This article was originally printed in the latest issue of Numismatic News.
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Thanks for providing a coin magazine with so much interesting variety and substance! At 58 years of age, I still anticipate each issue as I did when I was a young numismatist.
I want to respond to the David Harper article that asked if there’s an “affordable challenge” in coins available today. In my opinion, one of the greatest and most readily available for all collectors today are the Lincoln Bicentennial cents of 2009.
Because of the Mint’s decision to make fewer smaller denomination coins in 2009, Lincoln cent total mintage was less than half the previous 38 years’ average. The “one year only” designs for the four different reverses of 2009 cents divide this already low mintage figure by four, with the “President in Washington” fourth reverse issue being the lowest. The result is that each of the four different reverses are only about 1/10 the “typical” yearly Mint output, yet I still encounter these rarer cents occasionally in circulation.
Abraham Lincoln, our distinguished 16th president, still has a mass appeal that extends beyond U.S. borders, and this fact contributes to the international demand for these coins. The Formative Years second issue, or “FY” reverse, was nominated for “Coin of the Year” honors in its category, and shows young Lincoln taking a break from “rail splitting” and sitting on a log, reading a book.
The Philadelphia Mint produced a large variety of doubled die errors in each of the four series during 2009, with the Formative Years doubled dies being the most well-known and popular in sales on eBay and other collector sites.
Error specialist John Wexler’s terrific work is evident on his site dedicated to examining these errors in great detail, located online at http://doubleddie.com/1801.html. Wexler details the varieties from all four 2009 Lincoln cent issues. These error coins are still growing in popularity and in sales consistency; I speak from personal experience and the voice of my many customers.
Bank boxes of 2009 cents still come up for sale, and collectors living east of the Mississippi stand a better chance of actually buying a $25 box of Philadelphia cents from their local bank. Internet sources sell individual 2009-P error cents and rolls to search through at a higher premium than most other recent cents, but they are still affordable to young numismatists on a restricted budget,and provide much fun. Many “Formative Years” error cents are still being found in the U.S. Mint boxes that contain one roll each from the Denver and Philadelphia Mints, in a special commemorative wrapper. Collectors will tell you that certain dates on the boxes contain specific and predictable errors in them.
U.S. Mint uncirculated sets have satin finish 95 percent copper Denver cents, 13 of which have doubling in the central design, and at a total mintage of only 774,844 sets, make the small percentage of doubled die coins extremely rare! The San Francisco mnted proof Formative Years doubled die errors are also very rare, because the total number of proof coins was only slightly more than 2 million, and the four error coins now known make up only a very small fraction of the total mintage, due to the close inspection of proof coins before their inclusion in sets to be sold and shipped.
Because the cent is the smallest U.S. coin made, it will take a powerful 20 to 30 power loupe to clearly see and appreciate the details of these doubled die errors, a microscope of 30 power or more being the tool of choice. The intensity of the search and the excitement of the find exemplify why most of us started collecting in the first place. It is getting harder to find an “affordable challenge” in modern numismatics, but it is still possible to find numismatic fun and true value for as low a price as a penny!
This Viewpoint was written by James A. Porter, a hobbyist who is from Las Vegas, Nev. Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Numismatic News. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send e-mail to email@example.com.