By Peter Mosiondz, Jr. for CoinWeek ......
Anyone approaching middle age, and those of us who have already arrived there, will no doubt remember the hair coloring commercial on television that proclaimed that “blondes have more fun”. If you were to ask me to come up with a clever idea for a commercial on the many rewards of coin collecting, I would say “coin club members have more fun”.
I hope you’ll agree with me when I say that there is no fun in pursuing any hobby or interest in a solitary fashion. When any avocation is shared by two or more people it becomes that much more enjoyable and interesting, to say the least. And, when there is a large group of collectors involved together in numismatic pursuits it becomes dynamic.
Some of my happiest times in our hobby occurred when I turned 12 years of age. Six of us youngsters formed a coin club and we met every Monday night in the home of a different club member. The father of one of the boys became our mentor and saw to it that a coin newspaper subscription was obtained in the club’s name. As a part-time coin dealer he had a source for discounted coin supplies. This turned out to be a big help to a bunch of kids on modest budgets.
At each meeting we took turns talking briefly about some new acquisition or circulation find. Those were the days when “good” coins could still be found in circulation. I fondly recall one particular Monday meeting when I proudly showed my just completed collection of Washington quarters and told how I found the elusive 1932-S in pocket change, one of the key dates, to complete the set on that previous weekend.
Eventually some of my friends went on to college, or off to war (including yours truly), or married and moved away. We did enjoy seven or eight wonderful years together though.
In my opinion, joining a coin club, if you are fortunate to have one not too far from home, is absolutely essential to obtain the greatest amount of pleasure and enjoyment from the hobby. What do you do if there is no club in close proximity to your place of residence? Why, start one of course. Just a handful of enthusiasts are all you need to begin. And, in a small group, you don’t need a constitution and set of by-laws either. All you need is to get together and discuss coins and other numismatic items.
Needless to say, a meeting place is essential. Many churches and municipalities will often consider the use of one of their halls or meeting rooms by educational or hobby groups for little or no cost. If all else fails, do as we once did over a half-century ago and meet in a different member’s home or apartment on a rotating basis. As to the agenda of the meetings, whatever the majority decides to try, by majority vote, should be accepted without any strenuous objections. Things can always be adjusted later on, again by majority vote and approval.
The length of a meeting will be flexible depending on the events that are scheduled. In most instances the duration will be an hour or two. Here, and in our next installment, are a few ideas that many clubs have used successfully. You can add to, modify or delete these suggestions at your discretion.
Since most potential members are likely to be home from work on the weekend, and as school children are also home on Saturday, why not consider Friday evening as a good time to get together? The starting time could initially be set at 7:30 to allow families to have their dinners and travel to the meeting site. This could always be changed later by majority vote.
One issue to consider is the matter of dues assessment. A small yearly amount may be considered for refreshments at the meetings or to acquire a club membership in a national numismatic society. We’ll address national societies next time.
The meeting is usually called to order by the club president once officers have been named. The “minutes”, or the key topics, discussions and votes that took place at the previous meeting, are read by the club’s secretary who is also responsible for taking the notes. Once the minutes are read, approval is sought for their acceptance. One member will make a motion that they be accepted as read and another member will “second” the motion. These minutes are then made a permanent part of the club’s history. One of the benefits of having these minutes read from the previous meeting is to keep any members, who may have been absent, apprised of the club’s activities.
Next the “new” business is discussed, debated and voted upon. Perhaps the club is considering holding an annual coin show and exhibition. Discussions will follow on the date, location and size of the event. Consideration will also be given to publicity and advertising. One member might volunteer to have the event appear in the local newspaper’s community page. Another may offer to send the information, when ready, to CoinWeek, Coin World and Numismatic News. Maybe a suggestion will come from another member to contact the local coin dealer to see if some low-priced coins could be donated or bought at wholesale prices to give to children at a future club meeting. Ideally these should be coins that, in all probability, the children have never seen before. Foreign coins fit the bill very nicely here. And don’t underestimate the parents’ appreciation for keeping little Mike or Mary away from the television, video games and texting.
One thing is certain. Whether forming your own club or joining an already established club, make it priority number one to invite and attract youngsters to the club. Make them welcome, mentor them and get them involved. After all, they are the future of our wonderful pursuit.
Once the new business has concluded it will become next meeting’s “minutes”.
And now that the business portion has been completed, it’s time to move on to the social segment of the evening.
On an average, the business portion of the meeting will occupy about one-quarter to one-half of the allotted time. The remainder of the evening is spent on the social aspects. What are some of these venues that should prove to be so enjoyable to the coin collector? I’m glad you asked.
One of favorites is the “show and tell”. This is really a fun thing to participate in. Designated members bring in one of their favorite numismatic items and give a brief, say five minutes or so, talk on the item. Perhaps it will be the story of where and when it was found in circulation. Or maybe the talk will center on the history of the coin, the subject matter or how the design came into being. Usually two or three members are pre-selected for that evening’s meeting.
“Talks” are also an important part of a club’s educational forum. I always enjoy the opportunity to give a talk to a coin audience. Try to limit this to 20 or 30 minutes to allow some time for questions and answers. Remember that not everyone present will be interested in your subject matter and you don’t want to put anyone to sleep. If you are fearful of getting up in front of a group of people and making a presentation, I confess that I once shared that inhibition. That is until I bought a copy of one of the best books on the subject of giving talks and making presentations. It is entitled “I Can See You Naked” and is written by Ron Hoff. Believe me, it helped tremendously with my apprehensions. It should be available on-line or at a book store for those who may be interested. A tip to the club; a “Certificate of Appreciation”, easily produced on a computer, should be given to the speaker at the conclusion of his or her talk.
Sometimes a distinguished speaker will be invited. Recently I had the privilege of listening to a talk by one of the U.S. Mint’s chief engravers, now since retired. Another time at the Early American Copper’s annual convention Q. David Bowers was the featured speaker. There have been many interesting and enjoyable talks that I have experienced over the years. Not only do you acquire new knowledge but it greatly enhances the social aspects as well when you think about the opportunity to meet some notable numismatists and chat with them privately.
Club auctions are another fun way to dispose of unwanted items or better yet to obtain needed items at a reasonable price. Most clubs that I belong to meet twice a month and have a short auction once a month. Members are usually limited in the number of items that they may submit in any one auction so as to keep the auction more manageable. The club normally takes a 10-percent commission on the selling price to help the treasury.
Many clubs encourage dealers to be members. They should be permitted to set up a table in the meeting room to give members an opportunity to purchase numismatic items, frequently at a special club discounted price. Stop and consider for a moment that without dealers our hobby would not have the tremendous price support for our cherished possessions. With no dealers it would be a hobby akin to matchbook cover collecting where the items may be rare and nice to look at but without any secondary market.
Collector swap events are also popular with some clubs. Tables are provided for collectors who wish to trade material with each other. This is another neat way to not only dispose and add items but it enhances the opportunities to make new friends.
Some members may just want to sit at their original places and share a cup of coffee and a doughnut with other friends and simply talk coins. It’s this type of camaraderie that attracts many collectors to attend meetings.
Joining a coin club is one thing. Participating in the club’s functions is quite another matter. Some clubs have small groups of collectors who take care of everything year after year. We call these unselfish folks “spark plugs”, for without volunteers such as them the club could not function.
Volunteering your time and skills will provide you with an immense feeling of gratification not to mention removing some of the workload from the shoulders of the people already doing their part. Perhaps you possess strong organizational skills. If so, the duties of the club secretary might interest you. Why not
volunteer to run for that office when the current secretary’s term expires? Maybe your acumen is is in the financial sector. The club’s treasurer position may be just right for you. Do you have a persuasive nature? If so, I’ve got the right job for you. You will be the program chairperson. You’ll be convincing members to give programs thus becoming more deeply involved with the club’s activities.
There are many other ways in which to volunteer your time and talents. Just talk to the club president to see where the club needs help. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the president someday and be looking for help yourself.
We can not leave the subject of being involved in a club without mentioning the premier national coin club. Please consider joining The American Numismatic Association. Their address is 818 N. Cascade Avenue, Colorado Springs, CO 80903-3279. Their web site address is www.money.org and their e-mail address for membership inquiries is firstname.lastname@example.org. Their benefits are many. The most visible of these is their large monthly magazine The Numismatist. Two coin conventions are also held each year. Members can save money on coin insurance and also submit coins directly to NGC (Numismatic Guaranty Corporation).
Dues for U.S. residents are $46 per year. Perhaps the best deal of all is life membership. Seniors aged 55 and over, pay $900 while others pay $1200. A life membership makes sense as it protects one against future dues increases. Having been a life member of the ANA for 20 years I can speak highly of the advantages. I only wish that I had become a life member much sooner.
By all means, get involved with a coin club or two and please consider the ANA. You’ll be glad you did.