What is better for the numismatic hobby, having clout in Washington, D.C. , or not having any clout?
I have asked myself that question over and over again for many years. Usually it comes up in the context of some issue of major importance to collectors.
Collectors usually find themselves scrambling to introduce themselves to the powers that be as each issue arises, which tends to put them far behind the curve in any effort to get something done.
At these historical junctions I ask the obvious question: how can a hobby with roots dating back to the Renaissance and two national collector organizations, the American Numismatic Association and the American Numismatic Society, which each are well over 100 years old, constantly find itself introducing itself to Congress? ANA is congressionally chartered, I usually point out.
In the past I have shaken my head that this near invisibility should be so. It seems illogical. But is it?
As I have gotten older, I begin to see the benefits of having little clout. If we had real clout, that clout would be concentrated in the hands of a very few people. ANA might be able to do an excellent job representing us in Washington. However, such a job would very likely generate endless controversy among its 32,000 members.
First we would have to set our priorities. Dealer members have certain priorities. Collector members have others. Then there is the likelihood that even among these two groups there could be disagreements as to what is what. Infighting would start, finger pointing and hurt feelings would result and it is anybody’s guess how you could keep the group unified. The last 10 years have shown that we ANA members can find numerous topics to disagree on just among ourselves.
I am not picking on ANA. I am simply using it as an example. Even readers of Numismatic News would have a hard time reaching consensus on some things. Some weeks you read one point of view in the Letters section. The next week comes the other side.
There is no telling what the solons in Congress would have made of our numerous letters a decade ago debating when the new millennium started, because the balance of opinion seemed to go counter to calendar convention.
I received an e-mail after last week’s Baltimore show issue went to press. Some dealers were trying to raise some money for Rep. Michael Castle via an event organized at that show by the Industry Council for Tangible Assets.
Now if anybody has proven himself to be a friend of numismatics, it would be Rep. Castle. The state quarter program, Statue of Liberty design on the dollar coin and other achievements trace to his legislative support for them.
Is he the only friend the hobby has? By no means, but the hobby certainly doesn’t have legions of congressmen breathlessly awaiting our next set of requests. That would take more unity of collector opinion and even more money.
Would we benefit if collectors became known as a great community in which to raise political cash? It might simply change frustration to costly frustration.