Convention Report-2023 by Richard Giardini
The 2023 Westlake convention is in the books. As promised it was a great time to reconnect with our fellow collector friends, meet a few new friends, and at the same time obtain some amazing new matchcovers for our collections. Unfortunately, Joe DeGennaro who usually prepares this recap of the convention was unable to attend for the first time in I don’t know how long. Hopefully, I can paint a decent picture for our members who were unable to attend. For the 105 members who were there (four first timers), I am sure you have plenty of memories of your own from a fantastic week!
As usual, Sunday started out calmly with attendees meeting in the lobby while we waited for the rooms to become available. We took advantage of the time to discuss the past year, as well as what could be expected from the coming week and how the auctions would work. Several members volunteered their time prepping the convention bags for each attendee so registration could commence Sunday night. The highlights of Sunday as usual were the loaded grab tables and ten dealer tables that teemed with features and other offerings. Features seemed to be a popular theme this year as many dealers had a good selection at various prices.
Monday saw the convention activity level ramp up with a silent auction in the morning as the majority of attendees arrived, registered and dove into adding to their collections. The freebie tables were the place to be on Monday. Not only is it great fun to rummage through mounds of matchcovers and boxes looking for that cover you would love to add to your collection, but the grab table is where you really get to spend time talking to your fellow collectors. It is also a tradition that collectors also search for covers in other collectors categories, which is a special sort of camaraderie that exists in our hobby. In addition, Denise McKinney had the annual scavenger hunt from the grab tables with collectors searching for various animals from her list on matchcovers. Nothing was quite like the excitement of finding a jackalope or beaver on a matchcover to complete your hunt. Monday night was wrapped up by a friendly game of bingo led by nationally renowned bingo caller, Bob Hofacker. Lots of nice matchcovers were donated to be distributed as prizes.
The Tuesday silent auction included some beautiful covers, but two Diamond covers from the late 1800s were the gems of the auction. And they went for top dollar with a winning bid of $250 for the two covers!! From there, we moved into the regular auctions, four in total from Tuesday to Friday, that provided some wonderful lots and bids that were in general higher than in recent years. It seems that collectors are willing to spend a little more for what they want, especially when the prices are still far below anything seen on EBay or Facebook. It is also apparent that collectors are realizing that there are bidders who have interest in selling covers on EBay and are willing to pay a fair price for the covers. So, when collectors see what they want, they need to be willing to pay for it or face the future of overpaying online for the cover they needed for their favorite category. We had 65 bidders that contributed to the excellent proceeds that will both keep the club operating in the black while providing some spending money for the members who provided up to fifteen lots each.
Tuesday night featured a dessert social with a selection of cakes that were downright evil in their rich flavors. As with all events, there was plenty of socializing to be had with fun for all who attended. The week was also filled with various small club meetings that allow these specialty clubs to assemble and share their favorite categories with likeminded collectors that are scattered across the country the rest of the year. The Girlie Club, Casino Club, Big Boy Club, Tobacco Club and all the other clubs are able to hold their annual meeting at the convention. However, only the Mermaid/Pirate club holds their meetings at the pool, giving them a certain special status.
Throughout the week the display room was open featuring 88 fantastic displays created by 21 different collectors. The artistic talents and amazing covers are always entertaining and a must see if you have never attended a convention before. The room even kept my wife and sister-in-law entertained for quite awhile, and they are far from matchcover collecting fans. Each member is allowed to vote for People’s Choice, a special honor bestowed by our peers. This year’s winner was a great display of Ivy League Rivals created by Herb Sperry. The official judges use slightly different criteria and selected the Best of Show to be Chinese Crowns by Rich Greene, which was also a great display with fantastic covers.
Thursday morning featured the annual business meeting, a chance for people to yell or discuss the issues facing the club and hobby. It is a nice moment to honor the members who have attained a special status in the hobby as well as those who have passed away in the past year. There was some important business facing the club which was discussed, including a much needed update to the bylaws, the wording of which is still being finalized as I type this. Also contentious is finding a solution to the quandary regarding dues equity for those receiving a newsletter via email versus in print. Currently it costs over $15/year to print and mail newsletters within the US. The cost increases substantially internationally to the point that Canadian/international dues don’t even cover the newsletter expenses. The dues discussion was tabled for another year while additional financial data is collected so a proper long term solution can be found. But as always, the highlight of the business meeting was the selection of next year’s convention site. There were four hotels proposed located in Pittsburgh PA, Branson MO (2), and Erlanger KY. The votes were spread out relatively evenly between the options, so we used ranked choice voting to eliminate the hotels one by one. Finally, in the end, Erlanger won out and will host next year’s convention. I am sure you will see plenty of details over the coming year about the details.
The week wrapped up with 59 collectors attending the banquet on Friday night. A cash bar followed by a very good buffet meal led up to the awards presentation for all the various display awards presented by RMS and local clubs. Then the big announcements for the hall of fame and collector of the year were announced. These are extremely special awards for RMS members, so it was exciting to have Bill Evans selected for the Hall of Fame, and Pat Mains selected as Collector of the year! Congratulations to both of them.
A special shout out is in order for all the volunteers that kept the convention running smoothly and let the attendees enjoy such an amazing week. Please consider volunteering yourself in the future as the hobby runs and succeeds on the backs of our volunteers.
If you missed it, please start planning now for next year’s convention. I have made every convention for the past twenty years, and wish I had been able to start attending before that. It is an event I would not miss. Where else can I get so many great covers while spending time with my fellow collecting friends. Not only do you have the collecting events, but the week is filled with late nights outside the hotel sipping Crown Royal, playing cards with those high penny stakes, or organizing a car pool to attend a nearby restaurant for dinner with friends. So I will see you all next year in Erlanger, and will look forward to meeting some of you for the first time!!!

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