By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek....
This is the seventh in a series of journals that we’re preparing in the lead-up to the August ANA elections. We’d like to thank ANA member Steve D’Ippolito for his participation.
Since we started writing these profiles, the Association has surprised us by firing yet another Executive Director, Mr. Jeff Shevlin. While Shevlin’s departure has not been marked by any hint of scandal (at least not yet, or not publicly), it makes one wonder just what on Earth the Board is thinking, dismissing their Director just months before his one-year contract was set to expire.
Since this is ongoing news, we’re obligated to ask the remaining candidates about Shevlin’s dismissal, what is says about the ANA’s leadership, and what hopes the candidates have for the newly-appointed Kim Kiick. We also asked our standard assortment of probing questions as we try to inform ANA voters of the personalities, politics, and platforms of the 2013 slate of candidates. The following article is based on our phone interview with Mr. D’Ippolito, public statements from his blog, and his answers at the ANA’s Candidate Forum, which is available online at CoinWeek’s YouTube channel.
Not Playing the Blame Game
D’Ippolito doesn’t think it’s necessarily fair to blame the organizational hierarchy or any specific personality for the ANA’s woes. He recoils at the thought that people who aren’t even in the room when the Board makes its decisions say that they know exactly what’s going on. He also doesn’t think that this is the sole reason why collectors are leaving America’s oldest national numismatic club.
On his blog Steve On Coins, D’Ippolito defends the ANA for not revealing details regarding the “firing” of Executive Director Jeff Shevlin. He states, “We do not know and cannot know and cannot be told everything that went into this decision. Whether or not it was justified, the ANA would be sued simply for letting this information out”. He expressed the same sentiment on the phone when we asked him if the secrecy surrounding Shevlin’s departure just strengthens the case of the ANA’s critics.
“I want to find out why the ANA is having trouble retaining members,” D’Ippolito says. “People assert that it’s turmoil at the top- but I want to know for sure, so I’d like the organization to find out why people are leaving. Even if we pay $5.00 to every member that leaves to tell us, I think it’s worth it.”
The tenor of his voice as he repeats this proposal, one he made at the ANA Convention in New Orleans, conveys a sense of how important the ANA is to him and how much he’d like to see the organization’s membership numbers go back up.
How His Membership Experience Differs from Yours and Why That Should Change
D’Ippolito understands that his ANA experience is different from what most members experience. Living in close proximity to the ANA’s Colorado Springs headquarters, D’Ippolito has unfettered access to the Association’s archives, library, and museum. If elected, he’ll push the organization to make more of this experience available online. “If more things were online, and access to these materials was made free to members - and perhaps fee-based for non-members - then more people would see the value of the ANA.”
As to what exactly he’d like to see online, D’Ippolito thinks digitizing the Association’s collection (using college student labor), making a space where collectors can read expanded coverage of numismatic topics, and putting authentication tools online would be met positively by ANA members.
“I joined the ANA in 1990,” D’Ippolito says, “I get a lot out of my membership. The Numismatist covers all areas of numismatics in an even-handed way, I actively participate at the ANA shows, the Summer Seminar is a huge value for collectors of all ages… Perhaps, for people who are leaving, they see the magazine as the only benefit of being a member, but the ANA is more than that.”
The ANA’s Role in the Hobby
We ask all the candidates what they think the ANA’s role in the hobby should be. The answers range from passive (“educational opportunities”) to activist (it should go after coin doctors and other abuses in the hobby). D’Ippolito feels that the ANA should stand for something and do more than merely educate. “It should provide leadership and set standards. It hasn’t had to do that lately. But the ANA created grading standards, it could try to do something about disreputable dealers and coin doctors, as Laura suggests, but the BEST thing the ANA could do is to do their darndest to educate the public. The ANA can’t form a police force. It’s not a government entity, but it can be out there taking the moral high ground.”
“The ANA also needs to re-engage young collectors,” he says, again pointing out the possibilities a modern virtual presence gives the organization. “The internet is going to have its limits,” he says, “but we have to motivate youngsters to join the hobby.” He points out, in a posting announcing his intention to run, that the changing role of money in our lives as we transition to a cashless society means that the ANA’s core mission of educating people about money is more important now than ever.
Of all the candidates running, D’Ippolito knows that, geographically, he has an advantage. “I’m local. I bring that to the table, and maybe because of that I’ll be able to better deal with staff issues. If there’s a culture problem, I’ll figure it out. I’ll be able to see what goes on behind the scenes at headquarters. I will be fair to everybody and think things through. I want to solve these problems. Also, when it comes to collectors and what they want from the ANA, I’ll listen to suggestions.”
D’Ippolito admits that many outside of his area might not be familiar with him, that he’s not a household name in numismatics despite his success as an award winning exhibitor at ANA shows. But he feels that he has the tools to get things done.
In his closing statement at the ANA Candidate Forum he appealed to voters, saying, “I hope you’ll vote for the person you think will do the best job pushing the association forward. It’s been a part of my life for a long time and I do not want to see it backslide.”
Flip of a Coin:
The Russian kopek is a long-serving, small denomination coin that used to have an even smaller counterpart, the полушка (polushka). The coin [Which coin?]debuted in 1700, under the reign of Peter the Great, and wrapped up production in 1916, at the end of the Imperial period of Russian history.
Too bad they didn’t stick around to see it: December 25, 1991 marked the last day of the Soviet Union, as the individual republics that comprised the USSR gained their independence. Numismatically, the late date of this watershed event means that some unintended transitional coinage was produced by the Soviet Mint. Starting in December, the mint struck coins with the 1992 date. Of course, there was no Soviet Union in 1992. The newly-created Russian state quickly reconstituted the nation’s coinage, issuing pieces bearing the inscription Банк России (Bank of Russia).