By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek....
This is the third in a series of journals that we’re preparing in the lead-up to the August ANA elections. We’d like to thank collector and author William Hyder for his participation.
William Hyder has an exceptional beard. He also holds a Masters’ degree in Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and has spent his career educating and working as a project manager in the field of Information Technologies. He is also a numismatic author and expert on so-called dollars.
Mr. Hyder is a member of the American Numismatic Society, the National Token Collectors Association, the Numismatic Literary Guild, and the California State Numismatic Association, to name a few. He served as President of the Santa Barbara Coin Club from 1976-1978, and is currently webmaster and a governor of the Token and Medal Society. In 1981, he co-wrote with R. W. Colbert a definitive English-language reference on Nazi German numismatics entitled Medallic Portraits of Adolf Hitler, and more recently he co-wrote (with recently departed ANA Executive Director Jeff Shevlin) Discover the World of Charbneau So-Called Dollars (2011).
His interest in numismatics has developed over a lifetime of study and collecting. He feels that his perspective as a collector and his knowledge of Information Technologies are essential elements of his candidacy, and that, if elected to the Board of Governors, he will leverage these skill sets to push the ANA forward.
We conducted a series of telephone interviews with Hyder and asked him to fill out an email survey regarding issues. The following is an overview of Hyder’s positions and responses to our questions.
Reversing the Declining Membership Rolls at the ANA
Club involvement overall is declining, so the ANA’s inability to add more energetic and passionate coin collectors onto its rolls is not unique to the ANA. It is troubling, however, for the more than 100-year-old organization, as it cannot stay relevant to the hobby without being relevant to this 1generation of coin collectors.
Hyder understands that for many, the misconception exists that membership in the ANA is little more than a subscription to The Numismatist: “We have to show value beyond The Numismatist to stop the decline. Clubs of all sorts are experiencing similar declines as social media replaces social groups that people participated in previously.”
Which brings us to Hyder’s current role assisting with the development of the 2013-2014 relaunch of money.org…
Of all of the topics we covered, Hyder’s professional expertise in the IT field kept coming to the forefront. Money.org, the American Numismatic Association’s online presence, slowed to a crawl in the Spring of 2012. The reason for this, Hyder says, was the failure of the ANA to exercise appropriate oversight over the redesign of the site. Behind the scenes, the site underwent an overhaul that was incompatible with more than 50 pre-existing features. The ANA’s hired IT Director, working out of Canada, knew about the problem beforehand and determined that each of these incompatibilities would take a week to resolve, which would leave the site crippled for more than a year.
Hyder stepped forward to help the ANA start the relaunch process anew. The plan for money.org that he forwarded us provides an in-depth view of the direction the site will take in its next iteration. Key features of the redesign will be a dramatic departure from what members currently see.
These features include:
- Daily updates
- Research tools for collectors
- Content catering to regional and local clubs
- Content aimed at the young numismatist
- Dealer resources
In addition, the Money Museum will get a new website, while the sites related to the National Money Show and World’s Fair of Money will get major overhauls in order to provide better navigation, content, and e-commerce functionality.
Some of these improvements will probably go unnoticed by users, since they’re essentially long-overdue system updates designed to modernize the site’s core functionality. Other changes will be immediately recognizable. For instance, on the main website, money.org, the ANA plans to implement a “game-ification” strategy that will allow users to customize their experience, and reward them for content creation and participation through the implementation of a badge (or achievement) system.
The plan also calls for leveraging the ANA’s affiliation with NGC to use NGC research tools on the new site. How much this resembles NGC’s subscription-based NGC Coin Explorer remains to be seen.
Of all the candidates we’ve talked to so far, including two sitting members of the Board of Governors, Hyder is the one candidate who has demonstrated to us absolute fluency in the ANA’s web development plan. He also pointed out to us that Governor Greg Lyon is also actively involved in this important project.
The Role the ANA Can Play in the Hobby
We wanted to know what role the ANA could play in the hobby, considering how much has changed in recent years.
The ANA can represent “a strong standard of ethical behavior [which it should] enforce equally across all members. The ANA can play a role in creating an educated buying public who enforce these standards on the hobby with their dollars. I am open to being educated on how far we can go and remain within the bounds of modern legal realities, but whatever actions we take, they have to treat everyone, regardless of their status in the hobby or whether they donate to the ANA, equally”, he said.
He went on to describe the hobby as it exists now as one “driven by investment of high-end, slabbed coins.” Hyder fears that this trend may cause hobbyists to shy away from organizations such as the ANA in the fear that they can’t compete. We interjected that we felt a hobby driven by high-end slabbed coins and profit-taking is highly competitive by nature, and that it becomes harder to have an open dialogue among collectors if they’re all competing for the same things.
Hyder agreed, and added that “we need to be more welcoming of hobbyists of limited means who just want to enjoy the hobby, collect coins they can afford, and learn something of art and history because that interests them. I believe the value of high-end investment coins is supported by a broad base of everyday collectors. If we ignore them and their interests, we threaten the health of the entire hobby. The declining membership in clubs across the nation should give us all pause about the state of the hobby.”
For Hyder, collecting is about emotion.
He recounted for us the story of how he acquired a Charbneau medal he purchased from a woman a few years ago. The piece came in its original box and had been in the woman’s family since the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition. Hyder wanted the piece for his collection and gave the woman an offer. He also provided a half dozen names of dealers who might also be interested in the piece. She thanked him and called the first dealer, and after discussing the piece, called Hyder back.
“Do you want the piece?”
Of course he did, Hyder told her. She then asked, “Well, why did you give me all of these other people’s names? Aren’t you afraid they’ll buy it and you won’t have it?” Hyder again acknowledged that he wanted the piece, but said, “I didn’t want you to feel that I was ripping you off.” The woman appreciated his candor and accepted his offer. To Hyder, part of the joy of owning the piece is its own unique history, one that began with a purchase that took place almost a century ago.
That’s Hyder in a nutshell. If you read his books or talk to him at any length about coins (or tokens, or medals), you always come back to the fact that he loves listening to and telling a good story. In his retirement years, Hyder wants to give back to the hobby, and feels that a position on the Board of Governors will enable him to repay the kindness of those who helped him and mentored him along the way - as well as put him in a position where his educational and IT background can affect positive change in an organization that needs to retrain its vision forward.
In order to do that, William Hyder needs your vote.
Flip of a Coin:
A bearded head with twin serpents forming the shape of a turban on the obverse. A Kasbah with minuets on the reverse. Rims that aren’t quite rounded, giving the piece a hammered appearance. Are we describing an exotic gold coin from North Africa? No. We’re actually describing an arcade gaming token from the now mostly-defunct Aladdin’s Castle chain. This exonumic item traces its origins back to the ‘70s, when video game arcades were big business. The industry realized that more money could be made by redeeming dollars for tokens instead of quarters, which could be spent elsewhere.
Ever heard the old chestnut “Don’t take any wooden nickels?” Clearly, a “wooden” nickel isn’t a “real” nickel, which strongly implies that someone’s trying to pull a fast one. You probably knew that. But did you know that some of them weren’t even coin shaped at all? In fact, rectangular “wooden nickels” were quite commonly produced by commemorative organizing committees, businesses, and other groups. The extra space (think business card size) allowed for more elaborate printing.
Speaking of wooden money, rural Tenino, Washington was dubbed the “Home of Wooden Money” in 1931 after the Tenino Chamber of Commerce started issuing wooden scrip. This was done to relieve the town’s money shortage after the failure of the Citizens Bank of Tenino. The alternate currency was made from spruce and cedar “slice wood”. The town gained national notoriety, which, of course, petrified several members of Congress.