By Charles Morgan for CoinWeek …..
Before I begin, watch this video…
On June 29, 2017, I was set to meet Michael Chou of Champion Auctions in Berlin, Germany for the purpose of filming the striking ceremony of a Panda medal at the Berlin Mint.
The Berlin Zoo was preparing to welcome two giant pandas from China. The zoo had constructed a brand new, state-of-the-art enclosure for the special guests and then-Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping would attend a grand ceremony marking the occasion.
Of course, neither Michael nor I had access to that event, but we did have an insider’s view into the production of a medal that Michael had a large role in creating. The challenge, as I saw it, was to travel to Berlin, capture the inner workings of the Berlin Mint, tape footage of the press operator striking a few medals, get some close-up footage of the designs, and figure out a way to tie it all together.
If only it were that easy. If you skip to 4:10 in the video, you can see a group of people getting close-up views of the first medal being struck. Ten seconds before, in real-time, I had a perfectly unobstructed view. My camera was mounted on its tripod, which was fastened to a dolly. Just as I was set to capture the big moment, a crush of people sprang into action and forced their way to the dais. I dismounted my camera to try to capture something but came up short.
I was really worried and I felt bad because the only reason I came to Berlin was to capture this one moment and I missed it.
I looked around and grabbed some footage of tools and speeches, but much of what I had in the can was incomplete. My friend Andrea from the Coin Couch had some b-roll, which I implemented along with my own footage. A question remained, however: What was this video even going to be about?
We had no pandas, no first strike of the medal, and what I did have was a disjointed mess.
I thought back to the trip I made with Hubert to Vienna a few years earlier, and even though we made some amateurish mistakes, our Austrian Mint videos turned out really well.
This Berlin shoot, however…
Fortunately, I did come up with something. What if the video was a travel diary? A day in the life of a numismatist living the lifestyle. Of course, I thought, a numismatist might be on hand to see a medal being struck. Mints would invite numismatists in to see their money and medal factories. It was all I had, conceptually.
After the title animations, the first shot of the video focuses on breakfast bread and hot chocolate. This was shot at the airport the day I left from Brussels. In my narration, I suggest that I’m on the way to meet Michael in Berlin. In actuality, I was on the way home, trying to salvage the video with some airport shots.
Apropos of nothing, I did get a shot of a Hainan Airlines jet at 56 seconds. It was a rainy day indeed, and the day I arrived in Berlin, the underground train stations had flooded.
At 1:07, Michael gets into a taxi. Judging by the surrounding businesses, I believe this was filmed at my hotel. Michael had managed to stay at the very hotel President Xi would arrive at. Security was tight, as one might expect.
As Michael says, “We are off to the Berlin Mint” – know that this statement is true. We are on the way back to the Mint. The striking ceremony had already been shot (or mis-shot) and we were trying to construct a narrative to explain why we were in the city.
I can’t remember where we got the Panda footage starting at 1:32. I am almost positive it wasn’t the actual pandas from Berlin as they hadn’t been unveiled yet.
At 1:55 we arrive at the Berlin Mint. I walked across the street to get a panning view of the facility. The Berlin Mint has an interesting design, but I wouldn’t call it a beautiful structure. It felt dated, architecturally.
Inside the double doors you see from the street is a Mint Museum. I don’t believe it was open to the public when we arrived. On display, primarily, were East German commemorative coins.
Inside the medal room, the obverse and reverse medal dies were already mounted in the Gräbener press. We shot some close-up footage of the dies. I always find these shots interesting.
Sebastian Wieschowski was on hand. At the time, he had contributed a few articles for us, but he was primarily working with Coin World. Michael Chou was using him for projects as well. He is a promising young writer who had developed some ties with the American media. In 2020, he was interviewed by John Feigenbaum for Greysheet.
At 3:49, the medal-striking ceremony sequence begins. I find these presentations to be quite boring and felt it sufficient just to show that it happened. Dr. Andreas Schikora, Director of the Berlin Mint; Chinese Ambassador Shi Mingde; German ambassador Dr. Norbert Riedel; Michael Chou; and Ulrich Künker all spoke.
We return to 4:10 and my moment of great exasperation. By the time the footage at 4:14 was shot, the crowd had already dissipated and the excitement was over. I was fortunate enough to get to stick around longer to see a few more medals made.
We skip back to the aftermath of the first striking at 4:23. Ambassador Mingde is handing back the first medal.
At 4:31, Andrea makes an appearance. She was a great colleague to work with and had spent her pre-YouTube career working in the coin industry.
From here on out, the footage follows a logical progression. We see people who are paid to produce things and people who are paid to build relationships between countries smile and exchange pleasantries.
Unusual for a CoinWeek video, this one has a coda. At 6:36, we see Michael standing in front of the Herzliche Willkommen (“Heartfelt Welcome”) sign featuring the new pandas. The closest we came to seeing them was a gift shop filled with pandas of all sizes. Somehow, I convinced the shopkeeper to sell me a poster mounted on foam core, which Michael signed. I still have it… and my medal.
When I think back to making this CoinWeek video, I feel fortunate that it turned out as well as it did. I’m grateful for the assist from my friend Andrea, whose b-roll footage made my presentation look as professional as it does. The Berlin trip, overall, was good. I did lose a pair of glasses, and Michael tried and failed repeatedly to find me the best bowl of Pho in the city. But at the end of it all, I got to spend a week in one of the most exciting cities in Europe.