Fans Rally To Buy 'Crash Course Coin' To Fund Educational Videos

3 Crash Course Coins

There’s a pretty decent chance that if you’ve been in high school or college at any time during the last decade, you’ve been educated by a video created by John or Hank Green

These videos are made by the Greens’ production company, Complexly, and consist of beloved titles like SciShow and The Art Assignment, though most of the company’s 14.7 million subscribers are there for the flagship production: Crash Course.

Whether folks are eager to learn about biochemistry, analyze classic literature, or delve into ancient history, they can do so for free, accessing hundreds of lessons with just a few clicks.

YouTube channel for Crash Course

The goal of the platform is to “transform the traditional textbook model” and do so in a way that engages learners beyond the goal of just passing a test. Complexly’s videos are 100 percent free to millions across the globe, and the company’s offerings are growing by the year

This includes a new Spanish language channel (Crash Course en Español), an ongoing partnerships with PBS, and a program with Arizona State University to help use Crash Course content as a means to receive college credit.

But high-quality curriculum and content come at a cost, and Hank Green is dedicated to ensuring that cost does not fall on the shoulders of those who most need access to free educational materials.

So, how do these productions get funded? The Crash Course Coin.

No, it’s not cryptocurrency. It’s an actual collector’s coin! These collectors items essentially represent a donation that comes from folks who can pay for the program, so that everyone else can access it for free. 

Crash Course Coins sitting in sand
Knowledge weighs nothing. Carry all you can. / Photo courtesy of Crash Course

“Knowledge weighs nothing,” the 2023 coin reads, with imagery inspired by photographs captured from the James Webb telescope in 2022. “Carry all you can.” 

Coins are available for $100, $500, or $1,000, and each coin represents the ability to reach 2,000, 10,000, or 20,000 individual learners, respectively. 

They’re made with different materials, too: The 2,000 Learner Coin is minted on nickel at a real mint in Arkansas; The 10,000 Learner Coin is minted on thicker brass; and the 20,000 Learner Coin is minted on sleek black iron. 

This year, Complexly has already sold out of the 10k and 20k learner coins, and the $100 coin is nearing its annual sell-out mark, too.

Screenshot from website showing Crash Course coins sold out
The 10,000 Learner Coin and the 20,000 Learner Coin have already sold out

“Every year we’re incredibly grateful for the support of our audience, and this year is no different,” Brooke Shotwell, Complexly’s communications coordinator, said in an email to Good Good Good. 

Complexly hasn’t publicly shared how many 2,000 Learner Coins have been made available, but based on the 2023 quantities and prices of the other two coins, Good Good Good estimates that Complexly has already brought in more than $350,000 to fund their educational content. 

This approach to funding is unique, and no other media or education company has rallied supporters in the same way as Crash Course. 

Hank Green illustrated the difference between top-down and bottom-up companies in the education space. He described how top-down approaches tend to charge a lot of money and have a lot of profit, while not necessarily creating things with the “end user” — students and teachers — in mind. They usually spend a lot on marketing to outside stakeholders.

Meanwhile, Hank compared, bottom-up businesses, like Complexly, tend to keep costs low and focus entirely on actual students and teachers, spending a majority of their budget on creating the product. 

“It’s a tricky business to run, but we have a pretty clear guiding light: The decisions we make should be about maximizing impact, not revenue,” Hank Green tweeted

“And the reason we can do it is because of people who support us on Patreon and people who buy the Crash Course Coin,” he continued. “Those two sources of revenue together are the majority of our budget.”

Thousands of supporters buy their collectable coins — not just because they’re beautifully engraved — but because they want to make sure others can learn with ease.

“Getting these every year is a joy on many levels; not least of which is helping to provide free high quality education materials to the masses,” one supporter shared on Twitter. “If you’re able, you should start your coin collection today!”

The front and back of the 2,000 Learner Coin
The front and back of the 2,000 Learner Coin / Photo courtesy of Crash Course

“Easiest ‘donation’ I’ve made all year,” someone else tweeted. “Love Crash Course.”

Hank Green also tweeted to encourage a last round of coin collectors before this year’s annual fundraiser comes to an end. He reminded his followers that a $100 coin is the equivalent of an $8.30 monthly subscription for a year.

And John Green has been in on the fundraising kick, too. 

“Each comes with a signed thank you note, and gosh, are they beautiful,” he shared. “Viewer support is the biggest piece of Crash Course’s budget — thanks for helping us keep CC free for everyone forever.” 

The support from these funding efforts has allowed Crash Course to remain free — and to evolve into new offerings.

“Funding generated from the Coin campaign has, in part, funded series like Black American History, and our upcoming Art History series,” Shotwell said. “It has also allowed the Crash Course brand to grow and experiment with new projects and formats.” 

By bringing in outside “investors” into the fold, the community around Crash Course — and education as a whole — rallies around values of accessibility, curiosity, and progress.

“We bought ours this morning,” a Twitter user replied to Hank Green’s tweet. “Our kids have benefited so much from Crash Course. And we have the means, so it's an honor to support this work!”

“I’m proud to have several of these now,” a supporter chimed in. “Crash Course is an unalloyed good. Please help support it!”

“Incredible thing about having my own money is finally being able to support Crash Course,” another supporter shared. “Because I would not have survived high school chemistry without it.”

Article Details

June 6, 2023 5:07 PM
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