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Marlins' dime drop gets safe call


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Posted on Sat, Apr. 19, 2003

 

Marlins' dime drop gets safe call

BY CHRISTINA HOAG

choag@herald.com

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Shhh. . . . Don't tell anyone, but those tough guys at the U.S. Secret Service have a soft spot for kids and baseball.

 

Secret Service agents have decided to turn a blind eye to the Florida Marlins' catchy but, ahem, not-quite-legit promotion to celebrate their 10th anniversary -- defaced dimes.

 

The Marlins ordered up 75,000 dimes with the heads side painted in the team's teal uniform color and black ''F'' logo, the idea being that the dime symbolizes the club's 10 years.

 

The deal is that the dolled-up dimes can be exchanged for tickets to Marlins home games.

 

The problem is that tinkering with coins is a federal offense.

 

''It's a clear violation,'' said John Mrha, assistant special agent in charge of the Secret Service's Miami field office.

 

Mrha dispatched an agent to the Marlins' office to check out the coins on Thursday, after the team launched the promotion by giving out the dimes to youngsters at the Fienberg-Fisher Elementary School in South Beach.

 

''Common sense had to come in on this one,'' Mrha said. ``We didn't want the kids to miss out on the games. There's real crime out there.''

 

Key to the Service's decision, he said, were two facts: that the acrylic paint was temporary and could be rubbed off and that there was no criminal intent behind the defacement.

 

''We told them not to do it again and that this shouldn't have been done,'' Mrha said. ``We'll be contacting the marketing company and the company that did the coins. We'll also ensure that the coins are cleaned up after they're redeemed at the stadium.''

 

None of which bothers the Marlins' marketing director, Sean Flynn. He's just thrilled with the wave of publicity the stunt has generated.

 

''We were looking for a unique idea to break above the clutter, an attention-grabbing promotion,'' he said.

 

The Marlins plan to continue distributing the dimes in promotions and general circulation at Publix supermarkets and Hess gas stations.

 

The team mascot, Billy the Marlin, and the new Florida Marlin Mermaids ''energy team'' will pitch in, handing out coins at special events and appearances at shopping malls, community baseball fields and the like.

 

Each dime can be turned in at Pro Player Stadium's box office for a reserved terrace seat, worth about $15, for any regular-season home game.

 

The dime distribution is part of a number of promotions the Marlins are launching to combat declining attendance. They also plan to sell group tickets in their behind-the-bullpen Oasis, three cool-water hot tubs in which fans can soak while watching the game, and at a Radio Disney-sponsored play area.

 

Flynn was hoping that all the dimes would be exchanged for tickets but said there are signs that they may be turning into collectors' items, instead.

 

''I've already had a couple of calls from people who just want to hold on to them,'' he said. ``But that's fine. It's all about creating excitement.''

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If you knew the law, it involves "defacement of currency with malicious intent."

That involves both permanently disfiguring currency and negative intention, neither of which apply here. If you see the coins, its basically a sticker which can easily be rubbed off. What about those machines that permanently alter coins at amusements parks and put some kind of logo and change the shape of the coin?

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Parking is ridiculous no matter the sport. At Dolphins games, its $20, luckily they have park and ride. Heat games is all private lots, $15 closest to the arena. Panthers games $10. Thats why the Marlins only want to build a stadium near a mass transit system like Metrorail. It was amazing to see the crowds that came in on the trains to Heat and Panthers games when they played in the Miami Arena.

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