The personal touch I SHALL apologise to regular readers in advance as I am about to go off on my semi-annual rant/plea regarding medal fairs and medal shows! I am writing this “comment” two weeks before the Orders and Medals Society of America (OMSA) Convention but I already know what it will be like. There will be much catching up with old friends, some interesting seminars, a small bourse, a dinner (with either a really fascinating speaker or someone that has to be gently hustled off the stage), some beer may, or may not, be drunk. It will be fun, but it will also be quite predictable. I could, were I so inclined, list most of the attendees here now—they are the same attendees who have been going to the event since the Token Team first went to the show in Chicago back in 1998. They go because they enjoy themselves, they always do, that’s why we all keep going back year on year, or at least for as long as we can, because it’s fun. There are fewer of us now of course, some have stopped collecting or have moved on to other things, some are simply too old or unwell to travel whilst others are, sadly, no longer with us. As the years have passed I have seen the numbers at OMSA dwindle and now it’s more like a large club meeting than a full on convention—and indeed I suppose we think of ourselves as a big club really. There will, I hope, be many who visit on the Saturday, the public day, but otherwise it will be the same 200 or so who were there last year, and the year before, and the year before that. I don’t mean to single OMSA out, our own OMRS Convention is similar—we all know who will be in attendance for the whole weekend (as opposed to who is turning up just for the medal fair on the Sunday) and that can actually be extrapolated over the whole hobby. You go to a medal fair these days and you more or less know who is going to be there, indeed you look out for them, arrange to meet them there, it’s all part of the fun. Gone are the days when the hall is full of new faces and you can’t find anyone you know in the sea of newbies; certainly there are always one or two unfamiliar to most of us but in the main it’s the same people going to the same events. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, they are, after all, dedicated, they are the “hardcore” collectors and every hobby needs its stalwarts, so to see them regularly is to be expected, but their number is only decreasing as age and collecting habits change and that is why, once again, I am making an appeal to all of you who don’t attend fairs, who don’t visit your local medal clubs or conventions to give them a go. You see the thing is the medal hobby itself isn’t shrinking, even if numbers at conventions et al are. Medal collecting is just as popular as ever, in fact more so, it’s just that the new breed of collector doesn’t tend to bother to go to medal shows, clubs or conventions, they don’t even go to auctions in person any more. The internet has changed the way we collect, it has brought the medal world to the attention of a whole new audience and it is wonderful that so many people are now enjoying this hobby of ours, it really is, but take it from me when I say the acquisition of medals, even the research into the recipients or actions is only part of the hobby, a huge part I accept, but it isn’t all there is. A great deal of the enjoyment of medal collecting is sharing your experience, chatting to other collectors, swapping stories, learning first hand. Yes internet forums are great but the conversations you have on-line are never the same as the conversations you have in real life and whilst you will learn much by joining in group discussions or being part of a Q&A on a forum it is no substitute for sitting with fellow collectors over a coffee (or a beer!) and just chatting away—you’d be amazed at what you learn simply by the twists and turns a conversation takes—but it’s more than even that, the thing about sitting and chatting to people in real life as opposed to in the virtual world is that you get to know them as people not just as usernames and they become friends. I am very much looking forward to going to Houston this year, not because I expect to buy anything (after all I still don’t have a theme), but because I’ll get to meet some old friends, people I’ve known for two decades; next month it’s the OMRS Convention in Nottingham and I’ll see more friends there, people I’ve only grown to know and respect (and in some cases even like!) purely because I’ve met them at shows, conventions and so on. So once again I’ll say to all of you who collect solely from behind your keyboard: please, please, please think about getting out there once in a while, go to a convention, go to a show, go to a club, get to meet fellow collectors. If you really hate it don’t go back, but I don’t think that will be the case, I think you’ll enjoy yourself and who knows, you may make a friend or two along the way. Give it a chance, you just never know. Right, that’s it, rant over, for another year at least!