No foolin' - here's what I did on Friday, April Fool's Day. I left work a little early and headed north to Baltimore. I'd arranged to meet Joel Orosz and Len Augsburger at their table at the Whitman Coin Expo. Navigation was surprisingly easy. I parked at the Pier V public parking garage and walked back along Pratt street to the Baltimore Convention Center. Arriving at the convention center I rushed to register. The "Fill out your form here" table was completely empty - no forms there. I turned around and saw the registration booths. No one in line and a couple of people manning it. But they were already packed up for the day and had to rummage through boxes to find a form for me. I quickly filled it out and slapped my nametag on.
I rushed across the lobby to get to the door of the bourse. "I'm sorry, Sir, but you can't get back in - one-way traffic," said the security guard. It was 5:31. "But I haven't even been IN yet - I just registered!" No luck - I was hosed. I had been hoping to go in and razz John Burns at his numismatic literature table before heading over to the Whitman booth, where Len and Joel were signing copies of their newly-released"Secret History of the First U.S. Mint."
Rules are rules, but it was galling to sit there in the lobby staring at a sign announcing that the show closes at 6:00. By then it was 5:33. In the retail world, closing time is when one-way traffic starts. Oh, well. I decided to cool my heels in the lobby and see who I knew. Almost as on cue, out of the bourse walked Julian Leidman. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised - he was the first friend I ran into the last time I went to a Baltimore show. He's everywhere! The only other person I recognized was Ted Shiff of Cybercoins in Pittsburgh. We talked for a few minutes about the upcoming American Numismatic Association show in Pittsburgh. There may well have been other folks I knew in the lobby, but I only know most E-Sylum subscribers by name and email account, not by face.
I had called Joel on his cell phone to let them know of my predicament. They were unable to leave their booth until closing time. Shortly after six, Joel, Len and his wife Deb walked out to greet me. It was fun catching up. Deb and I had the same idea - "Let's get a picture of these guys in front of the big sign for their book." Here's one I took. Below is another shot, where we got a little more creative.
We wandered out into the cold street toward a restaurant. Deb guided us to Sullivan's Steakhouse. The place was busy, but luckily they had a table for four in a private room with a view of the street. There was a larger table in the room, but no party was seated there and we had the place to ourselves. Good thing - after the liquor was served, we got a little noisy.
First off, I want to publicly thank Joel and Len for picking up my meal. My remuneration for editing The E-Sylum is basically lunch money a few times a week, and we're talking burritos, not steaks. When I'm out with my family it's usually family fare at family-style chain restaurants. I told everyone I felt like I was getting to sit at the adult table at Thanksgiving dinner. Dinner won't be enough to get them a glowing review of their book (which we all joked about), but from what I've seen so far, a bribe will be unnecessary. The regular edition has been selling like hotcakes and as of Friday all but seven copies of the deluxe editions had been sold.
Conversation topics were all over the map, from research for the book to work and home life. I recounted my experience at the famous "Invasion of Louisville" where I met bibliophile Armand Champa, John Ford, Jules Reiver, Ken Lowe, Myron Xenos and a host of other numismatic luminaries and bibliophiles. Talk of Armand led to the infamous "Giant Meatball" story, a prank Armand pulled on John Burns during one of our visits to his home. I wrote it up for the Money tree's Out on a Limb.
Joel told a story about a day I'd almost forgotten about. Back in 2004 when I was the General Chairman for the Pittsburgh ANA Convention, I went out to lunch with Joel one day. I was wearing the big chairman's medal given to me by the ANA. Halfway through lunch the clasp gave way and my medal hit the floor and rolled away. Joel and I both wish we had a picture of the expression on my face. I retrieved the medal and we walked over to The Coin Exchange to buy a sturdier clasp.
I'd brought with me my contributor's copy of their book, which Len and Joel kindly signed for me. I also lugged along a large binder with my collection of numismatic prospectuses, including a flyer announcing the publication of Frank Stewart's book on the U.S. Mint. With Len's help, I expect to exhibit several of these neat pieces of numismatic ephemera at this summer's American Numismatic Association convention.
We weren't the only numismatists at the restaurant. Miles Standish of PCGS was in the main dining room, and paid for our table's desserts. Thanks! (mine was a yummy New York cheesecake). Later, a friend of Len's from the Liberty Seated Collector's Club joined us. I forgot to ask his OK to publish his name, so I can't, but it was a pleasure to talk numismatics with him.
Where did the time go? All of a sudden it was 10pm, and I still had a long drive home ahead of me. We said our goodbyes and off I headed to my car. Well actually, I walked half a block in the wrong direction as first, but I figured it out. I guess those wine glasses were bigger than they looked. The brisk walk cleared my head and I made it home by 11:30. It had been a wonderful evening of numismatic fellowship, and hopefully we'll be able to get together another time.
Wayne Homren, Editor
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