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Back to normal after five years?

I received a 2013 cent in my change yesterday at the Crystal Cafe right here in Iola, Wis. It was my first. Most years getting the current cent in late April would not be a big deal, but it has been since the financial crisis.

I further noted that it had no mintmark, so it is a product of the Philadelphia Mint.

Are we back to normal? Can we focus on numismatic questions rather than economic ones? Can collectors expect to find issues of the current year with little difficulty? I expect so.

This is the fourth year of the Union Shield design, which began in 2010 after the four commemorative designs issued to mark the bicentennial of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln in 2009.

Those four designs are still scarcer than hen’s teeth in circulation and it looks like they always will be as collectors have squirreled away what they could obtain with difficulty during the year of issue.

The combined mintage of all four 2009 designs at the Philadelphia and Denver Mints looks large at just over 2 billion pieces, but when they are spread over eight possible design and mint combinations the individual totals look very low.

The Philadelphia Presidency issue saw just 129.6 million pieces struck. That’s not enough to provide even one for all 310 million Americans.

Even with highest mintage 2009 cent, there is only enough for one coin for each American plus some left over. The 376 million struck at Philadelphia for the Formative Years, which shows Lincoln seated on a log, is a remarkably low modern mintage for a cent.

I expect many Americans don’t even know that the 2009 designs exist. It would also be an interesting exercise to find out how many are even aware of the existence of the Union Shield design.

We collectors could probably start a campaign to keep the Lincoln Memorial on the reverse of the cent and many people wouldn’t even realize it could only be a joke as it has not been used since 2008.

Much better for all of us would be a return to long-established hobby habits of routine examination and collecting of the cent.

We don’t know how long the denomination will continue to be struck. We should enjoy it while we have it.

Besides, you never know, we might be due for a doubled die.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”

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