One of our local drugstores in Glen Rock, New Jersey,
has a machine that allows creative shoppers to customize
their own greeting cards. They can choose from a menu of
standard messages ("Happy Birthday," "Get Well," "I Love
You," etc.) or start from scratch with something entirely
It occurred to me one day, while examining this
"CreataCard" machine, that something similar might prove just
as popular in our local coin shop -- and, for that matter, in
coin shops around the country. We could call it a
"CreataCoin" machine and use it to design a line of new
Judging from the "designs" on some of our recent
commemoratives, the U.S. Mint is already using greeting-card
companies to help create its coins. The reverse of the 1991
Mount Rushmore $5 gold piece looks like a wedding invitation,
for example, and the obverse of the 1991 USO silver dollar
looks like a birth announcement. I would assume that
Hallmark had nothing to do with either of them, though, for
it's evident that the Mint did NOT care enough to send us the
The range of potential subjects for CreataCoin designers
is almost limitless. Here are just a few possibilities:
- A coin to commemorate the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
memorabilia auction of 1996, where bidders paid fantastic
sums to get a piece of "Camelot." The obverse could feature
a portrait of Jackie O, while the reverse could depict
Caroline Kennedy's rocking horse along with the huge purchase
price and the simple, direct inscription "Off Their Rockers."
Alternatively, it could show a hammer coming down on a large
stack of money as the auctioneer bellows: "Going, Going,
- A Whitewater commemorative coin honoring Bill and
Hillary Clinton for their many contributions to private
enterprise in the state of Arkansas. The obverse could carry
conjoined mug shots of the Clintons, while the reverse could
display an outline map of Arkansas with a large dollar sign
superimposed upon it. Alternatively, it could have a
question mark superimposed instead, since no one seems to
understand what this Whitewater business is all about. The
inscription? "We Feel Your Pain."
- A coin honoring Bob Dole for his long career in
politics -- presumably a gold coin, since he's now in his
golden years. The obverse could bear side-by-side portraits
of Dole and Father Time (or perhaps the age-old Sen. Strom
Thurmond), while the reverse could feature an hourglass with
the sands running low. The inscription might be "Not Much
Time for a Change."
- A coin paying tribute to TV and radio talk-show hosts
for their efforts to lift the level of national discourse.
Base-metal coinage would be appropriate here -- the baser,
the better. And possibly it could have a composite portrait
-- including, say, Rush Limbaugh's ample jowls, Carnie
Wilson's hyperactive mouth, Geraldo Rivera's over-inquisitive
nose and Sally Jessie Raphael's large, darting eyes and
designer glasses. The motto would be obvious: "Talk Is
- A coin marking the role of sleazy telemarketers in
broadening the base of the rare coin market over the years.
The obverse could display a telephone with a diagonal slash
running through it -- much like a traffic sign that probibits
left turns or a sign that bans smoking in a building. The
reverse could show a chart reflecting the price performance
of telemarketer specials -- also a diagonal slash running
from upper left to lower right.
- Last but not least, a coin paying tribute to the U.S.
Mint for its great artistic achievements in recent years.
This would be a throwback to the Mint's own pattern coinage
of the early 1850s, when it struck experimental coins with
holes punched in the center. Of course, in creating this
particular coin, we'd have to make just one slight
modification: We'd have to make the hole a lot bigger.