The founding of Baseball Treasure, makers of collectible baseball coins (one from each Major League team) is a story of friendship and a shared passion for our national pastime.
Co-founders John Connor and Rick Canale met the on their first day of school in 1983. They played on baseball teams together in junior high and high school, have lived and worked together, and have remained friends and baseball fans for most of their lives. They even share Red Sox season tickets together, behind the on deck circle at Fenway Park.
John started buying Topps baseball cards in 1977 and even completed the entire set in 1978, which he still owns today. Meanwhile, Rick’s baseball card collection of more than 25,000 cards dating back from his childhood takes up an entire room.
In early 2017, John had an idea to create baseball coins from one ounce of copper. For decades, vendors have been trying to successfully create a baseball coin. Almost all have been failures.
“Making the die is the first step, and our original one looks nothing like the final product,” explains co-found Rick Canale, a Boston florist who has supplied flowers to the Red Sox for years. “We needed a prototype to show MLB so that we could go through the proper channels to get a licensing agreement done. They liked what they saw, and so did the Players’ Association.”
Making the die is the most expensive cost.
“We use a mint in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, called CNP Depository, which brokers gold. The owner has minting equipment and, sensing the potential, did the work on spec,” Canale said.
Baseball Treasure has produced collectible copper coins featuring 30 baseball stars (one from each team). Each coin is minted and presented on a baseball card-sized cardboard mount with the ‘heads’ side featuring their portrait of the player with his name and position. The ‘tails’ side notes a highlight from last season and features an action pose.
Specially minted versions of the coins are cast in .999 fine silver. One in 432 packs will feature a special one-ounce silver coin. The pack also includes a cardboard mount designating the owner as a “Silver Coin Winner.”
One in every 21,600 packs will include a specially marked coin redeemable for a rare one-ounce solid gold coin of Aaron Judge commemorating his rookie record of 52 home runs last season. The pack includes a special cardboard mount designating the owner as a “Gold Coin Winner.”
The initial run of the Baseball Treasure coins was 300,000. A second run is planned. The coins are available for purchase at 100 Modell’s stores across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. They are also available at every team’s online stores, and that the Mets, Yankees, Nationals, Cardinals, Cubs, Phillies, Brewers, Mariners, and Padres stadium gift shops. The coins are also found at the Baseball Hall of Fame, and Ripken baseball facilities.
“One of our distributors called it ‘the coolest new product in its category in years’,” Canale says proudly.
Buyers get a prize no matter what, and the online secondary market online is thriving. The Yoan Moncada silver coin is selling on eBay for over $100.
“Collectors will pay for rare items. One in 432 are silver coins, and the odds of getting your favorite player one 1 in 12,000,” Canale said. “Every player has 30 silver coins. When the Aaron Judge silver coin goes on sale on the secondary market, I can’t imagine what it will command. A Mike Trout coin sold for $300 a few weeks ago. It’s a smart idea for a collector to invest in these coins.”
Eventually, Baseball Treasure will have “open packs” of coins for popular players like Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox. Rhys Hoskins of the Phillies, and Francisco Lindor of the Indians are surprisingly popular.
“The Yankees and Red Sox drive the marketplace,” Canale explained. “We are not in Fenway Park yet, but we will be in August with a Betts-only open pack display. The Betts stand-alone coin will be the first one.”
Next year, Baseball Treasure has plans to mint coins for about 50 players – one from each team and then a select few teams will have multiple players (like the All-Star Game). Canale has also spoken with the Baseball Hall of Fame to discuss doing a series of old-time player coins.
“We’ll give the public what they want,” Canale explained.
Next year, Baseball Treasure will have to more time to overcome what was its biggest challenge in launching the company: getting it to market on time.
“We should have been in the marketplace in April for Opening Day, but because of contract finalization and packaging issues, the coins weren’t available until June,” said Canale, who self-funded the business with his business partner by using their own savings, rather than getting a small business loan. “Missing those two months was a big hit, but other than that, our growing pains have been pretty minor.”
The company runs on a shoe-string budget and a staff of three: the two partners and a summer intern, Kate Fleener, from the Eisenberg School of Management in U-Mass, who was looking for a sports marketing internship.
“The whole process has been rewarding. Being the kids who collected cards at 8 and now at 47 having the most revolutionary product in the industry is cool,” Canale said. “It’s been stressful at times, but a lot of fun. We both love it; I would regret if I had not done it.”