By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ……
This is the second in a series of journals that we’re preparing in the lead-up to the August ANA elections. We’d like to thank ANA Governor Mike Ellis for his participation.
ANA Governor Mike Ellis is seeking a second term in the upcoming August elections. His numismatic career spans more than three decades, all the way back to his time in the U.S. Navy. Ellis is a die variety specialist and currently serves as a 2nd party grader and variety attributor. Previous experience includes six years as a full-time grader for ICG and ANACS, and work under Jay Krugjohann, owner of South Park Coins in Forney, Texas.
As an active member of the ANA, Ellis served as an instructor at the ANA Summer Seminar. Since 1996, he has given lectures and taught classes on modern and early minting processes, die variety attribution, creative errors, and grading. He is considered one of the foremost experts on shield nickel varieties.
We prepared a number of questions about Ellis’ first term as governor, the role the ANA does and should play in the hobby, as well what programs or expectations he has for a second term, should he be reelected.
The following is an overview of Ellis’ positions drawn from two telephone interviews and a lengthy follow-up email questionnaire conducted in February and March 2013.
Ellis’ Record as an ANA Governor
Ellis has served 1 ½ years of his first two-year term as governor. He believes the principle tenant of the job is to listen to your electorate and represent them accordingly. Ellis defines the electorate as all collector and dealer members of the ANA, but he says that he also takes into account suggestions from outside of the membership, saying that they “sometimes come up with good ideas that the membership may like”. Ellis is very approachable, we’ve found, and he says that most of his work with members comes from direct communication.
Many of the programs that he’s most actively involved in are still in progress, he says, and the ANA isn’t ready to reveal the details. One program relates to a recent endowment, which is earmarked for a new ANA award for female numismatists. Another initiative concerns a complete overhaul and repurposing of the ANA’s website, an issue brought up in our interview with Oded Paz.
Ellis also spoke about his work ensuring the safety of young numismatists at ANA events, especially Summer Seminar. Ellis says that “the ANA now trains staff and volunteer chaperons on what to look for to prevent any issues and trains them on what to do if something has already happened. This includes general safety, of course, but specifically it is designed for protection against sexual predators.” This is especially important for the ANA and the hobby, since the hobby needs young collectors to grow, and the trusting environment brought about by the gathering of people with similar interests.
He also has striven to make shows better for attendees by structuring them so that a full complement of dealers is there on the weekend, saying “this is one issue I am constantly bombarded with. I’m doing all I can to make sure dealers stay throughout the day on Saturdays, even if it means we have to start a show at the end of the week and end it early in the next week.”
Agenda Going Forward
Ellis would like to see the ANA take an active role in educating collectors about the marketing and misrepresentation of coins encapsulated in Third Party Grading holders labeled as First Strikes.
Throughout history, striking ceremonies have been held to mark the release of new issues. In the United States, first strike coins were traditionally given to dignitaries or government officials. The first 1892 Columbian half dollar was sold to Wyckoff, Seamans and Benedict, makers of the Remington typewriter, for the colossal sum of $10,000. Ellis believes that the term First Strike gets its value-added appeal from this kind of historical-association.
The grading services, however, market the term based on much looser criteria. They define First Strike as being coins submitted for grading within a set amount of time after the coin’s official release date. However, in 2006 a coin collector by the name of Thomas Francisco sued the major grading services over the First Strike designation and discovered that both PCGS and NGC defined “First Strikes” in their trademark filings as the first official coin off of the press. Obviously, labeling coins submitted to them as First Strikes did not follow these guidelines.
In August of 2007, NGC settled the lawsuit for $650,000. $447,095 of that was donated to the ANA to support educational programs. Ellis provided us with a copy of a paper he has prepared on the subject, which explicitly defines a first strike as the first coin struck, and hopes to promote its acceptance by the ANA and get the ANA involved in this and other consumer advocacy issues.
As a professional coin grader, he’d like to see the development and implementation of an ANA-approved coin grading course that certifies the people who grade coins professionally.
Digitization and the Redesign of Money.org
We told Ellis that we believe the ANA needs to offer a more robust online experience to bridge the geographical distance between the association and its 27,000+ members. Ellis spoke favorably of creating a virtual online archive of the ANA’s extensive library, important coins and related material.
Ellis confirmed that the ANA has invested in imaging much of the Money Museum’s holdings, and that he feels that offering access to those items via the ANA’s new website (in development) should be one of the organization’s top priorities going forward. He spoke glowingly about the new website, saying it was designed to rival all of the major sites in the industry. We’re adamant that digitizing as much of the ANA’s literature, including all back issues of The Numismatist, and offering as complete access online should be among the Association’s top priorities. We get the impression that Ellis strongly agrees.
On the Future of the ANA
Ellis strongly believes that the ANA’s governors are elected to represent people, and he intends to continue to fulfill that obligation. He also believes that the ANA’s Congressional Charter gives the organization the responsibility to not just educate collectors about the collecting of coins and the role of money in society, but also to act as an advocate for collectors.
Flip of a Coin:
Chicago has always been a great coin city. The ANA was founded there in 1891. One year later, the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago launched the classic commemorative series. Since then, Chicago has played host to the ANA annual convention 14 times.
Although it’s been a while – 90 years, to be exact – only two ANA national conventions took place outside of the United States. Both were held in Montreal. The first was in 1909, and the second one happened in 1923. The Lincoln cent debuted in the year of the first and famed numismatist Chester L. “Chet” Krause was born in the year of the second.
Populations of the cities of former United States branch mints: Charlotte, NC (751,087); New Orleans, LA (360,740); Carson City, NV (55,439); and Dahlonega, GA (5,251). Populations of cities housing current United States branch mints: San Francisco, CA (812,826); Denver, CO (619,968); West Point, NY (6,763); and Philadelphia, PA (1,536,471).
©2013 Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker