First, I should note a major error in an aside in last week's diary, where wrote that I'd met Walter Breen at the 1996 Portland ANA convention. As you'll see from reader comments, that didn't happen.
Michael Schmidt writes:
That 1996 encounter with Walter must have been unusual considering by that time he had been dead for three years.
David Lange writes:
The Portland convention was in 1998, and Walter Breen had died five years earlier. Perhaps, it was at the 1990 Seattle convention that you encountered him in need of directions.
I was planning to fact check the date when I wrote that, but forgot to get back to it. Since it's not important to the story, we'll just delete that reference from the archive version. Sorry! I think Dave is right, though - it was probably the 1990 Seattle show.
This week I'll begin by picking up on last week's notes on my visit to the American Numismatic Association's convention in Chicago, a.k.a the World's Fair of Money.
First, responses to my Quick Quiz. About this picture of Dave Harper & Bob Van Ryzin at the Krause Publications table, I asked, "who are the two gentlemen seated behind Dave & Bob?"
Correct answer: Chester Krause and Alan Herbert. Thanks to both Joe Boling and Neil Shafer.
Responding to my note about pencils, Joe Boling adds:
I carry a mechanical pencil all the time, and use it to record price, source, and date in all book purchases - in approximately 8-point lettering.
Dave Bowers forwarded these photos of the NBS Annual meeting last Friday. Here's outgoing president Dan Hamelberg speaking with Treasurer David Sundman seated behind. Below are two nice panoramic shots of the audience, taken shortly before I arrived.
2011 NBS Annual Meeting
I mentioned last week how Brad Karoleff knelt before Joel Orosz and Len Augsburger in an "I'm not worthy to be in your presence!" position in honor of their NLG Book of the Year award for The Secret History of the First U.S. Mint. Len managed to get this shot.
Brad Karoleff in supplication to Len and Joel
About 2pm everyone began gathering outside the convention hall for the trip to see Bill Burd's library.
From left to right are Fred Reed, Tom Sheehan, David Sklow, Myron Xenos, Pete Smith, Darryl Xenos, and Elizabeth Hahn. When I introduced Fred Reed to Bill, I somehow managed to follow the word "Fred" with "Schwan". I quickly corrected myself, and we laughed it off. It had been years since I'd seen him in person, although we correspond by email regularly.
Earlier we'd talked about my column in the TAMS Journal and his upcoming book on Civil War postage stamp envelopes, a favorite collectible area of mine. I recalled first learning about them while visiting the ANA Library in 1980, reading an old American Journal of Numismatic article by H. Russell Drowne. That was about all that had been written on them at the time, and I'm looking forward to Fred's thorough book-length treatment.
Attendees Gather for the Burd Numismatic Library Tour
The bus ride was fun, albeit long. Chicago traffic and a less-than-optimal route chosen by our driver made for a slow journey. But everyone had fun conversing. Howard Berlin was already on the bus when I got on. We'd never met in person before, and he'd wanted to meet up with me at the show. I sat across from him in the front row. We talked about his upcoming "Numismatourist" book and a quotation about museums. His book recounts his journeys to numismatic museums and mints around the world. He had spent time at the show talking with representatives at the various world mint booths making contacts for future visits.
Behind me were Amanda Harvey and David Sklow. Across from David were Myron and Darryl Xenos. We talked a bit about Armand Champa's "Invasion of Louisville" library tour. I wondered what ever became of the video Armand had someone record of the day's events. Both David and Myron seemed to think they might have a copy. Hopefully it will turn up.
Somehow we got to talking about book packaging and shipping. Myron often uses old U.S. postage stamps, which can be had at a good discount from face value. Now there's a collectible "investment" gone bad. Bill Burd noted that it's hard to even give away sheets of small denomination stamps like one or two-centers. It takes so many to add up to the proper postage that they're hard to actually use. Some post offices restrict their use to just the front of the package. Others allow mailers to plaster all sides of the box with stamps.
We talked about numismatic literature dealer John Bergman, who is the Godfather of Proper Packing Procedures for shipping numismatic literature. He wrote a great Asylum article on the topic and even had a special business card illustrating how to pack a book. Protect those corners!
David Sklow told us about going to his post office to pick up boxes containing Q. David Bowers' research library consignment. Bowers staffers who packed the boxes marked many of them "Heavy". Others were marked "Very Heavy". Don't ask about the ones marked "Wicked Heavy". Not even the post office staff would touch them. Sklow had to go in the back and retrieve them himself.
I was out of earshot for the other conversations, but there were plenty of them.
I looked back and noticed that Elizabeth Hahn had drawn the short straw and was sitting alone.
I pointed my camera and got some smiles out of everyone. Here's Elizabeth with Pete Smith and Tom Sheehan behind.
Once there we all signed a guest book, then fanned out to look at books. It was a comfortable, spacious facility, beautifully accented with artwork, and framed numismatic items. Many of the items were odd and curious monies.
Richard Thompson and his son had driven separately but arrived shortly after we all did. I spoke to them for a bit about collecting numismatic literature.
I spent a lot of time leafing through Bill's numismatic ephemera. Like me, he has these housed in binders in archival sleeves. Every numismatic library has something not seen anywhere else, and I was not disappointed. I've got LOTS of ephemera, but Bill had a number of items I'd never seen before. Many were related to the Chicago Coin Club, but there were also some B. Max Mehl items I hadn't seen.
I helped myself to the tasty meatballs and other hors d'oeuvres. OK, I had a couple cookies, too. And two glasses of wine, without spilling a drop. Bill was an incredibly generous and gracious host. We couldn't have had a better time - it was bibliophile heaven.
At one point someone asked for a pencil. I reached into my handy Man Purse (aka backpack) and pulled one out. I guess I do keep one of everything in there.
Eventually 5:30 rolled around and it was time to reboard the bus. Several of us had to get to the ANA Banquet beginning at seven. The return trip was much faster. I moved around a bit, first to sit with Fred Reed, then with Elizabeth. We talked about Civil War numismatics, Armand Champa, the new ANS HQ, and her interest in marine archeology.
Back at the convention center we all thanks Bill Burd and said our goodbyes. It was a perfectly marvelous trip. Thanks again, Bill!
I headed back to my room to suit up for the banquet. I would be joining Dennis Tucker at the Whitman table. I ran into Myron and Darryl in the elevator and we gradually figured out the signage and found our way to the reception. After the wine I'd had that afternoon I didn't need any more, but bought a soft drink to nurse for a while.
The reception was already crowded when we arrived, and most of it is a blur in my memory. So many friends, so little time! I talked with Fred Schwan and told him about blurting out his name by mistake when introducing Fred Reed earlier.
George Cuhaj came by and I teased him about his facial hair, saying he looked a bit like Colonel Sanders. Later I ran into Bob Van Ryzin and he was wearing a different tie this time.
Barbara Gregory stopped to talk and I told her about mistaking Christine for her the day before. Say, is that early Altzheimer's kicking in? But I learned I wasn't the first to make that mistake. She told me about plans to publish my article on George Rode, an unsung pioneer of the American Numismatic Association and its conventions.
So many great people! I saw Gene Hessler and Mark Anderson but didn't get a chance to talk. The room was chockablock with numismatic personalities from all across the country. I hadn't made it far across the room when I met a smiling young man with blond hair and asked him what he collected. AU Morgan dollars, it turned out. Fred Schwan was nearby again, and the two of us chatted with him for a while. I asked his name and learned it was John Bowers. Yeah, THAT Bowers - he must get that a lot at coin conventions. Little did I realize I'd be sharing a banquet table with him and his grandfather, Dave Bowers. Here's a picture courtesy of John Wilson.
Dave and John Bowers at the 2011 ANA Banquet
I'd been looking for Dennis Tucker ever since I arrived. No luck. When they opened the doors to the dining room I wandered around looking for the Whitman table. I saw Richard Jewell and Tom Uram from the Pittsburgh area and chatted a bit. Both are members of the Sphinx Society, the group I modeled my Northern Virginia numismatic social group Numis Nova after. I invited them to come join us sometime. We meet on the night before Sphinx.
Eventually I found the Whitman table. Dennis arrived and we were seated just as MC Wendell Wolka started the program. Here's another shot of Dennis courtesy of John Wilson. I cropped it into a nice, dignified head shot.
But if I'd wanted an undignified bunny-ears shot I couldn't have done better than this accidental snapshot where the waiter carrying plates behind Dennis makes it look like he has Dumbo-sized saucer ears. (Sorry, Dennis - I couldn't resist. Remember, you're a Good Sport). Next to Dennis was Jeff Garrett - I'm sorry we didn't get much of a chance to converse.
Dennis Tucker and Wayne Homren at the 2011 ANA Banquet
After the banquet I followed Dennis and David Crenshaw to the Hyatt bar. We were quickly joined by David Lange. We had a great conversation on multiple topics including Lange's books and the coin publishing business in general. I pulled out my Smartphone and showed Dave Lange what I'd been reading while waiting for my plane to take off - an e-book version of his book on the U.S. Mint I'd downloaded from Amazon for $9.99.
In the next booth were Tom Hallenbeck and Mike Ellis. On the way out Tom stopped me to thank me for all my work on The E-Sylum. It was past midnight by then, and I dragged myself up to my room for the night.
Saturday morning came early. I really hated to have to miss the Rittenhouse Society breakfast, but I needed to get home - it was my son Tyler's 11th birthday. The flight was uneventful and I arrived at the Pizza-Go-Round place back in Virginia just in time for his birthday lunch. He and his siblings, along with two neighbor boys, played game after game in the arcade. Tyler begged over and over for more money to feed the machines, and I gave in every time. It ended up being worth it - he came away with some great prizes from the grab-it machine. I was exhausted, but glad to be home.
Nothing much happened of note Sunday and Monday, but Tuesday was a different story.
Shortly before 2pm I was sitting at my desk trying to get some work done when I heard a low rumble, like someone was rolling a heavy cart down the hallway or on the floor above. But it got louder and I wondered what it really was. Then the entire building began to rattle and shake. I saw window frames and posts jiggling before my eyes. In a few seconds it was over. My coworkers were looking out the window to see what had happened.
I feared I might see plumes of smoke from a plane crash or a crater from a car bomb. Lampposts in the parking lot were still swaying, and people began streaming out of the building. But no smoke, no flames - nothing else out of the ordinary except for the crowd filling the parking lot. We realized it had been an earthquake. People in the East aren't used to these. News reports called it a 5.8, the strongest felt in the area in a century.
We checked around and the only damage in the office was a framed poster that had fallen from what was a precarious perch in the first place. The glass hadn't broken. One of the guys had been in a bathroom stall when it happened, confirming that the stall walls shook a great deal. I told him, "that'll cure your constipation!" We laughed it all off nervously, still wondering if we should stay or go.
My office is in Maryland. I called my wife down in Virginia and learned the quake was felt there, too. She missed it though - she was probably walking outside at the time, and only learned about it when she and our daughter got into her doctor's office for a checkup. My son Christopher was home with his grandmother. They were in the basement and the house shook quite a bit. But no damage.
Bibliophiles will be glad to know my library was unharmed. I'm just glad my library didn't harm anything else. My wife isn't keen on my books in the first place, and would like them even less if they were strewn across the floor, or had say, killed the dog. But Max was fine, too.
I sent a quick email to my sister and learned she'd felt it all the way up in Pittsburgh. I shot a note to Alan Weinberg in L.A., figuring he'd have something to say about us wimpy East coasters who don't know what a REAL earthquake is. Californians stir their morning coffee with a 5.8. He wrote:
That's just George Washington turning over in his grave over what the Federal Gov't has turned into.
Later in the day I saw this Internet photo labeled "DC Earthquake Devastation".
But not everything went unscathed. The Washington Monument is closed indefinitely - new cracks were found in a helicopter inspection. Spires on the National Cathedral fell off. The White House, Capitol and other government buildings were evacuated. Everyone in my building was told to go home as well. But it was like trying to get home after the 4th of July Fireworks. It took me twenty minutes just to get out of my parking space, and nearly 1 1/2 hours to get out of the parking lot. What a mess. Luckily I was able to get home around 6pm and join my family for dinner at a local restaurant. Here's hoping it's another hundred years before we see a quake that size around here.
A seismic event of another sort happened that evening. While watching our kids play outside I got an emailed press release from the American Numismatic Association. Executive Director Larry Shepherd had been placed on administrative leave by the new board. The action had taken place on Saturday, after I'd already left the show. Here we go again - this will be another interesting chapter in the history of the organization's troubled leadership ranks.
Wednesday August 24th was my birthday, and my Facebook page filled up with birthday greetings from near and far. Here are just a few samples. Thanks, everyone!
"Have yourself a downright bibliophilic birthday, Wayne!"
"Happy Birthday awesome book dude!"
"Already? I just HB'd you lately, I thought. You should slow down!"
"A special edition of the NBS newsletter is needed just to list all the people wishing Wayne, "Happy Birthday!""
My birthday turned out to be special for an unexpected reason. My wife's nephew rushed his wife to the hospital in labor. Around noon her great nephew Aiden William was born. Another August 24th birthday in the family! She packed up our kids, her parents and Max the Dog and drove up to Pittsburgh to see the baby. I was already at work and was on my own for my birthday. But they came back the next day and on Friday we had dinner and some cake to celebrate.
Having gotten thru the earthquake I had to spend Friday evening after dinner making preparations for a hurricane. Hurricane Irene was bearing down on the east coast, and was set to hit near Washington over the weekend. I was bringing furniture in from our deck when I got a phone call. It was the secretary of an E-Sylum reader who was looking for more information on the Type II Quint offered for sale by Bill Burd.
Phone calls from readers are rare - I think I've only fielded a couple in all the years of publishing The E-Sylum. I didn't ask, but she avoided telling me her boss' name. But at least one of you is interested in the piece. I passed along what I could remember and after hanging up I continued with my work. I think I told her the piece was slabbed by NGC, but in fact it was PCGS. I get everything backwards if I'm away from my computer where I can check. I offered to answer any questions or forward any notes to Bill Burd via email, but I haven't heard any more from this reader.
Well, Hurricane Irene turned out to be a non-event in our neighborhood. We had a lot of wind and rain Saturday night, but no damage, thankfully.
The only other sort-of numismatic news is that my son Tyler is getting a collecting bug - for Pokemon cards. I bought some on his behalf through eBay, but more importantly (to me) we also sold some duplicates for very good money. He's sold four cards for a total of $33. We posted one for sale this morning and it was sold by lunchtime. We were having lunch at McDonald's when I got the news on my phone. He was excited. I think he may have a knack for collectible marketing and promotion. But first he has to get back to school, which starts here tomorrow morning - not a day too soon for my wife, who's had her fill of all three of them this summer.
Well. that's it for this week's Numismatic Diary. Thanks for coming along on the adventure.
CONGRATULATIONS TO RICK TOMASKA!
A Guide Book of Franklin and Kennedy Half Dollars
won the Numismatic Literary Guild’s 2011 “Extraordinary Merit” award. Tomaska’s book is number 15 in Whitman’s Bowers Series—collect them all! If you haven’t ordered your copy yet, visit
or call 1-800-546-2995. Softcover, 288 pages, $19.95.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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