Whatever Happened To McDonald's Fiesta Coins?

To help promote the Mesquite BBQ, Green Chili Salsa with Jalapeno Peppers, and Mild Salsa with Chunks of Tomato and Onion that would go with their chicken McNuggets as well as a Fiesta Colada Shake, McDonald's tied to tempt customers with Latin American coins (which cost almost nothing) to accompany the Mexican-themed flavors in 1988. Writing for the Professional Coin Grading Services website, Jay Turner re-examined these quite forgotten Fiesta Coins.

McDonald's gave out 30 million Fiesta Coins, which represented the currencies of Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Peru, and Venezuela. None of these nations, Turner notes, were actually represented by the dipping sauces, as salsa has Mexican roots, and Mexican food was enjoying a popularity boom in the '80s. The ultimate fate of the Fiesta Coins, however, seems to have been a near-complete disappearance. 

Granted, in 2010, Retroist published a small piece remembering the attempt to collect the coins, so the promotion seems to have worked for at least one person. But even then, Retroist did not really care for the salsas themselves. Still, Turner concludes that the ultimate effectiveness of the campaign remains dubious: "[It] appears that numerous Fiesta Coins were never given out and some even account that cases were taken home rather than discarded." Furthermore, the three salsas didn't survive.

Today, you can find people selling these coins online (via eBay). So, if the knowledge of Fiesta Coins has piqued your interest, collecting them would be even easier than it was in their initial 1988 run.

The other time McDonald's got into coins

In 2018, thirty years after the Fiesta Coins, McDonald's celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the Big Mac with some commemorative coins. As Elite Daily explained at the time, over 6.2 million "MacCoins" were distributed through 14,000 participating McDonald's locations in the United States as well as in over 50 other countries. Between August 2 and the end of 2018, anyone who bought a Big Mac from any of these locations would also receive one of five MacCoins, each bearing a design inspired by a decade celebrated in the Big Mac's anniversary, such as the '70s coin's floral decorations in reference to era's flower power vibe. 

From August 3 to the end of the year, these coins could have been redeemed for a free Big Mac. "[We] wanted a global celebration as unique as the burger itself," Steve Easterbrook, McDonald's President and CEO, explained in a press statement. "The MacCoin transcends currencies to commemorate our global iconic burger while giving customers all over the world a chance to enjoy a Big Mac on us." These had no other use. 

How successful this campaign was is also debatable. However, Burger King decided to get in on the action as well, announcing in January 2019 that it would accept any expired MacCoins as payment for Big King XL until the end of the month, according to The Drum. So, by playing off McDonald's PR stunt, Burger King managed to get the edge on its rival.