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California program celebrates 50th
By Clifford Mishler
June 13, 2018

My travels over the 90-day time frame between the end of January and the beginning of May was an eclectic eight-outing destination and experience mix. While I racked up a log of roughly 7,500 miles on the Audi over that span, less than 600 of them were registered coin show travels, of which there were just three: one each in Oshkosh, Waukesha and Milwaukee.

Woven among those travels were drives to attend two America the Beautiful  quarter release events. The first was to Munising, Mich., in February for the Pictured Rocks launch; then it was to Ashland, Wis., in April for the inaugural Apostle Islands release.

I also drove up to the Wausau area twice, first to attend the second of the Wausau Valley Coin Club’s two March meetings – Tuesday evening, March 20, the first day of spring, and again to take in April’s second meeting as well.

A major hobby journey unfolded on the first Wednesday of April, when I took to the air to participate in the California State Numismatic Association’s 50th annual seminar, before Sally and I closed out the month with a road trip to enjoy a few days relaxing at Panama City Beach in Florida’s panhandle at our daughter’s Gulf Shore condo.

The Wisconsin Coin Expo’s 35th annual coin show, hosted at the Oshkosh Convention Center on the third Sunday of February, was first up of the trio of show attendances. For this outing, I enjoyed the companionship of former Numismatic News staffers Joel Edler and Bob Wilhite, who drove down from Iola to join me for an 8:45 a.m. departure from home. The 47-mile drive to Oshkosh on a beautiful winter morning with clear skies found us arriving at the show site an hour later.

We arrived to the scene of a packed-aisles bourse room. Promoter Randy Miller informed me that the floor was filled with 70 dealer tables. He related that he had had to turn down a couple dealers who failed to anticipate the possibility of a sellout. Most obviously absent from the floor was the usual kids table, where attending youngsters can enjoy invitations to build cent collections drawn from piles of them strewn atop the table, pressing them into used Whitman folders. Also missing was local history enthusiast Larry Spanbauer’s presence engaging the attending public with a tabletop display of one of his eclectic Oshkosh exonumia and related memorabilia collections.

By a couple hours later, traffic on the bourse floor was starting to perceptively thin, but visitors were still steadily flowing in at 1 o’clock when Joel and I adjourned to a nearby meeting room. There we joined 10 other Numismatists of Wisconsin board members in the conduct of the organization’s annual winter meeting, with president Thad Streeter from Wausau presiding; this year’s 58th anniversary NOW gathering came off on Sunday, April 22, in Wausau during the 55th annual Wisconsin Valley Coin Club show.

In his capacity as chairman of the WVCC show, Streeter reviewed with the NOW board the planning that was underway to provide the event with some special touches. Explorations had been initiated for offering a Saturday afternoon/evening event in the spirit of NOW’s “Mystery Dinner” tradition. He indicated expectations that a bourse of upwards of 60 tables would be occupied by around 40 dealers. Souvenir wooden nickels celebrating this joint NOW/WVCC event were to be tendered to attendees.

The board also spent time reviewing other business at hand. NOW News editor Jeff Reichenberger from Oshkosh reported that membership numbers have strengthened slightly, to 246, from last year. He also made note of the fact that NOW recently received a $5,000 donation from the Eric P. Newman Numismatic Education Society, extended with the expressed imploration to “carry the torch of collecting and scholarship forward,” as have a number of other organizations who have made their publications available for incorporation into the Newman Numismatic Portal.

The Writer’s Award committee chair, Ken Muelling from the Wausau area, announced and the board accepted the annual balloting results for 2017 articles. A discussion also ensued concerning a Wausau Convention & Visitors Bureau’s recently initiated exploration that had come to the attention of board member Edler, whereby they expressed an interest in producing an annual coin show. President Streeter indicated that he would, on behalf of the WVCC, contact the Bureau to ascertain if it might be possible/practical for the organizations to undertake developing a joint arrangement for presenting a single event benefitting the objectives of both, providing enhanced community exposure for the hobby.

Briefly returning to the bourse area after the meeting adjourned shortly before 2 p.m., it was notable that there was still business to be had, with a nice crowd still milling about. There was no evidence that any of the tabled dealers were yet packing to pull up stakes and head for home. We did hit the road, however, driving out 9th Street to the expressway for a late lunch at Perkins – chicken pot pie for me – ahead of our one-hour drive home.

It was about 4 o’clock when I pulled into the drive at home, with Joel and Bob reclaiming their transportation back to Iola. The Audi’s trip log for the day registered 96 miles.

Having stuck close to home for the next four weeks, with a beautiful first day of spring unfolding, I was motivated to the inspiration to attend a meeting of the Wisconsin Valley Coin Club for the first time in some months. A day at the office, capped by an hour spent sitting in on the monthly board meeting of the Iola Old Car Show in my ex-officio capacity as a co-founder of the event with Chet Krause 45 years ago, preceded my hitting the road for the 49-mile drive to the Wausau area shortly after 5:30 p.m., arriving there just before 6:30.

The WVCC meetings are held at the Schofield Coin & Hobby shop. About 20 members had assembled by the time the evening’s meeting got under way at 7 o’clock. On this particular occasion, the two primary business items on the agenda concerned planning for the club’s upcoming 55th annual show and the 58th anniversary NOW gathering, as well as the need to restructure the club’s meeting nights commencing this September.

The club presently meets on the first and third Tuesdays, January-May and September-November, and on the third Tuesday only during June-August; the preliminary consensus drawn out at the meeting was to switch to a first and third Thursday format.

The balance of the meeting was taken over by the club’s annual multiple-choice U.S. coin facts quiz, a double elimination contest among the members in attendance, the Red Book being the reference of authority. The emcee of this annual exercise is Schofield Coin proprietor Bob “Barker” Petts, with president Terry Kafka handling the scorekeeping chores. The quiz is conducted in two sessions, with that evening’s three rounds eliminating three of the 16 contestants. The concluding session was then set over to April’s first Tuesday meeting.

With the meeting breaking up shortly before 8:30 p.m., the 49-mile drive home delivered me there by 9:30. It had been an enjoyable and lively outing. I managed to survive the evening’s three quiz rounds with an unblemished record. That meant I’d have to return for the April session to defend my honor. Participating a couple years ago, I’d managed to fall by the wayside during the course of the first session!

More often than not, Palm Sunday has annually found me heading off to the Fox Valley Coin Club’s annual show in Appleton. This year was an exception, as their 63rd annual show was scheduled for the weekend after Easter. No matter; this year I still found myself hitting the road for a local show on Palm Sunday, this time the 49th annual event of the Waukesha Coin Club, normally held the second  Sunday of March, one I’d not taken in for quite a number of years.

It was 7:30 a.m. when I fired up the Audi and headed south, Waukesha being a western suburban Milwaukee metro area community, for the two-hour, 128-mile expressway drive there via US-10/45 and I-41/94. The Waukesha club event is hosted at the New Berlin Ale House on Cleveland Avenue in the adjoining suburb of New Berlin.

My first business was to invest in six raffle prize tickets hawked by veteran club member Mark Melby. A shoulder-to-shoulder crowd packed the aisles of the 30-odd dealer, 40-table bourse throughout my visit.

By about noon I’d scoured the floor sufficiently to comfortably take leave and head home, opting to drive up Wis-164 through the countryside to its intersection with I-41 near Slinger. A couple stops were made along the way. The first was just up the road at Sussex for lunch at a Culver’s, George’s chili supreme and a pork tenderloin sandwich. The second was south of Fond du Lac at the Kelley Country Creamery – “The Best Ice Cream in the Middle of Nowhere” – for a dish of ice cream. The drive home logged in at 129 miles; it was 3:20 p.m. when I pulled into the garage.

The first Thursday of April found me embarking on travels to attend the California State Numismatic Association’s 50th annual Educational Symposium. Hitting the road for the 43-mile drive to the Appleton airport at about 9:30 a.m., I arrived there a good one-and-one-half  hours ahead of my intended flight to O’Hare. With that scheduled 11:54 a.m. flight departure delayed until 1:10 p.m., my Chicago ORD connection was wiped out, and I was rescheduled on a flight that pushed back at 4:10 p.m., which arrived on time at LAX at 6:15 p.m. as contrasted with my originally scheduled 4:36 p.m.

A short taxi ride delivered me to the Courtyard by Marriott South Bay in Torrance, Calif., by 7 o’clock. Having checked in and settled into my room, I then headed out for a short few-blocks-long walk along 190th Street. Before returning to my room at about 8:30 p.m., I availed myself of a bowl of tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich at the Courtyard lobby Bistro snack bar.

Friday morning got under way at about 5 o’clock with a 45-minute walk along 190th Street to Crenshaw and back before showering and heading down to the Bistro for breakfast. Thereafter, the better part of the morning and early afternoon were spent outlining and reviewing the remarks I planned to deliver at the symposium on Saturday, “Our Hobby Community – Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”

Mid-afternoon found me being picked up by a retired cousin – who has been living in the Orange County area since 1976 and has become an Uber driver to fill some of her time – to connect and enjoy a couple hours of family and hometown reminiscences over a very late lunch/early dinner. The time was spent enjoying a meal at Paul Martin’s in nearby Manhattan Beach. My choice was a very tasty mushroom soup and steelhead sandwich. After returning to the Courtyard at about 4:30 p.m., I walked a few laps around the parking lots, coming up with 11 cents in road-kill along the way: a clad Roosevelt dime and a Lincoln Memorial cent.

Saturday morning got under way at about the same time as Friday morning had, with another walk out 190th to Crenshaw, again followed by breakfast at the Bistro, this time at about 7 a.m. It was nearing 8:30 a.m. when I headed down to the conference room, there finding symposium chair Phil Iversen tending to advance preparations, he being joined shortly thereafter by The California Numismatist editor Greg Burns, the publication jointly sponsored by CSNA and the Numismatic Association of Southern California.

A solid contingent of attendees arrived on the scene at about 9:30 a.m., when a bussed group arranged by the San Diego numismatic community arrived, having pulled aboard others at stops along the way north.

By the 10 o’clock starting time, attendance had built to a packed house in excess of 60, about half of whom had arrived on the bus. With the symposium scheduled to end at 4 o’clock, that time came and went all too quickly, with few if any empty seats in evidence. Within a half hour, the room had cleared.

I enjoyed listening to the trio of very informative and enlightening presentations offered up by my fellow speakers. First up was Mike Kittle, an enthusiastic advocate of the attributes of the Indian Head cents series. He provided some interesting perspectives of the depth of detail that can be engaged in building a set of this series.

Jeff Oxman followed with an exploration of how one might wade through the roughly 3,000 die pairs in effectively pursuing the building of a manageable collection of Morgan silver dollar varieties. A 90-minute lunch break followed.

First up in the afternoon session was Brad Yonaka, who is pursuing a dedicated interest in the fractional 18th century Pillar coinage of the Mexico City Mint. He presented an inviting overview of his studies of die varieties and pairs in pursuit of deriving speculative quantities of production for the various dates of issue.

As the final presenter, and given the title of my presentation, I was able to build upon their perspectives, each of which revolved around the growing trend towards specialized collecting. Our overall consensus held that the hobby is on the cusp of ever-greater change and specialization in the future.

Iversen invited me to head off to the Black Angus in Torrance for dinner as his guest at about 5:30 p.m. I enjoyed a slab of prime rib as my entrée, followed by a slice of carrot cake for dessert, as we lingered over conversation through the early evening. The time was nearing 8 o’clock by the time he dropped me off at the Courtyard.

Sunday morning once again got under way with a repeat of Friday morning’s regimen at about 5 o’clock. Catching a taxi to LAX shortly before seven, by 7:30 I had cleared security into the United concourse. There I opted for two breakfast sandwiches, a banana, and fresh-squeezed orange juice at the Klatch coffee shop.

I was left with well over three hours to burn before my scheduled 10:45 a.m.  departure, which was spent absorbing the Saturday WSJ edition. Although the flight departure was delayed until 11:20 a.m., with a brisk tailwind pushing us eastward, we were at our O’Hare gate about 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled 4:55 p.m. flight arrival time.

At O’Hare, my connecting time was somewhat tight, with a scheduled 5:35 p.m. departure, so a rather brisk walk was required between gates B14 and F28. There was time for a quick relief pause but not for a snack along the way.

Landing back in Appleton around 6:30, by 7:30 I had pulled into the garage at home. Overall, the outing had been most enjoyable and quite relaxing, not to mention satisfying, given the connection with my cousin and participation in the symposium, though I do regret having had to miss out on my typical annual venture forth to the Appleton show.

The following Friday found me hitting the road behind the wheel of the Audi at 7:30 a.m., destined to Milwaukee to take in a day of the 54th annual South Shore Coin Club show. The 135-mile drive found me pulling up at the host facility, the Crowne Plaza hotel near the airport, at 10 o’clock, with the setup session for the 40-dealer show under way. Setup was definitely off to a slow start, but the tables had pretty well filled in by the time the show opened at noon, with the aisles becoming solidly busy shortly thereafter.

I spent four hours visiting and digging about the floor. Along the way, I enjoyed extended conversations with former Milwaukeeans John and Nancy Wilson, who were up from Florida, and dealers Tom Reynolds and Rob Green, who hail from Nebraska. My visit with Rob was particularly fortuitous, as I came away from his table with a healthy haul of six welcome additions to my promotionally stickered silver dollars collection and the bonus of a pair of stickered halves, a Walking Liberty and a Franklin.

Along the way, I also enjoyed chatting with show chair Mike McAndrews  and his predecessor, Joe Bartoszewicz, along with Tom Casper, who was standing security at the bourse entry as usual, and SSCC newsletter editor Darrell Luedtke. Then there were local dealers Jim Skwarek, Rich Radtke, Gary Rosencrans, Joe Pankratz, and Mike Curran from the Quad Cities, ones that readily come to mind. During one of my visits with the Wilsons, who were holding forth behind a table pitching American Numismatic Association memberships as usual, Nancy treated me to a pint-size container of her bite-size chocolate chip cookies, which I snacked on as lunch.

It was about 2 o’clock when I took leave of the show to head home. My only stop, 65 miles up the road, was at the Kelley Country Creamery to enjoy a small sundae and pick up a couple half gallons for the refrigerator at home.

The drive home logged in at 137 miles, arriving there at 4:45 p.m. I’d headed north a bit earlier than planned, as the weather forecast was ominously calling for the visit of a late winter snowstorm, with 8 to 10 inches of snowfall and winds gusting into the 50mph range. It did materialize, but not until later in the evening, overnight, through Saturday, and on into Sunday evening. For Iola, with over 30 inches of snow, it was the worst blizzard ever as measured by snowfall. Weather records date back to the 1880s.

Then, on Tuesday evening, I drove up to the Wausau area to participate in the WVCC’s meeting, the first meeting of April, two weeks earlier having been canceled due to the onset of an earlier storm.

Prior to the subsequent blizzard previously referenced, had the latter not materialized, the former might have come to be remembered as the mother of all spring snowstorms for the month of April through the 55 years I’ve been living in the area. The cumulative snowfall, through the first 15 days of April, exceeded all records for the month.

Having spent the day at the office, it was about 5 o’clock when I headed the Audi up the road to the Wausau area, stopping at the Burger King in Schofield for a big fish sandwich shortly before arriving at my destination. With the WVCC meeting formalities getting under way at about 6:45 p.m., with around 25 members in attendance in this instance, the focused attention over the next one-and-one-half hours was largely devoted to final planning, in member roll responsibilities for the annual show, the NOW gathering five days hence. With the planning session having dragged on inordinately, the membership agreeably rescheduled the intended closing rounds of the coin quiz to the second meeting of May. My day ended at about 9:30 p.m. following a one-hour+ drive home.

The following morning, Sally and I closed out April with a 12-day run down to Panama City Beach in the Florida Panhandle. Our days were spent relaxing, looking out over the white sand beach and Gulf waters from the porch of the Tidewater condominium acquired by one of our daughters about three years ago as an investment rental property. It was a welcome relief from what we had left behind in Wisconsin, and we’d tacked roughly 2,500 miles of the 7,500 registered on the odometer of the Audi over the February through April time frame.

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