By Mitch Ernst
In P.D. James’ 2011 mystery Death Comes to Pemberley, Jane Austen’s famed character Elizabeth Bennet, now Mrs. Darcy, says, “It is always easy to question the judgment of others in matters of which we may be imperfectly informed.” Well, it appears that has happened in regard to incorrect information that has been published about the exhibit area at the upcoming Central States Numismatic Society 80th Anniversary Convention. This has in turn created a great deal of confusion and concern, not only by people who have exhibited at our convention in the past but also within the larger numismatic community. I would like to dispel some of those rumors and share some information about what it actually costs CSNS to produce and run the exhibit area at our convention.
There is no case rental fee, period. Our exhibitors will continue to enjoy complimentary use of CSNS-provided exhibit cases and table space as has been done in the past.
There has been no change in the content and/or value of the awards that will be given in recognition of the winning exhibits, which include a one-ounce gold Eagle for Best of Show as well as a half- ounce gold eagle for 1st place, a quarter-ounce Gold eagle for 2nd place, and a tenth-ounce gold eagle for 3rd place in each exhibiting category, which make them among the most valuable in the hobby.
There was no strong-arming of our exhibitor group demanding that they support the room block. Filling the hotel room block is important to CSNS’ financial health. To that end, the convention chairman and the bourse chairman simply wanted to remind the exhibitors that in today’s interconnected world of convention planning, room pick-up does actually matter and is extremely important.
Yes, there is a $75 tax-deductible donation exhibitors must make to the Ray Lockwood Memorial Fund if they choose to exhibit at the CSNS convention. I will share more on this later.
Over the five-year period between 2014 and 2018, CSNS spent over $212,000 to present the exhibit area at the convention. That is over $40,000 per year. Or, that could also be seen as spending $10,000 per day that the exhibit area operates at the convention. Or, you could look at it as CSNS spending over $1,000 per exhibitor.
The Exhibitor’s Awards breakfast, given to the exhibitors at no charge, cost on average over $7,000. With around 100 attendees, (which was about the average attendance for the event), the breakfast cost CSNS approximately $70 per person. For fiscal reasons, the board has voted to eliminate the breakfast for the 2019 convention. We will still have an awards ceremony, but it will be without the food.
The Exhibitor’s Dinner Reception at Maggiano’s cost over $21,000 during a three-year period in 2014, 2015, and 2016 before it was canceled by the board. That dinner was an additional $7,000-per-year event held on behalf of the exhibitors, again, without any charge to attendees.
The gold coin awards for exhibit winners have cost over $77,000 in that five-year period. Or, if you break it down, the awards cost around $15,400 annually.
I could also list the costs to set up the exhibit area, lodging for the exhibit area staff, the exhibit area chairman’s past salary, food and lodging expenses, dedicated exhibit area security, as well as the cost for exhibit area supplies, but I don’t want to belabor the point. It costs a lot.
To offset the costs of the gold coin awards, the board adopted a sponsorship program in 2013, aimed primarily at financing our gold coin exhibit awards. So far this year, we have received $1,500 exhibit award sponsorships from four CSNS board members and three from our dealers. Of our nine exhibit categories, seven are sponsored. Thank you! However, according to CSNS Exhibit Area Chairman Brett Irick, even with the sponsorships, we run an approximate $25,000 deficit per year in the exhibit area.
The Ray Lockwood Memorial Fund, which is paid for by the $75 donations collected last year after Ray’s death, allows us to have an eighth sponsored award. It was our hope that our exhibitors would look at this donation as their opportunity to join with CSNS as a team in order to work together toward the common goal of helping the CSNS exhibit area remain what many consider to be the best in the hobby and, in the process, honor their friend Ray.
We, like many other numismatic organizations, have to face the changes and challenges that face the entire hobby. We must also be mindful of our fiduciary responsibility to the organization, make hard decisions, and find solutions. When you look at the numbers I stated above, the commitment CSNS has made to the exhibit area over the years is indisputable. Just as we feel the contributions the exhibitors make to our convention are also indisputable.
We understand and recognize the sacrifices of time and effort exhibitors make when they set up at the convention. However, we have to balance that with being responsible with what we do with our educational dollars. $212,000 may not sound like a lot of money to some people, but to us, it’s a lot of money.
We had also hoped the exhibitors would remember the years of enjoyment they had shared at our convention, realizing that it was the generous subsidies CSNS provided to the exhibit area and exhibitors that made it all possible. But I still have hope. I hope, after reading this and seeing the costs involved, that some of those perceived slights have been alleviated. I also hope that people now recognize and understand our responsibility as an organization to be fiscally responsible in regard to the exhibit area.
We hope that our exhibitors would look at this as an opportunity to join in a team effort, working together with CSNS toward a common goal, because in reality, we really are all in this together. We all need each other. We all need to contribute. We all need to look at the big picture and how, like a puzzle, we all can work and fit together to make CSNS complete.
That, in essence, is what this controversy is all about: a simple request to exhibitors to chip in and help out in order to keep the CSNS exhibit area one of the premiere destinations in the hobby for numismatic exhibiting.
This “Viewpoint” was written by Mitch Ernst, president of the Central States Numismatic Society.
Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 5225 Joerns, Drive, Suite 2, Stevens Point, WI 54481. Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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