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Label will be argued about for many years


What?s in a name? In my business and most others, marketing matters. Names matter. You don?t give your best idea an unappealing name, nor do you assign the most unpopular person on staff the task of introducing your valuable new idea to upper management. Individuals who already have a good rapport with the bosses have a better shot at getting something approved. That is human nature.

Such is the case with the decision by Congress to approve commemorative quarter designs for the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Northern Marianas and American Samoa.

I think it was a good idea with bad marketing. Ever since the legislation was passed for the 10-year 50-state quarter program, a promise had been made by its primary author and supporter, Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., for a companion piece of legislation for the other six geographical areas.

It got dubbed early on as an extension of the 50-states program. That is unfortunate, because as many hobbyists note, none of these six areas is a state. They are associated with the United States in other ways, and they are American through and through, but they are not states.

On that basis, it is silly to call the new quarters an extension of the 50-states program. That doesn?t mean the coins shouldn?t be issued, though.

The quickest way to get everybody to understand what was being proposed was to call the program an extension. Congress fears what it doesn?t know and what it might not understand. This stems from so much legislation being passed without being read by our elected representatives. With this in mind, what better way is there to describe the program than as an extension? I can hear words:

?It?s just a simple extension of the 50- states quarter program. You know how successful that is.?

But bad labels can haunt and the obvious logic that territories are not states has bedeviled those who advocated honoring the District and the five territories.

It would be far better to think of them in separate and distinct packages. There is the 10-year, 50-states quarter program with all of the hoopla that such an undertaking can generate and there is a one-year program following to honor six other geographical areas that are American and share our history. However, human nature doesn?t allow that distinction to be made.

History, even numismatic history, will record the six-coin program as an extension of the 50-states program. A half century from now that time period?s Dave Harper or David Ganz will cluck knowingly about territories not being states. Readers will roll their eyes. How could the people of 2007 been so dumb or blind or careless? Letters to the editor will be written. There will be endless debates.

Perhaps one of the six additions will turn into the key to the series, much like the 1908-S or 1909-S Indian Head cents. Then the collector discussion will turn to lamenting the fact that those future collectors who were not actively collecting in 2009 missed the chance to obtain them and thereby get in on the ground floor with the new issues. That would be the worst part of it for them.