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Collectors Scorn Obama Coins
By William Weir

Where there's a history-making event, there is an entrepreneur looking to cash in.

This has proved true once again in the weeks since the election of Barack Obama. Some of the products are pretty well-known: For instance, the big seller of the season is graphic designer Shephard Fairey's "Hope" poster.

If you want to go off the beaten path, though, go to eBay and you have a whole new world of Obama-related products: Obama playing cards ($10.95), Obama golf balls ($9.50), basketball jerseys from his alma mater, Punahou School ($24.99), Obama socks ($19.95), Obama guitar straps ($36.99). Back in April, there were reports that folks were trying to sell leftover waffles from Obama's diner plate on eBay (with a $10,000 asking price before they were removed).One of the most commonly advertised Obama products are the commemorative "coins." Talk to any veteran collector, and before you finish the sentence, you'll be told that they're not really coins, since you can't use them as currency. "They are not legal tender," says Harold Kritzman, owner of the Olde Towne Coin Co. in Newington. "They are an abomination as far I'm concerned as a numismatist." Not only are they not worth anything as money, he says, some of the marketers commit the double sin of defacing money by superimposing images on legitimate coins.

"They're cashing in on the excitement and euphoria that resulted in the election of the first African American president," he says.

Some of these coins are supposedly authorized by the Liberian government. What's the deal with that?

"There are a number of private mints that have a foot in the back door of governments that give them limited legal-tender status," Kritzman says.

And by "limited," they're not kidding. As Kritzman explains it, you can exchange the coins for U.S. currency only if you are physically in Liberia, and even then there's a limit to how many coins you can exchange per day.

Kritzman says he hasn't had any customers come in with the Obama coins. If they do, Kritzman says he'll tell them that their recent purchases aren't worth anything.
 



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