Coronation Medals through the ages
Volume 61, Number 5, May 2023
Fair or not? AS we go to press, we learn that there is to be NO Orders and Medals Research Society (OMRS) Annual Convention this year. This is not unexpected inasmuch that we would normally have heard long before now were a Convention to have been in the offing. To be honest, we aren’t surprised by this decision really, as whilst those who attended last year’s event in Islington said it was an enjoyable, well-run affair (we couldn’t go for the first time in ages because it clashed with the big coin show, COINEX and we, with our COIN NEWS hat on were already booked in there!), there wasn’t the attendance there had been in years gone by and this inevitably would have led to questions regarding affordability and practicality. Add to that a vocal resistance from those outside London who weren’t happy about the event going back into the capital and the uncertainty about whether the Convention should be a one or two day affair and whether it should or shouldn’t include a bourse, it is unsurprising that the OMRS committee would want to take a break, regroup, and decide on a new strategy going forward. I would imagine that the extortionate cost of hotel rooms (which I can only assume is the same for meeting spaces too) has also given them cause to pause. Anyone who travels can’t have failed to notice that rooms, particularly in London, are insanely expensive right now. When we come in for the Britannia Fair on May 14, it is unlikely that we’ll be staying too close to Edgware Road; at the moment, rooms in the area are £250–350 a night, and that’s in an “ordinary” chain hotel with parking charges on top of that, it renders the whole weekend an expensive one so I can see us staying out by Heathrow! That cost increase would have certainly led to questions being asked about the viability of London as a venue for Convention, after all even if larger spaces haven’t attracted the same price inflation as bedrooms, the costs for the latter would certainly put people off attending, particularly if the event was planned over two or more days. Unfortunately, London isn’t the only place that has seen astronomical rises in hotel room prices. Yes, we all know there’s inflationary pressures but when you see hotels doubling their costs since last year you have to wonder if they aren’t simply price gouging in order to try to recoup their losses from the Covid years. I don’t know, I’m not a hotelier, but I do know such increases mean any larger city is going to present the OMRS with the same issue as London—being affordable enough to attract the crowds. One alternative might be to choose somewhere utterly random, somewhere away from the larger cities, somewhere with a decent hotel that isn’t too expensive where everybody could come together to talk medals. The issue, of course, has always been the bourse; to host a medal fair you need a big ballroom or similar and not every hotel has something big enough. Many have meeting rooms, and they would be excellent for exhibits and talks, but a bourse requires a large space and that’s not always easy to find outside of the larger towns and cities. Convention specific destinations like Harrogate and Brighton have them, but again, you usually end up paying more for the hotel rooms (I’d love to see Convention in Harrogate, it’s a beautiful town that we love visiting but it’s a long way from the south and that’s always going to put off a serious number of collectors, and dealers too, which is a great shame). So, that inevitably brings us back to the question of whether a medal fair is a necessary part of the Convention or not, for without it a large number of possible venues become available. For us the medal fair always WAS the Convention, we launched our MEDAL YEARBOOK there, we met up with dealers and customers we rarely saw anywhere else, and we always had a great time, leaving the New Connaught Rooms exhausted but with our cars very much lighter; but things change, buying habits have changed, people no longer need to go to fairs to buy, the dealers no longer keep their “best stock” for the OMRS and collectors can sit at home and buy from the comfort of their arm chairs. Now I’m no fan of that, as you probably know, I think medal fairs are hugely important and I think that by doing everything online and not getting out and about to meet other collectors means you miss out on a huge part of the hobby, but being a huge supporter of medal fairs is not the same as thinking one is a necessary part of an OMRS Convention—after all to me the personal contact, the meeting other collectors and sharing knowledge is the important bit, and if that is being done through exhibits, talks, maybe a dinner, some convivial chat at the bar, etc., then that negates the need for the actual bourse bit! I don’t know what Convention is going to look like next year (we are assured a venue has been found and there will be a 2024 event) and I don’t envy the OMRS organising committee their task one bit, but I do urge them not to see the medal fair as a sacred cow. For what it’s worth I’d love to see a medal fair remain part of Convention, but that said I’d rather see it dropped than see Convention suffer or disappear altogether because of its inclusion.
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