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Here’s the pitch

Has the time come to replace the commemorative coin template that is presently followed by the United States?

Since the late 1990s the government has followed a model of two programs a year. This corrected a problem of too many issues as was the case for the multiple Olympic coin programs of the past.

While this problem was solved, most collectors seem to have lost interest in the coins anyway. Sales for the most part are shadows of what they once were.

When the ultimate consumer loses interest, there are two choices: stop the programs or do something differently with them.

How about baseball coins?

With last year’s successful cupped baseball commemoratives, can numismatics go to the well, so to speak, again and try to revitalize the commemorative program?

Last year a number of collectors asked why coins cannot depict team logos, or even players themselves. Team loyalties are strong and they might motivate buyers to snap up baseball coins.

There is the matter of legal rights to use logos and player images. The government cannot simply take them.

These rights can be very expensive. This alone might put collectible baseball coins out of reach.

There is also the matter that the U.S. Mint is not authorized to pay for private legal rights in this manner. In addition to the apparent cost, it could look like some sort of government endorsement of the business of baseball.

However, world mints have been successfully navigating these legal rights for years.

Canada, for example, has just honored the 75th anniversary of Bugs Bunny and the Looney Toons characters on gold and silver coins.

Is Bugs Bunny the officially endorsed cartoon character of the Canadian government?

Nobody would seriously believe this.

A set of silver dollars with team logos might be appealing to average collectors.

But to broaden the pool of potential buyers, team logos could be put on clad half dollars with machine readable characteristics that would make them more than just coins. They could be scanned to open a whole new dimension for coins.

Several years ago I gave the Coin of the Year Award to the Dutch Mint for its 2011 anniversary coin for the Utrecht Mint on which there was a QR code, a bar code, that called up information about the mint building when scanned.

Technology continues to advance and it might be the answer to collector observations that kids are interested in computer games rather than coins. Combine the two interests.

You could collect the whole set of team coins and each one could call up a different computer game when scanned as well as individual team rosters and batting averages.

Doing something like this will take a lot of new thinking, new law and a recognition by both Major League Baseball and the Mint that such a thing is in their interests.

That won’t be easy. It might not increase the popularity of commemorative coins, but making an attempt at improvement is far better than simply watching the current U.S. commemorative coin approach continue its long-term downtrend.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

 

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