Skip to main content

Meet the Munros: Woods and Sharing Hobby Fellowship

by Stan Turrini

Image 1

The Munros, ‘Al’ and Marion, are passionate hobbyists and dedicated hobby supporters, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Married thirty years, they met when both were employed with the Canadian national/federal government though now retired. They are both Chartered Accountants, equivalent to a ‘CPA’, Certified Public Accountant, in the United States.

Al, as he is known to many coin hobbyists on both sides of the border, and Marion are true hobbyists. They collect wooden money, pins, and trade tokens, plus bottles. Marion zeros into Canadian Dollars; her original collecting began with an inheritance, and as she stated, “I still have what my later father left me; these are treasured.” Marion also pursues Canadian Half Dollars and Love Tokens. They are both advocates for wooden money.

Speaking of wooden money, Al has been and is involved with the Canadian Association of Wood Money Collectors, commonly called ‘CAWMC’. CAWMC gathers annually during the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA) Conventions. Al is CAWMC Treasurer and Membership Coordinator and the Auctioneer at the annual gathering, with Marion assisting with recording.

“You better pay your annual dues, for Al is going to remind you that it is due,” laughed fellow hobbyist and close American friend ‘Doctor’ Lloyd G. Chan, a Coin Celebrant published in the March 5, 2019 issue of Numismatic News.

Al began with stamps, as a teenager in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

“A local Roman Catholic monastery and its Brothers had regular correspondence with the Vatican. The envelopes were simply disposed of. I asked that these be passed to me versus the trash/wastebasket. The Brothers did,” Al recollected.

“Later when working for the national/federal Canadian government, I had coworkers from many countries. Well, I said ‘drop these’ envelopes into my trash/wastebasket, which they did. You might say that I appreciated ‘free collections’, Al chuckled.

Prior to the 1980s Al Munro only collected stamps but this was soon to change.

In 1980, Al was helping a friend of his mother sort her accumulation of world coins by identifying and putting them in 2x2s.The grouping included a wooden token from the ‘Three Peaks Cafeteria’ in Olds, Alberta.Al asked for and was given permission to take the wooden token to show Garry Braunwarth, the founder of the Canadian Association of Wooden Money Collectors.Garry was working in the same government building, but Garry was not familiar with it.

Al remembers thinking, “If I can find one token that is not known by the founder of the wooden money organization I could probably find more and this was my chance to start a unique collection, which did not cost a large amount of money.”His mother’s friend gave Al the wooden coin, and this was the start of his wooden nickel collection. The rest is now history.

Al expanded his passion and pursuit into post-Breton merchant tokens, non-military medals, medallions, Western Canadian trade tokens, spinners, encased cents, and calendar coins.

“I like to tell my fellow coin hobbyists that I collect anything that looks like a coin but is not a coin,” Al laughed. He is always going to antique shops plus antique and collector shows, and at coin dealers and coin shows constantly going through display cases and junk boxes.

Al also does not hesitate to show his collection to co-workers and other friends.As a result of his efforts, Al has acquired and identified many unknown items.His pursuit of new items, along with his wife, Marion,has earned him the nickname of ‘Digger’.

Al is a member of and has held offices and positions with, the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA), the Calgary Numismatic Society (CNS), and the Canadian Association of Wooden Money Collectors (CAWMC). He worked on five (1987, 1995, 2005, 2012 and 2019) RCNA Conventions in Calgary.He also assumed the position of chairman in 2005 when the late and respected Earl Salterio passed away and was co-chairman with James A. Williston in 2012. Al is a ‘Fellow of the RCNA’.

Al’s passion for collecting is evident by the fact he has been awarded Honorary Life Memberships in the Calgary Numismatic Society, Calgary Philatelic Society, Canadian Association of Wooden Money Collectors and the First Canadian Collectors Club, formerly known as the First Canadian Bottles and Specialties Club.

Both Al and Marion have been regular attendants at the annual RCNA Conventions, attending most all of the functions and supporting the events. At these annual gatherings, they readily meet their numerous fellow hobbyists and friends from both sides of the border. Marion has assisted with the Convention’s Hospitality and Spousal events.

“You might say that wooden money creates a coin community,” he suggested.

Al concludes that wooden money is stronger ‘south of the border’ than in Canada, due to the number of issues and hobbyists. Yet, attendees of the annual CAWMC cannot dismiss the enthusiasm and intensity of Canadian wooden money aficionados. For example, at the recent 2019 traditional breakfast meeting, the annual auction called by Al earned over $800.00!

“Looking into the future, I believe the future of numismatics rests with the pursuit of non-government issues or as I call it ‘the back of the book items,” Al concludes.

Al’s own eclectic pursuits confirm that observation; but if you bring him an unknown trade token from western Canada, he would be most appreciative. τ