The South Wellington Coin Society (SWCS) is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a banquet dinner tonight in Guelph, Ont., where more than 70 people are expected to join in on the festivities.
Founded in the spring of 1997 by six local collectors, the society filled a numismatic void in this particular region of Southwestern Ontario near Guelph. After struggling to develop what founding member and current President Scott Douglas calls the club’s “personal identity,” the SWCS has since earned a reputation for its educational leanings.
“For a city as big as Guelph, I was very shocked there wasn’t an active coin club,” said Douglas, who’s also the club’s treasurer, archivist, historian and medal co-ordinator. “For the first five years, we struggled for a personal identity and mirrored the Waterloo Coin Society through Bob Zmija’s request.”
At that time, Zmija was a member of the Waterloo Coin Society but had his sights set on starting a local coin club that would serve the southern half of Wellington County.
“Bob was a young man of 75 then, and it’s interesting because he lived two streets away from me in Acton, and I didn’t know him at all,” remembers Douglas, who added Zmija has since been named the society’s first honorary life member. “He had a huge interest in coins and coin collecting, and so did his family, so he thought it’d be good to have a coin club in the area.”
It was Mike Hollingshead, another SWCS founding member and then first vice-president of the Ontario Numismatic Association, who told Douglas of Zmija’s plans.
The inaugural meeting – which included Zmija; Douglas; Hollingshead; Zmija’s son, Tony; Zmija’s nephew, Matthew Fleet; and Bruno Kerkhof – took place in the spring of 1997. The society eventually formed in April, and Douglas assumed the role of inaugural president.
Of the six founding members, five will be in attendance tonight.
And of the six original members, four are still involved in the society: Hollingshead is the current vice-president; Bob Zmija, 95, is Lifetime Member No. 1; Tony Zmija is Charter Member No. 1; and of course, Douglas continues to push forward his vision of the SWCS as society president.
SAME LOCATION FOR 20 YEARS
For the past 20 years, the society has met on the first Wednesday of each month (now excluding January and February) at the Rockwood Public Library inside the Eramosa Community Centre at 85 Christie St., in Rockwood, Ont.
In the May/June 1997 edition of the Ontario Numismatist, there was a notice about “Canada’s newest coin club.”
“The South Wellington Coin Society was launched in beautiful downtown Rockwood this spring,” reads the report, which was written by Hollingshead. “Rockwood is a charming rural village of 800 in the southern end of Wellington County, between Guelph and Halton Hills (Acton/Georgetown). The club hopes to service members that lie outside the driving ranges of the Mississauga, Cambridge and Waterloo Coin groups.”
STANDING OUT FROM THE CROWD
The membership of the SWCS grew quickly – from its original six members to nearly 40 members in a few years – and Douglas would soon lead the charge in defining the society’s identity.
“Bob wanted our club to be like Waterloo, so we kind of stumbled along like that, and it was fine,” said Douglas.
“But I like to be different, and I looked at a lot of clubs out there and said we can be different and do things other people don’t do. After five years, we really started to get involved in the educational aspect. We’ve increased our awareness on the importance of education.”
Every meeting of the SWCS is concluded by an educational speaker as well as an auction.
“We do not have a meeting that doesn’t have an educational bent to it,” added Douglas.
The society also issues 10 newsletters annually to its members.
The Wellington Circular is the society’s monthly newsletter. It was established by Douglas but has since grown under current editor Judy Blackman.
“In the past 10 years, we have strongly emphasized the educational aspect, not just amassing coins but getting the knowledge, which is the fun part of being a collector and understanding what you have and why it exists,” said Douglas. “I think it enhances the hobby so much.”
For more information, visit southwellingtoncoinsociety.ca.