Michael S. had a significant impact on the Edmonton Numismatic Society. For decades he was da man. If anything got done, Michael most likely did it, or made it happen or was involved in it in a big way. Michael didn’t just do the usual stuff; he pushed the envelope, initiated new ideas and drove us in new directions. There were times, of course, where we differed with him on how to tackle a project, an event or activity. This is to be expected. In time, as is normal, Michael moved on to other interests.
Was our club vulnerable during that time? Absolutely! Could we have gotten other volunteers to do the kind of things he accomplished? Maybe, but I doubt it. Did we try to get others involved? Certainly!
Just as nature abhors a vacuum, so too does a club dread finding a volunteer to fill a gap created by the loss of someone trained or capable. Our task was complicated by the sheer volume of tasks that Michael managed so effectively. If we had a do-over I don’t think we would have done anything different. Ask any club and you will learn that they would love to have their own Michael.
Some clubs experience a different scenario. Someone has occupied a key role for decades. While their work has been exemplary, they have effectively blocked the development of other members from future leadership of the club. Corporate Canada learned long ago the importance of providing growth opportunities to maintain interest and increase retention amongst future executives. Since no one wants to ask a long standing club Secretary or Treasurer to step down, what do you do?
All clubs need hardworking and dedicated volunteers. They keep your club alive during the tough times or until more volunteers come along. Where will your next Michael come from? Your advertising program for your next show or event will sow the seeds of interest in someone who might go on to become your next volunteer. Your club meeting program nurtures members' interest and enthusiasm and might motivate them to volunteer. A healthy and growing membership will produce a bumper crop of Select Michael Variety volunteers. All you have to do is plant the seed, supply adequate nutrition, a little sunshine and harvest the crop.
Popcorn and Milk Duds
When was the last time you went to the movies? As my wife and I get older we tend to stay home and watch a rented DVD or this month’s new release on the movie channel. Long past are the days of taking my sweetie out to a cinema. Microwave popcorn, a comfortable couch and a handy bathroom have replaced the dating days of our youth.
The closest thing I get to an evening out these days is the monthly meeting of the Edmonton Numismatic Society. Sometimes Randy picks me up on his way in from Wainwright. Occasionally Jules and I make a date to go for a burger and a beer before our night’s entertainment at our club. Not that’s there is anything wrong with this, as Jerry Seinfeld would be quick to add.
On a good night our monthly meeting is well attended by the usual suspects and enriched by the enthusiasm of an excited collector speaking on his favourite subject of interest or area of research. I particularly enjoy it when a club member provides a newsreel-like summary of the events from a major show or convention. There is nothing like hearing a first person account of armies of numismatists landing on Torex Beach or tales of capturing rare coins during a Moore Auction campaign. Recently we thoroughly enjoyed a round circle group therapy type discussion based on each person’s favourite coin or collectible. When it was my turn I nearly said: Hi, my name is Dan. I’m a numismatist. It’s been 87 days since I got my last coin.
Our Program Director has limited the use at our meetings of the audio/visual items in the extensive collection in the RCNA Library. You may feel that this is strange being that I am the RCNA Librarian. In the past we have viewed slide sets and PowerPoint presentations; watched videos and DVDs of presentations by collectors during conventions and professionally prepared numismatic productions and documentaries. Most lack the spark of a first person live presentation. The difference can be dramatic. Viewing dozens of images while someone reads through a canned script in the dark is almost as exciting as watching a foreign flick with subtitles. At least in a theatre you get to munch on popcorn and milk duds. Small clubs rarely have enough advanced collectors necessary to supply dynamic programs for their meetings and tend to rely on what can be borrowed. Larger clubs generally prefer live, original presentations.
Twitter and the Hockey Stick
I am embarrassed to admit it but you cannot find my profile on Facebook. I haven’t uploaded a clip to YouTube yet. Don’t even think of holding your breath waiting for a text message to arrive from me. I’m sorry but I haven’t uploaded any images to Flickr either. In writing these comments I had to look up Twitter and MySpace to even guess what’s up with them. Oh, and by-the-way, I will never join Vampirefreaks, at least not as long as I am living. Maybe some day I will blather on in a blog rather than taking up valuable space in this numismatic publication. I am, despite my best efforts, somewhat overwhelmed by all of these newfangled thangs and find it difficult to allocate the time to keep up.
I do find time to look through old numismatic publications. The advent, in the 1960s, of using Teletype for numismatics introduced a rapid communication tool. Dealers who shunned this technology were at a disadvantage. In time, Fax machines replaced Teletype. Nowadays, email seems ubiquitous. Research In Motion’s success with the BlackBerry (or some say CrackBerry, based on their owners’ addiction to its use) might supplant the popularity of desktop computing.
As a collector, how are you to know to what extent you need to adopt new technologies? We all fear the impact of the old adage, you snooze you lose. The traditional local coin dealer store has given way to the lower overhead and larger audience marketing style of online auctions like eBay. The high costs of printing and postage have forced auctioneers to pare down their subscribers’ lists, moreover, those with “tech savvy” would rather download a pdf version of an auction sale anyway. Digital files are more readily searchable and take up less room than low-tech printed catalogues. West coast subscribers were pleased when eastern US coin newspapers migrated to online publishing, which dramatically improved buyers’ chances of snagging rarities earlier, from dealers’ ads. Some visionaries promote online editions of journals and newsletters as a way to offer affordable membership to foreign collectors. Mastering digital photography and image editing improves a numismatist’s opportunities for sharing insights and seeking opinions on varieties and die characteristics. Even executive meetings can realize increased attendance when Voice-over-internet-protocol (VOIP) is utilized.
The advance of technology seems never ending. Some predict that this year-over-year advancement is about to go exponential, not unlike the slope of a hockey stick when the gentle incline turns vertical. Please raise your hand if you want to get off the bus.
Don’t Lecture Me!
My wife and I just returned from a wonderful trip to Calgary, Canmore and Jasper. On arrival in Calgary we first visited Aquila Books for the purpose of adding background historical texts on the Hudson’s Bay Company. We feel that writers need supplementary information on some topics to be able to fully understand the numismatic connection.
The owner of Aquila Books, Cameron Treleaven, was most helpful in recommending titles to add to the RCNA Library. Afterward I phoned Eric Jensen to discuss his upcoming talk Alberta Medallions & Similar Type Stuff, part of the 2009 Edmonton Convention Educational Symposium focussing on Numismatics in Alberta. During the call we discussed one of your Librarian’s current research topics: the Sherritt Mint. Eric offered to add to this research his copy of the multi-part history by Rex Pearce in World Coin News. He brought his research with him to the lecture that evening at The Nickle Arts Museum. Paul Berry, Chief Curator, Bank of Canada National Currency Collection, Currency Museum was the featured speaker on Finding Money, Finding History. His talk was part of the Nickle Numismatics Lecture series funded by the Nickle Family Foundation.
I was impressed by the turnout at the lecture session on the Ferryland excavations in Newfoundland because of the diversity of the audience. Besides the many members of the Calgary Numismatic Society, there were many non-numismatic attendees. Berry’s talk focussed on much more than the numismatic aspects of the archaeological dig, much to the delight of those in attendance.
Someone asked me if we came down just for the lecture. I replied that we came down to the lecture, not just for the lecture. To me an event like this was more than just a lecture. Our trip to the lecture included discussions with Calgarian numismatists, a potential donation of club newsletters to the RCNA Library and the wonderful fellowship with Geraldine Chimirri-Russell, Curator of Numismatics, Nickle Arts Museum. Later on we relaxed in Canmore for a couple of days and then drove the Icefields Parkway taking pictures of snow capped mountains and Glaciers. Our last night was spent enjoying the scenic beauty and tranquility at the Jasper Park Lodge.
When someone asks if you are going to Edmonton this summer for the coin show, tell them you are going to the RCNA Convention.
I’ll see you there!
Diamonds or Square?
Hunter Somerville came up with the idea for the “diamond Shreddies” campaign in September, 2006 for the Ogilvy & Mather ad agency. By turning an old product on edge, he succeeded in tilting it afresh in consumers’ imaginations thereby increasing sales for Post Cereals. This award winning landmark ad campaign sparked great debate despite confusion among those consumers that just didn’t get it.
During the American Numismatic Association’s 2008 World’s Fair of Money in Baltimore someone remarked that numismatic bourses and conventions are under-marketed. We often fail to pique the interest of the media to the spectacular rarities that abound at major shows. We often fail to promote the interesting educational opportunities that our hard-working organizers coordinate. We often fail to attract attendance of beginners and juniors, thus denying them the opportunity to learn about the fascinating world of coin collecting.
In a recent issue of Canadian Coin News someone wrote of attending a major Toronto bourse only to leave shortly after arriving. The complaint was that the show did not have anything to offer this particular collector. Numismatists generally have no problem occupying their time, chatting with friends and dealers or finding new contacts to build relationships with. Was the show chairman guilty of catering only to the dedicated? The contributor to CCN’s Letters to the Editor column seemed to think so. Should a bourse feature trapeze artists and lion tamers? What do you think?
We need to look beyond what has been done in times of yore if our desire is to broaden our collector base. The 2008 Ottawa Convention included an all-day Educational Symposium, the Coin Kids Auction, a book fair, and a seminar for beginners. The list of activities included the President and City of Ottawa Coin Club Welcome Reception as well as receptions hosted by the Royal Canadian Mint and the Bank of Canada. An Educational Forum and many specialized collectors group meetings rounded out the Convention Program. The 2008 Ottawa Convention was better attended and more engaging than a three-ring circus! The Ring Masters for this year’s Convention in Edmonton have promised “An extra fine time in ’09.”
At the Club Delegates Breakfast, during the 2006 C.N.A. Convention in Niagara Falls, the attendees were treated to the show organizing talents of John Regitko. Ticket after ticket was drawn and the many wonderful giveaways were awarded to the happy recipients. For some unknown reason my ticket number 188 was never drawn. The club delegates to my left and to my right, and all around the table that I was seated at, were selected, much to their delight and much to my chagrin. The quantity of prizes was such that the meeting took much longer to complete and impeded the program to a certain extent. More time was spent distributing the prizes than was spent discussing club matters.
At the Banquet, during the 2008 Convention in Ottawa, Steve Woodland and his team managed to amass an amazing amount of attractive attendance awards. Some thought the banquet took longer than it should.
Everyone wants something for nothing! More is more, or is it? At what point does the award of donated items detract from the fundamental purpose of the gathering. The odds are remote that a prize will be something the winner truly wants.
Try this notion from a different direction. What is the benefit of having loads of door prizes? Do collectors attend coin shows primarily to be selected for a prize after the event is over? If no prizes were offered would attendance suffer? By seeking donations from generous dealers are we indirectly raising the cost of their table? They may feel the publicity generated is worth the cost of the donated item.
Prizes are not free. A lot of volunteer time and effort is consumed seeking, listing, advertising and distributing donations. Volunteer manpower and time is precious and in short supply. Some prizes may have to be mailed out at the club’s expense. The simple act of waiting around for prizes to be drawn can be distracting and time-consuming.
Aside from ticket 188, I have won many interesting numismatic items over the years attending coin shows, club meetings and RCNA Conventions. I truly appreciate the generosity of the donators and the efforts of the volunteers. Unfortunately, I am not entirely clear on whether my winnings enhanced my numismatic experience or advanced my collection. For these reasons I wonder if the benefits associated with prizes are worth the time and energy.
As a Canadian, I am justifiably proud of Northern Dancer. The National Thoroughbred Racing Association calls him “one of the most influential sires in thoroughbred history.” One of only eleven horses so far, to win the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, the pinnacle of horseracing achievements for three-year-olds. This title requires winning three of the biggest stakes races in the world, The Kentucky Derby, The Preakness Stakes and The Belmont Stakes, back to back to back, all within a five-week stretch that starts on the first Saturday of May. When a horse wins all three the feat becomes legendary. [correction: Northern Dancer did NOT win the triple crown - my apologies DG].
John J. Pittman’s numismatic career is also legendary. He earned the title of President of Numismatic Associations of the North American Continent, the “Triple Crown of leadership” in our hobby. Many other numismatists have earned honours in our hobby with excellence in writing, exhibiting, research and service. Many awards have been established to recognize these accomplishments, including the J. Douglas Ferguson Award, the Paul Fiocca Award, Fellow of the RCNA Award, the Sheldon Carroll “Best of Show” Award, the Louise Graham Memorial Club of the Year Award, the Guy Potter Literary Award, the Jerome H. Remick III Award and the James E. Charlton Junior Exhibit Award, to name a few.
I wonder who has won the greatest number of these prestigious awards. Alternatively, I wonder who the greatest numismatist that ever lived is, based on an adjusted weighting of accomplishments, awards and service to numismatics. Could someone, with the right mentorship, prepare winning exhibits as a juvenile, junior and adult, publish award winning articles, lead every major organization and assemble outstanding collections?
In sports there are those who argue that if winning is not important then why do they keep score. You only have to watch a few sports movies to understand the total focus by athletes and coaches on achieving first place. You might assume that we do not keep score in our hobby. The PCGS Set Registry is a method of recording the finest known collections. The total of prices realized is one way for auctioneers to document their prowess. Writing the definitive article on a given numismatic topic is evidence of the research talents of the author. A growing and vibrant association or an outstanding show or convention is the result of exceptional organizational talent and outstanding volunteers.
Come on Northern Dancer!
Loose Lips Sink Ships
The US Office of War Information attempted to prevent enemy spies from learning useful information from the millions who volunteered, or were drafted, for military duty during World War II. USOWI’s campaign featured the basic message “Careless Talk Costs Lives” and is best known for the slogan “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships.” As he entered the battle area, each soldier was given official rules of conduct; these included prohibited subjects when writing home, silence as a means of security when talking, and the only permitted facts to reveal when captured: name, rank and serial number. The rules were meant to safe guard military information and thus avoid setting comrades adrift on an open sea.
When you enter the battle to amass an outstanding collection your behaviour should reflect the seriousness of your endeavour. Bragging to strangers is an invitation to thieves. Drawing undue attention to your bidding intentions prior to, or during, an auction may cost you more. Your competitive advantage may be lost if you reveal the source of your knowledge or insights. There is a delicate balance between selfishness and sharing. Great numismatists seem to be able to find that balance without sacrificing their ability to accumulate.
In the battle to improve your local club you will encounter many different combatants. Egotists are involved only to bore you with what they know and what they have accomplished. You can easily recognize this species by the use of ‘I’ in their speech. Controllers will guide you through every action and option that they know you and your club should be doing. Many club meetings resonate with the sound of my way or the highway. Talkers are inflicted with chronic verbal diarrhoea; listeners are the sufferers. Disrupters will always ask your guest speaker a couple of obscure questions that are of no interest whatsoever to your audience. Speckled nitpickers are faultfinders spotting aspects requiring an explanation. Do nothing volunteers will screw up every event you ever plan. Quitters will find the most inopportune moment to assert their belief of their importance. Gossipers will ultimately stir up the pot and distort the perception of what has happened. Pessimists will always have a cup half-empty point-of-view. I wish you good luck if your ageing membership is dominated by grumpy old men.
Loose lips can sink you, your image, your club, or the image of your club, in the minds of collectors, dealers, institutions or associations.
Have you ever tried training fleas? Fleas have evolved with an ability to jump extremely high, allowing them to get from animal to animal. If you place them in a jar with a lid on they will attempt to jump out of the jar, banging their head on the lid time after time. After a while they will learn to jump almost to the lid but no higher. If you then remove the lid the fleas will never escape as they have learned to limit their jumping far below their true ability.
For years it was felt that human beings were not meant to run the mile in less than four minutes. Scientists even believed that our physique could not take the strain of such a feat. Roger Bannister shattered this belief when he broke this barrier in 1954. Within one year thirty-seven runners accomplished the same feat, followed by three hundred runners in the next three years.
Those dedicated numismatists who have built The Royal Canadian Numismatic Association into what it is today have long known that we are a volunteer organization. We traditionally do not have the financial resources available to compensate individuals for all expenses incurred during the execution of their duties. Obvious examples include the travel expenses incurred by Area Directors travelling to Executive Meetings. The only reimbursements that have been made in the past are for direct expenditures for items necessary to the operation of our Association, provided of course, that a receipt is supplied.
Not every volunteer has the financial wherewithal to be able to donate the cost of miscellaneous items and expenses. There is the concern that suitably qualified volunteers may be driven away, should they learn of our financial constraints. Our dedicated volunteers should not have to pay their out of pocket expenses. While we may not have enough money for all things we most certainly should meet the direct expenses of those who contribute their time and effort. To lose volunteers is to lose too much.
I, for one, am tired of being limited in what we can afford. It’s time to jump out of the jar and increase our revenue and resources. There are programs that we need to fund!
November is the month that the first renewal notices are included in the mailing of The CN Journal. This is your chance to help! Why not consider adding a small donation to your dues remittance. An extra ten or twenty dollars from each of you would certainly go a long way to improving our budget and our financial wellbeing. If your hobby has enriched your life, just imagine how much more we could do for you without a lid.
The Needs of the Many
‘R’ is the first letter of
R C N A but it really begins with ‘U’
If ‘U’ are a member, the Benefits of Membership in the RCNA include: The CN Journal (published 10 times per year); access to the RCNA book lending Library; reduced rates for Coin Collection Insurance, and for registration in the Canadian Numismatic Correspondence Courses and RCNA Annual Conventions.
With apologies to Peggy Lee’s famous song Is That All There Is?
Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep collecting
Let’s break out the loop and have a ball
To the list in the opening paragraph, writer Brian Cornwell, in “Benefits of membership in the C.N.A.” Canadian Coin News, April 14, 1987, adds: attendance at Education Forums and Symposiums; purchasing a bourse table or entering a competitive coin display at the annual convention; constitutional provisions for settlement of grievances and financial sponsorship; awarding fraternal and outstanding achievement awards. And Brian asks:
Why aren’t more coin collectors members? Perhaps some may think the C.N.A. is there only for the advanced collector. That’s simply not true. Perhaps some are fearful they may have to write an entrance examination. That’s not the case either. The more likely answer is that most just simply don’t know what the C.N.A. can do for them, and alternatively, what they can do for the C.N.A.
‘I’ wonder whether ‘U’ could enjoy all aspects of our hobby without membership in Canada’s largest numismatic organization. Where would the hobby be today were it not for the RCNA? Isn’t it likely that everything noted above has contributed to what we enjoy today? Without a strong and healthy membership where will ‘Wii’ be tomorrow?
In The Wrath of Khan, Spock postulated that “logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few,” to which Captain Kirk added: “Or the one.”
‘I’ ‘C’ ‘Y’ ‘A’ Remarkable Collector Nurtures Affiliations.
‘R’ ‘U’ Regularly Contributing Needed Abilities?!