US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Aug. 23, 2021: ANA roars back

Top attractions of the 2021 World's Fair of Money included U.S. Type Coins of the Tyrant Collection and the display of the record-setting 1933 double eagle, hosted by GreatCollections.

Images by Larry Jewett

The success of the American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money in Rosemont, Illinois, in August was a sign that the nation has partially recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, rising infection rates in much of the country are evidence things are still not normal and that it may be a long time, if ever, before a return to “normal.” 

Mask-wearing was recommended at the convention but not mandated, and attendees reported that some wore masks and others did not, just as is happening at other regions not under mask mandates. Foreign attendees were few, due to travel restrictions. Overall, fewer tables were present, permitting more space between neighboring booths for those dealers who were present on the bourse. Aisles were wider than at past ANA conventions, which no regular show attendee used to heavy foot traffic and roadblocks would complain about. A balance was reached between prudent precautions and the widespread restrictions during the first year of the pandemic. However, the ANA has reported, “Unfortunately, several dealers have notified the ANA that they have tested positive for COVID-19 since returning from the show. Although protective measures were in place, the potential for exposure is always a possibility when one leaves home. The ANA is unaware of when, where or how the dealers contracted the virus,” and recommended that those who were at the show and who feel ill get tested for COVID. While there is no evidence that any of the dealers who have tested positive became infected at the convention, it is possible; sponsors of other conventions should consider what additional steps they should take in the next few months to protect attendees at their shows.

The two official 2021 ANA convention auctioneers, Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Heritage Auctions, both chose to remain in pandemic mode by conducting their auctions at their respective headquarters the week after the Rosemont event, rather than at the convention site. With the explosion of online bidding in the last decade, physical attendance on the auction floor has been unnecessary anyway, and online bidding is a lot less expensive (you can avoid travel costs, and spend that savings on more coins!).

The reliance on online bidding at auctions is just one way the hobby has changed a great deal since March 2020, when the first wave of the pandemic began sweeping over the nation and the world. Most scheduled 2020 conventions were canceled, including that year’s ANA World’s Fair of Money. The trend continued into 2021 with the Florida United Numismatists January convention and the later ANA National Money Show both canceled, as well as a host of smaller shows and conventions. Auctions were held remotely. The 2020 and 2021 ANA Summer Seminars were canceled, as were in-person educational activities planned by other organizations.

However, hobby leaders in 2020 and 2021 expanded the production of online educational events. The American Numismatic Association excelled at that, offering numerous educational programs, most open free to remote attendees.

The ANA convention was also a morale booster for dealers, collectors, and hobby officials alike. Physical distancing, canceled conventions and other restrictions required during the past year and a half reduced the social aspects of the hobby — seeing old friends and making new ones, being able to sit at a dealer’s bourse table and look through their inventory for a needed coin, attending educational events in person. Those aspects were missed.

Even if, in a year or so, the nation and world can return to pre-pandemic status (or something close to it), the hobby should not forget the lessons learned and experiments conducted. Remote educational forums should become routine; the majority of collectors who would be interested in such programming cannot attend in-person forums due to cost or inability to take off from work or other reasons. This is the future of learning and the future is now.

Many aspects of the future remain uncertain. We are not out of the woods yet. But with prudent action, experimentation and careful planning, the hobby can remain active and strong. 
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