The E-Sylum:  Volume 10, Number 14, April 8, 2007, Article 2


Last week I wrote: "Yes, readers, it's April Fool's Day, and at 
least one of this week's items is completely fictitious. But you 
figured that out already, didn't you, smarty pants?" 

Smarty-pants-in-chief Joe Boling felt compelled to point out "Yeah, 
but you blew it - the date-time stamp on the message was: 'Date: 
4/2/2007 12:32:18 AM Eastern Daylight Time'

Well, since The E-Sylum always goes out late on a Sunday evening our 
friends across the Atlantic rarely get their email on the date of 
issue anyway. But our friends in western time zones usually do. 
One reader got his issue at 28 minutes before midnight. So I figure 
three-fourths of the U.S. still got their issue before midnight on 
April Fool's Day. Anyway, it was DATED April 1, and that's good 
enough for me.

There were in fact three bogus items in last week's issue, contributed 
by myself, Dave Bowers and Dick Johnson. But the one that got all the 
attention was my piece about a supposed merger of the American 
Numismatic Association and American Numismatic Society.


Not everyone got the joke, although some had their doubts. One 
U.K reader wrote "You won't be bothered I trust if I just observe 
the date, 1 April, of your most recent E-Sylum, and ask whether the 
ANS and ANA report is really real?"

Here's what people have said:

"Your April Fools joke was too real, too believable. I got one 
e-mail already, from an ANS and ANA (life) member, who bought it 
hook, line, and sinker."

"Very Orson Wellsish of you ;-). I received two calls by 8:30AM EST."

"Great joke!!! By the way, did I mention that flying saucers are 
landing all over New Jersey?"

"I must admit, when reading the article about the ANA/ANS merger 
in this week's E-Sylum, I actually believed it for all of one and 
a half sentences. Then, it occurred to me that this week's issue 
was published on April 1st. If you wrote this, I commend you on 
having a great imagination, but the date of publication was just 
a tad too coincidental."

"You had me going until I got to the part about Numismatist and 
the ANS magazine merging to form Coin. At that point, my sputtering 
brain remembered what day it was yesterday. Nicely done! You did 
a good job with it--it got increasingly ridiculous as the story went 
on, but you had me going until the third paragraph."

"I was transfixed by the emotional sequence: (1) Wow! (2) uh-oh, 
better check (3) shame and humiliation, with real disappointment, too. 
What a brilliant creation. The idea is great; much greater is the way 
you managed to spin it out, to keep the ball in the air with all kinds 
of illuminating and persuasive details. First-class work! 
Congratulations. I have re-read it with ever-growing pleasure."

"I've seen many an April Fools joke (which must mean I'm old), and 
this one ranks right up there with the best."

"I thought your April Fools article was hilarious! It's been making 
the rounds on the bulletin boards --- always a good sign that a piece 
of writing is resonating with its readers."

"An instant classic! Thanks for the laughs, in the great tradition 
of numismatic April Fools jokes."

Some were disappointed that it WASN'T true; "Damn. I was all set for 
Cipoletti versus Partrick, two out of three." Another reader 
predicted: "Ute wins kick boxing match hands down."

One reader wrote: "Pretty funny - in fact, classic. I even looked 
at the Baltimore location on Google's satellite maps before I checked 
further! Haa, got me!! I wonder if you know how close to true your 
story was/is? There are some details in that story ... well that's 
another story :)"

Well, the best con jobs (and April Fools jokes) do have elements of 
truth. I did try to make it sound believable, but I made it all up 
soup to nuts sitting at my keyboard last Sunday night before midnight. 
Dave Bowers is my witness - he was online and I got his OK to use his 
name, but even he didn't see the whole piece until I sent it out. 

I hadn't heard a single rumor about either organization, and when Dr. 
Ute Wartenberg Kagan, Executive Director of the ANS wrote Monday morning 
to ask me "how did you know?", I thought she was being funny and 
laughed. Then somebody clued me in to a headline on the Coin World 
web site. Fiction is stranger than truth, I guess. Here's what 
Coin World said:

"Society's current facility underused since 2003 occupation. 
The American Numismatic Society has retained an agent to explore 
sale of its headquarters, preparatory to possible leasing of new space. 
Full Story

By the time this week's E-Sylum arrives many of you will have already 
seen the article in the print edition. Ute confirmed for me that the 
ANS is indeed considering a move. The society moved into its current 
location in New York's financial district in 2003, leaving its 
longtime uptown home at 155th Street and Broadway. Traffic at the 
new site has not increased as much as hoped, and with large portions 
of the building still underused, the Trustees, staff and volunteers 
have been exploring options for another space.

Regarding the faux merger and real plans for a move, Ute writes: "The 
ANS is concerned about meeting the operating expenses of its building. 
The Trustees might want to take advantage of a very high real estate 
market by selling the building and moving to a different location. 
Many other not-for-profits in Manhattan have done that recently."

Coin World also notes that "Exhibits are also being affected by 
changing expectations of ANS members and technological improvements. 
'Most members don't want to travel to New York,' [Wartenberg Kagan] 
said. 'They want images, as Harry Bass set up. We have a huge number 
of visitors, if you call them that, to the Internet.' (The late 
collector Harry Bass helped the ANS build a computerized library 
of images.)"

As for the ANA, of course, no merger is planned nor necessary despite 
the swirl in the press over finances and governance. I hope none of 
the Board candidates choked on their Cheerios Monday morning when 
they read that the upcoming election had been cancelled. It's 
proceeding as usual.

I'm sure many of us have wondered from time to time why we in the U.S. 
are blessed with TWO great national numismatic organizations. I'm 
also sure that at various points in their long histories, someone has 
come along to suggest "Hey, wouldn't it be great if the two merged?" 
Well, if it were such a great thing, you'd think it would have happened 
at some point in the last century or so. For as much as their missions 
overlap at points, they are also quite different in a great many ways, 
and those differences are what give each organization a unique place 
in the world. 

I wish the ANS good luck in their quest for an appropriate home, and 
believe both organizations should periodically review their needs for 
office, library, collection and exhibit space. As discussed in the 
Coin World article, the nature of museum exhibit space is changing. 

Yes, there's no substitute for the thrill of viewing an original rarity 
in person, but frankly, there's only so much one can see while squinting 
at a coin through exhibit case glass. But a high-resolution image? 
That's nirvana. When I first scanned some of my obsolete banknotes I 
was stunned to see for the first time multiple details I'd never noticed 
before. A good web catalog with quality images is in multiple ways a 
far better way to display numismatic artifacts.

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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