The United States is still very much in the thick of the pandemic, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the latest product on offer at the White House Gift Shop: a commemorative coin celebrating the Trump Administration’s heroic, victorious efforts to fight coronavirus.
The coin shows an artist’s rendering of the coronavirus overlaid on a world map, and reads (with characteristically Trumpian capitalization), “World vs Virus: We Fought the Unseen Enemy. Everyday HEROES Suited Up. Everyday CITIZENS Did Their Part.” The other side features the presidential podium, where Trump until recently delivered his controversial daily press briefings.
The coin is on sale for a cool $100—marked off from $125 for pre-orders. It was designed by Challenge Design, an Illinois and Indiana-based company specializing in commemorative coins. When reached by Artnet News, company owner and creative director Mary H. Harms declined to comment. The White House Gift Shop did not respond to inquiries.
Listed on the coin like Marvel characters are members of the COVID-19 Task Force: Trump, Vice President Michael Pence, Secretary of State Steven Mnuchin, surgeon general Jerome Adams, coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony Fauci.
The White House Gift Shop, which also sells Trump’s signature red “Make America Great Again” hat for $24.95, was founded by President Harry S Truman and the Secret Service in 1946, but has not been affiliated with the US government since 2013. Privately owned and for-profit, it does, however, feature a USA.gov logo on its website.
The limited-edition COVID tchotchke is the 11th coin in the gift shop’s so-called “Historic Moments” series. That includes one commemorating Trump’s North Korean summit in Singapore—an official government version made headlines when it was pushed into production even when the talk was temporarily cancelled—and not one, but two coins titled “Genius Makes Its Own Rules.”
According to the , Trump’s presidency has “yielded more—and more elaborate—coins that are shinier, flashier and even bigger” than those of his predecessors.
He even put his MAGA campaign slogan on a presidential challenge coin—a token handed out to service members to commemorate special achievements—replacing the traditional presidential seal and national motto, E pluribus unum, or “Out of many, one.” Trump also eschewed silver or copper, as is typical of challenge coins, for gold, in keeping with his preferred gilded aesthetic.
The President’s unique approach to coins has already inspired some artists to put their own twist on the form. Valery Estabrook presented her project, called “The Impeachmint,” at last month’s SPRING/BREAK Art Show in New York. In the series, she immortalizes the administration’s lowest moments, such as Trump’s impeachment.
The artist was already planning to design a coin to memorialize the administration’s response to the pandemic. But she was surprised to have been beaten to the punch by the White House’s own gift shop.
“Whenever there’s an event that’s truly horrifying, I try to give myself some time to see how things play out before solidifying the design,” she told Artnet News. “Things seem to be changing every week so I’m still waiting to see if something even more egregious will happen. Will it be the comments about injecting disinfectants? Or Trump’s early denials? Or something yet to take place?”
Her current working draft, available for pre-order for $99 ($1 less than the official coin!), features a quote from March 13 in which Trump denied that it was his fault that there were not sufficient coronavirus tests. “I don’t take responsibility at all,” said the president.
The gift shop’s coin is for sale on its website under the pithy name “COVID-19, World Vs the Unseen Enemy, Everyday Heroes, President Donald J, Trump, Vice President Michael R. Pence, Secretary S. Mnuuchin, Drs. Jerome Adams Deborah Birx Anthony Fauci.” (Yes, the label on the website misspells Mnuchin’s name, but luckily they got it right for the coin itself.)
The website claims that “100% of Profit Donated to Five Major COVID-19 Research Hospitals,” although the hospitals are not identified. An earlier report from LGBTQ Nation noted that 20 percent of proceeds will be “donated each day to US hospitals including Johns Hopkins for its COVID-19 Coordination and Trackins [sic].”