When the 1974-D aluminum cent goes up for bids at a Heritage auction at the end of April at the Central States Numismatic Society Convention, would you be willing to spend $250,000 to buy it?
That is an early estimate of the coin’s potential value.
Lawyer and Numismatic News columnist David L. Ganz has assured me and readers that the coin is legal to own by his reading of the law and the circumstances surrounding its origins.
Anyone who would spend that kind of money would want just such assurances.
I look forward to seeing the action in the auction ballroom in Schaumburg, Ill. It will be a career highlight for me.
However, it is a shame that history did not take a different turn. It could have been a highlight for all collectors.
When in 1974 it became apparent to Mint Director Mary Brooks that not all aluminum cents that she had given out as samples would come back to the Mint, some thought was given to the possibility releasing the nearly 1.5 million pieces that had been struck in Philadelphia.
These could have been sold to a very eager population of collectors. I would have bought one, or perhaps a roll. Even while I was in college and short of money I knew the aluminum cents existed and would have loved to own one.
The mintage was large enough to spread the pieces widely, yet scarce enough to have created a collector feeding frenzy.
It would have been great fun.
But history did not take this turn. Instead, rarity and notoriety is the name of the game.
Whoever buys the 1974-D aluminum cent will have a tangible piece of an important chapter in numismatic history.
If I have the chance I will congratulate the buyer, but all the while I will be thinking of what might have been had every collector been given the opportunity to buy aluminum cents.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2013 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper “Numismatic News.”