Tom Babinszki publishes the Blind Coin Collector blog. He's an E-Sylum subscriber and contributor, and an avid user of the Newman
Numismatic Portal. He was at last week's American Numismatic Association show. He gave a Money Talks presentation Friday morning on "The Challenges of
Making Currency Accessible for the Visually Impaired”. I was unable to attend, but I had the pleasure of meeting him for the first time in person at the NBS
General Meeting later that morning. Tom published a great blog article on his experience at the show, and we're republishing it here with permission.
Thanks, Tom! -Editor
This year I have attended the World’s Fair of Money for the second time. Again, the main reason was because I submitted a presentation which was accepted.
Learning from the previous experience in 2015, I prepared very differently this time.
Tom Babinszki (center)
The first thing I wanted to avoid is random exploration. While there is always room for random ideas and meetings, last time I found the floor quite
overwhelming, and there were more meetings and presentations I could possibly attend. This time, I came for four days, made a calendar of events I wanted to
attend, but most importantly a list of tables I wanted to visit in numerical order. Last time it was a mistake just to take chances. I may have visited more
people, and touched more coins, but this time I decided to put more effort into learning and meeting people. This approach worked much better.
The floor is huge. I can’t even guess how big, there were at least 15 long isles, with tens of tables in each. Especially in the crowd, I could not make any
sense of the layout. Baldwin was helpful in navigating obstacles, make sure I don’t bump into people and tables, but I certainly needed help along the way.
This is why I wrote out in braille all the tables in numerical order I wanted to visit. I started at the beginning, and when I was done with one table, I asked
for directions to the next one, which wasn’t always the nearest, but for the most part this approach worked out. People were extremely helpful, I often got
much more than directions, there was always somebody who offered to take me to the next table. I am especially thankful to Carl Wolf and his volunteer team,
who was always ready to help.
This time I stayed at the Hilton, which was easier to find from the convention center, at least for the most part I didn’t need help there. The hotel was
also a bit complex with all kinds of curves and corners, but after the first day I was able to navigate to the most important places with Baldwin. He just
knows what we do. Often he guessed where I wanted to go as if he understood what I said.
I arrived on Wednesday, fortunately the Hilton allowed me to check in before noon. After a quick coffee, I couldn’t wait to go over to the convention
center. I started at the Chicago Coin Club, to say hi to Carl Wolf, then went over to the Numismatic Bibliomania Society table, where I met some interesting
people. I knew most of the names, and corresponded with some of the people, but I never met them in person. I met with Len Augsberger, with whom I have
corresponded quite a bit recently, and also found out that Joel Orosz does not only have a Hungarian last name, but he considers himself Hungarian.
I spent the rest of the afternoon visiting some of the mints. I wanted to touch base with them regarding accessible currency. Ok, it is not the mints who
produce banknotes, but I thought they would be the closest to it from any given country I would be able to talk with. For the most part, I came away with new
information. It was great to see Kevin Brown again at the BEP, he even called my attention to the Dollar bill signing by the BEP director.
I got to touch the new Canadian high relief coin. It was interesting to feel, a bit stretching the idea of what I thought a coin was.
On Thursday I started with Shanna Schmidt‘s table, whom I know from the Chicago Coin Club. It was great to see her, after reading her weekly newsletters.
Even though I am not going to be her ideal client, her newsletters are always interesting and useful. He does not only sell, but also educates. I would highly
recommend it to anybody, even if you are not collecting ancient coins.
Later I attended the Numismatic Literary Guild’s symposium and the NBS meeting as well. After the NBS meeting, I was trying to organize a short get-together
for the WINS members who were attending, but only two of us showed up. The third one, John Baumgart was probably getting ready for his presentation, which we
went to attend in the afternoon. He was talking about Morgan dye varieties. The kind of topic I will never be able to truly understand or appreciate without
vision, so it was particularly interesting to me to learn something new from him.
On Friday before my presentation, I decided to arrive early and attend the previous presentation as well. Great idea. It was Jamie Franki, who designed the
ANA convention medal this year, and he is also the designer of the Jefferson Nickel’s obverse. His presentation was engaging and interesting, I was a bit
worried about talking after him.
My talk was about the challenges of making currency accessible for people with visual impairments. It was great that two people from the BEP came to attend.
As I started out, all that could go wrong, went wrong. I wasn’t sure if I had the right cable, which we finally resolved. Then I could not hear the screen
reader in my ear, it was coming through the computer speaker while everything else came through the earphone. I didn’t want to spend time on figuring it out.
Then I could not exit the presenter mode, so the presentation showed differently from how I normally view it. All I could hear was the slide titles, and I had
to remember the slide content. Normally I present from another laptop, I used this one for the first time, and I didn’t tested it at home, I thought I knew how
it worked, but I would have needed 10 more minutes to get this right. Well, fortunately the presentation was my creation, though I forgot to mention some major
things, I remembered most of it by heart. After I got over the initial excitement and decided that there was nothing I can do about it other than embarrassing
myself, I just pretended that I knew what was on the slides.
The pictures I showed were of banknotes, and I brought a folder with the actual notes and I passed them around for the audience to enjoy. It was one of
those shows where people were encouraged to touch and feel the notes. I only brought banknotes which were not too difficult to replace, so I didn’t care what
would happen to them. I think the folder was going around for some 20 minutes, I hope they enjoyed the experience.
After my presentation I went to the NBS meeting which mostly consisted of an auction, then Wayne Homren talked about the e-Sylum and Len Augsburger about
the Newman Numismatic Portal. Amongst many things, I have learned that Wayne named Howard Berlin the Numismatourist. Also, I met Wayne for the first time in
I got a book at the auction, I didn’t even know this book existed, but it sounded exactly like something that’s missing from my library, the
numismatic history of Congo/Zaire.
Some more table browsing in the afternoon, mostly unsuccessful, it appeared that many people left their tables probably to see the other ones. The last
event was the International Primitive Money Society meeting. As always, Deven Kane gave an outstanding presentation about South-East Asian primitive money. I
had a chance to meet some interesting people again, including Chuck Mitton who told me about his world travels in the 60’s, when he was Hunting in Africa. I
was asking him if he knew any of the famous Hungarian hunters who’s books I grew up on, and while he didn’t, the question wasn’t all that unreasonable, as his
wife’s relatives are Hungarian.
On Saturday, I did some last minute rounds to try to meet a few people I missed, and at last I attended the Chicago Coin Club’s meeting, which was
commemorating the 100 years of the club. Tom Uram did the presentation, who is a member of the CCAC. He discussed many interesting things, including what it is
like to work with the CCAC that I was interested in.
One of the takeaways this year is the generosity of people. It was amazing to talk with many interesting people of whom I knew, but I never met them in
person. They were generously sharing their knowledge with me, or for that matter, with all people.
How about that dollar bill signed by Director Ryder? It's a star note! I never ran into the Director at the show, athough I did spot him heading to the
elevators in the Crowne Plaza while I had a bite to eat Thursday evening at the bar with Pat McBride. Did any of our readers get to meet him? Did anyone else
get a signed dollar? -Editor
To read the complete article, see:
World’s Fair of Money 2019
Wayne Homren, Editor
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