Volume 52, Number 9, October 2014
Show time AS I write this we are just a few days away from the Orders and Medals Research Society (OMRS) annual convention—the traditional “start” of the medallic season in the UK. The American equivalent—the Orders and Medals Society of America (OMSA) Convention— always takes place a month earlier and the two really couldn’t be more different. Apart from the fact that OMSA is held over 3 ½ days, the vastness of the US means that the convention has to travel around in order to ensure all of its members are included and, over the years, the Token Team has been lucky enough to visit some pretty amazing places thanks to this policy. This year’s convention was held in Santa Ana, Southern California and so, tragically, we had to endure balmy temperatures, blue skies and palm trees—oh and of course the bourse! Unfortunately the bourse was where it fell down a little; the convention itself was very well organised as ever and our thanks go out particularly to Nathan and Yvette Weiss and to Adam Rohloff, the Convention Chair. The Hotel was well appointed and, despite going through a refit whilst we were there, was still a nice place to be. Unfortunately the membership of OMSA weren’t enticed by the weather, the hotel or the excellent organisation and, sadly, numbers were down somewhat this year. Luckily a busy “public day” on the Saturday made up for this to some degree and the deserted room of the Friday afternoon was veritably buzzing a day later. Still there was no disguising that a large number of the old faces were missing, a large number of the regulars, people we have known for years, just didn’t come along this year. There were a number of theories about this from those who did attend, chief amongst which was the simple fact that Southern California isn’t actually that easily accessible and, as many of the OMSA members are older now and don’t necessarily want to spend too much time in airports, they simply chose to stay away rather than face a ridiculously long drive. That’s the main difference between the USA and the UK—if we want to go to a show it’s a fairly easy proposition, our country just isn’t big enough to use distance as an excuse. OK so if you live in the highlands or in Northern Ireland getting to London for the OMRS isn’t that straightforward but for the majority of us it’s a relatively hassle free drive and certainly nowhere near the kind of distance that some OMSA attendees braved; even those living in the same state as this year’s convention found themselves on the road for eight hours, those living further afield would have had to have made a serious trip out of it had they decided to come by car. We just don’t have that issue! However, distance wasn’t the only reason people didn’t come this year; yes the average age of attendees is going up and that brings its own problems but that wasn’t it either—the simple fact is that OMSA, and indeed the shows over here, are changing. In the past you had to either go to your local dealer or attend a show or auction if you wanted to get the best choice in medals. The internet has altered all that and now you can sit at home, browse dealers’ sites or on-line auctions, even bid live in “real” auctions. You never need to go anywhere—isn’t life grand? Well no . . . actually it’s not. If you’re one of those who never attends shows, content instead to just collect via your computer, then I can tell you now you’re missing out. Yes there are some excellent on-line fora you can visit so you can “interact” with other collectors but believe me it simply isn’t the same. Browsing stock, chatting to dealers and collectors, physically handling medals, checking naming styles, examining die and clasp varieties etc. all these help further our own understanding far beyond what the virtual world can give us. Yes you may think that a photograph gives you a perfect perspective but I can honestly say there is no substitute, none at all, for actually picking up those medals, holding them in your hand and examining them properly. Yes the members of the British Medal Forum and others are immensely helpful and always ready to aid their fellow collectors—but you can learn just as much, indeed often far more, from seemingly innocuous conversations over coffee with someone who shares similar interests to your own; and chatting to the dealer about to sell you that group can yield far more information than you ever thought possible, you’ll often find answers to questions you hadn’t even considered asking. I hope that this weekend’s OMRS will be as successful as previous years have been, I hope that come opening time there will be the usual rush, the usual buzz in the room and as many people as ever through the doors. If there isn’t, and numbers are down as they were at OMSA, we won’t be able to blame distance or geography, what we will be able to blame is all those who don’t think fairs are necessary anymore, who believe you can get the full collecting experience sitting in front of a screen. Well, I’m afraid you can’t, it just isn’t the same at all and I do hope that those of you who used to go to fairs but now don’t, or those who have never attended a fair at all, will in time come to realise that. This hobby needs fairs, we need to support them because a medal world where all we do is look at our computers won’t be nearly as much fun as the medal world I have known for the past 30 years! So with that in mind I’ll see you at a show!
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