Creative commentary plus crafty composition

Remember when holidays pretty much were celebrated on the actual day?

Now, no doubt in part for commercial purposes, promotion has largely turned them into multi-day, if not multi-week, events.

Which still leaves some latitude in how the spirit might be defined this time of year…

  • Everyone named Patrick is given a mulligan for the day
  • The best of the morning means having draft beverages for breakfast
  • Exercise classes add extra twirls to bring out that green feeling
  • Leprechauns are treated with a short amount of respect
  • Green tag sales mainly comprise green tags
  • The Hulk, the Green Goblin, and Green Lantern perform their yearly folk trio
  • Wearing of the green can be induced uninvited by regurgitation
  • Potato eye collectors hold their largest conventions
  • The Green Party everywhere is thought of as a place to have fun
  • Irish eyes may still be able to smile, but eyes of the less practiced will spend time trying to focus





Minting More Customers

A post nearly two years ago provided my observations about perhaps the most popular of ‘atypical assets’, namely collectible coins. Here’s a revisit of that commentary, with some updated points.

The Royal Canadian Mint has become much more than a creator and distributor of Canadian daily coinage. In addition to special orders for foreign governments, transit authorities, etc., it has expanded offerings to the world of coin collectors and investors, in Canada and beyond.

As anyone can tell you who has been on a tour of the RCM’s location near downtown Ottawa, its history of producing coins and tokens goes back decades, with over 130 foreign orders to date. While the RCM in Winnipeg is responsible for producing regular circulation coins, collectable special versions are produced primarily in Ottawa.

The RCM has taken advantage of marketing through its website to greatly increase exposure to collectors of its class of its array of colourful, innovative issues. In recent times distribution has been expanded through Canada Post (via its website and postal outlets). Moreover, there is more proactive advertising, via television, print, and at times even radio.

If one researches the development of this moneymaking side of the RCM, the first leap seems to have begun with specimen sets of circulation coins. This goes back to the RCM’s inception in 1908. However, it was only in 1981 that the RCM began offering proof quality sets.

Probably two product expansions have been most demonstrable in putting the RCM more seriously on the larger scale collecting map:

  • The issuance of the 125th anniversary of Confederation quarters in 1992, with twelve facings for each of the provinces and (at the time) two territories; this picked up speed with special Millennium editions in 1999 and 2000, followed by an additional set leading to the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics
  • The most dramatic evolution has been triggered by RCM leading technology such as with colour infused coins, essentially coincident with the new Millennium; moreover, the innovations have expanded even more creatively; for example, the RCM was the first Mint in the world to produce glow-in-the-dark editions; it has also created hologram versions, unusually shaped releases, and ones with precious stones attached; most products are primarily in silver, but gold, silver with gold plating, and periodically platinum content have been part of the arrayThe RCM has also taken to distributing special series from Mints of other countries, presumably with some reciprocal arrangements.No wonder the national, and limitedly international, marketplace for offerings from the Royal Canadian Mint looks to continue as a growing treasure of opportunity.

From basic offerings retailing under $30 to gold coins over $10,000, these coins not only have intrinsic value and investment potential, but also provide practical, and compact, gifts whether to collectors or not. They are commonly issued in attractive commemorative boxes

To appeal to an audience beyond the more conventional coin aficionados, the marketplace has been enlarged frequent releases of themes in series, anniversaries based on history, or cultural icons. These have included: memorable events and professions; birds; the NHL; insects; the seasons; architecture; dinosaurs; the 50th anniversary of the Canadian flag; Canada’s 150th ‘birthday’ year (2017); Outer space, climate, and landscapes; Looney Tunes characters, and currently, comic book superheroes plus the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek TV series

The RCM has also taken to distributing special series from Mints of other countries, presumably with some reciprocal arrangements.

From basic offerings retailing under $30 to gold coins over $10,000, these coins not only have intrinsic value and investment potential, but also provide practical, and compact, gifts whether to collectors or not. They are commonly issued in attractive commemorative boxes.

No wonder the national, and limitedly international, marketplace for offerings from the Royal Canadian Mint looks to continue as a growing treasure of opportunity.





We’ve just had the latest round of the Olympic Winter Games play out in Korea in the latter part of February.

Some nations, particularly the three highest medal count countries – namely, Norway, Germany, and Canada – found relative success after their long journeys to southeast Asia. Other countries didn’t have their usually expected triumphs (U.S.A.), and one wasn’t even able to compete under its national flag (Russia) – so, bigger is not always better.

The dedication of the athletes, with victories sometimes expected, sometimes surprising, often with an inspiring back-story, continued to reign at the top of the human interest level (‘gold’ stories). Not far behind were tales of family support along the path to the Olympics, as well as in many cases being there in person to lead the cheers, or condolences (‘silver’ stories). Then there were the backdrop stories, concerning logistics, behavioural subtext and potential drug cheating, and especially relevant to the Winter Olympics, the weather (stories competing for the ‘bronze’).

The behavioural subtext issue is always a fascinating one at major sporting events, because it includes the subjective coverage as seen by viewers around the world, and the tendency toward jingoism in reporting, more obvious with some national broadcasts than with others. But then, human response and ratings are not mutually exclusive.

As with any other form of organized expression which includes a more or less clear underlay of art, there are potentially larger, more philosophical lessons and messages for our own lives:

  • Watching events live versus on tape delay is a much easier decision when sleep patterns are involved
  • Sometimes it’s nice to have to go through a medal detector
  • Sponsors, win or lose, will always be ready to move on to the next sponsorship
  • Cold is a relative term
  • Finishing fourth is an opportunity to practice enhancing one’s mental fortitude, because it sucks
  • Sports provides just another example of where social media can be used to distort reality from a wrong conclusion
  • Jingoistic bias is noticeable
  • Losing a race is easier to get over than losing a gamble with local customs
  • A natural outdoors backdrop makes almost any situation more palatable
  • Being home to money helps the international prevalence of spoken English



An article in the current edition of The Insurance & Investment Journal raises the age-old conundrum of receiving ‘independent advice’. It should be noted that the report is in support of the idea.

Why has this been such a prevailing issue, frequently a hot topic of reportage?

I certainly identify with the question of how independent is the advice one gives. In my twenty-four years in the financial services industry, I was working on behalf of a large organization primarily focused on planning and investments. With respect to the latter, we were offered a platform of in-house investment options, chiefly mutual funds; although for about the last twenty years, third party managed funds have been offered as well.

Thus, while not exactly offering completely independent choices to clients, we were able to cover the range in a reasonable manner, made more so by the company’s emphasis on overall financial planning, and its training sessions for the ongoing development of consultants. Moreover, in this industry, the array of offerings across the board for many years has been so vast, no one could be an expert beyond a limited range of products anyway.

In the article, a different aspect of the issue is discussed, namely, the law of survival perspective affecting insurance companies in Canada. The narrative looks at how best practices ties into what’s best for their distribution networks.

On the one hand, there are independent advisors who want to remain so. “If an insurer offers special conditions to independent advisors to increase sales” – inducing them to funnel their business to only one provider – the impact may “become unfair to other advisors with whom it has business relationships”.

On the other hand, if the insurance company increasingly focuses on its own network of distribution, “it is likely that other insurers will eventually do the same”. If they all start to fold their tents, the wide-open possibilities of interdependence will be replaced by the tunnel vision of intra-dependence.

In other words, it is not only unseemly but also impractical for supposedly independent advice to be allocated from just one hand.

So, can advice in the context of providing a service ever be truly independent?

As suggested by my own experience, and with other service episodes anecdotally, this goal remains aspirational. When I hear or read of spokespeople promoting the independence of their service mantra, I can’t help but feel they are deluding themselves.

No one person or organization has an all-encompassing formula or lock on full independence, at least not in the commercial world. Product knowledge in many service fields, such as relating to personal finances, keeps advancing and expanding. As we all know, technology has quickened the pace; indeed, as pointed out by Tom Friedman in his book, “Thank You for Being Late”, the pace of ‘accelerations’ has reduced internal evolution in much of what affects us to one to two years. As well we must consider the human factors, such as personal expertise, performance, and, let’s face it, ethics.

Thus, truly independent advice giving is a ‘pie in the sky’ concept. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy reaching for a piece as much as possible.


Travel Tips

Open any travel related periodical or insert, and chances are that, in addition to glowing enticements to visit sites far or near, there will be some degree of tips from supposed experts. Sometimes the expertise is limited to lessons learned by the author about specific destinations; sometimes it’s more general ‘rules of thumb’ (not the green kind).

Case in point: the spring edition of CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) Magazine devotes several pages to recommending travel locations for 2018, with brief comments from CAA travel specialists. Some remarks are more insightful than others. Read the rest of this entry »

Being Mindful

It would seem superfluous disputing that the mind is the most important cognitive part of the body; assuming that’s so, being ‘mindful’ should be at least in the highest echelon of good default positions.

What does mindfulness mean? An article in the February edition of Toastmaster magazine gives this a thoughtful (as it were) look. Read the rest of this entry »

A Hurdle is not a Stop Sign

Perhaps all of us, at one time or another, have been tempted to feel discouraged, perhaps quickly, by setbacks on the long journey to accomplishing major goals.

Indeed, if looking at statistics, one can easily be ready to throw in the towel, especially if that towel is frequently coated with rejection.

Many of us are familiar with the 80/20 rule, which anecdotally applies to a wide range of endeavours: Read the rest of this entry »