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
"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
"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
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.