees at their table on the bourse. At the registration table, with the bourse not scheduled to open to the public until 10 a.m., Nancy Wilson and Tom Casper accorded us the courtesy of dealer admission badges so we would not have to wait in the lobby until the public opening.
When the doors to the bourse were swung open to the public, a queue of perhaps 100 quickly flowed into the room. Inbound traffic built quickly thereafter. Around noon I availed myself to a slice of pizza from the snack area outside the bourse for lunch, sharing a table and conversation with a trio of CCC members while putting it away. While wandering about the 85-dealer bourse about an hour later, I took note the that hardly a table was without at least a customer or two intently exploring the opportunities offered, with a rich sounding tempo of commerce emitting from the floor.
It was about 3 p.m. when we hit the road for home, putting in 53 of the 206 miles before pulling into Apple Holler for dinner shortly after 4. It was about 7:45 when we arrived back at the lake, having encountered a traffic slowdown around Milwaukee.
While I have generally spent at least a couple days in attendance at CICF’s in the past, I had opted for just Friday this year, as I had a commitment to attend to in Iola on Sunday. Being an active member of the Iola Historical Society, which was hosting a “Historical Think Tank for Waupaca County,” with 11 historical groups from around the county scheduled to gather to discuss developing coordinated interaction, outreach and promotion. This was an initial undertaking, which attendees deemed successful enough that another is being planned for this fall, hosted by one of the other participating units.
Next up, closing out my numismatic road-running for the month of April, will be the 70th anniversary convention of the Central States Numismatic Society in Cincinnati. I’m certain the experience will be well worth every one of the 1,000-plus miles that the drive will entail.