Interview with the new owner of CNG, Michael Gasvoda

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September 20, 2018 – The news that Michael Gasvoda is the new owner and managing director of CNG was a kind of a bombshell. Now, many collectors are wondering whether the new ownership will change CNG. CoinsWeekly has asked Michael Gasvoda what’s on top of his agenda.

Michael Gasvoda, the new owner and managing director of CNG.

CoinsWeekly: You have established and managed a very successful company offering solutions concerning water and wastewater. Now you will be the head of one of the numismatic auction houses of highest international renown. What do you think will be similar, where do you see the differences?

Mike Gasvoda: There are many similarities to business management regardless of the field. Managing cash flow; budgeting; managing people; and managing time are quite similar with CNG to what I was doing at GAI (Gasvoda & Associates, Inc.). I also have quite a bit of experience with web development and design as I wrote the original site for GAI. While the CNG website is very robust, the technological changes that are happening so fast make this part of the business a continuing challenge. I feel comfortable that we will not only be able to keep up with changing technology but will be able to provide new features as they are needed.

What is different from my past management experience is obviously the buying and selling of coins from a dealer’s side of the table. While I have been a coin buyer for most of my life, that has been from a collector standpoint. I also have experience with selling coins both via the auction route and via consignment. I will be involved in this part of the business with CNG but it will usually be in a behind the scenes role. I am actively working with the field staff (Victor, Eric, Dave Michaels and David Guest) to understand how each of them think and work. But none of them are going anywhere so the pressure on me isn’t as great as some have speculated.

Given the above, with respect to buying coins, I can say I think I bring a unique perspective to CNG with my long-time experience as a customer of the coins that CNG and other firms have sold. This meaning I think I understand some new and different ways to sell coins from a customer perspective that will help our future consigners. You will see some of these ideas begin to crop up soon.

CoinsWeekly: What do you think will be the most useful for the new job you have learned during your former professional career?

Mike Gasvoda: I came from a field that always had deadlines. Managing various job responsibilities while meeting deadlines was critical in my former career and every bit as critical with CNG. In water and wastewater construction one of the first things we do is develop a “critical path” for every project. This path determines what needs to be done when to complete the job on time. Building an auction is so similar. From the receipt of consignments to the final sale being published every step must be synchronized. I have truly enjoyed working with the staff on this subject making sure we maintain the best procedures to provide each coin the care and time it needs to be successfully presented.

This all involves time management and keeping a lot of balls in the air at the same time. I am quite used to this and, so far, I am finding familiarity in handling this role. 

The other aspect that is familiar is dealing with a great number of people on a daily basis. I was a designer and problem solver in my career at GAI. I had many calls each day from clients looking for help and advice. I loved that role. I hope to be able to do this with the CNG customer base as well. But one thing I will never do is pretend I know something I don’t. If a customer calls and I don’t know the answer to their question I will tell them. And then I will go find the person for them who does know. I never want to give bad advice – ever.

CoinsWeekly: You have assured the collectors all over the world that the future of CNG looks bright. Are you able to and would you like to reveal some of your plans concerning this future?

Mike Gasvoda: I do believe the future of CNG is bright. I am confident I can manage the day to day operations and I am comfortable that Victor and Eric will not only stay involved with the firm but will be able to train the next generation as we eventually bring them on board. I believe Victor and Eric will have much more time to be out meeting with customers than they have had. I can’t see how that could be anything but positive for CNG.

We are actively looking for a couple new hires to fill specific roles. Our London office will be growing in staff size soon. Our Lancaster office has an immediate need for another cataloger and we are in discussions on that position as I write this. We intend to get back to attending many shows, both in the US and in Europe. A new generation of collectors is emerging. We want to be there to help them grow their collections with sound advice.

Victor and Eric took CNG to a level I am sure neither of them ever dreamed they would. They implemented all the ideas they felt were productive in helping their business grow. I think they have accomplished almost every goal they set for themselves. CNG is at a plateau. The company can stay the same, it can shrink in size, or it can grow. Our sincere intention is for CNG to grow. What do I bring to this equation? New ideas, new enthusiasm, and a time commitment to make it happen. I have spoken to every member of the staff to learn their thoughts. The list of ideas can be described as nothing short of exciting. Am I willing to reveal them here? No, I am afraid not. I will let the changes come as time allows. I feel confident the collecting field will like what they see. I will state again though, the future looks very bright!

CoinsWeekly: There are so many things collectors love CNG for. What did you like best with CNG, before you decided becoming a part of it?

Mike Gasvoda: I think the first word that comes to mind is “integrity”. CNG just does things the right way. They have always been honest and fair with me and I can’t think of a single friend in this field who feels otherwise. I have always felt that my personal integrity meant more to me than any sale ever could. So when the opportunity first presented itself my interest was piqued by that simple fact. I could see myself being a part of CNG.

Integrity comes from a business’ leaders. It has a trickle-down effect to the staff. How goes the leader, so goes the staff. In the months we were negotiating I had the chance to meet with the staff at all levels. I came away from those meetings with such a warm and positive feeling for each and every member of the CNG team. I knew I wanted to work with this wonderful group of people. Now several months later I can say that nothing has changed. In fact, my opinion of the staff is probably stronger than I could have imagined it being. From the beginning I knew that CNG was too important to see “go away”. I know that now more than ever. This field needs this staff and what they do for numismatics!

CoinsWeekly: You owned one of the most precious, most extensive, and most beautiful collections on the coinage of the Twelve Caesars. What inspired you to concentrate on that field? What other fields of numismatic interest do you have?

Mike Gasvoda: I purchased my first ancient coin from Glenn Schinke, a VF denarius of Augustus with Caius and Lucius reverse. This was a long time ago. I think I paid around $200 for it. When it came I was just mesmerized by the “history I was holding in my hand” and how inexpensively it was available. Shortly after I took my first trip to Europe on business. This trip took me around northern Italy with a stop overnight in Modena. I had been reading the history of Augustus and knew that modern Modena was ancient Mutina of siege fame with Octavian and Marc Antony just after the assassination of Julius Caesar. I was just hooked on this period.

I originally completed a set of twelve Caesars in silver, all probably in VF or so condition. Just after completing the set I saw the twelve Caesars in gold on display at the entrance to the CICF when this show was still downtown Chicago, at the Hyatt Hotel as I recall. I stood and looked at that set for perhaps fifteen minutes. I fell in love with the possibilities all over again. I just never moved on, eventually collecting anything and everything related to the series. I loved the portrait styles and craved the work of master engravers. I also loved the propaganda reverse types, collecting everything I could of historical importance. It grew to be a great collection that I am very proud to have assembled. My interest finally waned when it became so difficult to add to the collection that I was sitting idle through many auctions and shows. I then realized one of the things I truly loved was the thrill of the chase. When that was gone my interest fell off. So the collection was sold.

But once a collector, always a collector. As the ability to add to the twelve Caesars collection fell off I started another set which fascinated me – the incuse coinage of Magna Graecia. As an engineer I had great interest in this unique series. Why did they make the coins this way? How did they make them? Why did they stop? Today I think my understanding of the mechanics of this series can rival anyone. I always looked for the instructional pieces – mismatched dies; rotated dies; overstrikes; die states; etc. Each of these coins had an academic way of describing what was going on during the initial minting. But understanding the incuse coinage meant having to understand the greater coinage of the Greek world and how it was interrelated. So, I expanded to all of Magna Graecia including many coins of Sicily. I added coins from the Greek mainland and islands and a few from Asia minor. I loved looking for master engravers and trying to follow their career as they might have moved around the Greek world. I think I have developed a good eye for “artistic style”.

I began collecting counterfeiters dies at this same time. How better to understand how a coin was struck than to see the tools used to strike it – even if they were counterfeiter’s tools. This is a much tougher collecting area than most would realize. I may be as proud of this small collection as I am of anything I have assembled.

But alas all of this is going to auction with the purchase of CNG. This was a decision I made early on in negotiations as I feel it is a conflict of interest for a business owner to have any perceived competition with his or her customer base. Some coins and the dies are coming soon in CNG MB Sale 109. The remainder will be sold in the Triton sale next January.

CoinsWeekly: Will you continue collecting?

Mike Gasvoda: Once a collector, always a collector. I have a number of US collections. I have complete collections of large cents; Flying Eagle and Indian Head cents; Lincoln cents; and partially complete sets of other US coin series. I collect several medal series and I have a rather nice collection of petrified wood slabs and logs. But I will not collect in competition with our customers.

CoinsWeekly: Where can all the collectors who are curious about the future of CNG meet you to ask their questions? Will you be at your table at the New York show? Any other plans for the next shows?

Mike Gasvoda: I expect to be at a number of shows and auctions. I will certainly be at the NYINC for the duration. I will be at lot viewing before the show and then at the booth during the show. I expect you will find me at the Whitman Show; Long Beach Show; ANA World’s Fair of Money; and perhaps Coinex next year. I might also make it to the ANA Summer Seminar, with fellow staffer Kerry Wetterstrom, where we may once again be educators for one of the classes next year. And, of course, I will be spending time at both the Lancaster and London offices and would love to meet with collectors at either location. Any time someone wants to reach me I can also be contacted via email. 

The American Numismatic Society (ANS) has honored its former First Vice President Mike Gasvoda with the 2019 Trustees’ Award.

Read CNG’s press release here, which we published on CoinsWeekly.

Take a look at the NAC auction catalog of part 1 of Michael Gasvoda’s collection of coins of the Twelve Caesars. 

Visit the website of Gasvoda & Associates, Inc., the company that Michael Gasvoda established.

On occasion of CNG’s 40th anniversary, we published the firm’s history on CoinsWeekly.

Victor England is included in our Numismatic Who’s who.