US Coins

CSNS institutes exhibits fee at next convention

Exhibits are a major feature of the annual convention of the Central States Numismatic Society. Changes to be introduced at the 2019 show are causing some controversy.

Coin World file photo.

Collectors planning to place exhibits during the Central States Numismatic Society’s 80th Anniversary Convention April 24 to 27 at the Schaumburg Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois, will be required, for the first time, to pay a $75 application fee per exhibit.

Potential exhibitors are also being encouraged to book a room from the CSNS guaranteed block of reserved rooms for the convention. If all of the rooms in the block are not reserved, CSNS must make up the shortfall.

The organization’s “pay to display” stance is not sitting well with some past exhibitors who received the CSNS application fee edict, one of whom called the move “reprehensible.” Some exhibitors believe the fee will result in some exhibitors bypassing the convention and not mounting an exhibit. Some exhibitors have staged more than one competitive or noncompetitive exhibit, with multiple cases per exhibit.

The educational exhibits are a mainstay of the annual CSNS convention, which often draws exhibit participants from more than a dozen states.

In a Nov. 30, 2018, letter to exhibitors from Convention Chairman Kevin Foley and Bourse Chairman Patricia Foley, exhibitors were informed of the “required” fee, which will be applied to a newly established endowment fund to support the United States Paper Money award category named in honor of longtime CSNS education director Ray Lockwood, who died in April 2018 at age 79.

The tax-deductible $75 exhibit application fee will be a contribution to the Ray Lockwood Memorial Fund. The Nov. 30 letter indicates that exhibitors who have independently contributed to the Ray Lockwood Memorial Fund will have that total considered toward the 2019 application fee.

Lockwood’s widow, Fran, informed Coin World via email Dec. 28, that she was unaware of the $75 mandated exhibit fee and the remaining contents of the Nov. 30 letter until she was provided a copy by a past exhibitor who was sent the missive. Fran Lockwood served as exhibit chair from 1997 through 2014, before passing the reins to her assistant Jack Huggins.

Huggins, who served as chief exhibit judge for more than 20 years, said he was asked by CSNS officials to submit his resignation as exhibit chairman. CSNS officials did not disclose why Huggins was asked to resign as exhibit chairman. Huggins is also CSNS treasurer and remains so.

Huggins said the exhibit area has continually attracted 35 to 45 exhibitors, annually assembling 45 to 55 exhibits that fill 150 to 275 display cases. Exhibitors are attracted from more than 10 states.

CSNS Vice President Brett Irick, who has staged educational exhibits at CSNS and is a certified exhibit judge, is reported by several exhibitors to be the new CSNS exhibit chairman. Irick did not reply to a Coin World inquiry as of Jan. 2.

Hotel block

Concerning the encouragement to exhibitors to book a hotel room at the negotiated $164 per night rate, the Nov. 30 letter indicates, “One of the issues affecting not only the exhibit area, but also the entire convention, is the issue of hotel room pickup at the Renaissance Schaumburg headquarters site.

“April is one of the busiest months for this facility and we are in competition with other events for date slots that produce substantially higher room pickups for the hotel,” according to the Nov. 30 letter. “Simply put, if our convention is to continue in Schaumburg, we need to have our educational exhibitors support the hotel room block at a substantially higher rate than in the past. Staying elsewhere to save a few dollars, placing an exhibit and not returning until the awards ceremony, driving back and forth — especially 80-plus miles each way to another state — in order to avoid staying in the hotel and supporting our room block obligation are practices that are jeopardizing our ability to continue at the Schaumburg event side, as well as the exhibit area itself.

“If you live more than 30 to 40 miles from our event site and will need a hotel room at all, I hope that we can count on you to help us meet our financial and room pickup obligations to the Renaissance by staying there under our room block throughout the convention,” according to the Nov. 30 letter.

Coin World emailed questions about the Nov. 30 letter and its contents to Kevin Foley on Dec. 31, who replied Jan. 2 and referred inquiries to CSNS President Mitch Ernst as the organization’s spokesperson. 

A separate email inquiry had been directed to Ernst on Dec. 28, to which he responded the same day: “Under normal circumstances I would be happy to respond to your inquiries, however, I feel the questions (talking points?) are so thinly veiled with an inherent bias that no matter how I respond, my answers would be found to be unsatisfactory,” said Ernst, who is also acting CSNS education director. “The questions are worded in such a way that it causes me to think that conclusions have already been drawn.

“In regards to Jack Huggins, like any business, we do not discuss personnel matters.”

Exhibitor responses

Three collectors who have mounted multi-case exhibits, and in at least one case, more than one exhibit, are vehemently opposed to the application fee.

Numismatist Robert Fritsch, who is a member of more than 50 numismatic organizations and has traveled from New Hampshire to the CSNS convention for many years to place an exhibit, calls the decision to mandate an exhibit application fee “reprehensible.”

“This has been a hot topic among a lot of us regulars at Central States and all I have talked with are of the same mind, in a word, ‘reprehensible,’?” Fritsch said via email Dec. 30. “It costs me about $2,000 to attend the show and in the past I have done so willingly and with enthusiasm. I have always tried to find the cheapest decent accommodation in the area so I have money for the bourse.

“My exhibits were not the greatest but were done for the fun of it and to get comments to make them better. Now I have to pay $75 for each exhibit AND stay at the Renaissance or be labeled as a dirty rotten scrud.

“What do I get in return? Several things have changed in the exhibit area. Jack Huggins, [with] whom I have had a good working relationship, is no longer the Exhibit Chair. That job is now held by Brett Irick who is an excellent choice. We now have the $75/exhibit ‘donation’ and there is a rumor that each case has a rental fee of $15, refundable if you stay at the Renaissance. The Awards Breakfast is gone, the awards are no longer in those spiffy holders and another rumor says that the prizes have transitioned from gold to silver.

“This will have a profound effect on the exhibit area. Given all of the above, why should anyone bother? I know of at least a dozen regulars who are not going to exhibit. This will have the unfortunate effect of taking CSNS exhibits from the best in the country to a sparsely populated area. It may change Central States from a happening place to go to a huge bourse. What of the other programs and club meetings that contributed to the ambience? Don’t know. 

“A positive effect of a diminished exhibit area is more cases are available to the bourse which has absorbed the international show in Chicago.

“Will people now want to flock to a Central States show?” Fritsch asks. “I do not know, but when members no longer support the club, everyone loses and a death spiral ensues. I hope I am wrong.”

Tom Uram, president of the Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists and a member of the American Numismatic Association Board of Governors, emphasized by telephone Dec. 31 that he has staged more than one exhibit on different collecting fields at CSNS several times and even transported other Pennsylvania collectors to the convention for the primary purpose of exhibiting.

Uram said he is “disappointed” by the decision to charge a fee for applying to exhibit regardless if the funds are going into an account in Ray Lockwood’s memory.

“The exhibit area is not a profit center,” Uram said. “It’s for education purposes.”

Uram said collectors attend conventions for multiple reasons — to buy and sell on the bourse, add pieces to their collection that they may one day exhibit, visit the exhibit area, and attend club meetings, lectures, auctions and other programs.

Uram believes the application fee will drive exhibit participation down.

Mack Martin, who received the 2018 CSNS Best in Show Award for his multi-case exhibit in Georgia paper money and financial instruments from the American Civil War, says he doesn’t like the change.

“Everything I loved so much about CSNS has drifted away,” Martin told Coin World email Dec. 31. “The reason I drove from Georgia to exhibit at this show was first they made me feel appreciated. We were treated to a dinner and we had the awards breakfast. Most of all the people I fell in love with that made things happen are now gone. Ray and Fran along with Jack Huggins became very special friends as well as many of the exhibitors. It was not the awards offered as it cost me enough to go to their show that I could have bought a piece of gold. Their board seems to forget that the exhibitors were working to make their show great.

“I plan to learn more at FUN [Florida United Numismatists show Jan. 9 to 12] as I heard the awards were down graded but I do not know that for sure,” Martin said. 

“Personally I think the fee per exhibit is an insult. I understand the awards breakfast is now gone. I do not plan to exhibit in 2019 even though the money I donated for Ray will be counted this year towards the fee.”

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