It’s that time of year. You go to the mailbox or the latest email pops up from one of the many coin organizations you are affiliated with. Your annual dues are do. For many of us it’s a bit of a bother because we forget to plan when these bills are due. Some of us have been paying members for years and years without hardly another thought, but for a growing number of us it begs the question: why am I still a member?
We are not asking existential questions about the future of the hobby – though we may begin to ask those questions if demographics don’t change. We are asking simple cut and dry questions about what our local, regional, national, and international organization does for us. They owe us something in return for our payment We pay the dues and are often more than willing to continue to pay higher dues for the hobby we love and the support we see as necessary for its survival. What are we really getting for our membership?
For decades one of the hallmarks of membership in a numismatic organization has been a print journal or magazine. For a variety of reasons this perk of being a member has substantially diminished. For one, printing and shipping costs have increased exponentially to force publications to print less frequently and some to suspend journals altogether. This is especially true in Canada where it is largely prohibitive to get physical journals and magazines from organizations outside of the country.
Another, it’s not uncommon to see month after month of issues in which an editor makes a desperate call for submission. Many times they are desperate to reprint past articles, seek permissions for publishing pieces that are already online, or simply layout the pages with filler content: code of ethics, membership application forms, and the like. I am not blaming editors here.
Another powerful incentive to being a paying customer to a coin organization has been the ability to attend exclusive meetings, dinners, and annual conventions. These have always been wonderful ways to get to see friends from across Canada and the world who we would otherwise not have the opportunity to meet up with during the year.
Unfortunately attendance at these events is declining rapidly, thereby diminishing the capital required to rent the rooms, dining halls, and hotels. It can be debated as to what constitutes the greatest impact on this phenomena though some short answers include: the rise of the internet auction, the expense of travel, and changing demographics that prefer online interaction and socialization.
Aside from those two highlights what does your coin organization offer you? Many of the larger organizations offer extensive libraries of numismatic texts that can be borrowed nearly for free at the cost of shipping, an absolute steal in most cases. Worth the annual cost of membership? For new members, it likely is. For advanced and lifelong members it doesn’t make as much sense.
I spoke with one member of an organization who said: “All I get is this plastic card that says I’m a member.” He yanked it out of his wallet and threw it on the coffee table next to me.
There are two big reasons that a member of a coin organization has a right and a duty to demand more from their organization. First, they are paying customers. They always have been and always will be. They are loyal to their hobby and have soaked up my price hikes over the years with little complaint. Second, they are absolutely passionate about the topic of numismatics.
So, what does your numismatic organization really do for you? If you are getting tired with the journal, newsletter or magazine you are receiving, it might not be doing enough for you. And if you are not attending annual conventions it might not be doing enough for you. If you are not happy with either, your coin organization is doing nothing for you.
Consider what you want out of your money. What should it contribute to? Expenses are always tight these days. As mentioned those two hallmarks of a coin organization are the bread and butter of capital expenses each and every year. If sentiment continues to drift toward dissatisfaction at those two benefits of membership one hardly has a need to be a member. They can buy coins on eBay, email their buddies, and show off their collection in set registries online.
If you want to be a member of a coin organization and you want to see it succeed give some thought to what they could be doing for their members and what you as a member could contribute to make that happen. Your voice counts, as a customer and an equal peer in these social organizations. Your skills and passion might lead to some wonderful writing for the numismatic editor. What do you want to see?