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Get those cents when you can find them

Collectors who think the first 2009 Lincoln cent design is hard to get are going to see the next three become even harder to get if current Mint expectations of coin production become reality.

It is amazing to think that 684,800,000 Log Cabin cents are not enough to satisfy present collector and public demand for the commemorative. What will the eBay posses do to online prices with a second design with approximately half that mintage? Did I just write half that mintage, or roughly 350,000,000 cents? I sure did.

Before anybody yells, “plot” and allege the Mint is trying to manipulate the secondary market for cents, consider the facts.

The Mint bases its production on coin demand. That demand is communicated to it by the Federal Reserve, which is responsible for the overall coin ordering process that supplies them to the banking system. The present Fed order for coins is going to total just 3 billion for all of 2009. That is less than one-third the level of 2008 coin production of 10,141,580,000.

That decline confirms that we are in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s, though I don’t imagine the nation’s economists were breathlessly awaiting my conclusion.

It is collectors who can’t find the first of the new cent designs who will likely become even more anxious to obtain the second, third and fourth issues after reading these numbers.

If coin production is not modified between now and year end and the final number is the 3 billion target, total cent production would come in at just over 1.5 billion coins. If you will allow me to be overly precise, in the last few years cent production has totaled about 53 percent of total coin output. 53 percent of 3 billion is 1,590,000,000. Subtract the 634,800,000 cents from the total mintage and you get 955,200,000. Divide by three designs and that works out to 318,400,000 cents. And that number doesn’t even parcel them out between Denver and Philadelphia.

It is no wonder that my phone has been ringing regularly the last few days about collectors anxious to go to Lincoln City, Ind., to get the new cents at face value on May 14. One fellow was very concerned about locating the place. I had to tell him that I could not provide him with driving directions. After I had hung up the phone, I thought if he needed directions, others would, too, so I have put them on Page 1.

Isn’t it interesting? I have been writing for my entire career that the Depression was a time of great collector interest and numismatic growth. Here I am in the present hard times and I am actually witnessing the unfolding of the very same collector interest pattern spurred on in part by hard times mintage reductions.

Because coin mintages do not necessarily divide evenly, it is possible for one design to be a little more and another a little less than the perfect one-third of remaining production. It is also possible for cent production to rise to more than 53 percent of the total, though that percentage has held for the first three months of this year. But if it does, you know what that means? Yup, fewer Territories quarters and a whole ’nother scramble by collectors to get them.

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