Next offering: Commemorative “Sucker Born Every Minute” plate with 14-kt. gold accents

ZURICH, SWITZERLAND --- The Zurich Mint is celebrating three decades in the business of selling crap by selling even more crap, some of it directed at Steelers’ fans.

The company was founded in 1977 in Cleveland, Ohio as The Cleveland Mint. The company was renamed and the headquarters were transferred to Zurich in 1998. Robert Brenneman is CEO of the company. “Zurich has more of a cachet than Cleveland – way more,” Mr. Brenneman said. A distribution center remains in Cleveland, but company officials downplay that fact on the company website. “Cleveland is close to our customer base, but we don’t go out of our way to mention that,” the CEO said.

As for its products, “We like to say we offer meaningful keepsakes of beauty and importance, but we’re really in the business of pushing tchotckes and doodads. We have several important categories we rely on, but we’re always looking for cross-marketing opportunities. For example, we do well with birthstone items, and we do well with rosaries, so someone came up with the idea of birthstone rosaries. That’s the kind of synergy we encourage in the company.”

But by far the most lucrative market is Steelers merchandise. “We can put a Steelers logo on almost anything and it will sell,” Brenneman says. “We take a ten dollar watch, put a Steelers face on it, and mark it up to $99 plus shipping and handling. They fly out the door. A few weeks ago, we offered a Steelers end table for $139 --- and the buyers had to assemble it themselves! IKEA also makes you assemble furniture, but they don’t get nearly the price we do.”

Scale models of stadiums are popular, too. “Let me tell you, we were thrilled when Pennsylvania taxpayers took on tens of millions in debt to build Heinz Field. Now we can offer Three Rivers Stadium as a nostalgia item and Heinz Field as a contemporary item. We doubled sales almost without any effort on our part.”

Although the Mint is always on the lookout for new “synergies” for Steelers’ items, there’s one category Brenneman refuses to promote: women’s thongs with the Steeler logo. “That is just tacky,” he said.