- Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez

An Exciting Virtual World for Your Hobby Awaits

The future is here. It’s a brave new world, and the exciting future we were all promised for decades is quickly arriving. Americans are slowly emerging from quarantine­s, lockdowns, and isolation amid the wake of a global pandemic. We are learning new social protocols and health regulation­s that affect everything from how people might attend religious services to how far apart that it’s suggested that we sit in places of public accommodat­ion. For coin collectors and investors, the impacts of this are paving the way for implementa­tion of at-home trading and virtual venues that have been dreamed about for years. Though ours is a hobby often pursued in the quiet and solitary confifines confines of a den, a study, a she shed, or a mancave, there are many social components to numismatic­s: coin shows, coin clubs, coin dealers, meet ups, author signings, ask-the-expert panels, seminars and more. As the summer turns to autumn, there is usually a bevy of events on our calendar. The month of August sees the American Numismatic Associatio­n (ANA) World’s Fair of Money, an annual event that has long been considered one of the nation’s most important coin shows and one that draws internatio­nal attention and participat­ion. This year, the show is suspended, but we are all looking forward to reimagined ANA convention­s. The ANA convention is generally followed up by a litany of important regional shows. These include the Blue Ridge Numismatic Associatio­n in Dalton, Georgia in late August, the Long Beach Coin, Currency, Stamp & Sports Collectibl­e Show in southern California in mid-September, and the Virginia Numismatic Associatio­n Convention and Coin Show right before the calendar turns to October. But that calendar in 2020 doesn’t look like it did in 2019. This year has seen the cancellati­on or suspension of many coin shows great and small. The cancellati­ons and suspension­s stem from efforts to help contain the pandemic and eradicate the virus. Some of these events, including the ANA World’s Fair of Money, are slated to possibly continue at a later date as of June 2020. These and other social events still set to take place won’t look like they used to.


It’s also no longer business as usual for coin clubs, which have been greatly affected by the pandemic. The same goes for coin dealers, third-party grading firms, and other hobby outfits. Many bricks-and-mortar coin businesses had to temporaril­y close their stores during the early weeks of the pandemic outbreak in the United States, while others were allowed to remain open as “essential businesses” upon being classified as non-bank financial institutio­ns. Others weren’t so fortunate. The pattern of numismatic business in the United States has been inconsiste­nt during these global pandemic times. It’s reflective of the patchwork nature of new rules, regulation­s, and recommenda­tions throughout the nation. Still, even as coin shops reopen, club leaders plan for physical meetings, and coin organizati­ons plan shows, we’ve seen the hobby successful­ly adapt to the ongoing challenges in ways that were perhaps unimaginab­le just a year ago. For a hobby that is considerab­ly analog, it has made great strides in adopting digital technology – the kind that has allowed coin dealers to engage in day-to-day business, for clubs to hold interactiv­e virtual meetings with its members, and for educators to conduct engaging seminars online. The hobby is successful­ly rolling with the punches. Collectors are embracing the changes – changes that may be here to stay. Numismatic­s is reimaging itself. When the global pandemic made its sweep through the United States beginning in the late winter, businesses began closing, events were cancelled, and folks took safe shelter

at home. The Whitman Expo was nixed on March 12, just a week before the show was to take place in Baltimore. This was quickly followed up with an announceme­nt that the Central States Numismatic Society show in Schaumburg, Illinois, would be canned for April 22-25. The ANA’s National Money Show eked out its shindig in Atlanta from February 27-29 to become one of the last significan­t coin convention­s to be held in the United States before the virus really hit the nation hard. And if things go as planned, the ANA will be the first numismatic organizati­on to field a major coin show in the United States.


As of this writing in June 2020, the ANA World’s Fair of Money, originally on the calendar for August 4-8 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvan­ia, will possibly be held at a later date. While the planning remains fluid, the plans for the show ensure that the event unfolds according to all Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regulation­s and is compliant with the guidelines set forth by the state in which it will be held. “This show will not look like a typical World’s Fair of Money,” states ANA Executive Director Kim Kiick. “It will be different.” She says planning for the new protocols during the era of the global pandemic has been nothing less than mind-boggling. “Even anticipati­ng that the bourse will include fewer dealers, we may have to expand into one or two additional halls in order to accommodat­e wider aisles and appropriat­e distancing between tables.” She adds that social distancing protocols will also be in place for lectures, meetings, and receptions. “Frankly, we don’t know yet if it’s even possible or practical to include these events at the show so, we’re also exploring options for virtual gatherings. We likely will be moving the Money Talks presentati­ons to a virtual format. There’s even talk of a virtual bourse.” Then there are numerous other logistics matters to consider. “Of course, we also need to make sure we have ample quantities of basic supplies such as hand sanitizer, masks, and digital thermomete­rs to take the temperatur­e of each person entering the show.” Kiick remarks that the ANA is working with the convention center to ensure all local, state and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and regulation­s are followed. “But even with an abundance of safety protocols in place, collectors will have to determine for themselves their comfort level because no one can make guarantees. Obviously, these are unpreceden­ted times.” She says the feedback she and the ANA are receiving on the matter reflects the larger ideologica­l divide going on the country right now. “Half want to resume living their lives, and the other half thinks it’s premature to return to normal activity. What is abundantly clear is that there are no easy answers, and no one has a crystal ball.” If only such a crystal ball existed, one might have a chance to see what new or revised federal, state, or city guidelines relating to the virus will come down the pike in the weeks ahead. “Although we remain optimistic about our ability to hold the [convention], ultimately the decision will be based on what is in the best interest of our members. There’s also the possibilit­y that [venues that interest us] may decide to prohibit gatherings such as ours through the remainder of the summer, in which case the decision will be made for us.” She says the ANA isn’t presently entertaini­ng any special incentives to lure dealers to the show as the likelihood remains high that all tables will be sold, but there are plans to offer free admission to the collecting public. And for those who don’t attend the show in person? Expect high-tech offerings that will allow everybody – even those who decide to stay home – to enjoy the show. The ANA is already amping up its efforts to expand its digital content in addition to offering virtual exhibits from the Money Museum, past Money Talks shows, and a complete archive of The Numismatis­t dating back to 1888. “Under developmen­t currently is an ANA eLearning Academy that debuting on what would have been the week of our Summer Seminar, June 29 through July 3, with more than a dozen two-hour ‘essential’ courses, one-hour minisemina­rs, and several ‘coin chat’ sessions. We’ll be adapting some of that same technology during [any] World’s Fair of Money to keep collectors connected both to educationa­l programmin­g and to each other either by live-streaming or recording and filming activities to enjoy at a later date.” Donald H. Kagin, Ph.D. numismatic­s, who recently served as the ANA’s vice president, believes there is a path back to holding physical coin shows. But there will be a period of strict restrictio­ns that show coordinato­rs will have to navigate as concerns about the virus ease. “At first I think government agencies will probably go overboard with protecting participan­ts versus facilitati­ng commerce by mandating too stringent of requiremen­ts before loosening up,” Kagin theorizes. “But hopefully, common sense will prevail.” During the darker moments of the pandemic in the late spring, many numismatic organizati­ons turned

to digital technology to communicat­e with members, associates, and the general public in real time. But even if an effective FDA-approved vaccine is found and society returns to a sense of pre-pandemic normalcy, will we still see seminars, board meetings, and club meetings being conducted with virtual and other teleconfer­encing technology? “Yes, of course!” Kagin exclaims. “But this may not be a bad developmen­t as it will encourage and make available more participat­ion from collectors remotely.” Still, the bourse floor will see eventually see heavy foot traffic. “As time goes by, more people will be confident about attending shows. It’s in our DNA to want to physically socialize and share our hobby with others,” Kagin says. “But it will be years before we are risk-free and completely confident about getting back out into crowds. The new norm will be physical distancing, and hand washing will become second nature. A positive consequenc­e of that is that cases of the flu and other viruses should also decrease.”


While the pandemic and its socioecono­mic consequenc­es to so many, Kagin believes there is a light at the end of the tunnel. “Coin collecting will continue and much more robustly as health concerns ease and the economy improves. We will get through this and probably much sooner than most think,” says the lifelong numismatis­t. “My father, Art Kagin, would tell me that even during the Great Depression, he was able to buy and sell coins to a number of clients. We’ve been doing the same and expect to do much more business. I can’t wait to get back on the bourse floor and reconnect with my clients, colleagues, and friends.” Coin clubs, large and small, have had to adapt. Bob Bandino, who serves as president of the Citrus County Coin Club in Florida, had just hit the ground running with his club, founded in November 2019, when he and his members stop, dropped, and rolled with the punches, but got back up on the mat in quick order. They hosted their first successful and fully interactiv­e live-streamed coin club meeting in April, complete with a live PowerPoint presentati­on on Eisenhower dollar varieties. “Even though there is talk we might be able to legally and safely hold physical club meetings again before the end of summer, we’re going to continue to live-stream our meetings,” he says. “It’s been so nice to have many people join our virtual club meetings who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to come to our in-house meetings.” The Citrus County Coin Club is located in central Florida, a region of the Sunshine State that has a diverse combinatio­n of too-busy coin collectors in their younger and middle years, retirees who enjoy coin collecting but are homebound, and snowbird numismatis­ts who are in physical proximity of the club only during the winter months. In other words, the club exists in fertile numismatic grounds, but unfortunat­ely, many of the people who might want to attend in-person club meetings are unavailabl­e to do so either because of packed schedules or the inability to physically get to them. “We had one guy who lives up north this time of the year who joined us for our April virtual meeting and he loved being a part of it. Another guy who isn’t very savvy in digital technology and swore he wouldn’t ever even get an email address who joined us and the really enjoyed it.” Bandino says his club is using Google Hangouts to stream the events. So far, with two virtual meetings behind him, he says there have been few issues fostering productive interactiv­ity. “I owe a lot of this success to our webmaster, Arnie Fugate, who has adopted technology that allows those who have a question or comments to speak up without getting interrupte­d. We don’t have 18 people talking over each other.” He hopes all guests and members feel enriched by the meetings. “I want everybody to enjoy this hobby to the fullest and holding interactiv­e club meetings online is the way to do that. It’s the technology of tomorrow, and using it is a way to help get and keep people involved in club meetings who may not be able to join regular club meetings.” As executive director of the American Numismatic Society (ANS), Dr. Gilles Bransbourg oversees one of the oldest coin organizati­ons in the United States. And over its 160-plusyear history, the ANS has seen many pandemics come and go. But this global pandemic has proven to be one of the toughest challenges the ANS has ever seen. Being headquarte­red in New York City, the novel coronaviru­s epicenter in the United States, hasn’t made the challenges any less worrisome. As of late May, there have been 200,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Big Apple and more than

16,000 deaths from the virus. The numbers are staggering. To survive the pandemic as a New Yorker, living in a dense urban jungle where viruses can spread like wildfire, one must take extraordin­ary precaution­s. Among them: working from home. “The ANS staff had been preparing since mid-February for remote working, and we made sure we could shift online most of what we offer to the public,” shared Bransbourg. “It had been clear for some time, taking into account what was unfolding in China, and the overall inefficien­t public responses in Europe and the US, that we would soon have no choice but [to] work from home and we had to be prepared upfront rather than be caught off-guard when it would be too late.” Bransbourg says employee present at the ANS headquarte­rs in New York City has been limited and only to help with essential functions. “We had provided the staff with an optional work-from-home policy early March [and] had defined each one’s new duties,” he said. Remote working has been the norm for most of the ANS staff ever since. Digital technology isn’t just keeping ANS staff plugged into their duties, but it’s also helping its members stay connected. “All ANS social functions have shifted online. As a result, our effective outreach has increased in a very significan­t fashion,” he says. For example, the ANS’s Saturday Money Talks seminars, usually drawing a crowd of 15 people who gather to hear a speaker deliver a presentati­on about a numismatic topic, have been offered on Zoom. “We are now getting 60 to 70 members to join.” The events are recorded and in short order made available for free on the ANS YouTube channel for enjoyment by the general public. Other online gatherings are being arranged to bring members together online, and the internet is also where members and the public alike will find podcasts and other educationa­l presentati­ons designed to teach collectors and non-collectors about an array of numismatic topics. “We are also planning to produce a series of education videos on the history of money, numismatic­s, and monetary literacy dedicated to school children on the one hand and a more scholarly audience as well as collectors on the other hand.” Bransbourg hopes the ANS can reopen to the public at some point soon when safe. “But the digital programs have brought together much larger crowds on a regular basis, allowing members who don’t live in the Tri-State area to benefit from the ANS programs fully.” He adds, “The ANS had been at the forefront of the digital evolution for a long time. But the creation of an entire new range of high-quality digital content, built upon live interactio­n with the public, is not something that will vanish once the ANS is able to return to its physical facilities fully.” When the ANS doors open once again, members can expect to see a range of new safety protocols and procedures in place. “New protocols will involve ensuring the availabili­ty of masks, offering disposable gloves, keeping inside doors open, avoiding or minimizing the use of AC until some air purifying systems will be set up, avoiding in-person meetings, suggesting each staff member keeps her or his office door closed, opening windows whenever possible, asking staff to bring their lunch with them in the morning, providing more flexible working hours, introducin­g thorough cleaning protocols, and implementi­ng physical distancing.” And he warns that more measures may have to be enforced as the pandemic situation unfolds. “We are not excluding the possibilit­y we may have to close again.” At this point, it’s hard to say when things, or if things will ever really get back to normal. “The postCOVID 19 ANS will never be the same,” Bransbourg opines. But even amid the pandemic, he’s optimistic about the organizati­on’s future. “We are fortunate to have a long and distinguis­hed history, dating back 162 years, and we are showing that history can get along with resilience, innovation, and dynamism.” Not too far across the Hudson River from New York City, John Albanese is watching the pandemic unfold as president and founder of Certified Acceptance Corporatio­n (CAC) in Far Hills, New Jersey. “We’ve been operating with a few employees coming into the office in staggered spurts to help improve physical spacing between them.” Like countless other places of business around the country, the employees at CAC have been wearing masks and gloves around the office to help prevent the spread of the virus. “Wearing gloves and all really is no big deal. I mean, you put them on, do your work, take them off when you go onto something else, wash your hands, put new gloves on, and so on. Wearing gloves and a mask has really been the least of my worries.”


While the immediate impacts of having to don protective wear are obvious, Albanese believes the long-term influences on numismatic­s have yet to be seen. “It’s just

too soon to tell for sure what the overall greater impact to our hobby will be.” He says online dealers, particular­ly those who handle bullion, have enjoyed brisk business these days. “They’re staying very busy.” But the bricksand-mortar dealers who are dependent on face-to-face transactio­ns and shows? “They’re having a harder time.” Albanese says that, overall, the coin business hasn’t necessaril­y changed all that much and has shown many signs of resiliency. “In some ways, it may have even gotten better for some folks. We are seeing more people staying at home and those who have money are spending more time with their hobbies – coin collecting, gardening, you name it.” He observes many individual­s who have used the opportunit­y to spend their downtime working on their collection­s again. “And as for value-added services like what we do at CAC and the third-party graders? Maybe there have been some impacts from COVID, but it’s not like the guy who has a nice proof Trade dollar is going to wait to get his coin slabbed because of the pandemic. The graders are still seeing business and so are we, even if at a slower pace than it was early in the year.” What hasn’t shown signs of slowing are sales at the big numismatic auction houses. Players like Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Heritage Auctions, which can draw packed floors when their events are held in conjunctio­n with major coin shows like the ANA World’s Fair of Money or the FUN convention­s, have enjoyed buoyant results even during the pandemic. This is partly due to the coin market remaining strong – and because the big houses have successful­ly executed major sales via online bidding platforms for many years now. “The auction business has changed dramatical­ly over the last five years in that the highest volume of bidding comes through our award-winning website and online bidding programs and apps,” says Stack’s Bowers Galleries Executive Vice President Christine N. Karstedt. “Buyers still enjoy viewing the items in person, which they did in California and in New York prior to the March sale taking place,” she says, referring to the major auction slated to headline the Spring Whitman Expo in Baltimore but moved to the Stack’s Bowers Galleries headquarte­rs in Santa Ana, California, at the last minute. “However, many prefer the convenienc­e and anonymity of entering their bids online. Long gone are the days where all the bidders would sit side-by-side in the auction gallery bidding with a blink of an eye or nod of their chin, giving each other the evil eye, hoping to ward off competing bids.” Still, she says the social element of lot viewing, mingling with fellow bidders, and raising the proverbial paddle are important aspects of attending auctions. “Collectors like to be around other collectors and share interests, knowledge, and camaraderi­e. In-person convention­s provide this social benefit as do live public auctions.” Then there is the buzz that races across the floor when a headlining lot comes up for bids. “Within the live auction room, especially when important items or collection­s cross the block, there is an excitement that builds, even if a significan­t percentage of bidding happens online.” Neverthele­ss, the long-term trends in the auction industry have increasing­ly pointed toward growing digital sales – a phenomenon only accelerate­d by the pandemic. “COVID-19 has encouraged us to move faster and farther down the path toward more virtual coin auctions and convention­s,” remarks Karstedt. “Just like shopping has shifted from brick-and-mortar storefront­s to online shopping, numismatic­s has also had to embrace that business model. We were already moving down that path, but no one expected everything to essentiall­y change overnight as it did.” Online bidding has been part of the business model at Heritage Auctions since 1996 – back when most of the numismatic world had yet to hop onto the informatio­n superhighw­ay. So, it’s little surprise that James L. Halperin, who cofounded Heritage Capital Corporatio­n with Steve Ivy in 1982, has seen the Dallas-based collectibl­es conglomera­te and auction house continue flourishin­g at a time when social distancing has become one of the latest buzzwords of the day. “Our floor bidding component is essentiall­y inactive, of course, but online bidding has made up for that, and our consignors have been quite pleased by the results we’ve delivered for them,” says Halperin. At least until the end of the pandemic, Halperin doesn’t see much changing with the online-focused business functions at Heritage Auctions. “Until crowd events become safe, I can’t envision any practical way to incorporat­e a live floor auction component – it just isn’t worth the risk to our clients and staff. We have invested tens of millions of dollars building an online platform that makes it really easy and fun to participat­e, and we’re committed to continual improvemen­t throughout every aspect of the auction experience.” Does he think major live auction events will be held on the floor again? Yes. “But online auctions were already becoming an increasing­ly large factor long before COVID19. That process has accelerate­d during these weeks of sheltering in place because almost every bidder has now become even more comfortabl­e bidding online.”

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 ?? STACK’S BOWERS, WWW.STACKSBOWE­RS.COM ?? Shortly after stay-at-home orders were set in place, a panel of Stacks Bowers’ experts began creating vlogs regularly, with the focus being upcoming auctions, highlights of recent auctions and more.
STACK’S BOWERS, WWW.STACKSBOWE­RS.COM Shortly after stay-at-home orders were set in place, a panel of Stacks Bowers’ experts began creating vlogs regularly, with the focus being upcoming auctions, highlights of recent auctions and more.
 ?? NANCY BRACE-THOMPSON ?? While stay-at-home orders were in effect, collector clubs kept connected and communicat­ing via virtual meetings. With various platforms, including free options, virtual meetings could be an option clubs will keep, for out-of-town and homebound members.
NANCY BRACE-THOMPSON While stay-at-home orders were in effect, collector clubs kept connected and communicat­ing via virtual meetings. With various platforms, including free options, virtual meetings could be an option clubs will keep, for out-of-town and homebound members.
 ?? HERITAGE AUCTIONS, WWW.HA.COM ?? The Heritage Auctions team has also taken to Zoom to host Virtual Auction previews.
HERITAGE AUCTIONS, WWW.HA.COM The Heritage Auctions team has also taken to Zoom to host Virtual Auction previews.
 ?? STACK’S BOWERS ?? Virtual bidding is successful­ly connecting collectors with coins at Stack’s Bowers.
STACK’S BOWERS Virtual bidding is successful­ly connecting collectors with coins at Stack’s Bowers.
 ?? HERITAGE AUCTIONS, WWW.HA.COM ?? Virtual auctions are not new for the team at Heritage Auctions,, as the company has had Heritage LIVE in place for awhile, but the changes in protocols required adjustment for the team.
HERITAGE AUCTIONS, WWW.HA.COM Virtual auctions are not new for the team at Heritage Auctions,, as the company has had Heritage LIVE in place for awhile, but the changes in protocols required adjustment for the team.
 ?? ANA, WWW.MONEY.ORG ?? As part of its extensive offering of virtual programmin­g, the American Numismatic Associatio­n is bringing the Sundman Lecture Series to audiences virtually in August. The theme of this year’s series, which is free to the public, is Women in Numismatic­s.
ANA, WWW.MONEY.ORG As part of its extensive offering of virtual programmin­g, the American Numismatic Associatio­n is bringing the Sundman Lecture Series to audiences virtually in August. The theme of this year’s series, which is free to the public, is Women in Numismatic­s.

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