Nelson's Star to shine

Posted on Mon, 11 October 2010 by Alyson Thomas
Posted in: Medal News
Nelson's Star to shine Changing times

THIS time last year I was sitting at my desk trying to word a tactful “comment” about the new OMRS Convention. We had always been supporters of the event, choosing to launch our MEDAL YEARBOOK there rather than anywhere else. We were thus disappointed that the 2009 version was very much “convention lite”, with far fewer attendees and far fewer dealers than in years gone by. The move to the British Medical Association was seen by many as a retrograde step, with a smaller room and rather austere security measures meaning the atmosphere created at previous Conventions was pointedly missing. So it was that this year we seriously considered whether we were going to make the trip up from Devon—the fact that the Pope was visiting and half of London was going to be closed (or so we were led to believe), didn’t help our mood. However, we were told by the OMRS officials that they had moved the venue from the smaller upstairs room to downstairs and that the security measures, that had meant you had to pre-register last year and couldn’t just “turn up” on the day, had been dispensed with (or at least circumvented). So we felt we owed it to them to give Convention another chance and decided that, whilst the Saturday events wouldn’t be practical for us, we would “stall out” on the Sunday at the Medal Fair. Happily it wasn’t a decision we regretted. True to their word, the OMRS committee had done their best to encourage a large number of dealers to attend and that, inevitably, gave the attendees far more choice than was on offer last year. This year the dealers were spread over two rooms and, whilst that meant there wasn’t the same atmosphere of the palatial New Connaught Rooms, it did mean there was a lively buzz going on— something we were worried might not happen this time around. Reports on the Saturday talks and exhibits were as positive as they had been last year (the first day being the undoubted highlight of 2009) and so it seems that the future of Convention is secure.

Of course, one of the reasons last year’s event might not have been as well attended as when it took place in the New Connaught Rooms was the simple one: that some people just don’t like change. This year they were more used to the idea that the BMA was the new venue and so came back. That may sound simplistic but it happens that whenever there is a change of location of a fair that we attend (be it coin, banknote or medal), there is a certain reticence amongst some of the “old guard” who are disgruntled that the change has taken place and there is a drop off in numbers. It often takes a while for things to get back to normal, sometimes years, and occasionally that delay is too long and the fair ceases to be. We are acutely aware of this ourselves as we consider the future of the Britannia Medal Fair. The venue for the next fair (November 21) is the same as it always has been: the Carisbrooke Hall of the Victory Services Club, just off Marble Arch—but with more people than ever wanting to come along, and more dealers than ever hoping to take tables, we are considering a move. It won’t be a drastic change, if change takes place at all, but it has to be considered. What also must be considered is the feelings of those who like it just how it is. If we move will there be those who will miss the intimacy of the venue? The familiarity of the place and the people? The chicken curry…? The answer is of course, yes there will be, but will that fear of change be offset by the excitement of being able to see even more medals than ever before (and not having to negotiate the stairs…?). It isn’t something I have a ready answer for.

One event that doesn’t have to worry about the change of venue (because they are so used to it), is the annual OMSA Convention which takes place in a different US city every year. The 2010 Convention was held “out west” in Portland, Oregon. As ever the Token Team (well one of us) was represented and we were as pleased as ever to meet up with our friends from that side of the pond, many of whom have just made the trip this way to come to OMRS. Interestingly there was talk at OMSA of changing the “roving” format and holding it in the same place each year so that people could get used to the venue and not have to try and hop from one end of the country to the other all the time (well annually anyway). I’m not sure that the geography of the US would allow that. With collectors spread over thousands of miles, the “new year, new venue” approach allows most people to get a taste of a convention once every three years or so at least, whereas a static site would encourage only those local to attend and would marginalise those further afield. However, the very fact that there was even talk about such a bold move does rather highlight the need amongst some to have the comfort of familiarity—holding OMSA in the same place every year means that people can get into a routine and many of us thrive on such routine and are happier with what’s known. Fortunately for the OMRS Convention the hiccough of last year’s break in routine is now forgotten and hopefully the new venue will serve them well in years to come. Whether such a move outside the comfort zone for OMSA will be as easily dealt with is debatable and I for one would suggest it isn’t practical, with the current format allowing as many collectors to be included as possible. As for Britannia? Well, I like the current venue, I like the familiarity, I enjoy the show immensely and it was because I enjoyed it that I was happy for MEDAL NEWS to take it over. But that doesn’t mean I’m completely adverse to change and would be willing to look at alternatives. Whether you, our readers, would be is another matter but we would love to know what you think!

One change I did approve of at OMSA was the addition of sweets and confectionery alongside medals! One particular stand holder at the show had a veritable tuckshop on his table and I can’t help but think it was a cunning ploy to lure more buyers to his stand, despite his protestations that he knew nothing about where the treats had come from! It got my vote anyway, with the M&Ms being particularly delicious!

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