The right direction

Posted on Thurs, 3 September 2009 by Phil Mussell
Posted in: Medal News
The right direction

THERE was a time when the medal fair was, apart from a visit to a specialist shop or an auction, the only way a collector could add to their collection. It was also an ideal way to dispose of unwanted items and boost your cash reserves (although invariably the ready cash you’d just pocketed would be fished out again before the end of the day and spent on a new acquisition—often from the same dealer you’d sold to!). Then came the internet and things changed. Suddenly the on-line auctions gave the collector a way of getting a good price for his “surplus” and allowed him to buy too. Dealers all had websites and the fairs were no longer such an essential part of the business—some thought they would die altogether. That hasn’t happened; indeed the fairs have come back into fashion in recent years as any regular visitor to Yate, Aldershot, Bromley, Wakefield, the new Britannia (next one November 22—make a note) or any of the other popular venues on “the circuit” will tell you. It seems that collectors realise that there is no real substitute for looking at and touching the medals first hand and that dealing with somebody face to face is infinitely more preferable to dealing with a username or disembodied voice. The internet sales, forums, etc., still boom, of course they do. They are, in the main a great asset to the hobby and after all not everyone can get to a fair. But the important thing is that fairs have proved more resilient than many gave them credit for and as we come out of the first decade of the 21st century all facets of the hobby are finding they can slot together nicely . . . or can they? There is no doubt that auctions, be they live or internet are here to stay; dealers’ websites are essential; the fairs are seeing a new lease of life, but will this extend to the conventions I wonder? This month sees the first “new look” two day OMRS Annual Convention, with talks, seminars, exhibits, etc., on the Saturday and the bourse on the Sunday. It’s a brave move and one designed to take the Society back to its research roots and away from being seen simply as a fair organiser, but is that what the collectors want? MEDAL NEWS (well Phil anyway) has just come back from the Orders and Medals Society of America (OMSA) Convention in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and whilst the event was excellently organised, as ever, and a pleasure for us to attend, it has to be said that it wasn’t as vibrant as it has been in recent years and there were some notable absences. There were a number of people who we’d grown accustomed to seeing year in year out who simply didn’t come to this one and whilst the location of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel (a lovely hotel in a beautiful spot, but not the easiest place to get to) and the current economic climate might have had something to do with it, we can’t help but feel that for many with ailing health a four day event is just too much. Of course conversely, if you shrink the event down too much it won’t be worth members travelling thousands of miles to attend. It’s very much a “catch 22” and how the organisers tackle the problem in coming years remains to be seen (for those interested next year’s convention is to be held in Portland, Oregon and in 2011 it is back to Jacksonville, Florida). It is sad to report that the numbers of British dealers and visitors was down too, with some notable names missing this year. However, we are proud to say that we kept the Union Flag flying as did the OMRS themselves in the form of Norman and Jean Gooding. The auctioneers and dealers were, this year, represented by James Morton of Morton & Eden (who sponsored the wine for the annual OMSA banquet), Richard Black of Chelsea Military Antiques, Pierce Noonan and Nimrod Dix of DNW and Oliver Pepys and Mark Quayle of Spink, light on their feet as ever, always ready to pounce on that Army Gold Cross group should it come into the room—sadly it just never did. Of course, the OMRS Convention is a different matter entirely—people aren’t crossing thousands of miles of prairie-land to be there and the Committee aren’t proposing a four day event, just a two day one. But is it what collectors want over a “standard” in-and-out show? It seems to have worked quite well at OMRS North but will it work in the capital? And will it attract the overseas visitors? As we will be there ourselves, supporting the Society and launching the MEDAL YEARBOOK, we’ll let you know! As they say in all the best columns: watch this space. No “Comment” about OMSA can run without mention of “Yash” Yasinitsky, the founder of the Society who passed away earlier this year. He was a genuinely lovely man with a real passion for medals and for the Society he formed. Whilst he hadn’t attended recent Conventions because of ill health we had hoped to see him again at a future event, sadly it was not to be. A full obituary appears in the July/August issue of the OMSA Journal.

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