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Can we be loyal to generic baseball?


baseball170Are generic images of baseball themes on coins missing a bet?

I had an email from a collector who wrote me that most people cheer for specific teams. Having an image that is not associated with any specific franchise to him therefore is less compelling.

It is a good question. However, using specific Major League Baseball related images would run into copyright and trademark issues that would likely greatly elevate the cost of any baseball coins that might be struck.

Next year’s Hall of Fame coins will obviously test whether collectors will be attracted to generic coins that won’t tug on their fan loyalties to specific teams.

But monetary issues aside, I can see that coins made with images of the team I root for would very definitely make me feel much better about a coin than I would feel about generic images. I expect other baseball fans would feel the same way, but that is not necessarily a good thing. To pick one team is to exclude all of the others. I expect that fans of the excluded teams would not be happy.

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These loyal fans would probably not take such a slight lying down. They would want equal treatment for their teams.

So in order for me to be able to purchase my favorite team’s logo, or players or historical figures, the Mint also would have to use those relating to the other 29 teams in the major leagues.

To ensure fairness, we would suddenly have baseball coins struck to honor 30 teams. If each had a $5 gold piece, a silver dollar and a clad half dollar as projected for next year’s Hall of Fame issues, that would make the full set of both proof and uncirculated pieces 180 coins.

There would be 60 gold coins in such a set. Each $5 contains nearly a quarter ounce of gold. That works out to a bullion value of over $20,000 at today’s gold price. Add in the cost of the 60 silver dollars and 60 clad halves and it would require a second mortgage to afford.

Few collectors are likely to ante up such a large sum of money.

The howls of protest about the cost would undoubtedly be louder than they were for the 32-coin Olympic set of 1995-1996.
So the Hall of Fame is counting on baseball fans to be generically loyal to the game and to the institution that recognizes and honors the greats who have played it.

Is this hope well founded? That is hard to say, but perhaps it is. When the Jackie Robinson coins were issued in 1997, I never heard anyone point out that they were buying the coins because they honored someone who played for the Dodgers.

At root then, while I would really like to see a coin that honors a specific baseball team (as long as it’s the one I root for), the practicalities of such an issue make it an impossible dream, much like any hope I have of seeing my favorite team win a pennant any time soon.

Fortunately, I have a few months yet to think about how attached I might become to the generic gold, silver and clad baseball coins that will be issued in 2014.

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