There is a difference between what is popular and what is appropriate. No greater numismatic lesson can be drawn from last week’s poll question about a Michael Jackson commemorative.
Such a coin would be popular with non-collectors. I have no doubt in my mind about that. But it wouldn’t be appropriate now. I also have no doubt about that.
Why am I so certain? Well, the response to our poll question has never generated so many written responses that went from, “Hell, no,” to thoughtfully and politely written positives and negatives.
Forgive the profanity, but what I have written in this space is tame compared to what some e-mail writers sent me.
I am sure you will not be surprised to learn that most of the respondents who sent me an e-mail were emphatically opposed to a Michael Jackson coin. The most humorous one was from the reader who wrote that the only Jackson who should be on a coin is Andrew. I laughed out loud when I received it. It was succinct. It revealed an educated and playful mind in a very few words. It is what we numismatists hope we are or might be.
I have not seen the actual poll numbers tallied yet. The poll still has some time to run as this is written, but I assume, response levels will be high.
The flip side to the high level of negative responses is the sheer incredible popularity of Michael Jackson has manifested everywhere else in our culture. Sales of his music soared on news of his June 25 death.
Personally, I am waiting for the Indiana quarter (his home state) with some sort of colorized tribute on it. Some of the other e-mail writers are waiting for the numismatic manifestations to begin as well. Some cited a possible Marshall Islands issue, or issues from other numismatic rent-a-countries.
I believe there will be Jackson numismatic items, just not American coins. This is a great loss of potential revenue for the U.S. Mint. A lot of collectors ask why the Mint cannot run more like a business. This is is one of those occasions that illustrate the point of why it cannot be purely a business.
If the Mint were solely a business, the coining presses would already be in preparation for a Jackson coin. Director Moy could be contemplating reporting an extra couple of hundred million dollars in profit to the
Treasury in a year when such revenue would be even more welcome than usual. He, of course, will do no such thing – and not because he gets to dodge the question by saying he can only do what Congress tells him.
American coinage still remains a traditional medium that changes slowly and embodies collective ideals of nationhood.Congress in the fullness of time could decide Michael Jackson fits that purpose. It put artists on the American Arts gold medallion series, which were not coins. It has taken the congressional gold medal once reserved for the likes of George Washington and made it a popularity vehicle. Perhaps it will some day do the same with coinage.
I am betting that Congress won’t do that any time soon. It might be popular but even Congress knows that a Jackson coin is one untraditional step too far.