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Geocoinfest 2011 – Europa: Travels with the World’s First Geocoin

Trackable Week presents a new story Monday through Friday this week about creative ways to experience Trackables. Geocaching.com Trackables allow people to tag and track an item from location to location. Trackables typically come in three varieties, Geocoins, Travel Bugs® or Promotional Trackables like the “Find the Gecko,” Geico campaign. (Watch a video on Travel Bugs)

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Image holding the first geocoin ever created. (First geocoin video) But you’re not just holding it, you’re entrusted to take the first geocoin to another continent and let thousands of geocachers see and discover the coin. That’s exactly the mission Lackey Annie Love was given. This is her account of Geocoinfest 2011 – Europa.

Geocoinfest 2011 – Europa: Travels with the World’s First Geocoin

By Annie Love

Lackey Annie Love with the first geocoin

Alarms that go off at 4am are brutal.  Knowing the alarm means you’re about to spend 13 hours on a bus doesn’t make that alarm any easier to take.  Realizing that the alarm and the 13 hour bus ride mean you’re going to visit five countries and collect more than ten geocache icons in one day kind of makes it all worth it.  This epic geocaching tour was just one aspect of Geocoinfest 2011 – Europa.  Held in the beautiful German city of Cologne, geocachers came from all around the world to celebrate the geocoin. Little did they know I had the first geocoin ever created. More on that soon.

Tom Phillips and I had the pleasure of representing Groundspeak, the company the operates Geocaching.com, at the first European Geocoinfest. It consisted of a weekend full of amazing events.  For me, this event meant that I got to finally meet many geocoin manufacturers and Shop Geocaching distributors that I’ve worked with over the past few years via email. It also meant that I got to meet thousands of geocoin or geocaching enthusiasts from all over the world.

After arriving in Cologne on Friday, I checked into my hotel and quickly headed out the door to get started in weekend fun.  The organizers of the event were able to arrange special tours of the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) for geocachers.  The Cathedral, rich with history, had the honor of being the world’s tallest structure for four years in the late 1800’s.  Tom, a few other geocachers and I had the privilege to take a special tour up to one of the high points in the Dom.  It was here, that we took a group picture that would be my first Challenge completion.  Pouring down rain and a rickety old elevator did not stop us from the amazing views of the city the Dom offers.

We then headed to the Friday night welcome event, which took place at a beer garden in the city.  Tom and I had a great time getting first introductions to many geocachers.

Lackey Annie Love at the "Battling Annie" tank in Europe during a bus trip to five countries

Normally one might consider standing in a parking lot at 5am in the rain, watching people climb a lift with climbing gear to grab a doughnut for breakfast a little bit crazy.  Geocachers know this isn’t crazy, it’s just part of the game.  This is how Saturday started for me and about nearly 400 other geocachers.  At 6am, our group boarded tour buses and headed off to find geocaches in Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and The Netherlands.  Definitely a highlight on the tour was finding my 500th geocache – which ended up being “Geocache” (GC40 – the oldest active geocache on continental Europe).  I was also told early in the day that I was chosen to find GC2M8E5 – a geocache located on a Tank named “Battling Annie.”  Naturally I would then need to climb up on the tank for a picture.  One of our final stops of the day had us at the tri-country border of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.  This stop included picking up trash at the border as part of a Cache in Trash out (CITO) event.  It was definitely cool to be part of a group making a positive impact in not one, but three countries at the same time.

Annie's hand with the first geocoin

Following the bus tour, Tom and I were dropped off at the Saturday night meet and greet event.  It was a great chance for people to come together and talk about their adventures of the day and show off their geocoin collections.  Tom and I were asked to give a short speech on stage.  We quickly decided that we needed to emulate the geocachers on stage just before we were introduced by planking on the speaker boxes at the front of the stage.

While on stage, I let everyone know the big surprise. I announced that Moun10Bike, Lackey Jon Stanley, had entrusted me with bringing the very first geocoin ever created to Geocoinfest Europa. Jon Stanley invented the geocoin.

When Jon asked me to bring something to Geocoinfest for him, I said sure.  When I saw that it was the very first geocoin, I tried to say no.  Losing my passport or my money on an international trip would be a bad thing.  I knew I could not return to Seattle if I accidentally lost Moun10Bike’s most prized possession!

Within minutes of leaving the stage, my hand quickly became the most photographed hand in Germany.  I’m not sure that anyone cared about having a picture of my hand, but they did want an image of the geocoin that started an obsession within the geocaching community.

Geocoinfest - Europa 2011

The sun was shining when the big event finally rolled around on Sunday.   Geocachers came out in great numbers to attend the historic event in Cologne.  People swarmed the vendor’s booths in order to see the latest and greatest in trackable designs.  Plenty of space was provided for enthusiasts to discover or trade geocoins with geocachers they likely had never met before.  This event has already surpassed last year’s Geowoodstock event in Carnation, Washington for attended logs.  Unofficially, it may have been the largest geocaching event in history.  I wouldn’t trade this experience or any of the others I’ve had thanks to the game of geocaching for anything.

I’d personally like to thank Groundspeak for giving me the opportunity to spend an unforgettable few days in Germany with around 5,000 fellow geocachers.  I’d also like to thank the organizers of the event (Guido, Gunter, Martin, Oliver, Thorsten and Björn – click here to see the team) who spent months ensuring that the event would run smoothly and be enjoyable for everyone.  These guys did a fantastic job!

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  • Ardjan of Team GeoBesse

    I personally won’t buy Geocoins anymore.

    As travelling trackable, my first (and only) 3 coins were never seen again after two weeks and 50 km.
    As collectible they’re useless, because there are so many different made. No chance to ‘collect them all’, just pour money in by buying them.

  • JPohaku

     I’m sort of like you Ardjan – I won’t send my actual coins out into the wild for the same reason.  Instead, I scan or photograph the front and back of the coin, then laminate this with a small card showing the tracking number and goal.  I’ve seen more and more cachers doing this.  Some cachers complain that I should send out the real thing – but I think those are the folks that grab them for their own collections anyway – so I just ignore them.  Then if the laminated card goes missing it’s no big deal and I can print up another to put out. 

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