Help set the ANA's agenda

Posted on 5/1/2007

For the benefit of its members, ANA presidential candidate Barry Stupler lays out his plans and goals for the organization

By Barry Stuppler, candidate for ANA president
With contributions by Patti Finner, candidate for ANA vice president, and candidates for ANA governor Arthur Fitts, Alan Herbert, Don Kagin, Carl Schwenker, and Wendell Wolka

If you are a member of the American Numismatic Association (ANA), I want your help in setting the agenda for my 2-year presidential term, which starts August 12th 2007. Since I (along with candidate for VP Patti Finner) am running unopposed, I feel a heavy responsibility to be totally prepared and make every day of my term count.

There has never been a more favorable time in which to build our association. News coverage of the gold and silver markets, the US Mint's advertising programs, and rare coins for sale on TV and the Internet are helping to create hundreds of thousands of new collectors. Despite this, the perception of many members is that the ANA continues to move at glacier speed. Well, apparently even glaciers are moving faster these days. With your help in shaping our agenda, the ANA's new board of governors will hit the ground running.

In the seven years that I've served on board, I've heard many wonderful ideas for the ANA to be more successful.

But, what is success?

  1. Balance the budget and don't touch the endowment?
  2. Increase membership to 50,000?
  3. Expand our educational programs to all of the nation's schools?
  4. Establish museums with numismatic seminars on both coasts?
  5. Improve benefits, communication, and disclosure for current members?
  6. Help ANA clubs revitalize themselves so that they grow rather than shrink?

I believe the answer is ALL OF THE ABOVE. I'm not a miracle worker, but I believe that focusing on programs and initiatives that provide benefits to current and new members, while increasing our revenue, is the key. I have, in concert with others, developed some ways to accomplish this task. I would appreciate your feedback on the following ideas/proposals/directions, presented here in brief form, with few details. What I'm requesting from the ANA membership is input. For example, you could rate each with an A, B, C, or D, as follows (info on how to reach me is at the end, and of course I'd appreciate any other form of feedback you provide):

  1. It's a great concept, please work out the details and give it a high priority.
  2. I like the general idea but would need to see more details.
  3. I have the following concerns about this idea:
  4. It's a terrible idea and here's why:

1. TRANSPARENCY
As my first official action after being installed as ANA President, I intend to ask the Board of Governors to eliminate confidential ethics hearings. Passage of this motion would change ANA bylaws to require the board to open all breach-of-ethics hearings — whether the alleged unethical act is by a member of the Board of Governors, a member dealer, or a regular ANA member — to ANA members and the media. Of course the board could decide privately if there were sufficient grounds to hold a hearing, so as not to needlessly expose someone baselessly accused of breach of ethics to adverse publicity. When there are grounds for a hearing, I feel the membership is entitled to hear the charges, the defense, the facts as determined by the board, and the board's decision.

Alan Herbert, a candidate for re-election to the Board of Governors who has done an outstanding job in his current term and whom I hope to continue working with on the new board, broadens the quest for transparency as follows:

"We need to convince members that they need to attend board meetings, because the topics under discussion are ones that are vital to the entire membership. In the past board meetings have been notorious for a lack of member attendance, so we need to bend every effort to increasing attendance. As a board member I welcome an audience that often has important suggestions to make on the topics being discussed. I would much rather hear from dozens of members rather than try to guess what they want. The website has for the first time drawn significant numbers of responses that are of substantial value to the board members."

2. MEMBERSHIP
Create an annual membership month, with incentives and recognition for members, dealers, and clubs.

Arthur Fitts, a past ANA Governor and an outstanding candidate for ANA Governor whom I look forward to continue working with, adds,

"I like the thought of having a ‘membership month.' It will take some refinement, but the concept is good. Maybe every member who signs up a new member gets a $1 off his dues for each new one (and a Life Member can donate his $1 to a club membership or to an YN pool.)"

3. CONVENTIONS
For years the ANA Spring National Money Show and the Summer World's Fair of Money have had three major problems. First: No efficient way for members and other attendees to find numismatic material they seek. Second: Early departure by major dealers, leaving the front of the bourse floor virtually empty by the final day of the show. Third: the star system, which gives multiple tables at the front of the bourse floor to the same major dealers. To change this,

A. Install a computer kiosk with numismatic location software. Place user-friendly, touch-screen monitors at the front of the convention floor, enabling attendees to easily locate numismatic material. All bourse dealers and auctioneers would be provided with software to download their inventories into the system during dealer setup.

B. Build a clear glass pavilion in the center of the bourse floor (similar in concept to luxury boxes at sports arenas) equipped with up to 40 extra-large tables, with safes, carpeting, comfortable chairs, Internet access, and a concierge service. Major dealers with the highest star-count could have up to four tables in the pavilion, at a substantially higher price, and would be allowed to leave the convention whenever they wish. These same major dealers would be allowed one table at the front of the room if they agreed to fully man it to the end of the show, thus maintaining their presence while freeing up space in the front of the room for smaller dealers.

Arthur Fitts has some thoughts about this proposal as well. Here are excerpts:

"I have often gone to a show and wondered where I might find a thing or three for my personal collection....There would have to be a number of such kiosks (people will monopolize them), and dealers may need to be educated (some of us do not have computerized inventories)...But doing something like this could be beneficial to the collector.

"...I have difficulty grasping the ‘fish bowl' concept. I am fortunate to be very near the front already, and I do stay until the last shot is fired. You have not addressed the star system here...I have no beef with it, though your preamble suggests that you do....Might an early departing dealer be asked to help (physically, financially, whatever) a dealer from the back of the room move forward to the soon to be vacated space?"

Wendell Wolka, well known by many numismatists as the ANA's exhibits chairperson and a candidate who I believe would be an outstanding governor, adds another dimension to the conventions discussion:

"I still firmly believe that consolidation of classes is an appropriate thing to do. Many of the proposed new classes will foster more competition with a broader range of materials used. A clear accounting of the funding for each class is critical to making appropriate decisions. I would also suggest that all classes be placed on perhaps a 3-year probation period. If few or no exhibits show up, then we may elect to pull the exhibit class. This puts the onus on the sponsoring organizations and individuals to encourage more competitive exhibits in their special areas."

4. PRESS RELEASES AND COMMUNICATIONS
So that the ANA speaks in a consistent way, with one voice, all press releases, no matter what part of the association initiates them, are to be issued by the communications director, with the approval of the executive director and of the board member who chairs the appropriate committee. If the release involves a matter of policy, a major change to an existing program, or a new program, it must be approved by the board.

5. JOINT VENTURES

A. Sponsor a joint venture with the US Mint to publicize National Coin Week. Propose to jointly design, print, and distribute a brochure that shares the fun of collecting classic to modern US coins and describes the many ANA programs for collectors. This brochure could be mailed to the entire US Mint mailing list and bulk mailed to ANA clubs and dealers for distribution to the public during the 2008 National Coin Week.

B. As Patti Finner (who has brought numismatics to scouts for years) has suggested, approach the Boy Scouts of America and propose co-sponsoring the minting of US and Canadian coins for the organization's 100th Anniversary (2010); same for the centennial of the Girl Scouts of America (2012). Engage the scouts in contests for the design, pursuit of coin collecting merit badges, etc.

6. ENTERPRISE (ANA MONEY MARKET STORE)
Offer members Money Market gift certificates at a discount. Dealers would be permitted to resell them for a small profit, and members could use them as gifts for fellow numismatists. Create an eBay store for ANA products.

7. ANA CLUBS
Create an ANA club presidents' chat room: a place to share ideas for increasing the membership, helping the ANA grow, and encouraging numismatics in their communities.

Here is another Patti Finner initiative: Replace the Club Rep program with an ANA Club Network. What works best for your club:

  • Quarterly newsletter via email?
  • Regional meetings in addition to ANA conventions?
  • Scrapbook to "brag" about your club?
  • Website — clubrep.org — for info sharing by district reps and/or club reps?
  • Online calendar listing club shows/special events.?
  • All of the above?

8. AWARDS
Establish an annual award for the "Internet Collector of the Year" to help attract the tens of thousands (and growing) of registry collectors and others who display their collections and spend time on numismatic websites to join the ANA.

9. EDUCATION
As part of our Coins in the Classroom programs, ask the teachers to videotape a 60-90 second vignette tying a specific coin to a historic event. Aim the presentation at 8- to 12-year-old coin collectors or potential collectors. Use the videotape for viewing in classrooms and/or on the ANA website.

Don Kagin, also a candidate for re-election to the Board of Governors, sent a response on education that, although concise, goes beyond that subject:

"In spite of recent challenges, the ANA has made significant progress in advancing our mission of numismatic education including:

  1. Free club membership sponsored by local dealers for those attending ANA shows.
  2. Increased "Coins in the Classroom" and more educational opportunities.
  3. Internal oversight and auditing of ANA operations and using outside council to eliminate conflicts of interest.
  4. Raising $4.5M through commemorative coin program toward establishment of the San Francisco Money Museum. "We can and will do a better job. I advocate:
  5. Frequent, transparent membership communication.
  6. Open board meetings unless essential for awards or contracts.
  7. Website to host a chat room for club presidents.
  8. Monthly email and column in Numismatist from our Executive Director on areas that effect our membership.
  9. Realistic 3 year plan to cut the operating deficit in half, Identify and limit operational programs by earmarking endowment income to cover them based on MEMBERSHIP input."

Based on the excellent work he has done in his current term as governor, Don Kagin certainly has my vote.

10. ANA ENDOWMENT
In the seven years I have been on the board the ANA has invested the majority of its endowment in the US stock market. Under management by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., this investment strategy has resulted in good performance. However, with major US stock indexes now at or close to all-time highs, I believe that the prudence dictates switching our endowment primarily to AAA quality bonds and similar highly secure interest-yielding financial instruments.

Here's are excerpts from an opposing viewpoint by candidate for the Board of Governors Carl Schwenker:

"[Converting] the equity in the investment portion of the ANA's endowment into AAA bonds...caps the income of the endowment below that needed to fund current and new programs products and services....AAA quality bonds are paying between 4 and 5 % interest. Stocks historically have returned between 8 and 10% annually. If we continue to reinvest 3 to 5% of that income back into the endowment it will continue to grow at or above inflation and maintain its financial muscle. If we use the remaining 5 to 7% to fund programs, services, and educational outreach we can really make a difference in the ANA without taping into the endowment. The endowment is...divided into two major sectors. One is stock in the Ben E. Keith Company, which has been received and continues to be received through a very gracious inheritance. The other is a professionally managed investment portfolio (balanced stocks in large cap, mid cap and small cap companies, bonds, international stocks and bonds and other investment vehicles) designed to maximize return while minimizing risk. Some of the investment strategies and tactics that are used to increase ANA income...may be debated but the overall policy of how the endowment is invested must be maintained."

Although he certainly does not agree with me about how to invest the endowment, Carl Schwenker is a thinker and a doer who will help advance the ANA, and I'm voting for him.

Please send your feedback to me at barry@stuppler.com or fax to 818-594-8599 or mail your guidance to Barry Stuppler, 5855 Topanga Canyon Blvd., Suite 330, Woodland Hills, CA, 91367. Thank you.