The ANA's Money Museum in Colorado Springs is being renamed for the organization's|
former executive director, Ed Rochette.
[Larger Image] (Photo: Brad Armstrong/ANA)
Ed Rochette Continues to Advance the Hobby
By Leon Worden
COINage magazine Vol. 42, No. 5
e steered the American Numismatic Association through troubled waters in the 1960s and stayed on board for 21 years. In the 1990s he was called out of retirement to do it again. When he stowed his ANA uniform for the last time in 2003, this World War II Navy veteran had already been inducted into the national coin club’s Hall of Fame.
In July he will receive a unique honor from the ANA. With 500 numismatic students on hand at Colorado College to watch, a new generation of ANA leaders will formally rename the organization’s Money Museum after their 79-year-old predecessor: Edward C. Rochette.
"(Rochette) was always pretty much considered ‘Mr. ANA,’" said ANA President William H. "Bill" Horton, 54. "He’s always been there for (the ANA board) and helped them with advice in the tough times. For him to come back out of retirement and take back over the executive director’s job was a tremendous thing on his part. … He didn’t have to do that, and I really commend him for that."
Naming the museum for Rochette, a high-ranking ANA staff member from 1966 to 1987 and 1998 to 2003, was the idea of three men who earned the "naming rights" by raising $500,000 for the museum’s expansion. They were Chester L. Krause, founder of hobby giant Krause Publications and Rochette’s onetime boss; former Krause Chairman Clifford Mishler; and an anonymous donor.
Rochette "was really instrumental in getting the museum going and perpetuating it," said Krause, 82. "I think it was appropriate to name that after him."
"I was flattered," Rochette said of his initial reaction. "I was really taken aback. I didn’t expect it. Had I been asked, I would have said no. But they did it."
Rochette has since learned the identity of the anonymous donor. "No, it was not me. I never earned that much money."
But he did earn that much respect from contemporaries in a hobby that paid him back in other ways through the years.
"(Coin collecting) has given me an enjoyable and very educational life," he said. "It’s been my whole adult life. It’s been a rewarding experience. I’ve never gone out and tried to corner a market or buy something because it was rare. I’d buy it because I could write a story about it. I can’t think of any other hobby that would do that."
It was his ability to "write a story about it" that opened doors for him in numismatics and ultimately put him in the right place at the right time with the ANA.
ROCHETTE: THE EDITOR
Ed Rochette was about 12 years old when he literally "discovered" coins in the basement of his home in Worcester, Massachusetts. It was 1939 or 1940. His father, a doctor who graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1903, had died, leaving Mom to raise their only child.
"As a kid, (my father) had a paper route," Rochette said. "Among the things he put aside were 2-cent pieces, half cents, 3-cent pieces, all that odd stuff. One day I was fooling around down in the basement and found this little purse with all these odd coins and got interested in them.
"Not knowing anything about them, I went to a coin dealer (who) said, ‘I’ll give you half face (value) because these are obsolete.’ I decided, ‘Wait a minute, I may be young, but I’m not going to be taken."
He did some casual collecting when he enlisted in the Navy in 1944 at age 17. He was stationed aboard the second Langley, an escort carrier in the Pacific Theater, as an aviation electrician’s mate. He met his first wife, Faye, during a brief stay at the Lambert Field Naval Air Station in St. Louis and moved there in 1946 when he left active duty. (Faye died of cancer in 1977. He remarried in 1978; Mary Ann has been with him ever since.)
After the war he finished high school, attended Washington University in St. Louis, "got really interested in coins" and joined the Missouri Numismatic Society. He landed his first "publishing" job, if you can call it that, with a company in St. Louis that manufactured Christmas and other wrapping paper.
"I was in the composing room. I did everything from typesetting to making the printing plates. I also worked in the art department a little bit. That’s where I started cartooning."
It was his cartooning that first got the attention of Krause, who had just started publishing the weekly Numismatic News. It was "primarily an advertising sheet with a few bits of club news" with "all advertising on the front page," Rochette said. "I wrote Chet and said, ‘You ought to dress up the front page with a cartoon." And so he said, ‘Send one.’ So that’s how I got started with Chet."
Called "Numispest," the cartoon "was about a coin collector," Rochette said. "I think the very first one was a guy standing there cleaning his coins, and the acid was dripping down, eating his pant leg, and somebody was saying, ‘I think it’s a little too strong for coins.’"
Ed and Faye Rochette would have three sons – Edward III (Ed dropped the "Jr." after his father died), Paul and Philip. They moved back to Worcester to care for Ed’s grandmother after his mother died. Ed went to work for the Webster (Mass.) Times.
In 1960, Rochette jumped at the chance to work for a new weekly newspaper called Coin World.
"They had advertised for an editor and publisher, and I had applied. (Publisher) J. Oliver Amos answered with red typewriter ribbon in red ink. I figured that’s a bad omen. So I never followed through on it."
But opportunity knocked again when Krause tapped Rochette for help with a souvenir edition of Numismatic News for the next ANA convention. Ultimately Krause would hand him the keys.
"I started Numismatic News all by myself in 1952," Krause said, "and it never really got its feet on the ground until the early ‘60s. Mind you, I was a carpenter. I was a collector, too, so I knew that end of things. But I didn’t know journalism and publishing. … It took me that long to find out which way the wind was blowing."
Compared to Worcester, it was a chill wind that was blowing through Iola, Wisconsin, in 1963 when Rochette took over as editor.
"It was one of those winters where the snow piled up to the cross arms on the telephone poles," Rochette remembered. "I brought my wife out, and she wasn’t ready to talk to me for quite awhile. But she really fell in love with Iola."
So much so that she didn’t want to leave in 1966 when the ANA recruited Rochette to edit its monthly journal, The Numismatist.
Rochette left Numismatic News in the capable hands of Cliff Mishler, whom Rochette had hired, and went to Chicago to move the offices of The Numismatist to Colorado Springs, where the ANA was consolidating its scattered operations.
The consolidation was one of several messes Rochette would be asked to clean up for the ANA.
ROCHETTE: THE NEGOTIATOR
Founded in 1891 and chartered by Congress in 1912, the ANA still lacked a national headquarters in the early 1960s. Its library was in Nebraska, its medal collection was in Michigan and its coin cabinet was at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The ANA wanted a home. In 1961 it was offered one in Colorado Springs for $250,000. The ANA didn’t have the money. "I don’t think it had $2,000," Rochette said.
So in 1963, at its Denver convention, the ANA launched a building fund drive. Members were asked to donate coins for auction. The board considered several cities. Colorado Springs won out when its mayor, Bill Henderson, a stamp collector, engineered a land swap that brought the ANA to the Colorado College campus.
But there was a fly in the fund-raising ointment.
Jack Koch, then-executive director, was relocating from Phoenix. "We were building the headquarters and he was building his own home (with) the same funds," Rochette said. "The auditors verified that he was embezzling." At the next ANA board meeting, Rochette was prepared to tender his resignation as editor "because if they kept Jack Koch, I would have been out."
Not to worry. Koch "was fired on the spot."
Rochette has been credited with negotiating the ANA’s lease with Colorado College -- $1 per year for 198 years. The headquarters building opened June 10, 1967, with a staff of nine and museum space, but no display cases.
"Stack’s came along and gave us a grant, so we built some cases," Rochette said. The Stack Galleries occupied a room on the main floor while a lower-level gallery housed a collection of Franklin Mint medals.
The $1 million expansion was completed in 1982. By this time the ANA had about 70 employees, many of whom worked with ANACS, the ANA’s coin certification service (which it sold in 1990).
After 21 years, Rochette decided he’d had enough of the day-to-day operations, but he didn’t leave the building. In 1987 he was elected to the ANA board and served as president from 1991 to 1993.
Then, in 1998, "they got into some problems with one director after another and I was asked to come out of retirement."
"Ed had a great ability to talk to people on all levels," said Krause. "He was the ideal man to go in and straighten the mess out. There were lawsuits involved. I think he settled a couple of them by just paying them a visit and (seeing) what the problem was and (finding out what he) could do for them."
Before he left for good, Rochette facilitated another major donation to the ANA and organized another capital campaign to house it – the campaign that Krause and Mishler headed.
"Harry Bass had passed away, and the Bass Foundation was looking for a place to exhibit Harry Bass’s core collection, which was worth in the millions," Rochette said. "They had gone to the Smithsonian, they had gone to a couple of other museums, and when they got to Colorado Springs and (asked), would we consider it? Well, we rolled out the red carpet and we ended up with it."
For a fixer with the ability to "talk to people on all levels" – and who was given the honorary title of "executive director emeritus" to carry with him for life – it’s peculiar to think of Ed Rochette at the center of a bitter, if seemingly petty, ANA controversy. But he was. And it was not of his making.
ROCHETTE: THE CONTROVERSY
With a surprised Ed Rochette in the audience, Cliff Mishler proudly unfurled a banner proclaiming the "Edward C. Rochette Museum" at ANA headquarters last summer.
But the banner was wrong – or so said the ANA leadership. In a press release, the ANA said the Krause-Mishler $500,000 gift gave them the right to name only upper gallery of the museum – not the entire museum.
"There had been talk for years of it taking $1 million to name the museum," said Horton, the ANA president.
Krause, who’d been led to believe $500,000 would secure naming rights to the whole museum, was so upset, he resigned his ANA life membership. "Words fail to express my disgust," he said in an Aug. 4, 2005, letter to Horton. "Let me tell you that a half million dollars does not grow on trees."
Charges and counter-charges flew in the numismatic press. ANA board member Walter Ostromecki, a semi-retired educator from the San Fernando Valley (Calif.), celebrated for his work with young numismatists, replied to a complaint from Cliff Mishler by saying, "I, too, am disgusted at the outcome." A month later, in what Horton said was a unanimous vote, Ostromecki was booted from the ANA board.
Details of Ostromecki’s ouster were not released, except for vague references to violations of a code of conduct that some critics have dubbed a secret code of secrecy.
Ostromecki told COINage he will "definitely" run in the next ANA election in August 2007 – which Horton affirmed he can do.
Horton won’t be seeking reelection. "I’ve always said if you’ve been president, you’ve had your day. Leave on the top of your game."
Rochette has "no intention of running for the board again, although … I’m not 100 percent sure I won’t. You’ve got to let go at some time, and there are a lot of young and middle-aged numismatists coming up with a lot of savvy and background. I might just wait and see who’s running."
One savvy, middle-aged comer who’s already got Rochette’s vote is Ostromecki, 54.
December brought resolution to the naming-rights dispute when, at Horton’s initiative, Horton and the ANA’s attorney-turned-executive director, Chris Cipoletti, 45, visited Krause and Mishler in Wisconsin and agreed to name the entire museum for Rochette. Krause un-resigned from ANA.
What turned the tide? "The rules … were board-approved, and they were very specific," said Rochette. "A half-million dollar donation gave the naming rights to the museum."
Horton said a search of the files yielded no trace of a board vote. Rather, he said a press release from November 2000 – sent while Rochette was director – said a $500,000 donation would result in the donor’s name being "prominently associated with the museum."
Horton, Cipoletti, Krause and Mishler released a joint statement saying they resolved their "misunderstanding."
"For all of its 114 years, the ANA has had warts. But, warts and all, the ANA is still the best collector’s organization in the hobby," Mishler said in the statement.
"I hope it will blow over," said Rochette. "I’m not sure it will. A lot of feelings have been hurt."
The handling of the "naming rights" and "Ostromecki" controversies have left some people wondering who’s running the ANA.
"I think they’ve got their management chart upside-down," said Rochette. "The board is supposed to be in charge. That’s what our federal charter says. And our management chart, at least the management chart when I left, shows the executive director answering to the board."
For Horton, whose "day job" is superintendent of public works for the borough of Ramsey, New Jersey, the first six months of his ANA presidency "have been very trying for me."
"It has been a learning experience for the association," he said, "to learn to make sure that they put policies and procedures into effect in writing so that you can refer back to them. I think that has been a bad habit of the association. … Back then you didn’t have to do it."
Horton’s top priority is to get the organization’s financial house in order. In April he’ll present a business plan and budget that will be "in balance for first time in history." To date, he said, the ANA has functioned under what he called an "operating budget" and an "income budget."
To further the hobby, Horton said the ANA will be reaching out "to the Boy Scouts of America and the Girl Scouts, working with them to set up a national standard for merit badges. I think that’s going to open up a tremendous door."
There’s got to be a way to turn some of those 140 million collectors of state quarters – to quote the Mint – into serious numismatists and perhaps even ANA members. After all, there were 35,000 ANA members in 1980; today there are fewer than 32,000.
"Look at it this way," said Rochette. "I can remember when I first started collecting. I never thought I had a collection good enough for me to join the ANA. I think some people, when they start collecting coins, still look up to the ANA. They may even think it’s a little bit elitist, I don’t know. That has to be overcome."
Overcoming it will be the task of the next generation. Rochette still uses the library and visits the galleries at ANA headquarters, but he’s outside the power loop now.
"I’m sure he struggles with that, a little bit," said Horton. "He was always there for all the key decisions, and (now) he’s not."
©2006, MILLER MAGAZINES INC./LEON WORDEN. RIGHTS RESERVED.