Category Archives: ANA Board of Governors

The ANA Election is over!

The election is over!  And I am surprised by a few of the results.

In descending order of number of votes, the winners are Gary Adkins, Scott Rottinghouse, Ralph Ross, Mike Ellis, Greg Lyon, Jeff Swindling, and Laura Sperber.

The losers, again in order of number of votes received, are Tom Mulvaney, William Hyder, Oded Paz, Scott Barman, me, Jeff Wuller, and Richard Jozefiak.

My first time out I basically gave myself one chance in three of winning–I am not that well known outside of exhibiting (if only the exhibiting community could vote, I’d probably have been a shoo-in).   Still I hoped for better than 12th place.  (I have some theories on what I could have done better–lessons learned.)

What’s more interesting though, is that for all the fuss and fury over the entire board needing to be fired because Jeff Shevlin was let go as ANA executive director… not a single one of the four governor incumbents lost.  And the most vocally pro-Shevlin people all lost.  The new governors are Ralph Ross, Jeff Swindling, and Laura Sperber.

This election was a far cry from the Insurrection of 2007 (as I call it) where every incumbent who had opposition lost.  Every single governor was either new, or someone who had last been governor years before.

The only person who did win who plans to try to shake things up (and hard) was Laura Sperber, and if she has a “trademark” cause, it is coin doctoring.  That’s a good one, in my opinion.  (Notice, though, that it’s not a personal politics cause; it’s an issue that affects everyone in their collecting.)

New Orleans and the Candidate Forum

New Orleans ANA is now a part of history.  This big event for me was of course the Candidate Forum for candidates running for the ANA Board of Governors.

Jeff Garret (running unopposed for the Vice President job) and Richard Josefiak (another candidate for governor) were not present, but the other thirteen candidates for governor were all there.   If you want to watch it, it can be found here, all three hours of it.

A couple of things struck me as the forum went on.  One is that there were a couple of candidates who struck me as loose cannon.  Another is that some of the candidates have an axe to grind, in particular with regard to the “firing” of Jeff Shevlin.

As I’ve said in the past we do not know and cannot know and cannot be told everything that went into this decision.  Whether or not it was justified, the ANA would be sued simply for letting the information get out.  The ANA is already being sued for slander because of rumors circulating as to why Larry Sheppard was terminated.

It is entirely possible that the folks defending Jeff Shevlin are completely right and that he was doing a wonderful job and got railroaded.  But they are wrong to assume that this is the case based on their friendship with Mr. Shevlin.  I personally have heard one side of the story (Mr. Shevlin’s), and although it does sound appalling, it would be wrong for me to jump to a conclusion without hearing both sides.  When one serves on the ANA Board, one has to leave one’s prejudices, personal preferences, and preconceptions outside the door.  A lot is at stake in running an organization of this size and we don’t need loose cannon or people with an axe to grind getting onto this board.

(However, let me praise them too:  Unlike so many people who stand on the sidelines and throw darts at the ANA Board, they are willing to get involved.)

I believe we need a board that will try to figure out what has gone wrong with the executive director recruitment process and day to day performance once hired.  I am sure that whatever the answer to these questions is I won’t like it.  I won’t like it because I happen to like just about everyone involved.  Someone will come out of this looking really really bad, and I don’t imagine it will be anyone I could even guess at today, much less my preconceived notion.

On second thought there is a place for someone with an axe to grind on the board.  I do have an axe to grind, myself.  But my axe is the good of the ANA.  I want to do this because I want to leave the ANA a better organization than when I started.  The ANA does a lot for collectors, and the more serious the collector the more it does.  My reward for my service will, if I have anything to say about it, a better ANA.

And In With The New!

Well that was fast!

Instead of a months-long process of searching for a replacement executive director, while someone like Ed Rochette or Ken Hallenbeck serves as Interim Executive director, more than likely with Kim Kiick as the assistant ED, the Board simply hired Kim directly into the job, just like that.  No “interim” this or “assistant” that.  (I suspect they’d already had this in mind as a contingency plan.)  Congratulations, Kim!

Ms. Kiick (pronounced as if it had only one “i”) certainly should know by now what the job entails. She has had some relevant experience already, and of course the headquarters staff already knows her and vice versa.  So in many ways this looks very promising; one can hope that the right person for the job will turn out to have been under our noses all along.  Only time will tell.

I’ve met Kim quite a number of times at ANA shows (and I even bumped into her once in “real life” just from living in the same city), but I can’t really claim to know her all that well, certainly not well enough to personally judge her ability to do the job (and I won’t make the mistake some do of assuming that just because I like someone, they can do the job).  But the current board no doubt knows her very well, and (like I said before) she does have relevant experience.  I am cautiously optimistic.

Here is hoping the third time (fourth? fifth? Was Chris “Buffalo” Cipoletti number 3 or number 4?  I’ve lost count.  And should we also count interim EDs?) is the charm.

I hope Kim succeeds spectacularly.

Another Executive Director, Gone.

I just returned from the Central States convention, and it was there at about noon on Friday that I found out that the ANA has again let an Executive Director go.  Jeff Shevlin’s contract will not be renewed in June.  I was stunned.

Several times at the convention, someone asked me if I knew anything about the reasons, and I had to tell them (truthfully) that I don’t know.  I may be a candidate for the Board of Governors, but that doesn’t make me privy to the decision making process.  Only actually being on the BoG would give me that access.

Here is the extent of my knowledge–if you can consider rumors to be knowledge (I wouldn’t):  Rumor has it that it wasn’t anything remotely scandalous or criminal, it really was just a case of ‘poor fit for the job’ and/or ‘didn’t see eye to eye with the Board on what the ANA should be doing.’ (Those phrasings are mine, not someone else’s; I used the single quotes to delimit them from the rest of the sentence.)

There have been demands from some quarters that the ANA explain in more detail why Jeff Shevlin was let go.  Good luck with that.  Unfortunately for concepts of openness, employment law in the US is in such a state that vague generalities are all we are likely to get; anything more leaves the ANA open to lawsuits for defamation of character on top of the almost ritualistic wrongful termination lawsuit.

Alas, this means that I cannot promise that if I am elected to the Board, and we have to let someone go, that I will be open about the real reasons.  Sorry.  By the same token, though, anyone who does make such a promise doesn’t know what they are talking about.

Unfortunately you, as an ANA member, have to be satisfied with electing Board members that you trust to make the right decision, even when they can’t tell you everything they know.

I know enough of the people on this board to give them that trust.  I doubt that they blundered specifically in letting Mr. Shevlin go.  There was a real problem here.  On the other hand, it’s certainly possible that the problem was the board’s responsibility.  Perhaps they didn’t define the job well enough; perhaps they didn’t define policy well enough.  Or any of a dozen other possibilities.  Or (going back to the first hand), perhaps none of them.  At this point we simply don’t know.  But I do know that I can’t see the BoG doing this for capricious reasons.

One argument I’ve heard that doesn’t hold water, is that because Jeff Shevlin is a stellar individual dedicated to the hobby, the Board was wrong to dismiss him.  I will without reservation grant the premise; I don’t know Mr. Shevlin that well, but I’ve heard nothing but good about him on all those measures.  But the conclusion doesn’t follow; those qualities do not mean he’s cut out to be an executive director.

So let’s cut out all the posturing–blaming Mr. Shevlin, blaming the Board, blaming the organizational structure, even blaming the ANA Staff–and do the only rational thing.  Let’s figure out what actually happened, and take steps to prevent it from happening again.  This will require an ANA Board full of people dedicated to the good of the ANA, willing to face some potentially unpleasant truths, so long as doing so will help the ANA.

Something went wrong. And whatever that something is, it needs to be fixed.  And I, as an ANA Governor, won’t be satisfied with a band-aid.  I will want a fix that stays fixed.  We have seen too many executive directors come and go; this has to end.  That means a thorough understanding of what the problem is.  Not just with this instance, but the previous executive director.  And the one before him.  And the one before him.  And I don’t have that yet.  If elected I will to talk to absolutely everyone with so much as a shred of insight into any organizational “inside” problems the ANA has, to try to figure out what they are.  Or any mistakes we made in recruiting the Executive Directors in the past.  Or… well, whatever it may be.  The possibilities are legion; I could list a few (and I did, and then I deleted them) and it would be a stroke of luck if I actually named a genuine issue (which is why I deleted them).

Whatever it is, we must fix the root cause.  Or causes.  Even if the next Executive Director is chosen before the new Board takes office, this will be useful information; depending on what it is, perhaps we can make needed (and likely painful) changes and save a directorship that would otherwise fail.



I Am Running For The ANA Board Of Governors

I have decided to toss my hat in the ring and run for the ANA Board of Governors.

In 2007 I breathed a huge sigh of relief as I saw that the membership of the ANA wanted a change, and I was pleased to see the next three Boards do an excellent job of giving us that change. We now have a financially and organizationally stable Association whereas before we had one teetering on the brink of disaster. Now is the time to decide where we go from here and who will lead the ANA as it prepares for the future.  I believe I have much to offer in that regard.

You probably have two questions uppermost in your mind as your read this: Who am I, and what do I plan to do if elected? I’ll take them in the opposite order, starting with my plans.

Preserve the gains of the last six years.  Many of the leaders who pulled us back from the brink are no longer serving on the Board and many incumbents have chosen to stand down this year. They have done fabulous work under trying circumstances fixing the ANA, and they have earned a rest. They–and you–also deserve to know that their successors intend to preserve what they have done, and I am committed to doing so. If I am elected to the Board I will do my utmost to ensure that the ANA stays fixed. One thing I bring to the table that will help is that I live near the ANA headquarters, and can serve as the Board’s “man on the spot” should it ever be necessary.

Many challenges ahead.  The ANA needs to stay fixed because it must now face up to the future from a position of strength. Our hobby is undergoing many challenges right now, and many of them will only get worse.

Preparing for a (nearly) cashless society.  Cash is used less and less frequently and many claim it’s going to become irrelevant in much the same way we are watching happen to stamps, the other great government-produced collectible. I don’t believe cash will ever disappear but usage might decline precipitously, so that we will have low mintages even in good economic years. We will have to make extra efforts to inspire an interest in coins and paper money, and of course that will involve education, the core mission of the ANA.

Education must move to the internet.  The education itself will have to take forms new to many of us born before the age of the internet. The ANA is making great strides with its website, and the current envisioned upgrades to it will probably be completed in the upcoming term. But that will not mean the job is done; the internet–and people’s expectations of it–is constantly evolving. The actual task of upgrading the website will never be complete because the target is moving. And we should put more and more of our informational resources on the internet, including the library and museum.

The increasing threat of fakes.  Another challenge we face as numismatists is the increasing number and quality of fakes. Now you cannot even take a third party holder (“slab”) as assurance that a coin is genuine, as the holders are also being faked. The monthly column in The Numismatist is an important tool but it is not nearly enough. We should be putting far more information about these fakes online, both common techniques for making fakes, and the diagnostics for specific fakes, searchable by date and denomination.  This too is an effort that won’t ever be completed—in fact it will be difficult not to fall further behind–because the fakers continue to produce more fakes.

It is fortunate we have a healthy organization that can now apply itself to these and other challenges of the future, because there is a lot of work to be done.

Now on to who I am. I started collecting at the age of 6, taking cents out of circulation and pressing them into those blue folders. I graduated to larger denominations and foreign coins, and started buying coins to fill holes. I attended the first ANA spring show in 1978, held in an ice rink complete with the ice. (Many of the coins had frosty luster.) I went through the common period of disinterest in coin collecting going through college and the first years of my software engineering career, but then I returned to the hobby with a vengeance, collecting 20th century US and then Russian Imperial (1700-1917) coinage. I also served as president of both of the local clubs, and secretary of one of them, and did many years of work with the Colorado Springs coin show.

ANA Involvement.  Eventually I focused exclusively on Russian Imperial, and began exhibiting at ANA shows in 1998, racking up ten class wins, three bronze medals as second runner up for Best of Show, and finally three Howland Wood Best of Show awards in a row at World’s Fair of Money shows (2005-07) and additional awards at National Money Shows, all with Russian Imperial coinage, before retiring from “hard core” exhibiting in 2007. My collecting focus began to change back towards US Type and ancient coins at this time. I started judging exhibits in 2006, and have served as assistant chief judge once. In 2007 I joined the ANA’s Exhibits and Awards advisory committee. In 2009 I was appointed chair of that committee and have served in that capacity since. I am still judging and setting up the occasional exhibit, usually non-competitively, as one way of contributing to the ANA’s educational mission.

I’ve also endowed the National Money Show’s Best of Show award–quite a turn for the youngster who attended the first of those shows, agog at the cornucopia of coins and paper money, while shivering from the cold of an operating ice rink. Little did he know that someday his name would be on the top exhibit award for that show.

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.