Why the ANA–And Its Leadership–Matters

In my previous post, I made the case that the most important group of people in numismatics is the collectors.  Dealers, grading services, publishers, scholars and researchers, etc. are all there because of the collectors, and they make their living by adding value to collectors’ pursuit of the hobby.

It’s important to remember that the groups are not distinct.  Many of us will fulfill more than one of these roles in our lives.  And even the most hard core collector has a little bit of the scholar, the dealer, and the investor in him.  The reverse is true too.  Most dealers collect something or even many different somethings, and I know a number who also have written books.

Many dealers, in fact, are primarily collectors, and they still have the collector mindset.  They are the sort who would make you say “he’s a very successful dealer, but he is still a collector at heart.”  [And I’ve come to conclude that that situation is rarely a coincidence.]  I think of these worthies as collector-dealers.

So with that necessary clarification out of the way, let’s talk a bit about organizations.

The ANA–the American Numismatic Association–is important because it is the national organization that focuses on the collector.  There are organizations out there that serve the dealers and the scholars, and they are definitely worthwhile organizations.  But the ANA is for us.

And since it is for us, we collectors need to play a very large role in running the ANA.

I used to take the stance that the ANA should be run entirely by pure collectors, and I was suspicious of dealers running for the Board of Governors.  I know now this was a mistake, because the ANA functions in many ways like a large business, and at least some of the people on the board need to know how to manage one.  An all-collector, no dealer board can be an invitation to disaster.  Fortunately we have a ready-made stock of trained businessmen in numismatics.  But I still insist that they have that collector orientation.  In other words, I want to see collector-dealers as I described them above, making up a large proportion of the ANA Board of Governors.

It’s easy, by the way, to tell that someone is a dealer–unless they are utter fools or have an extremely selective clientele they will go out of their way to publicize it.  It’s harder to tell if they are really collector-dealers.  That’s a “read” best made if you know the individual really well; you can tell whether they are more enthusiastic about the material they handle, or the deals they make.

But by that logic, shouldn’t the entire board be collector-dealers?  No.  I said the ANA functions in many ways like a large business.  But there are many ways that it does not, and should not.  It’s a non-profit and it is here to serve collectors and help the hobby grow.  So sometimes it needs to spend money on things that don’t have a good rate of return.  And it should pass up some money making opportunities for the opposite reason, refusing to grub for money in ways that demean or undercut itself, the hobby, its benefactors, its members, and so on.

The long-time treasurer of the ANA, the late Adna Wilde (whose big interest that I know of was Lesher Referendum Dollars–yes he was definitely one of us) would often admonish the ANA board to “remember the member.”  I’d go so far as to say that really means “remember the collector” though that doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so well.

I think we want a balanced mix.  We want able people, all of them collectors, some of them scholars, and some of them successful businessmen, and all of them dedicated to the success of the ANA and the hobby, on the ANA Board of Governors.


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