Test Pilot Extraordinaire

Posted on Tues, 8 November 2016 by Alyson Thomas
Posted in: Medal News
Test Pilot Extraordinaire A favourable verdict

LAST month in NEWS & VIEWS we commented that by the time readers were looking at the October magazine we would know whether the Orders and Medal Research Society (OMRS) Convention had been a success or a “bold but flawed experiment”. Well now I can tell you—the move to Stratford-upon-Avon was very much a success! Overall attendance at the events on Saturday, September 24 and the medal fair in the hotel the following day increased from 325 in 2015 to 424 this year, with many overseas visitors from countries including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Norway and Belgium making the effort to attend. Dealer numbers at the fair increased from 23 last year to 30 this time and whilst we did witness some people leaving early on Sunday morning before the medal fair kicked off (why they didn’t want to at least pop in is anyone’s guess), the room felt busy for most of the day.

There is no doubt that things are different from the days at Pickett’s Lock or the New Connaught Rooms, when the dealers were still doing business at 5.00pm, but that doesn’t mean they are worse. The thing about the OMRS Convention is that it shouldn’t be judged on the number of people who attend the fair or how much business is done on the day—it isn’t now, and never has been, just a place to buy and sell medals and whilst everyone recognises that the fair is an essential part of the event it isn’t the essence of it. With 30 exhibits from members and four from museums, a visit to the Warwickshire Yeomanry Museum on the Friday evening and the banquet on the Saturday, as well as the opportunity to sit and discuss medals with like-minded collectors over a pint or two, catch up with old friends and make new ones, Convention is far more than just a place to add to your collections and in that sense it was an unqualified success.

Of course, Convention has always been a success if the bringing together of collectors was the goal — what made this year of particular note, and why we said what we did last month, was the fact that for the first time the main OMRS Convention took place outside of London, in this case in Stratfordupon- Avon (at what started out as a Holiday Inn but became a Crowne Plaza before our very eyes: they were literally rebranding as we were there). The move could have been a disaster as transport links to Shakespeare’s birth place aren’t the best (particularly for overseas visitors) and, besides, Mark Carter already holds a very successful show there, so would this be medal overload for the Warwickshire populace? In the end no, not at all, and as the numbers show, the move was greeted with enthusiasm by most. There were, inevitably, those who didn’t want to attend anything outside of London but they were more than made up for by those who don’t want to attend anything INSIDE London and, in the end, the whole weekend had a very upbeat and positive feel about it. Next year’s Convention is also to be held in Stratford, and after that? Who knows? There is a danger that the home of the Bard will grow stale if it over-used, after all there’s only so much to be done there and after four or five years in the same place there may well be those who simply won’t want to be bothered going back again. I for one hope that the OMRS adopts an American OMSA approach—travelling the country and visiting new places regularly. I realise it means more work for the organising committee but it will, I think, be a boon to the membership and will, ultimately, mean more people becoming part of the hobby. Hopefully this new path will see the Society, and the hobby, continue to go from strength to strength and so in the future, when Convention is held in Nottingham with a visit to the Sherwood Foresters’ Museum or in Edinburgh with a trip to the Castle as a highlight, we will once again be able to report huge increases in numbers. For now though we will simply congratulate the OMRS on a job well done this year and look forward to next. By then the hotel may be an Intercontinental . . .

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