I had been an active coin collector for more than 12 years when I attended my first local coin club meeting. That occasion was in the company of Chet Krause, some 49 years ago, just weeks after having joined the Numismatic News staff in early 1963 at the invitation of then editor Ed Rochette, who roughly three and a half years later moved on to a 40-plus year career of active immersion in the affairs of the American Numismatic Association.
I had also already opted for an ANA life membership, and similarly held memberships in the American Numismatic Society, the Central States Numismatic Society, the Michigan State Numismatic Society, the California State Numismatic Association and other active state and regional organizations of the day as well. I had also been involved as a founding member of the Token and Medal Society a couple years earlier.
That first local coin club meeting that I attended was a spring 1963 gathering of the Wisconsin Valley Coin Club in Wausau. The club enjoys a vibrant legacy dating back to its founding on Nov. 1, 1955. While I have attended meetings of the club only intermittently over the years, I guess I would have to call it my home club.
The third Sunday in April found me putting the Town Car on the road to attend the club’s annual show at the Howard Johnson Inn and Conference Center just off I-39. Backing out of my garage at 8 a.m., I headed north by way of Iola to pick up Joel Edler as a fellow traveler. A leisurely drive through the quiet Central Wisconsin countryside that totaled 72 miles for me delivered us there shortly before 9:30 a.m.
Greeting us as we entered the conference area was show chairman Thad Streeter, serving in his eighth year as president of the Numismatists of Wisconsin, along with fellow WVCC members who were manning the registration table. The 35-table bourse was already buzzing with activity, as it would remain through the duration of our attendance. When we took leave shortly after 11 a.m., traffic in the aisles was literally shoulder to shoulder and convenient parking was at a premium.
Joel and I opted for lunch at the adjoining Emma Krumbees restaurant before hitting the road for home. As breakfast was still available, I opted for biscuits and gravy, topped by a couple eggs over easy. It was right at noontime when I put the Town Car on the road to retrace our travels back home, arriving around 1:30 p.m. Ahead was a relaxing afternoon and evening reading, working a picture puzzle with Sally and taking Snickers on his evening walk.
The last Tuesday of April found me heading off to another local club event, this time the annual banquet of the Nicolet Coin Club in Green Bay. Hitting the road at about 4 p.m., this time with both Joel and Chet as passengers, a 63-mile drive found us arriving at the gathering’s River’s Bend venue at about 5:30 p.m., just as the happy hour cocktail session was getting under way. Established in 1958, the Nicolet actually possesses one of the state’s earlier lineages, having been preceded by the short-lived Northeastern Wisconsin Coin Club. It has been conducting annual seasonal shows in both the spring and fall for many years.
A small assembly of less than 20, we adjourned to the banquet at about 6 p.m. During the course of the evening I enjoyed extended conversations with retired IRS agent Mike Tramte, and banquet tablemates, Don and Marie Kocken, Don being retired from the management team at Schneider National trucking, Tom and Alice Fruit, Tom having served a stint as Numismatic News editor over 50 years ago, and 50-year member James Pitts, who is retired from the custodial and handyman trades. With the gathering breaking up shortly before 7:30 p.m., an 83-mile drive home, by way of Iola to drop Chet and Joel off, found me pulling into the garage just after 9:15 p.m.
Our time on the road to attend this hobby byway event included discussions of Chet and Joel’s Central States attendance experiences of the previous week, which I had passed on attending. It was hosted in Schaumburg, Ill., this year, as it will be for the next four years as well. This is the first time in several years that I have not attended that venerable event. Talking with other acquaintances who were in attendance, I’ve been the recipient of mixed assessments of the event’s tenor, aside from the uniform reaction that the bourse was active and the facilities great. In 2013 I’m going to have to check the venue and activity out personally.
The closing Friday of April did find me embarking on a coin convention road trip. The 61st gathering of the South Dakota Coin & Stamp Association was a modest event hosted in Watertown by the Kampeska Coin & Stamp Club. Aside from attending two area coin shows, this was my first coin show travel outing since the FUN convention in Orlando back at the beginning of January.
It was about 7 a.m. when I backed the Town Car out of the garage, heading west by way of I-39, Wis-29 and I-94 to the Twin Cities area. It was noontime by the time I arrived at Hutchison, having logged 311 miles, stopping there for a Country Kitchen lunch. I downed a small salad and bowl of calico bean soup while working through the contents of the days USA Today. It was a bit after 1 p.m. when I got back on the road. Picking up US-212 at Montevideo, Minn., the time was nearing 4 p.m. when I pulled up at the Hampton Inn in Watertown, with the mileage log for the day being hard on 450 miles.
After settling into my room, I headed out to scope out the environs. Watertown is the hometown and inspirational setting for the landscape and wildlife works of artist Terry Redlin, whose trademark is his unique treatment of light sources. Its attractions in addition to the impressive Redlin Art Center, include numerous well preserved late 19th and early 20th century downtown buildings, among them the old depot, which dates from 1911 and once served as a hub for four railroads whose lines radiated in all directions from the city.
Along the way I located Dempsey’s, a local micro brewery and restaurant, where at 6:30 p.m. I joined Kampeska club President Les Taken and a group from the actively involved Bridge City Coin & Stamp Club of Mobridge for dinner. The Mobridge crew included incoming SDC&SA President Jeff Anderson and his wife, Marilyn, treasurer and past president Lyle Walth, board member Curtis Reichert, and newsletter editor Bob Maisch and his wife, Cheryl, serious hobby community contributors and personal acquaintances of nearly 40 years standing. The evening was most enjoyable, as was the steak and locally brewed glass of beer that I quaffed, and did not break up until nearly 9 p.m.
On Saturday morning I headed out at about 6:30 a.m. for what was to be a short walk, a steady light mist and still strong prairie wind – perhaps in the range of 20 mph, against what had been a gale in the 35-40 mph range on Friday afternoon and evening -- led to my cutting it short, in favor of partaking of the Hampton’s complimentary breakfast by 7 a.m. The mist had turned to light snow flurries by the time I made my way over to the Codington County Extension Building about five miles away on the other side of town, which I was able to drive direct to, having located it during my explorations of the previous evening.
Arriving there at about 8:30 a.m., I found that dealer setup had been pretty much dispatched. After quickly setting some ANA materials out on a table provided just inside the entrance, I headed out to do a circuit of the floor and renew acquaintances with the dealer mix I have become accustomed to encountering at the five area events I’ve attended in Fargo and Aberdeen since early 2010. During the course of that exercise, I enjoyed extended chats with several, including part-timer Dan Bina from over in eastern Minnesota, and full-timers Don McCulloch and John Jackson from down in Iowa and Glen Jorde from up in Devil’s Lake, N.D.
Attendee traffic throughout the day was steady and business appeared to be moderately active. The pace of the 40-table, 25-dealer show was laid back, allowing me ample opportunities for personal shopping forays during the course of the day. With a Scout group holding forth in the snack bar area, I enjoyed a couple very tasty homemade BBQ’s for lunch. Following lunch I was tabbed to serve as one of the judges for the 14 collector exhibits mounted by members. With the largest exhibit being three cases, and most being but one case, this task promptly dispatched.
At 2 p.m. I sat in on the SDC&SA board meeting, which lasted about two hours. Topics addressed ranged from the stabilization and growth of membership numbers to the implementation of a code-of-ethics statement to replace qualification requirements embodied in the organizations by-laws, and from segregating funds into endowments to the profit-sharing basis between the SDC&SA and host clubs for the annual show, to the development of improved club relations statewide and the selection of a host club for its 62nd anniversary gathering in 2013. The concerns and discussions, I found, were not unlike those observed these days with most other hobby organizations of exposure.
With the show closing down at 5 p.m., at 5:30 about 40 dealers and members assembled for a catered banquet, following which President Warren Jackson conducted the annual membership meeting and awards presentations. Interjected into the latter was an ANA Presidential Award recognition that I extended to Robert and Cheryl Maisch on behalf of President Tom Hallenbeck. The Maischs were saluted for nearly 40 years of dedicated grass roots support and service to our hobby community that commenced in Maine but, found them subsequently contributing impactful stints in Hawaii, the San Diego area, back in Maine and then in New Jersey, before finally winding their way to Mobridge, S.D., where Bob spent his childhood, and where their commitment remains unabated.
An auction conducted annually in conjunction with the SDC&SA show got under way at about 7:30 p.m. The 170-lot offering comprised primarily of moderately priced U.S. collectors, enjoyed spirited bidding throughout a session that extended to nearly two hours. Quickly excusing myself following the conclusion of the auction, I returned to the Hampton and had turned the lights out well before 10 p.m.
Rolling out of bed at about 5:30 Sunday morning, I quickly showered and dressed before putting in about a half hour constitutional walking about the deserted adjacent shopping center parking lots on a pleasant morning. After quickly downing a couple of the Hampton’s breakfast offerings, it was about 7 a.m. when I hit the road for home, with the conditions being rather foggy until my route of travel, retracing the outward bound drive, emerged from the Minnesota River valley east of Montevideo.
On the drive home, as on my outward bound journey, I enjoyed absorbing a six-hour long recording of a 12 lecture series by Father Joseph Koterski – “The Ethics of Aristotle” – which projects a Christian point of view connecting the legendary wisdom of Plato to modern thought. The CD was passed to me some months ago by John Nebel, a dedicated protagonist for the ANA and our hobby community.
I’d logged 232 miles before pulling off for a gas stop at about 11:15 a.m. at Hudson, just across the St. Croix River into Wisconsin. Opting to extend the stop with lunch at the nearby Culver’s, I went for a serving of George’s chili supreme and a strawberry fields salad, topped off with a chocolate custard marshmallow sundae. Back on the road shortly past noon, the remaining drive of 219 miles found me pulling into the garage at home at about 3:30 p.m., shortly after the Town Car odometer had turned over to 105,000 miles, four years and two weeks to the day after having taken delivery of it.
Having racked up just short of 1,000 fast-paced miles for the trip, the La-Z-Boy definitely beckoned. As I relaxed through the evening, however, my thoughts kept slipping back to how pleasurable it had been spending a day in Watertown, without question a hobby byway of little note to most seasoned hobbyists, sharing time and experiences with enthusiasts of widely varied backgrounds and pursuits.