Everybody knows what a first strike ceremony is. The bigwigs gather around a coin press. The guest of honor pushes a button, and the very first coin of a new design is made.
The United States Mint should alter this tradition a little bit and borrow a practice from the Royal Australian Mint.
On New Year’s Eve, it isn’t the bigwigs who gather down under but members of the general public. They line up for the opportunity to strike the first coins of the new year and walk home with their work.
Why can’t the Mint do the same?
Commemoratives come first to mind. When the American Legion commemoratives go on the press, the half dollar say, let all the veterans who want to acquire one get in line to strike one that can be purchased on the spot.
This kind of memento would be much more meaningful to someone compared to ordering a coin online.
How many coins could be struck and purchased in a day? Good question. I would hesitate to estimate, but it wouldn’t be more than a few thousand.
To prevent America’s dealers from hiring a few thousand homeless people to stand in line, the Mint could register the people for the line electronically via its website.
In 100 words, write why it would be a wonderful experience to be able to strike a coin. Accept 2,000 applications far enough ahead of time to allow for security screening, plus some extra ones for unexpected cancellations, and invite the lucky winners to come to the Philadelphia Mint for the experience of a lifetime.
This is not a prize. This is not an all-expenses paid trip. This would be the Mint opening its doors to 2,000 people who were serious enough to plan ahead and to go there at their own expense.
I do not think there would be a shortage of applicants.
Of course, there would be a secondary market for these coins developing almost as fast as they are struck.
“Give you $200” for the half dollar would be the offer just outside the door.
How many of the 2,000 participants would take it? Well, if you wrote an essay, were pre-screened, bought an airline ticket, and rented a hotel room, would you sell your newly struck coin for $200?
How about $500? $1,000?
Some might sniff that this is ugly commerce.
It certainly is commerce. If it is considered ugly, the Mint should shut down its retail sales completely. Rapid online sellouts are the ugliest of ugly commerce in the minds of some collectors.
Better to raise the bar.
Millennials now value experiences over things. Perhaps this experience is the way to get them on board for the numismatic ride of their lives.
If nothing else, the Mint needs to consider some new ideas.
This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.
More Collecting Resources
• Are you a U.S. coin collector? Check out the 2019 U.S. Coin Digest for the most recent coin prices.
• The 1800s were a time of change for many, including in coin production. See how coin designs grew during the time period in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900 .