Report of Mr. Sydney F. Martin, President
October 29, 2016
As I begin my fourth year as President of the American Numismatic Society, and I am very proud to be able to say a few words about our achievements over the last twelve months. As Trustees, we have largely focused on developing a strategic plan, which would inform our members, Trustees and staff, as well as the public what we hope to achieve over the next 3-5 years. I am happy to say that we are making good progress on the plan, and we anticipate a final version in the next few months. Let me just explain in a few words the direction we are going in.
The American Numismatic Society’s finances are fairly healthy, in particular in the light of recent donations and pledges. We were also greatly pleased to see the recovery of over $2,000,000, which was owed since 2008 by Kent Swig, the buyer of our former headquarters of 140 William Street. Nevertheless, we are concerned by increasing salary and lease costs, which are unavoidable in the future. Since the ANS leases its headquarters, we will eventually also face the question – in less than a decade – where the future home of the Society should be and how it will function. Traditionally, the Society has operated as a mixture of a museum, library and research institution, and since our move to Hudson Square in 2008, we have tried to fulfill all these functions. Over the last few years, we have seen a marked change in how members and the public at large use the Society’s collections and headquarter. With ever more sophisticated Internet access to libraries and museums, institutions like the American Numismatic Society have realized that an accessible location is still important, but that most our visitors are now engaged in virtual visits to our website. As you will hear in the Report of our Director of Publications, we had 250,000 visitor sessions from people in 196 countries over the last year, whereas the number of actual visitors to the Society was under 840. At the same time, our beautiful New York City home costs the Society over $1,000,000 annually. Inevitable one wonders whether the Society’s resources shouldn’t be spent differently on a less expensive space.
A second issue that we have to address are membership benefits. Our membership numbers have been decreasing very slowly over the years, while our impact on numismatics and museums has increased enormously. The problems that we face are not uncommon in other learned societies: while members in the past received a journal and a newsletter by mail, tangible membership benefits are now much more difficult to devise, when journals and access to collections or libraries are now all free online and open access. The Society has been one of the key proponents of open access databases but we have noticed that it is hard to persuade members to join when everything online is free anyway. So the staff has begun to develop a few programs for members here at the Society, and we hope that this will attract new members.
In the context of discussing our future and a strategic plan, we examined our mission statement, which was rather long and overly elaborate. We believe that the proposed revision voted on by the Fellows represents the Society’s mission more appropriately.
Our Annual Meeting always provides the opportunity to thank our very many supporters, who contribute their time, coins, books and most importantly money to our organization. Here our Trustees should be mentioned first, and at this meeting, it is my duty and pleasure to express our gratitude to three Trustees, who are stepping off the Board of Trustees.
Jeff Benjamin has served on the Board for 9 years and his contribution has been invaluable. From 2012 to this year, he served as Treasurer and Chairman of the Finance Committee, one of our most important positions but as in many other organizations often a thankless task. He oversaw our endowment and worked closely with our investment consultants and the staff. I am personally most grateful for his service to the Society. We are most fortunate to have had the benefit of someone so actively involved and successful in the world of finance.
Richard Beleson has been a steadfast supporter of the Society for many years. Based in California, Rick has been an early supporter of the Sage Society, but we all remember his wonderful surprise gifts in honor of Abraham Sofaer, and later, a most generous gift to the endowment of the Executive Director Chair. Rick’s love of sports is well known, and we wish him all the best.
Douglas Rohrman has been on our board for over a decade, and served as First Vice-President from 2008 – 2013. His dedication to the institution is exemplary. As an attorney, he has played a key role in governance of the Society. As Chairman of a committee that re-drafted our antiquated by-laws, he helped reshape the Society’s legal structure. We will also miss his measured approach to the rather trying matters in the field of cultural property.
On behalf of the Trustee and the staff, I express my warm appreciation to all three of them. We are fortunate to have found three outstanding candidates who are willing to serve as Trustees, who will be hopefully voted today. It goes without saying that I am so pleased that we are surrounded by such an impressive board of Trustees that helps in so many ways. I would like to highlight John Nebel for his most generous support this year, which has allowed an overhaul of our server system. Lawrence Schwimmer has also shown great generosity, as well as an anonymous donor. My gratitude to all of you. I want to close by thanking our Chairman, Kenneth Edlow, without whom we would not be where we are today.
Return to FY2016 Annual Report