By Pat McBride – Corresponding Secretary, Pennsylvania Association of Numismatists (PAN) ……
The PAN Fall Coin Show was successfully held on October 29-31, 2020, at the Monroeville Convention Center near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with COVID-19 guidance and rules in place. The PAN Board came up with a detailed COVID-19 Protocol that was proposed to both the convention center and the Allegheny County Health Department in the weeks leading up to the show. PAN’s COVID-19 Protocol outlined in detail the components needed to keep people safe while hosting a larger regional coin show.
Both the health department and the convention center approved the PAN COVID-19 Protocol and our show moved forward.
The first hurdle was to assure that event attendance would remain under the allowed capacity restrictions of the convention floor space. We were able to book the much larger North Hall area of the convention center that easily allowed us to fall under the 1,500 persons per day restriction. Our normal (pre-COVID) attendance is about 350 persons per day and 150 dealers and helpers on the show floor.
This larger space allowed us to place dealer booths with three-foot spacing between each booth with 10-foot aisles. Since coin shows typically only have one or two dealers behind a single eight-foot table, this action reasonably assured that each dealer would be at least six feet from his or her neighbors. Dealers were cognizant to not move close to their neighbors if they went from side to side to service their customers.
PAN required daily COVID-19 registration forms to be filled out by all attendees, dealers, early birds, staff, convention workers, and security personal.
A registered nurse administered temperature checks with the parameters of 100 degrees or less before admittance was granted. The forms included basic questions about general health and known exposures to anyone that has had COVID-19. They also included a liability waiver protecting staff, PAN, and the Monroeville Convention Center. The forms were signed and dated. Different colored forms were used each day and each person was given a same colored small round sticker to place on their hello registration labels that they wore while on the show floor. This practice gave assurances that the person was properly screened and would allow attendees and dealers to re-enter the convention center without being rescreened. Since the participating dealers were in attendance all days, we had a specific color for a one-time-only, dealer-specific COVID-19 registration form but they had to verbally answer the health questions and be temperature checked each morning by our nurse. They were given the same round colored stickers as the public to place each day on their dealer badges. This made for great ease and speed in the early mornings for them to get to their tables to prepare for the day.
The COVID-19 forms were met with surprisingly little resistance. No dealers refused to comply. We made sure to inform them before they traveled to the PAN show. Only one attendee was not comfortable with the form and chose not to enter. We expected show attendance to fall to about a 60% range of normal. We were very surprised to see a long line of the public waiting to enter on Thursday, day one, setting the tone for the weekend.
The public responded enthusiastically, with our final attendance figures coming in at almost the same number as our fall 2019 show before anyone knew about the COVID-19 virus. The final numbers were dealers and helpers 149, early birds 27, public attendees Thursday 335, Friday 396, and Saturday 307.
We found that most people wore their masks in the proper fashion, covering both their mouths and noses. We also were pleased with the number of dealers that policed each other about the proper wearing of their masks. We are now well past the standard 14-day window and can report that we have had no notifications of adverse medical incidents related to our event. This has been a major concern of our PAN board members. We actually had two members that were slated to play a very active role during the show and had to cancel at the last minute over concerns of possible COVID exposure. We were thankful to find out that they both checked out negative and made it unscathed through their quarantine periods.
This coin show was difficult to organize. We weren’t sure if the convention center would be allowed to open until a couple of weeks prior to our event, putting our normal show advertising at a disadvantage – especially with print media that requires significant lead-time. Our focus shifted to our 4,000-person mailing list, our 1,300-email list, and social media postings. It was quite impressive given these handicaps that we were able to pull it off.
Some other pleasant surprises were being able to have a few quickly organized lectures on Friday and Saturday with John Frost of the Liberty Seated Collectors Club and the Barber Coin Collectors’ Society presenting talks including one about the back story of the rarity of the 1894-S Barber dime. Simcha Kuritzky of the Maryland State Numismatic Association presented a talk on polymer notes. It was noteworthy that the attendance was about the same as our pre-COVID talks. All chairs were spaced at six feet apart.
PAN was able to have a collector exhibit area managed by Exhibit Chairman Tom Corey. Even with less than normal participation, we still were able to have a respectable showing with 10 very fine exhibits. Because of the limited participation, the exhibits were deemed as non-competitive and were not judged by categories under normal ANA judging guidelines. It was decided to award recognition to a “Judges’ Favorite” category that was unofficially created to at least have some fun for the exhibitors and the eight ANA certified judges that were attending the show. The ANA judging guidelines were set aside for this unprecedented time. The judges chose Bryce Doxzon’s interesting exhibit titled “They Also Ran – Select Nineteenth Century Political Medals of Defeated Presidential Candidates.”
Bryce’s exhibit has appeared nationally at various shows and is a definite eye-catcher.
Robert O. Stakeley, History Center Affiliates Program Coordinator from the Senator John Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh, presented a limited PANKidZone program. KidZone Chairman Malcolm Johnson prepared packets that included a penny folder, two rolls of wheat cents, various other coins, PAN Auction Dollars. Attendance was about one-third of normal that can be due to COVID or Halloween falling on the same Saturday. The good news for the kids that were in attendance is that they got some really good bargains during the kid’s auction since there was less competition.
William Bierly, author of his recent Whitman Publishing book release In God We Trust, was another pleasant surprise at the PAN show. Bill had signed copies for sale at the collector exhibit area.
We also had yours truly appearing as Benjamin Franklin in plague compliance with his “Join or Die” mask as part of his costumed regalia. I was not sure that reenacting would be suited to a restricted coin show but I was encouraged to come in character on Friday and Saturday. Even masked, old Ben was very popular and folks were glad to see the good Doctor roam the show floor. It added a fun and lighthearted feel to the days. Goodness knows we all could use some fun while dealing with these days of living through a worldwide pandemic.
We would like to extend a special thank you to our PAN nurse, Dawn McBride, for creating the COVID-19 forms and volunteering her time for all four days of the coin show. Her nursing oath to keep us all healthy and safe cannot be understated since many of our dealers and attendees fall into the high-risk category. We are grateful to have such a compassionate person in our midst. Dawn recently retired from the University of Pittsburgh where she was serving as the Director of Clinical Research in a department that specializes in urological cancers. Dawn spent the last 25 years of her nursing career in research, including 13 years in Infectious Diseases that focused on vaccine research, specifically in the HIV/AIDS community. We also want to thank her helper throughout the entire weekend, Zavier Layne, for getting people through the line quickly and efficiently. Zavier was a huge asset to the registration process with his friendly and polite manner.