Ralph Gardner Jr: Where’s My Commemorative Coin?

Aug 4, 2018

Credit Facebook: The White House Gift Shop

I called the White House gift shop the other day to find out where my coin was. I’m referring to the Korea Peace Talks Summit Coin, created to commemorate the June 12th meeting between President Donald J. Trump and North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

I had a hunch that whatever the outcome of the summit – it was one of those on again, off again situations when I placed my order on May 29th – that with heroic profiles of both Trump and Kim against their respective flags it would be a shiny keepsake with which to impress and amuse my friends.

Come to think of it, I ordered my coin after the summit was canceled and before it was rescheduled. Demand was so great that it crashed the White House gift shop website. Apparently others had the same idea as me; I’m assuming their thinking is that it could find its place among other curiosities and mistakes, such as the 1955 double die Lincoln Cent and the Inverted Jenny U.S. postage stamp, perhaps the most famous error in American philately.

But persistence paid off because I was eventually able to place my order for the “deal of the day” price of $19.95, marked down from $24.95.

As it turned out the summit happened, though the jury is still out about whether it qualifies as a commemorative coin-worthy success. The latest news is that despite the president’s claim that North Korea is no longer a nuclear threat they keep building intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Let me say at the outset that I have a soft spot in my heart for the White House gift shop, located directly across the street from the President’s home, no matter the occupant. They sell all sorts of neat stuff including Christmas tree ornaments and tiny models of our national monuments. On my last visit I bought my wife a small bust of then President Barack Obama.

And I recall with great fondness my first trip to Washington, D.C. as a ten-year-old when I acquired tomes about the White House and the U.S. Capitol. I hardly cracked the covers but just knowing I owned them made me feel extremely grown up.

The gift shop answered on the second ring – mind you not a recording asking all sorts of tedious questions in order to direct your call – but a friendly live human who sounded like she was standing in the middle of the shop, amid a sea of tourists and tchotchkes.

When I asked the whereabouts of my summit coin – it was well past the promised delivery date – she explained that at the time I placed my order only a “prototype” existed. But that they’d since arrived and were being shipping out apace.

When I got off the phone I instantly started to fantasize about other dubious foreign adventures the Trump administration has undertaken that might lend itself to coinage. These include the President’s trashing of NATO at the G7 summit and the press conference in Helsinki between our commander-in-chief and Russian President Vladimir Putin where he took our adversary’s word, over the consensus of our own intelligence agencies, that Russia had nothing to do with hacking the last election. Or the coming one.

If the President holds true to form – threatening autocrats in all-caps tweets only to praise them once they’ve met in person – it’s just a matter of time until a convivial meeting occurs at a time and place to be determined between Mr. Trump and Iranian President Rouhani.

For those with short memories, he recently promised the Iranian president “consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.” Then again, Kim was “Little Rocket Man” until they met and the president praised his strength, sense of humor, and negotiating skills.

Perhaps it’s just the childhood coin collector in me but I could see a box set commemorating such moments in the Trump presidency.

Turns out great minds think alike. Or what’s that saying about history repeating itself first as tragedy then as farce. The White House gift shop was way ahead of me. On my most recent visit to their website I found them hawking seven additional coins in its “historic moments” collection

And, yes, they include the President’s widely panned summit with President Putin in Helsinki, even though a photo of the medallion isn’t yet available. And, I’m not making this up, there’s a coin in the works called “Genius Makes Its Own Rules” that includes a published 50 page monograph titled – I’m reading this off the website -- “A Study in Genius – The Presidency of Donald J. Trump”. A photograph of that coin also isn’t yet available but it’s not hard to imagine that the President will be prominently displayed, perhaps with the ghosts of Einstein and Michelangelo hovering over his shoulder.

The deal of the day price is $100 marked down from $175 for the “genius” coin.

By the way, my Trump-Kim summit medallion is now selling for the deal of the day price of $75. Which means I already made a nifty profit of over $55 without lifting a finger. Who knows how much it will soar in value, or not at all, in the years to come.

Ralph Gardner, Jr. is a journalist who divides his time between New York City and Columbia County. More of his work can be found at ralphgardner.com

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.