by Louis Golino for CoinWeek
Michele Coiron is director of sales for the fund-raising affiliate of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, known as Star-Spangled 200, Inc. She recently spoke with me about her efforts to promote sales of the U.S. Mint’s commemorative coins that honor the Star-Spangled Banner. Those coins include a well-received silver dollar and $5 gold coin.
LG- 1) Michele, can you please briefly describe how you came to join the staff of the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission? And please also tell us about what you do to promote sales of the Star-Spangled Banner commemorative coins.
MC- I had heard that the Commission and its non-profit, fundraising affiliate Star-Spangled 200, Inc. was organizing a national commemoration that was generating a lot of excitement. The patriotic, historic and educational components had so much appeal to begin with, but the chance to promote the official commemorative that honors the Star-Spangled Banner, our national unifier, is something I couldn’t resist.
LG- 2) I understand from reading an April 23 Coin World article that the commission is pleased with the results of its efforts at the March 22-25 Whitman Coin and Collectibles Baltimore Expo. Could you tell us a little more about what you and your colleagues did in Baltimore?
MC- Thanks to Whitman, we had the opportunity to make our national coin community debut right here in Baltimore. Our city is home to the Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, site of the events that led to the writing of our national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner. Attendees were very enthusiastic, and we almost sold out of the coins we had on hand to sell at the show. It doesn’t get any better than that. We are so grateful to Whitman for allowing us to partner with them, and look forward to working more with them in the months to come.
LG- 3) In addition to attending the June and November Baltimore Expos, what other major marketing plans and activities do you and your colleagues have planned to promote sales of the coins over the course of 2012? Is there a way to connect the coin to the July 4th celebrations?
MC- Awareness levels of the coin should peak even sooner in June with our official bicentennial commemoration kick off. Maryland will host Star-Spangled Sailabration – an international maritime festival with over 40 ships, a Blue Angels air show, and a new symphonic premiere. Through our media partners who have already raised visibility of the coin with clever public service announcements, we will be able to expand coverage of the coin and the bicentennial events to a broad, national audience.
LG – 4) Can you describe how the money generated from surcharges on the coins is used by the commission?
MC- In 2010 legislation was signed [Public Law 111-232] to create coins commemorating the 200th anniversary of the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner. The law allows the Commission to receive up to $8.5 million in coin surcharges to help support bicentennial activities, assist in educational outreach, and preserve sites and structures that have War of 1812 significance.
LG- 5) Do you and your colleagues work closely with the U.S. Mint? I know the Mint has provided some promotional brochures, posters, and similar materials. Are there other ways the Mint’s staff have been helpful with your efforts?
MC – The Mint staff has been wonderful and very responsive to our needs. Our release day event on March 5 at Fort McHenry attracted people from across the country, and the Mint staff’s expertise in handling crowds came in very helpful. We are in daily communication with our Mint representatives, who provide us with sales reports and marketing advice.
LG – 6) What is your sense of the general public’s response to the Star-Spangled Banner coins? What is the commission doing to make the non-coin collecting public aware of them?
MC- Coins in general are popular as they offer an alluring way for people to access stories and history. The patriotic theme of this commemorative coin design resonates with a wide ranging audience. A number of military, historic, and patriotic groups have kindly offered to help us promote the coin through their networks. We are also very pleased to have made arrangements with select museums such as those of the Smithsonian, which has the coins available for sale in its American History Museum and the National Portrait Gallery Museum stores. At our launch event, one buyer bought six for each of her grandchildren. Not only is the coin a great gift idea for graduation, father’s day or the holidays, but it would be an ideal way to introduce a non-coin collector to the hobby of coin-collecting.
LG- 7) Finally, I am curious about the Maryland angle since the events commemorated on these coins are ones that make Marylanders feel especially proud about their state’s history. Is the commission doing anything that taps into that?
MC- To engage all Marylanders in our shared history, the Commission has developed four signature events throughout the three-year commemoration. In addition to our kick-off Star-Spangled Sailabration this June, plans are underway for The Chesapeake Campaign (Spring 2013-Summer 2014), the Annapolis Conference (June 2013) and Star-Spangled Spectacular (June 2014). There will be something for everyone, but each carries a common theme, which is to honor the flag and the national anthem. “All eyes are on Maryland”, said Raymond A. “Chip” Mason, founder of Legg Mason, Inc. and chairman of the Maryland War of 1812 Commission. “People across the state can feel proud of this once-in-a-lifetime national celebration that recognizes our historic contributions to the defense and heritage of our nation.”
Louis Golino is a coin collector and numismatic writer, whose articles on coins have appeared in Coin World, Numismatic News, and a number of different coin web sites. His column for CoinWeek, “The Coin Analyst,” covers U.S. and world coins and precious metals. He collects U.S. and European coins and is a member of the ANA, PCGS, NGC, and CAC. He has also worked for the U.S. Library of Congress and has been a syndicated columnist and news analyst on international affairs for a wide variety of newspapers and web sites.