Please note that these articles are from electronic backup files and may not be exactly as the final printed versions.
If a Tree Falls in the Forest
There is a well known philosophical question that asks whether a falling tree makes a noise if no one is around to hear it. The argument dwells on the difficulty of proving whether the sound wave generated by the impact of the tree crashing into the ground actually happens if no one is there to witness the event.
Recently a big wind brought down a hundred year old spruce tree at the end of our driveway. I was working in the garage with the radio on and did not hear the crash as it fell across our driveway. This tree stood tall in our life over the 26 years that we have lived at this location. Hung on this tree was our family sign, welcoming visitors to our yard. This magnificent evergreen served as a reminder of what our acreage is known for. It is hard to describe all of the ways that this tree impacted us over the years.
The giants in our hobby sometimes fall when no one is listening. Most will have lived for many decades. Participation in our hobby usually leads to a long and fulfilling life, as evidenced by the average age of our fellow collectors. Whether anyone “hears” the giants when they fall is irrelevant as we all feel the impact of their passing. Many of these giants have published vast amounts of research or contributed to the operation of our clubs, societies and associations. Their efforts have greatly increased the enjoyment that we have experienced in our pursuit of numismatic knowledge.
Recently three “giants” have fallen, Somer James, Jerry Remick and Earl Salterio. Collectively they represent a “forest” of numismatic knowledge and dedication to our hobby. If you take a moment of silence to mourn these numismatists, you will hear the sound of thousands thanking them for their contributions to our hobby they so dearly loved.
You do not need the philosophical wisdom of Aristotle to hear the thunder generated by the falling of these numismatists and the impact of their efforts on our collecting landscape.
The Waggle Bee Dance
A waggle dance is defined as a series of patterned movements performed by a scouting bee, communicating to other bees of the colony the direction and distance of a food source or hive site. According to Gould (1974, 1975) and von Frisch (1993) for sources near the colony, a simple round dance is performed. At greater distances, a sickle dance is performed. Finally, at the furthest distances from the nest, a waggle dance is performed. The waggle dance is the most complex dance used by bees. The angle and number of waggles in the waggling run of the dance translate to direction and distance, respectively, to the food source at which the dancer had most recently foraged. Von Frisch also observed that the age of a bee is known to affect waggle speed when communicating long distances. Older bees waggle significantly more slowly than new foragers for a given forage source.
When you started collecting how did you learn where the “honey” was located? Did a numismatist guide and direct you in your collecting pursuits? Who sponsored your coin club membership? How many of the talks at the coin club influenced your numismatic interests? Have you ever wondered how new collectors wind up collecting what they do? Maybe it is up to us to influence them. After all, how are they supposed to know what they could collect if someone does not show them what is available and help them avoid the pitfalls?
How will new collectors know the benefits of attending the annual convention if we failed to promote the event and encourage them to attend? One of the most significant ways in which to grow from a coin collector to a numismatist is to attend our annual event. The convention offers educational seminars, numismatic displays and the most significant representation of numismatic dealers of any coin show held in Canada. The opportunity to learn from the serious and famous numismatists that attend every year is unsurpassed by any other event in Canada. Many organizations host special meetings and dinners at the convention to promote communication and information amongst their members and guests. The fellowship and friendship available on the bourse floor and at the events and meetings is “honey” for the hungry collector “bee”. Why not perform your own “waggle dance” and guide the collectors in your area to the nectar available at The Canadian Numismatic Association Annual Convention in Calgary this year?
From One Generation to Another
T ime stops for no man. We have all heard the expression but it had never really struck me as much as it did this past summer when a very dear friend of mine who I have known for over twenty years stayed at our home in Ireland. I hadn't seen him in over ten years but we always phoned each other and wrote regular emails. To be frank, I was startled by my friend's appearance; he really did look his age which is well over thirty years more than mine. I suppose the fact that his health wasn't great only compounded the differences in my eyes. But more than anything he looked weary - I mean bone weary. We had a great time touring Cork and the outlying region and my friend really seemed to enjoy the rest. But underneath his calm exterior he was anxious to get back to all the things he had to do… and he had a very, very long list.
You see, my friend's favourite saying is, "if I don't do it no one else will", and as a result he never delegates anything. It's not that he's power hungry. He is, however, quite a fussy perfectionistwho believes that "a job worth doing is a job worth doing well". As a result, he volunteers for every committee and eagerly accepts every job he is offered. Of course, everyone is glad that he is such a dedicated numismatist and his input is both invaluable and genuinely appreciated. Unfortunately, he has burned the candle at both ends for so long that the two ends are close to meeting. We had a heart-to-heart discussion one night where he shared his concerns with me and I offered him a suggestion which I think other "super-volunteers" should perhaps also consider… mentoring.
Have a look at your next local coin club meeting and try to guess the average age of your members. Then ask yourself, "what has our executive done to ensure that this club will still exist twenty or even ten years from now". While that might seem melodramatic, I urge you to look over old coin club directories to see just how many clubs have closed in the last twenty years. Don't take it for granted that your club will still be around twenty years from now. It takes a lot of work to successfully run a coin club and mentoring may just save a club that is on the verge of dissolving.
Mentoring is a means of unassumingly grooming a successor - even if he or she doesn't assume the mantle of Club President (or C.N.A. President for that matter) for another five years, ten years or more.
Mentoring is an ideal way for two generations of collectors to comfortably interact. Older collectors get the opportunity to teach younger collectors about the traditions of a particular local, regional or national organization. Canadian numismatics has a very respectable heritage and we all have a responsibility to ensure that those roots are never forgotten. For example, I've never met Napoleon Breton or Robert McLachlan but I am in awe of their contributions to Canadian numismatics. Similarly, the contributions of Fred Bowman, Doug Ferguson, Sheldon Carroll, Bob Willey (and many others) need to passed on to the next generation. Mentoring is a perfect vehicle for sharing the stories of our past with the future pillars of our numismatic fraternity. Experienced collectors need to inspire our future leaders now! Politicians do it and we should too!
The types of knowledge that can be passed along through mentoring are virtually limitless and they do not have to be restricted to coin club executives. For example, why not invite a less experienced collector to help you with your next research project. By teaching them proper research techniques you can ensure that our numismatic legacy is continued. Not only will they learn more about subway tokens, university scrip, error coins or whatever strikes your fancy… but I guarantee you that they will be thrilled to see their name in the by-line too. With some thoughtful tutelage, they'll hopefully gain the confidence to venture off on their own research projects some day.
Or why not share the role of Editor of your club journal with a young collector? Not only will you get the benefit of an extra pair of hands but a younger (nonjaded) viewpoint may result in a livelier, fresher publication. Anyone who has kids can tell you that they have a completely different way of looking at things than us grownups. In fact, the end-product will probably astound you. And the sharing of information does not have to be one way only. Younger collectors can teach the older generation how to use modern technology in the 'information age' and they will appreciate the opportunity to be a contributing member of your club.
However, I must add one word of caution at this point. To work successfully, both parties must freely volunteer to participate in a mentoring program. Coercing or pressuring members to take part may not only disillusion them but it might also cause them to leave your club as well. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that mentoring is a win-win-win proposition which not only benefits the individuals concerned but the organization as well.
My friend has mentored a few different people for various things since he returned to Canada and he says that not only is his workload lighter but his life his richer because of the new friendships he has formed as well. So I urge you to try mentoring for yourself.
Remember the old adage, "you will reap what you sow". Start sowing the seeds of Canada's numismatic future today!
Farmer John grew up on his Father’s farm like many farmers do. He witnessed firsthand the sweat and toil needed to grow the crops and raise the herd. After his family had grown up, got married and moved out, he started to think about the whole concept of farming. Finally, at lunch one day in the middle of swathing the crop he brought up the subject with his wife. He described to her his frustration at having to prep the soil in the spring, plant the crop and apply fertilizer and herbicides, let alone the expense. He concluded that the most effective approach was to only harvest the crop. Why bother with the rest of the process when the profit happens in those magic few weeks in the fall.
Recently a local coin dealer described his frustrations at getting one of his clients to attend our local coin club. The collector did not like the talks on areas of collecting outside his speciality. He needed to learn how to grade coins and did not feel that the club was about to educate him in this area any time soon. He was not prepared to get to know any of the other collectors, nor seek out their opinions or guidance as he was in a hurry to learn what he needed to know. He was not prepared to get close to those club members that own grading guides or own material graded by the various grading services, whether or not they would welcome the opportunity to share their experience and expertise.
Was his hesitation at discussing the subject with others and spending the time learning about grading similar to Farmer John mentioned above? Was this collector hoping to take a shortcut to success? Most of us want to get into heaven; few of us want to die. Success is seldom accomplished by taking shortcuts.
If you hope to reap a bumper crop in our hobby you are advised to follow the process developed by Numismatists over the years. They learned that you have to plant the seeds of knowledge and nurture it with hard work developed firsthand. You must sprinkle experience and understanding in the mix for good measure and allow generous amounts of time and the nourishment that comes from fellowship to be able to reap a bountiful and golden harvest.
Medallic Art in Review
T he article: Medallic Art From the Estate of Ellen Fairclough by Lewis E. Tauber (CCN May 31) was a refreshing change from the endless offerings of discussions about coins with small and large beads, high and low numerals, numbers of waterlines and of the latest NCLTs, which often dominate the numismatic columns. It was both a surprise and a treat to encounter a numismatist writing about his pleasure in discovering medallic art.
While Mr. Tauber's finding opened a new numismatic experience for him, he might be interested to know that similar happenings started other collectors along a common path for appreciation of this subject. The acquisition of an interesting group of awards to a person can lead to many pleasurable hours of research. The first inclination seems to be learning about the recipient and Mr. Tauber has taken this first step. It then becomes apparent that it was the achievements of the person or their individual importance that were the reasons why they received these recognitions.
Important achievements are often acknowledged with important awards, which if these are medallic, may be scarce, unusual or even rare. Acquisitions like the Fairclough group offer several research possibilities beyond learning about the recipient - some being: the purpose of the awards, an understanding and interpretation of their designs, the manufacture of the pieces, biographical information about the artists and an examination of the artists' other works.
In the context of medallic art, Mr. Tauber says he wonders about the relationship of the recipient to the importance of the medals. One answer is, that when important medallic art is awarded, it is often for significant accomplishments: it is likely cherished and carefully preserved by the recipient. So, in a numismatic sense, the recipient can be key to the item, but secondary to its numismatic importance. Medallic art is often created as an artistic expression or to represent a theme and so is not confined to works made for particular events, awards or recipients.
Mr Tauber asks whether medallic art is an accepted part of numismatics. Numismatics is defined as 'the science of coins and medals' and so, if the works he is referring to meet the definition of 'medal', they certainly qualify. Medallic art has been an acknowledged part of numismatics since the development of medals, in the Renaissance. If our 'science of coins and medals' accepts elongated cents, wooden nickels and Canadian Tire Coupons - can it deny medallic art?
The collectors of medallic art are most prevalent in Europe and in the U.S. where two popular areas of collecting are, thematic collecting and the specialized collecting of works by a chosen listed artist. Collections in these categories frequently contain larger size medals and plaques, which may be rare and beautifully artistic expressions of their subjects. Many specialized collections in the U.S. are formed around the works of American sculptors, but similarly, many collectors actively seek the plaques and medals of other noted artists. The Society of Medalists in the U.S. is devoted to medallic art. It has had many prominent artists produce the art-medals for its series, which is issued to members. These medals areanother source of collector interest.
While there can be no doubt that medallic art is a part of numismatics, its true devotees are best defined as 'collectors of art in a medallic form', rather than as 'medal collectors', but what matters most is that the topic of this discussion is truly worthy of being pursued for the enjoyment of the discoveries that can be made. We can thank Lewis E. Tauber for drawing our attention to this fascinating segment of our hobby.
There are many sources for information about medallic art. The following list suggests six books that will give the interested reader a perspective on the subject and illustrations of many fine examples:
Attwood, Philip, Artistic Circles
Baxter, Barbara A., The Beaux-Arts Medal in America
Gawler, Jim, Lloyd's Medals 1836 - 1989
Jones, Mark, The Art of the Medal
Kozar, Andrew, R. Tait McKenzie
Nathanson, Alan J., Thomas Simon
Get Me Joe Smith
They say there are five stages in an actor's career:
1. Who's Joe Smith?
2. GET ME Joe Smith!!!
3. Get me a Joe Smith type.
4. Get me a young Joe Smith.
5. Who's Joe Smith?
If you're really lucky, an actor might make a sixth stage.
6. Hey, isn't that that guy?
Educators claim that there are four levels of knowledge
1. Unconsciously incompetent (you do not know what you do not know)
2. Consciously incompetent (you know that you do not know enough)
3. Consciously competent (you are aware that you know)
4. Unconsciously competent (your knowledge is second nature)
Coin buyers experience different stages during their collecting phase
1. Buy a neat item
2. Buy the right neat item
3. Buy the right neat item at the right price
4. Buy the neatest item at the best price as a result of your knowledge
Put it all together and you get the many stages of a numismatists life:
1. Collected first coin.
2. Expanded collection of coins.
3. Purchased coin catalogue
4. Learned from numismatist.
5. Searched for missing dates.
6. Went to coin club meeting.
7. Subscribed to Canadian Coin News.
8. Attended coin show.
9. Joined the C.N.A.
10. Developed numismatic friendship.
11. Volunteered time and effort.
12. Read numismatic book, monograph or journal.
13. Registered for C.N.A. Convention.
14. Attended education seminar.
15. Prepared numismatic exhibit.
16. Researched and wrote article.
17. Served on a coin club executive.
18. Discovered a variety.
19. Cherry picked dealer’s inventory.
20. Taught new coin collector.
21. Recognized by fellow collectors.
22. Became a numismatist.
23. Received the J. Douglas Ferguson Award
“Get Me (your name could go here)”
Turning Left and Backing Up
About 30 years ago I read an editorial in a motorcycle magazine that focussed on the dangers of making a left hand turn. The writer used the first 90% of the column to describe the many accidents his friends and acquaintances had that were the fault of automobile drivers. His premise is that a motorcycle is nearly invisible to oncoming left turning vehicles and as a result - it is best to drive accordingly. His long list of examples was meant to emphasize that it is not a question of ‘if’ his readers will ever be involved in an accident but a matter of ‘when’.
I could fill up all of the pages of this issue of The CN Journal with horror stories of ‘data accidents’. I remember too well the anger experienced by the lady in the computer shop the day she came in with a dead hard drive. Needless to say, she did not have any of her files backed up. The loss of one’s files is so traumatic that the data recovery firms often employ grief counsellors. Some information might not even be available anymore. Email, often times, can not be recreated, not unlike the loss of letters in a fire.
Data loss can also occur through infection by computer viruses. Once a system is infected it may be difficult or time consuming to remove the source of the problem without having to resort to a complete format. The security options in the Windows NTFS file system can severely impact the options for data recovery. The homepage highjacker spyware making the rounds today are difficult to remove. The various backup programs can compress your data into difficult to read file formats that could require replacement of defective hardware before your information can be retrieved and recreated.
Whether you use floppies, flash memory USB drives, CDR, CDRW, DVDR, DVDRW, magnetic media or offline storage, please remember that like the motorcyclist, it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ you will lose data. You only have to archive the data that you do not want to lose. You only have to back up the files that are difficult or time consuming to recreate.
Do it today and remember to do it often!
I am not sure if you know my friends even though we have been ‘buds’ for a really long time. Over the years I have always relied on them to behave in a professional and courteous manner. They have always surprised me with their creativity and innovative ideas. They make every effort to satisfy all of the people all of the time. Most of their customers look to them for their quality products time and time again. I am truly optimistic that the future is bright for these wonderful people.
I am concerned that they are the “Rodney Dangerfield” of our hobby. They rarely get the respect they deserve. Their actions seemed to under the microscope of every collector, dealer, and reporter. Regardless of how many successful campaigns or product launches are produced the slightest misstep and everyone cries out vehemently.
Don’t get me started on the nerve of people when they hold my friends accountable for the fickle nature of the secondary market. What makes their critics think anyone should be responsible for whether an item increases or decreases in value over time is beyond me. If these pundits had their way each item would have a mintage of one. Producing a single specimen of each item might guarantee these detractors a profit. Lord knows what the grandparents would be forced to purchase for their loved ones should the choices be restricted in this manner.
I often wonder whether these “experts” will ever understand the gift market. I truly believe that an exceptionally well made item, attractively packaged and professionally marketed will always satisfy a gift giver and recipient far better than some dull, worn, and dipped decimal coin with a boring design. Bright and shiny will always win out over rarity if the goal of the giver is to create that “gasp” when a present is first opened.
If you want a guaranteed return on your investment then buy a term certificate or other fixed rate deposit vehicle. Most coins do not really increase in value over the years, especially if inflation is taken into account. The real value, of course, is the thrill of the hunt, the joy of learning, and the friendship of other numismatists.
Why not give the benefit of the doubt to my friends at the Royal Canadian Mint and respect their efforts at all they have done for our hobby. They deserve it!
I met Pete while working at the pulp mill in Grande Prairie, Alberta. We traveled to work together and got to know each other well. In the winter we would plan our four wheel drive adventures for the next summer. The winters in the Peace River farming district can get quite cold and in the days before the internet and cable TV people were forced to find indoor activities to pass the time. A group of us guys would get together and play ping pong on those long, cold winter days. It was a lot of fun, even though we were not as good as Forest Gump.
If you have ever played ping pong, you have probably wanted to hit the ball with some extra spin on it assuming that smashing the ball back to your opponent will win the point. Simply returning the ball to your opponent’s side of the table, each and every time, will more likely result in success than anything else. Getting creative usually leads to failure and not to success. Pete taught me not to defeat myself but rather to let my opponent make the mistakes and defeat themselves. In baseball, greater success is achieved by consistently hitting singles and doubles than is achieved by trying to hit home runs and striking out.
These ideas apply to the hobby of coin collecting. Collectors should consistently follow each and every auction, comb through dealer advertisements in the Canadian Coin News, and work the bourse floor at the local club meetings, major shows and the annual C.N.A. Convention to broaden their exposure to the availability of rare coins. Regular communication with dealers, fellow collectors and local coin club members will keep you informed. Membership in other clubs and regional or national organizations will expose you to new ideas. Keep your eye on the ball! You must develop your abilities and skill sets if your goal is to “win the game” of assembling a fine and noteworthy collection. The buyer that attempts a big score by driving up the price on a single or a few items at one sale will never succeed as well as the disciplined numismatist.
The key to success in our hobby is the growth of your associations with other collectors and dealers and the friendships that you form. Contacts are developed by attending local club meetings, national conventions and educational seminars and by writing, contributing or volunteering. Friendships take time to develop do not grow overnight from a single event or discussion. Consistency of actions, reasonable behaviour and time served are the keys to building collections and friendships that score points toward winning in our hobby, no different than in life, in baseball and in ping pong.
The Nineteenth James Bond
While researching the first volume of The Canadian Numismatic Journal of 1956, I was amazed at the efforts and dedication of the founding members of the Canadian Numismatic Association. Reading about when the C.N.A was young is interesting and fascinating. I wish I owned a time machine and could attend those early meetings and conventions. Where would our association be today without the commitment and dedication of member number 1 and all of the great numismatists that followed?
Ian Fleming, in his fictionalization of the “licensed to kill” agents of the British Secret Service, identified top spies by number only, with a double zero prefix. You could draw a parallel between that numbering system and the membership numbers of the founding members of our numismatic organizations. Maybe the first ten, or so, members of the C.N.A., C.P.M.S., C.N.R.S, C.A.T.C., A.N.F.C., C.A.N.D., C.A.W.M.C., C.M.N.S. and the O.N.A., to name a few, are like the top spies in the novels about James Bond. Both groups root out evil, serve Queen and country and generally save the day. The comparison is incomplete as I am unaware of the success with the members of the opposite gender that these pioneering numismatists enjoyed and whether their martinis were shaken or stirred.
Recently, I needed to look up Chris Boyer’s membership number for use in the table of contents page for the November issue of The CN Journal. I thought it would be fun to try to memorize his membership number by associating it with something or someone that reminded me of him. When I think of his many outstanding contributions to Canadian numismatics and how he has served so many young collectors, his ability to hunt down details, make a killing (on the bourse floor), root out the evil of ignorance and his talent for quick decisive action; it reminds me of James Bond agent 007. After reading his fine article Mountie Money I could not help but wonder if he is an agent for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or at the very least, their best known numismatic secret agent. While Chris may have the same screen presence as Sean Connery or some of the other actors who have played 007, you could say that he would, at least, come in nineteenth place. To me, he’s agent 19007.