Even before early 2020, when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit the numismatic community (along with every other community, worldwide), the publishing world was facing alarming challenges. I remember having many conversations in late 2019 about the ongoing global paper shortage, and the strain it was putting on publishers. Paper supply is still an urgent problem today. Demand for packaging materials (paper and cardboard) has skyrocketed during the pandemic. Why? To satisfy a boom in shipping, as we have more and more packages delivered to our homes. All those boxes and envelopes pull paper supply away from books, magazines, and journals. Labor-market forces are in play, too—a shortage of press operators to print and bind our publications, and a shortage of dockworkers and truck drivers to transport them once they’re created.
Overseas production is becoming more and more expensive. The international supply chain is further strained by rising transportation costs. Domestically we’re seeing overworked printers with diminished press capacity. A bottleneck in one area can dry up supply down the line. Add to that: Congestion at ports, an overworked U.S. Postal Service, and last-mile carriers (like FedEx and UPS) struggling to hire enough workers.
The American Numismatic Association (the premier organization of collectors in the United States) sent this notice out on September 16, 2021, through its Money Mail newsletter:
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the printing company that produces The Numismatist is dealing with significant labor shortages at its facilities and is unable to keep its equipment running at normal capacity. This will result in the printed edition of The Numismatist arriving up to two weeks late for the next 2–4 months. If you receive a print version of the magazine, the October issue will not arrive in mailboxes until the 15th–20th of the month.
Leadership looks for solutions. The ANA advises that members who don’t want to wait for the delayed magazine can also read it online. “Simply log in to your account (or create one) under ‘My Account’ and hover over ‘Digital Magazines’ in the dropdown menu.” The Association’s membership department is happy to assist by email at .
Book and magazine publishers will continue to wrestle with supply, labor, production, and shipping challenges into the new year. In the meantime, the state of the hobby community is quite strong, if book sales are any indication. The 75th edition of the Guide Book of United States Coins (the popular “Red Book”) debuted in early April and several formats have already sold out as of mid-September. The books are printed in the United States, and Whitman Publishing has ordered extra print runs, so increasing collector demand will be met with a good and steady supply.
The publishing world will continue to face challenges in the rest of 2021 and into 2022. We’ll also keep looking for creative solutions, with the ultimate goal of making happy readers.
Dennis Tucker joined Whitman Publishing as the company’s publisher in 2004. The firm, which dates to 1916, is the Official Supplier of the congressionally chartered American Numismatic Association. Tucker’s focus is on nonfiction books including many standard references relating to the art and science of numismatics (the study of coins and related objects). Numismatics is a field that touches on financial and banking history, economics, artistry and design, technology, mining and metallurgy, political history, society, culture, and many other areas of the human experience.