When President Trump abruptly canceled what was to be his historic, Nobel-prize winning meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Thursday, many expressed worry about the geostrategic fallout.
But under the radar of the foreign policy establishment, there’s another burning question: What happens to the commemorative coins and ornaments being hawked by the White House gift shop?
While the president reminded Kim of America’s “massive and powerful” nuclear capability, the gift shop took a more positive approach: a sale. The summit memorabilia became “the deal of the day” on the gift shop’s website.
Customers who had preordered were assured that the commemorative items would still be produced and sold whether there was actually a summit to commemorate, “whether or not the summit occurs as scheduled.”
The summit ornament, which originally cost $89, is now available for $59. It features “elegant raised Icons & Historical Iconographs,” “Asian Design Motifs with Harmony as the Unifying Design Theme” and a 24-karat gold finish. The description also notes that it’s “100% Made in America.” No picture was available, so buyers will have to take the shop’s word for it.
Then there is the “post-summit” coin. Originally priced at $24.95, the “unique heirloom of political history” can now be yours for the low, low price of $19.95. It even comes with a black velvet case.
The post-summit version is not to be confused with the pre-summit coin, also known as the “challenge coin,” that you may have seen because the design was released earlier this week. (See below.)
When news broke about the summit being canceled, people gave the White House a hard time.
Comedian Kumail Nanjiani tweeted, “I’ve decided I’m gonna run a triathlon. I haven’t started training, but I’ve already got a commemorative coin designed for when I cross the finish line.”
Another Twitter user wrote, “good thing no one made like a commemorative coin or anything.”
President Barack Obama’s former chief strategist David Axelrod quipped, “Coming soon to eBay: Historic summit coins!!”
NPR’s Steve Inskeep tweeted out the gift shop’s statement that the post-summit coin would be available regardless of the outcome of the meeting, calling it a “disclaimer.”
The gift shop sounded a bit wounded in its response to Inskeep, tweeting “You may be interested in learning more about the hundreds of South Koreans who talked to us today and want the commemoratives as a symbol of peace, if not now, soon.”
“It’s helpful to see our world with optimistic eyes,” the tweet went on to say. “Pessimism is too easy.”
But, for those who decide they don’t want to remember the aborted summit, the gift shop is issuing refunds. The shop doubted that many people would want their money back. “Most customers have said they want this heirloom of political history regardless of outcome,” the description of the ornament reads. The same goes for the coin, the shop said.
“It’s like, you can ask for your money back but you’ll regret it,” tweeted one user.
In any case, demand (or perhaps just curiosity) was so great, that the gift shop’s website was unavailable for many hours after the cancellation was announced, which prompted more mirth.