Battle for the freedom of Europe
Volume 45, Number 8, September 2007
FOR some years now the Medal News Team has been attending the “OMSA” (Orders and Medals Society of America) convention to fly the flag and meet many of our US subscribers and advertisers. It’s always an enjoyable time and we have made some good friends in the ten years we’ve been going—the fact that OMSA takes place in a different part of America every year is a definite bonus too and has enabled us to visit cities across the States—all the way from Philadelphia on the east to San Jose on the west, from Chicago in the north and Atlanta in the deep south. This year’s convention, in Houston, Texas was once again a very enjoyable event and many of the old faces were there (all of us, of course, are that much older than when we first started in this business!) along with, we are pleased to report, some new faces too. The British were well represented by the major auction houses (DNW, Morton and Eden and Spink), some of the bigger dealers (Bostock Militaria, Chelsea Military Antiques, C. J. and A. J. Dixon and Liverpool Medals), the OMRS, and of course publishers (the Token team and Savannah Publications). Even some collectors, more often seen visiting our stand in Yate or London, made the trip to the Lone Star State for the weekend! Whilst of course it was the Americans themselves who were there in greater numbers (with names familiar to many of our British readers—Ackley Unlimited, FJP auctions and R&M International to name just a few) there were also good representations from Germany, Eastern Europe, Russia, the Netherlands and even Greece making it a truly international affair. We understand that in fact 20 percent of attendees were overseas visitors—quite a difference from the English shows. The international flavour isn’t the only difference between OMSA and the home grown shows of the UK though—any first time visitors would be struck more by the very laid back nature of the event than anything else. Whereas in Britain there’s always a big rush when a fair first opens, and then it’s all over by 2.OOpm, OMSA is a three and a half day marathon, starting as early as 8.OOam with people still in the bourse at 5.OOpm. The consequence of this is that the pace is so much slower business is done over the course of a weekend and not just in five minutes at the table and everything seems to be so much friendlier and convivial. This atmosphere then extends out of the room and into the wider environs—because we all stay at the convention hotel the bar is always full of collectors and dealers all talking medals and enjoying each others’ company (and this year birthday celebrations for one of the British contingent too) a far cry from the frenetic pace of the OMRS (although that at least has the dinner the night before)! Even those not involved in the convention seemed to be happy to chat away about medals and the fact that the tall, blond, retired General who was in the bar happily talking to us about his military career, his medals (and his passion for old Laurel and Hardy films) wasn’t anything to do with OMSA at all but in fact was in the hotel for a breakfast meeting with an old Sergeant of his the following day came as something of a shock! Even the bar staff seemed to know more about the subject by the time all the delegates left—although probably they were just listening politely as bar staff are so good at doing! The reason for my mentioning all this is actually two fold—firstly to say if you are an American subscriber to MEDAL NEWS and aren’t a member of OMSA—do join, it’s well worth it both for the Convention (if you can make it, next year it’s in Jacksonville Florida) and for the bi-monthly Journal (visit www.omsa.org for further details, Brits are more than welcome too!) and secondly to add that maybe it’s time to look again at the British set up for shows. Now I’m not suggesting that we go for a full four day slog, OMSA did drag a little this year at times, but do we really just want the hectic rush that comes with the UK events? Isn’t it nicer to spend a little time on the hobby, chat to a few people, get to know the dealers who you’re buying from— and the collectors who share your interests? Is there any way, I wonder, to somehow find a balance between the laid back US style and the manic British one? It really would be nice to be able to take a little more time over things sometimes. It’s a difficult call, maybe something a little less frantic would work over here and maybe it isn’t what’s wanted—maybe us Brits are happy to rush in and rush out without really getting any more out of a fair than just the medals we came for. I don’t have the definitive answer can’t say which style is the right one for us to adopt or indeed whether a change is needed at all but in this day and age—when much of our collecting is done on-line and we don’t communicate with others who share our passion from one month to the next (certainly not face to face)—the fairs have a valuable role to play, if only to let us know we are not alone in this strange world of ours. How much nicer would it be then if we were able to turn them into social occasions too—just a thought!
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