Numismatic world grinds to halt as Canada takes aim at COVID-19

By Jesse Robitaille

In a matter of days, dozens of shows, auctions, club meetings and other numismatic events have been cancelled as concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic continue to escalate worldwide.

Following the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) community-based measures to mitigate the virus’ spread, many organizers are cancelling their events—sometimes just days before they were slated to begin. In addition to public and mass gathering cancellations, these community-based approaches include avoiding crowding, school closures and workplace measures and closures.

“Measures taken to reduce the amount of time individuals spend in large crowds or in crowded spaces can be effective to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in a community,” reads PHAC’s recent notice.

“This is really devastating not just for everyday life but for the numismatic community as well,” said Paul Johnson, long-time executive secretary of the Royal Canadian Numismatic Association (RCNA).

“It’s going to affect a lot of people, including dealers and their sales. It’s their livelihood. People can still buy coins through the mail, but the interactions at shows is so important. Obviously, it’s very important to keep the lines of communications with dealers and other collectors open, but other than that, there’s not much that can be done. We have to pull together as a group, and hopefully sometime in the future this gets sorted out. We can all see what’s happening out there and it’s devastating.”

SLEW OF CANCELLATIONS

On March 12, the Edmonton Coin Show and Sale – Canada’s largest coin show – was cancelled only two days before the event was set to open its doors to the public.

“The show was cancelled because of the changing advisories by local health authorities, who are now understanding what the risk really is,” show co-chair Pierre Driessen told CCN on March 12, adding the risk centres on people aged 60 and over—a major numismatic demographic.

To read the full story on this cancellation, click here.

A slew of cancellations followed throughout the weekend—among these was the 29th Annual Cambridge Coin Show.

“Up until March 11, it seemed as it would be business as usual with a few added precautions until all hell broke loose on Friday the 13th of all days,” said Peter Becker, secretary and newsletter editor of the Waterloo Coin Society, which organizes the annual show.

“The spring coin show season is in serious jeopardy and all similar large events will be forced to cancel as has happened with the Edmonton, Cambridge and Guelph coin shows. Dealers whose livelihoods depend on these events and who don’t have a large Internet presence will be greatly affected by this in addition to collectors looking to sell.”

In Cambridge, as well as across much of the rest of Canada and the United States, local club meetings are also being forced to shut down—a situation exacerbated by the fact many of these meetings are held in senior centres, community centres and churches.

“Whether or not we want to support the organizers, they have no choice but to comply with local health authorities’ orders,” added Becker. “A tremendous amount of pre-planning, advertising and a significant amount of expense goes into each show before the doors are even opened to the public.”

Becker believes the “difficult decision” to cancel is appropriate.

“Though it was a difficult decision to make, it was the right one and in the best interest of our members and attendees. Let’s hope for a quick conclusion to the pandemic that is causing major disruptions worldwide.”

Other major cancellations in Canada include Trajan’s National Postage Stamp & Coin Show on April 4-5; the Regina Coin Club Spring Show & Sale on April 18-19; the Guelph Spring Coin Show on April 25; and the Toronto Coin Expo on May 1-2.

“We found out yesterday that the Legion, where we hold our show, is closed indefinitely as a precaution to reduce the risk of the COVID-19 spreading, particularly among seniors,” said Judy Blackman, of the South Wellington Coin Society (SWCS), which organizes the annual show in Guelph.

“At this time, our hope is that the virus will have gotten under control, and that our fall show may continue. If that changes, we’ll let you know.”

The SWCS also cancelled its April meetings and will make a decision regarding its May meetings soon.

Many dealers are keeping their stores open by appointment only while the Royal Canadian Mint suspended all tours and closed its boutiques – located in Winnipeg and Ottawa – on March 14 until further notice.

“We have asked all Mint employees who can work from home to do so in order to reduce the risk for those who manufacture our products and ensure business continuity,” said Mint President and CEO Marie Lemay, who also thanked employees “for the strong response.”

RCNA STILL UP IN THE AIR

With the annual convention of the RCNA still several months out, organizers are waiting to make a decision.

“We put a general notice on the website, and that’s general knowledge now,” said Johnson about the convention slated for scheduled for July 21-25 in Halifax. “We just don’t have to make a decision yet.”

Organizers are monitoring the situation and will make a decision in the coming months, Johnson added.

“It looks like just about every numismatic event in the next three to four weeks will be cancelled. All sorts of meetings are cancelled, and there will likely be more as time goes on.”

Johnson also noted major conventions in the United States – like the 81st Annual Central States Numismatic Society Convention (CSNS) slated for April 22-25 – have also been cancelled.

“They’re trying to get a handle on it now because so many people are already making plans to attend at this time.”

ONA CANCELLED

For the first time in its 58-year history, the annual convention of the Ontario Numismatic Association (ONA) has been cancelled “after great deliberation with my convention committee and many of our members,” President Scott Douglas told CCN on March 17.

“We can’t make decisions based on finances, and I would never make a decision based on financial obligations,” said Douglas about the event slated for May 22-24 in Burlington, Ont., adding he’s unsure of the financial repercussions “but lives are at stake and we must do the responsible thing.”

“No convention is worth the risk of life. We have a responsibility to act in the best interests of our members as well as the public that attends our convention each year and so we must act accordingly. With people’s safety and health, even if it’s mildly at risk, we just cannot proceed.”

To read more, click here.

OTHER CANCELLED SHOWS

Many U.S. shows and meetings are also being cancelled.

In addition to the above mentioned CSNS Convention, these major U.S. cancellations include the Whitman Coin & Collectibles Expo in Baltimore on March 19-21.

Similar to the RCNA, the American Numismatic Association (ANA) is waiting to see how the situation develops south of the border before making a decision.

“This is an unsettling time, as the number of confirmed Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases continue to increase,” reads a recent statement from the ANA. “Many museums and events are being closed/cancelled out of an abundance of caution. The ANA headquarters building and Money Museum will be closed to the public through April 30, to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Museum patrons are invited to visit our galleries virtually in the interim.

Internationally, the Hong Kong International Coin and Antique Watch Fair (originally scheduled for March 24-26) is cancelled, and the Eighth Hong Kong Coin Show is postponed from March until May.

The Singapore International Coin Fair (SICF) – also originally slated for this month – was postponed to Aug. 14-16.

Organizers of the International Numismatic Fair “Numismata” also cancelled their March 7-8 show in Munich, Germany.

As of 4:30 p.m. on March 23, COVID-19 has hit more than 190 countries (up from 125 on March 12) with nearly 375,000 cases (up from 134,000 on March 12) and about 16,000 deaths (up from 5,000 on March 12) worldwide.

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