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Terror Schlock

They're making a mint on 9-11.

Steve Burgess 11 Sep

Steve Burgess writes about film and the vagaries of our modern culture regularly for The Tyee.

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As seen (weirdly) on TV.

Breathtaking. That's the only word for the World Trade Center anniversary commemorative coin from National Collector's Mint. Breathtaking is the word they use, and who could argue? Not me, friend.

Each coin features an outline of the World Trade Center towers in silver. Did I say silver? It's no ordinary plunder. This is silver recovered from vaults at Ground Zero itself! (I apologize for the exclamation marks -- ordinarily I don't find them necessary. But this is a special case!)

Gather your breath for the next part -- you'll need to hoard some. Because the World Trade Center anniversary commemorative coin from National Collector's Mint is more than just a coin. It's a sculpture.

How can this be, you ask? Is it something from the mind of Hollywood, where trucks transform into robots and rap singers somehow become thespians? No, my credulous friends. Hear me out. You will recall that every coin features the silver Trade Center towers -- made with silver from vaults at Ground Zero! -- on a coin plated with gold from somewhere else, covering an unidentified metal that could be lead from recycled Chinese toys. They don't say. But before your eyes the towers rise again (you have to do this part) and stand proudly as a glittering sculptural tribute to the fallen landmark. To quote from the National Collector's Mint: "The effect is dazzling -- it is literally transformed into a standing sculpture of the Twin Towers!" (Exclamation marks theirs.)

Quick, to the phone

I was sold already. But I needed to find out more, if only for you, dear readers. So I called the number on screen. And waited. Naturally an offer like this has the operators hopping. My time on hold passed quickly thanks to happy excitement and contemplation of the changing attitudes toward the events of September 11, 2001. In the early months the attacks were simply too raw a wound on the American psyche to allow for this sort of generous offer. Comedians were hamstrung as audiences cried "Too soon!" (In the 2005 documentary The Aristocrats, comedian Gilbert Gottfried is driven to tell the famous forbidden joke of the title only after the crowd shouts down his attempt at some 9-11 humour.) Now things have changed so much that American Movie Channel's critically acclaimed series Mad Men can open with an animated sequence showing a silhouetted man plummeting from a Manhattan skyscraper -- and attract no censure for it.

At last my call is answered by Jennifer (the call was recorded for quality control purposes. Transcripts available, I'm sure. Jennifer's name has been changed because I forgot her real one. Sorry, I was pumped).

Just the facts

I'm bursting with questions. Firstly: how big is the breathtaking sculpture of the World Trade Center?

"The coin is 38 millimetres in diameter," she explains. And the commemorative towers? "I don't know how tall they actually are."

Less than 110 stories, she agrees.

What about the silver -- the silver from Ground Zero? Whose vaults were they?

"I'm not sure," Jennifer admits. "They were vaults at Ground Zero."

But you can guarantee that the silver was not melted down from jewelry or fillings found in the rubble?

"Oh no, absolutely not," she assures me. I am relieved.

The price is $29.95 US, plus $4.95 shipping and handling. Same price for Canada. Five dollars go to 9-11 charities. What charities are those?

" 9-11 charities for the victims," she says. Good enough for me.

Blue light special

It turns out that six years is more than enough time for passions to cool and patriotic commercial enterprise to take hold. National Collector's Mint has offered very similar products for several years now. In fact, Jennifer informs me, a brand new coin/sculpture is just coming out. "This new one has a plastic sculpture that stands up and when you press a button it is illuminated by blue light," she says.

There must have been a fair amount of plastic at Ground Zero. But I think they sourced it elsewhere.

Almost as an afterthought, I ask Jennifer if anyone ever calls to suggest that these products represent a veritable Ground Zero of bad taste. "A few people," she says, "but only Canadians. All the complaints have been from Canadians."

Foreigners. It figures.

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