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Volume 20 No. 42
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Coins to generate year’s worth of revenue for hall

A new commemorative coin program co-developed by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the U.S. Mint has become a breakout hit within coin collecting circles, generating high levels of fan interest and providing the promise of much-needed additional revenue for the 75-year-old hall.

In late March, the U.S. Mint released a series of commemorative coins to help mark the hall’s 75th anniversary this summer, including 50,000 $5 gold coins, 400,000 $1 silver coins and 750,000 half-dollar clad coins. The gold and silver coins sold out in a matter of weeks, and roughly a third of the clad coins have been sold. The gold and silver coins are now generating a further frenzy among collectors on secondary markets.

Each of the coins are sold with surcharges to help support the nonprofit hall, and based on sales to date, the hall will receive at least $7 million. If the rest of the clad coins sell out, the hall will receive an additional $2.5 million. But considering the institution’s total revenue in 2012, the most recent year figures available, was $8.3 million and museum attendance has steadily sagged over the past decade, the coin program and the interest it has generated already has been a major boon.

“We frankly couldn’t be more thrilled with the response to this program,” said Ken Meifert, hall vice president of sponsorship and development. “Along with the U.S. Mint, we’ve positioned this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the reaction from the numismatic community has been nothing short of fantastic.”

The hall probably will not receive its funds from the coin program, roughly equal to a year’s worth of revenue for the institution, until sometime in early 2015, and U.S. Mint programs such as this are designed to be self-sustaining and incur no cost to taxpayers. But after nine fiscal losses in the last 11 years, the success of the coins as well as a series of anniversary celebrations and a stacked induction class this summer have fueled a tide of optimism for the baseball shrine.

The coins are being sold primarily through the U.S. Mint, but the hall itself has maintained some limited inventory in Cooperstown for sale, primarily through “enhanced products” such as desk accessories and bats embedded with the coins.

“The coins are sort of selling themselves and we believe helping generate further interest in Cooperstown,” Meifert said.
Further sparking collector demand is a curved design, to resemble the curvature of the baseball and glove. This is the first time the U.S. Mint has issued a curved coin.

The design of the coins, created by California artist Cassie McFarland after an open design competition, proved to be a draw itself.

“We had high expectations going into this because it’s baseball, but even we’ve been taken aback at the popularity,” said Michael White, U.S. Mint spokesman.