Monday, January 20, 2014

Coins with Web Addresses

Russia 2011 25 rouble coin with Sochi
reverse.  Image courtesy of the Central
Bank of Russia.
In February 2014, Russia will host the Winter Olympic Games for the first time. To honor the Winter Olympics and the host city Sochi, Russia began issuing commemorative coins in 2011 with Olympic themes on the reverse. Canada, the previous Winter Olympics host country, started the trend by issuing Winter Olympic Sport-themed circulating quarters (as well as a commemorative dollar coin) in the years leading up to the Games. (A trend which Great Britain continued in 2012 by minting a series of 50 pence coins depicting the sporting events in the Summer Olympic Games.)

What makes Russia's Olympic coins interesting is that they are, I believe, the first coins to have a Web address on them - Sochi.ru.

It should come as no surprise for a Web address to show up on a coin. There isn't much left that doesn't show a Web link to allow you to find out more information about what you're looking at. Here in the United States,  I was most recently surprised to see them popping up on license plates (MyFlorida.com, www.IN.gov). Perhaps it's just a matter of time before we start seeing "www.usa.gov" or "brazil.gov.br" on coins and currency.

However, I can't help but consider the contrast between a Web site (which, like an address or a phone number, can be impermanent or even short-lived), and a coin (which are specifically made for their durability and longevity). What happens in 4 years, or 10, or 50, when someone finds one of these Russian coins featuring the "sochi.ru" address? Will the address still work? What will it display, so many years after the 2014 Winter Olympic Games? Will someone else get ownership of the address and use it to serve ads, or worse, to unlucky visitors?

It also makes me think about what our Internet trends are now, compared to 10 years ago. If a mint had gotten the idea to put a Web address on their coins in 2004, would we now be laughing (or scratching our heads) at coins that read "myspace.com/germany" or "india.geocities.com"? Today, would it be better to put a Web address, a Facebook address, or a Twitter identity on a coin (or perhaps all 3)?

While putting the Sochi.ru address on these Russian coins is primarily a marketing tool, I think it is inevitable that we'll see more of this in the future. If you've seen Web addresses on other coins (circulating or collectible), let us know in a comment below - The Sochi coins are the first I've seen, but that doesn't mean that they were the first.

In the meantime, I'll be waiting to see who will be the first to stick a QR code on their coins.

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    There already was one when you published this. It was a €5 coin from the Royal Dutch Mint to commemorate the latter's centennial in 2011. However, there was nothing special behind the QR code - it was a memory game.

    It won Most Innovative Coin and Coin of the Year in 2013 to boot! (The Coin of the Year for any given year is always for coins minted 2 years before, so 2015's CotY will actually have been minted in 2013.). This and the other CotY-award-winners can be found at http://www.numismaster.com/ta/inside_numis.jsp?page=coin-of-the-year-archive.

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