By Jesse Robitaille
This is the first story in a two-part numismatic year in review.
While the hobby’s response to COVID-19, its most consequential challenge in many decades, highlights the strength of Canadian numismatics, there are grave concerns about diminished camaraderie during and after the pandemic.
Since March, collectors, dealers, auctioneers, show organizers and anyone else involved in numismatics have been forced to move their hobbies and businesses online. The pandemic has – at least for the time being – transformed how people interact with the fellowship-focused hobby. While camaraderie is taking a hit owing to a near-total lack of in-person shows, club meetings and other events, auctions and dealer sales remain robust, with collector interest holding strong.
“Strangely, the pandemic seems to have increased interest in numismatics, from what I can see,” said Bob Forbes, president of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA), the country’s national numismatic body and one of the world’s largest numismatic associations.
“This is possibly because people have more free time, and a quiet hobby like collecting brings both enjoyment and distraction.”
Scott Douglas, president of the Ontario Numismatic Association (ONA) – Canada’s largest provincial numismatic organization with 46 chapters – agreed the state of the hobby is “still pretty strong.”
“People are still able to do what they would normally do, and their interests are still there; however, the fact I can’t go to a meeting and engage with people on a personal level – that’s the spark to a lot of things I do,” said Douglas, a celebrated collector, hobby leader and long-time organizer of the RCNA and ONA educational symposiums.
“I don’t want to give the wrong impression, but I’m finding my enthusiasm is waning a little bit.”
Long touted as the glue holding the hobby together, camaraderie among collectors and dealers has diminished since the pandemic began about nine months ago.
“I don’t think I quite realized how much it mattered before,” said Douglas, who received the Numismatic Ambassador Award at the Florida United Numismatists Convention this January, just days after the World Health Organization reported on a cluster of novel pneumonia cases – with no deaths – in Wuhan, China.
The limited fellowship offered online is one of the major challenges for the hobby going forward, he added.
“I think the longer this goes on, the more damage will be done. People have moved on to some other things in their life that maybe they neglected – like fixing the bathroom door, putting a new set of shelves in the den and working out in the garden. It’s taking a bit away from the everyday large amount of time a lot of us would spend with our hobby.”
Despite seemingly endless Zoom meetings and other virtual events, any stagnation among collectors is an unwelcome sign for leaders who have worked tirelessly to maintain numismatics’ foundation in Canada.
“I think we’re straining a little at this point,” added Douglas. “Obviously, with the Zoom meetings, we’ve seen that people want to reach out to other collectors, but the feeling you come away with is just not the same at all. It’s almost like you’re standing at the door looking into the room instead of being part of the room.”