Was the ANA World’s Fair of Money a “Superspreading Event”?

Should numismatic large-scale events take place right now? If so, face masks are definitely a must! Image: TayebMEZAHDIA / pixabay
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Since the pandemic started, there has not been a coin show of this size: from 10 to 14 August, the World’s Fair of Money took place in Rosemont in the suburbs of Chicago. After last year’s show had to be cancelled, this year’s event got the green light. According to the American Numismatic Association (ANA), who organises the event, there were “thousands of attendees, hundreds of dealers”.

For many, the show was a welcome opportunity to meet colleagues that they hadn’t seen since the pandemic started. However, as CoinWeek and Coin Collectors Blog reported, a warning from the ANA has now been sent to attendees in the wake of the show. Despite protective measures, several dealers seem to have caught the virus. The ANA states:

“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. Due to privacy issues, we are unable to provide the names of the infected dealers. If you feel ill or are displaying any COVID symptoms, consider quarantining for 10 days and/or getting a COVID test.”

It is currently unclear whether they got infected at the show or somewhere else. The number of infected participants is also unknown. On August 19, 2021, we asked the ANA for a statement and further information, unfortunately we did not receive an answer before the editorial deadline.

The show took place at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. Image: Zol87 – CC BY-SA 4.0

Compared to Other Countries, Covid Regulations in the US Are Not that Strict

While in Germany, as of this week, people must either be tested, vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 to participate in most activities in states with an average of more than 35 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 7 days – and even then masks are usually mandatory indoors – the rules in the US are much less strict in comparison, despite of an average of more than 300 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 7 days (147,293 new infections per day).

According to the ANA website, it was highly recommended to wear a face mask during the show but it was not compulsory. However, dealers could require customers to wear face masks at their table. On the photos posted by the ANA on Twitter and Facebook (for example here, here and here) and on those published by Wayne Homren in E-Sylum, you can only see a few face masks. COVID tests were not compulsory either. Chicago’s Department of Public Health recommended unvaccinated visitors from states at the highest COVID-19 risk level – currently almost all US states – to get tested for COVID-19 a maximum of 72 hours before their visit. Again, getting tested was as it seems not compulsory.

The ANA took additional measures to reduce the risk of infection. These included enlarging the aisles between the tables, providing attendees with masks and disinfectant, and putting up sneeze guards at entrances and other high-traffic points. That’s why there were fewer tables at the show than usual. The number of visitors and dealers from abroad was also lower than in previous years. As Coin World reports, Stack’s Bowers Galleries and Heritage Auctions had decided beforehand to refrain from holding their auction sale on-site, instead it took place at their premises and the auction houses continued to mainly rely on online bidding.

Other organisers who need to decide whether and how to hold their coin show in the future will be watching this case closely. Hopefully, we will know more about it soon. We hope that all those who contracted the virus will get better soon.


More information about the show is available on the ANA website.

The ANA Awards were awarded at the show. Here you can find out which numismatists were honoured this year.

It seems like a lifetime ago… In March 2020, the Munich Numismata was cancelled the night before. At the time, nobody knew how much of an impact COVID-19 would have on our lives.