By Patrick Heller
What might be considered a sneaky way to promote new coin collectors can occur if coins and paper money are given away for business promotion purposes.
Two such promotions might be most familiar to the general public. In late 1999, to help the U.S. Mint promote the forthcoming 2000 debut of the Sacagawea Dollar, General Mills inserted 5,500 specially-packaged 2000-dated Sacagawea Dollars randomly among 10 million boxes of Cheerios cereal. Several years later it was discovered that the reverse side of these coins was struck using a different die, making them collectible. These coins have sold on eBay over the past month at prices ranging from $40 up into the thousands of dollars, depending on quality.
Years earlier, Kellogg’s ran a promotion where it inserted a small group of foreign currency notes in random boxes. The notes used were mass-produced issues of virtually no value, so there have not been subsequent treasure hunts for them.
At the company where I work, we have supplied a variety of coins used for business promotion purposes. Here are some examples.
After the U.S. silver eagle dollar debuted in 1986, a national candy company ran a contest where they gave away 5,000 of these coins. This promotion worked so well that they repeated the promotion two years later by purchasing another 5,000 coins. We dealt with the marketing company that ran this promotion rather than directly with the candy company.
For several years, a major insurance company in Michigan gave sales bonuses to employees of gold and silver eagle coins for outstanding performance.
A Midwest manufacturer for a number of years gave employees longevity bonuses. After one year of service, the employee received a $1.00 silver eagle dollar. After five years of service, the employee received a $5.00 tenth-ounce gold American eagle. After 10 years of service, the employee received a $10.00 quarter-ounce gold American eagle. Finally, if an employee reached 25 years of service, they got a $25.00 half-ounce gold American eagle. No employee ever reached 50 years of service.
A mid-Michigan Honda motorcycle dealer gave customers who purchased a Gold Wing motorcycle a free tenth-ounce gold American eagle.
A stock brokerage firm on Wall Street (not one of the largest ones) paid employees bonuses of one-ounce gold coins.
A mid-Michigan medical clinic gave bonuses of a one-ounce gold Canada Maple Leaf to the physicians and a one-ounce silver coin to each of the rest of the staff.
Several businesses have acquired rolls of the 2004 Michigan Statehood quarter to give out as inexpensive bonuses.
So, dealers, if you can think of creative ways in which coins and paper money can be used for business promotion purposes, you may not only expand your sales, you just might also help create new collectors.
Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2018 Glenn Smedley Memorial Service Award, 2017 Exemplary Service Award 2012 Harry Forman National Dealer of the Year Award, and 2008 Presidential Award winner. Over the years, he has also been honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild (including twice in 2019), Professional Numismatists Guild, Industry Council for Tangible Assets, and the Michigan State Numismatic Society. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Michigan and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 AM Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and become part of the audio and text archives posted at http://www.1320wils.com).