On March 1, the Royal Mint launched the Great British Coin Hunt, a project which saw the introduction of 26 new 10-pence coins related to British culture and history. The coins proceed alphabetically from “A” to “Z,” with themes like cricket for the letter “C” or James Bond for “B.” While the coins themselves are fascinating, what I found to be even more intriguing was the app that was launched in tandem with the coins. It allows individual coin collectors to snap pictures of their coins, unlock new content, share their collections on social media, and create a digital folder to store the coins in. The smartphone app goes even further — directing collectors to the best places to go find coins that they are missing in every part of the country and even to the nearest swap shops to trade coins with other collectors. Could you imagine the effect that this sort of technology could have on the hobby if it were also introduced in the United States?
Imagine being able to use a smartphone app to not only identify your coins but also direct you to the nearest places where you can swap with fellow collectors or buy specific ones that are missing in your collection. I imagine no less than a new Golden Age of coin collecting in the United States if this technology were introduced here. Not only would collectors benefit from the increased convenience an app like this could provide, but the United States Mint would also likely see a surge in interest and sales from an officially licensed app that does the hardest work of collectors for them — finding the exact coins they are looking for. This would mean no more tedious searching through online listings of potentially fraudulent sellers, as an app that can correctly identify authentic coins may one day eliminate counterfeiting altogether.
I do not think that the U.S. Mint would even have to introduce a new coin series to accompany this app, as there are a myriad of beloved coin series already highly sought after by American collectors. For example, the ongoing America the Beautiful Quarters Program would certainly benefit from this particular app, as it is in some ways similar to the Great British Coin Hunt series — both being a celebration of national pride in their own right. We could either go with one universal smartphone app which covers all U.S. coinage, or we could have many different apps for collectors who are just looking for one particular series of coins, like an app just for Lincoln cents and an app just for State quarters. Several critics of the U.S. Mint have already pointed out that it tends to lag behind international mints in terms of technology and innovation, so this also might be a good way to remedy that public perception. The Great British Coin Hunt app also has one final feature of interest to the collector — the ability to design coins.
Often collectors will feel left out of the design process that goes on at the Mint, and the ability to either design their own coins or simply give feedback is a commonly unfulfilled desire that could be met by an app. The ability to rapidly assess what a large number of collectors want to see on their coins through an app survey would undoubtedly improve the transparency and democratic nature of coin design over the current system. If the hobby and the Mint are to keep up with the changing tides of technology, introducing an app similar to what is seen with the Great British Coin Hunt may be a good place to start. Not only would we see an increase in interest and sales of coins, but an officially licensed U.S. Mint coin collecting app may one day be our most powerful tool to combat counterfeiting.