May 03, 2005

Recurring Annoyance

I got one of those poppy coins today, and it made my blood pressure go up a little bit. This happens every time I get one of these coins. Why? Because, as has been widely reported, the red ink totally comes off, leaving a coin whose central image bears little resemblance to a poppy.

The official release from the Royal Canadian Mint, who produced the coin in cooperation with the Royal Canadian Legion, claimed the colour would hold up:

To meet the engineering and design challenges entailed in producing the world's first- ever coloured circulation coin, the Royal Canadian Mint perfected a high speed colouring process that will generate 30 million coins. The process ensures that the colour adheres to the metal and is resistant against wear from daily use or from exposure to common household products and detergents. With normal wear and tear, the colour should remain for one to three years, but can be removed with harsh chemicals or friction. A permanent poppy has been struck on the coin which will retain its full value, even if the red colour has been removed.

But it didn't take long after the (also controversial Tim Hortons-near-exclusive) release of the coin for complaints to start coming in:

Though the coins have been out for less than day, it didn't take long for the lustre to wear off. It appears that the red colour on the poppy is easily scratched off.


Indeed, the colour does not hold up well at all. Forget harsh chemicals or friction ... try routine handling and pocket wear-and-tear. Worse yet, the "permanent poppy" is kind of hard to spot under the faded (but not entirely gone) colour, with its special dye-gripping (ahem) texture. To add insult to injury, the coins didn't look perfect to begin with. In most of the ones I've seen, the colour wasn't well-aligned with the "permanent poppy."

So what the hell happened? Well, the Mint most certainly did not "perfect a high speed colouring process". Nor is this just the degree of defects that come with any large-scale (30 million units) manufacturing process, as David Dingwall, President and CEO of the Mint, would like to have had us believe.

This is one of those things that frustrates me deeply (no, really!) because it really shouldn't have happened like this. Yes, this was the world's first colour circulation coin. Fantastic, and kudos to the Mint for being leading-edge and for good intentions. But sometimes it's not just the thought that counts. When it comes to a coin designed for remembrance, the much-written-of irony of a symbol that fades away hits home just a little too hard. Again and again.

Posted by anatole at May 3, 2005 08:52 PM