US Mint releases new coins for the “Asian American” community

Commemorative set from the US Mint for 8-8-08
Last week on 8-8-08 (along with all the other celebrations to commemorate that date), the US Mint announced a set of 2 1/2-oz. gold coins targeting the “Asian American” community. I got a chance last week to go to the Mint’s office in San Francisco, which is usually closed to the public, for a press conference announcing this release. Curiously, I was the only blogger there, as everyone else was from other established media organizations. The strangest thing was going through security, and with the SF Mint making only coins, we had to give any and all coins to security before we were allowed to enter. While they did check us for contraband and other metallic weapons, it was very curious to notice the emphasis on coins, even though the coins they produce are primarily for collectors, and not for the general public.

Edward Moy, the first ever Asian American and Chinese American director of the Mint, was on hand to personally announce the release, providing a detailed history of why the Mint was specifically targeting Asian Americans. When he started speaking about how “Asian Americans love gold!”, my eyebrows were immediately raised, and then were raised even higher when he said that 8 was a lucky number for the “Asian American community.” Granted, 8 is a lucky number for certain Asian populations, like the Chinese and Vietnamese, other numbers like 9, most notably for Thais, are just as lucky. Given that Moy was a special adviser to Bush who recommended a number of people to sit on committees throughout his term (like for the National Endowment of the Arts, among others), I would have expected him to be a little bit more delicate in talking about the Asian American community. But I digress.

The decision to release the coins was in part due to a trial run of releasing a single 1-oz. gold coin to celebrate the Lunar New Year for the Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean communities a couple of years ago, and the overwhelming response led the US Mint to decide on releasing another set in time for 8-8-08. That trial run led to $20 million worth of sales for the US Mint, so this was a bigger trial run for the Asian community in general. The coins themselves are 2 1/2-oz. gold coins, an American Buffalo coin that features a buffalo (natch), and an American Liberty coin featuring a representation of Lady Liberty. I was curious why something more Asian-identified wasn’t used for the coins, but I figured it would’ve been too naive to ask. The set contains two coins since it was decided that it would be easier to convert two smaller 1/2-oz. coins into jewelry as opposed to one larger 1-oz. coin. The set goes for $1228.88.

The coins themselves are pretty impressive, with lots of amazing detail, and felt surprisingly heavy for a 1/2-oz. coin. We were encouraged to touch and examine the coins — unfortunately, we weren’t given samples. I guess being a journalist only takes you so far.

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About Efren

Efren is a 30-something queer Filipino American guy living in San Francisco. In the past, he was a wanna-be academic even teaching in Asian American studies at San Francisco State, a wanna-be queer rights and HIV activist, and he used to "blog" when that meant spewing one's college student angst using a text editor on a terminal screen to write in a BBS or usenet back in the early 90s. For all his railing against the model minority myth, he's realized he's done something only a few people can claim--getting into UCSF twice, once for a PhD program in medical sociology which he left; and then for pharmacy school, where he'll be a member of the class of '13. He apologizes profusely for setting the bar unintentionally high for his cousins. blog twitter
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