A LITTLE PIECE OF NORMALITY?
Numismatics and Covid:
Will there be a reunion in the third year of the pandemic?
Admittedly, writing a column in the age of a worldwide pandemic is a daring undertaking, writes Sebastian Wieschowski. A lot can happen from printing a magazine to publishing it. As I write infection figures have risen again. German politics is still littered with discussion about restrictions, even with the situation in Ukraine unfolding. On a personal level, I have been pondering whether I should seriously buy a plane ticket to visit a numismatic friend.
I remember my last numismatic trip back in January 2020. A new virus was out in the world but hardly anyone took notice. I had flown to New York and walked through a densely packed exhibition hall at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, one of the few Germans at the coin event, rubbing shoulders with hundreds of numismatists from around the world. The virus may well have been circulating in New York by then; if it was nobody was overly concerned. Two weeks later, the numismatic community met in Berlin for the World Money Fair. And in March, I was planning a numismatic road trip through Germany and Europe with a friend. The Numismata in Munich was on the agenda, the coin museum in Hall in Tyrol, the German National Museum in Nuremberg.
But just two months later, the pandemic arrived, and numismatics didn’t escape. Whilst collectors and investors from all over the world were on their way to the Numismata in Munich, the fair was cancelled. My friend had cancelled his trip shortly before. What caused plenty of resentment at the time was, in retrospect, the only correct step… and a harbinger of what was to follow throughout 2020 and 2021. Coin bourses were cancelled, auctions were converted into online sales. Meetings of coin clubs could not take place because of contact restrictions, and instead social contacts even between coin enthusiasts shifted to the internet.
People had gradually become comfortable with the new reality, but most numismatists still did not want to give up cherished habits. They were rather hesitant to embrace innovations such as the first ‘Digital Fair’ which replaced the traditional World Money Fair. The fair organisers promised new ways to connect and create, but there’s just nothing like a personal walk through a ‘real’ fair, browsing and rummaging, hearing and feeling the excited buzz of over 10,000 enthusiastic collectors.
In addition, many companies did their own thing,
unable to attend coin fairs. Resourceful numismatists everywhere were looking for new ways to present their products and services. They experimented with video conferencing, augmented reality, or quite simply, sample packages sent by mail to potential business partners. Thus, the 2020s started as a decade of new beginnings, inventiveness and bold experimentation for the coin industry as well.
So what’s next in the third year of the pandemic? The first steps towards a new normality have become possible; coin fairs in Prague and Zurich could take place, albeit with a severely limited audience, as many international guests shied away from the risk of cancelling their trip again at the last minute. AS the year began preparations got underway for the most important cornerstones of the numismatic year: at the beginning of January, the major coin fairs in New York and Florida took place, with Berlin’s World Money Fair planned for the spring.
In Germany, organisers were boldly preparing an anniversary edition of the world’s largest coin fair. The optimistic motto ‘Finally fair!’ spoke to many dealers and collectors from the heart. But shortly before the scheduled date, the World Money Fair was postponed yet again. Behind closed doors, many dealers, journalists and collectors from the USA or Asia had decided that they would forego the trip to Berlin to be on the safe side, travel restrictions and quarantine regulations adding to the uncertainty and challenge.
I want to recapture a little piece of normality and have booked my plane ticket to London. I have triple vaccinations and follow all hygiene rules. The face mask has become as natural as the seat belt when driving a car. I’m a child of the internet generation and now also a member of the Covid generation, but even for me, there’s nothing better than a reunion with like-minded coin enthusiasts in New York, Berlin or London. In the coming months these reunions will be a welcome respite from a so far very challenging decade.