By Jesse Robitaille
This year, the North Shore Numismatic Society (NSNS) is celebrating the 45th anniversary of its long-running collectibles show.
Held five times a year in Burnaby, B.C., the province’s third-largest city behind only Vancouver and Surrey, the Coins, Stamps and Collectibles Show is a staple of the west-coast numismatic scene. One of its main organizers – a NSNS member since 1988 – has watched the event evolve in leaps and bounds since joining the club’s executive committee in the early ’90s.
“At that time, I didn’t know much about planning the shows and had to learn from the more experienced members,” said NSNS President Michael Souza, who’s also the club’s secretary and treasurer.
“Over time, I began taking on a bigger role in planning the shows, but I also have to thank the other nine members of our executive who have actively participated in the process.”
Since the club’s first show in October 1975, the annual outing grew to four shows a year in 2009 and then again to five shows in 2014. Originally only advertised as a coin show, the event has also since taken on more stamp dealers and rebranded as the Coins, Stamps and Collectibles Show.
“By reaching out to other hobby clubs, we expanded our dealer base and we now have a core of about 45 local coin, stamp and ephemera dealers,” said Souza, who’s also a member of the British Columbia Philatelic Society as well as the Vancouver and North Carolina chapters of the International Bank Note Society.
Of those 45 local dealers, about 30 attend each show and about 10 are stamp or ephemera dealers whose “diversity serves to bring in more attendees,” Souza added.
Each of the club’s five yearly shows draws between 150 and 200 paid attendees (children aged 16 and under are free).
“In 2020, from a community point of view, our club hopes to continue to use some of our profits from our shows to support local charities such as, among others, the Vancouver Food Bank and B.C. Children’s Hospital,” said Souza, who added the club also expects to continue its “Helping the Homeless” clothing drive for the third year in a row this November.
FORMED IN 1972
The NSNS can trace its roots back to December 1972, when a group of people gathered to form a coin club to serve Vancouver’s north shore.
Jeremy Day was appointed as the club’s first president, Ray Mah as vice-president and John Loven as secretary-treasurer.
Two years later, the nascent club began planning to host a coin show the following autumn.
On Oct. 25-26, 1975, amid a two-day rainstorm and in a hall that had never held a coin show – the St. Edmunds Church Hall Annex – the NSNS hosted its first of many successful annual shows.
Three years later, the NSNS also hosted the Pacific Northwest Numismatic Association’s 33rd annual show in North Vancouver. It was the first and only time the show was held in Canada.
In 1990, the NSNS also hosted the annual convention of the Canadian Numismatic Association (CNA) – now known as the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA) – in Vancouver.
In 2002, the NSNS teamed up with its sister club, the Vancouver Numismatic Society, to bring that year’s CNA Convention back to Vancouver. It was the last time the CNA or RCNA’s annual show has been held in British Columbia.
It’s unlikely the RCNA will return to Vancouver anytime soon, Souza added.
“It was difficult to find volunteers to help out when we had our two-day shows, so it would be impossible to host something as big as an RCNA Convention.”
More recently, in 2015, the NSNS moved its annual shows to the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre, which has an exhibit hall and is one-and-a-half-times larger than the club’s previous show venue.
“At Nikkei, if every dealer booked only one table, we could accommodate 41 dealers – and more if we used the stage,” said Souza, who added the venue’s staff also help with set-up and takedown.
Over the years, one of the show’s major changes was its drop down to a one-day format.
“We have found that over time, fewer and fewer of our dealers wanted two-day shows,” said Souza, who added Sundays were “traditionally a slow day at our shows, even in the 1990s.”
Last year – 2019 – the club scheduled a pair of two-day shows plus three one-day shows, but what Souza describes as “extensive negative responses” from a dealer survey spurred him to convert both two-day shows to a single day.
“Furthermore, as dealers got older, some with health issues could not stay for both days.”
Starting this year, every NSNS show is a one-day event.
Forgoing paid advertising in most media – except for CCN and Canadian Stamp News – Souza champions a do-it-yourself ethic that has worked well for everyone involved.
“My objective is to reduce the operating cost to the club, and over time, this has benefited the dealers and attendees in that our bourse fee is only $50 per table and our admission fee is still only $2.”
The club’s membership fee has also remained at $15 since he first joined more than three decades ago.
“I don’t foresee any increases in any of these areas,” said Souza, a retired tax auditor who previously enjoyed a long career with the Canada Revenue Agency.
In 2011, the club moved its monthly meetings from a North Vancouver church hall to the Bonsor Recreation Complex in Burnaby – a move Souza said “saved our club.”
“As members aged, fewer wanted to drive over the bridges to attend meetings in North Vancouver, especially during the winter months.”
At some of the meetings before the move, only a handful of members would attend.
“Our current meeting location in Bonsor is very central to many of the municipalities surrounding Burnaby and we began attracting more and more attendees.”
The NSNS currently boasts about 80 members.
For reference, in 2011, the club’s membership revenue was $500. By 2019, that amount nearly doubled to $900, and the meeting attendance now averages 30 members – with an all-time high of 42.
The club also recently enrolled as an out-of-province member of the Ontario Numismatic Association.
“This has resulted in lower insurance costs for us to run our shows and gave us access to their extensive library of PowerPoint programs for club meetings.”