I have an idea: American Numismatic Association members should vote early and often! Particularly the “often” part. We need more votes. Just kidding, of course.
In all past ANA elections the winner has been “apathy,” and by a landslide. In the recent election for 2013-2015 officers and board members for two-year terms, only 5,542 members voted of the 20,273 eligible to do so. Members had to be 13 years old and on the roster for at least a year as of last March 31. This is probably a good idea. In the 1909 election rigged by the rascally Farran Zerbe, outgoing president, he dreamed up the idea of awarding a lot of six-month memberships to get more votes for his pet candidate, who won easily.
In this year’s ANA election the winning governor who got the least votes needed just 2,569 votes to win. In looking back, I wrote 18 years ago in August 1995 about the election that year. The least-vote winner drew only 1,508 votes out of about 26,000 members, most of whom were eligible. When writing that column I inquired and found that only about 12 percent of Coin World readers belonged to the ANA. That meant that fewer than 1 in 50 Coin World readers voted back then.
In reviewing the election of 2009, just four years ago, I was pained to remember that 29,299 ballots were sent. What a loss our association has had in membership since that time, despite a lot of people trying to build the numbers. Back then 8,479 ballots were returned, still a poor percentagewise turnout. What will the 2015 election be like? Just 3,000 voters? I hope not.
Voter apathy has been the case since day one with the ANA. If it is any comfort, the American Philatelic Society, our sister group in stamps, has an even worse situation. In its 2009 election, only 3,896 out of 37,234 members cast ballots. To be fair, nonvoting is probably due in large part to the fact that the average member has never personally met or corresponded with the candidates.
The much larger problem is the fall-off in membership. I attribute this not to the ANA, but to the Internet. One can become nearly fully absorbed in the hobby without belonging to the ANA, without owning any books, without reading this column. How much they are missing! The predicament is easily defined. What to do? This is something for all of us to think about.
Q. David Bowers is chairman emeritus of Stack’s Bowers Galleries and numismatic director of Whitman Publishing LLC. He can be reached at his private email, firstname.lastname@example.org,
or at Q. David Bowers LLC, Box 1804, Wolfeboro, NH 03894.