Americans are probably looking at their cents a little more closely as the result of a National Coin Week exercise by dealer Scott A. Travers when he used a cent to buy a bottle of water on April 18 that is worth approximately $1,000.
It was one of three rare U.S. cents recently put into circulation by Travers in New York City to call attention to numismatics. Together, they are valued at $1,500.
On April 12, Travers, a former American Numismatic Association vice president, says he spent a VF-15 1914-D Lincoln cent in the Times Square area.
The 1914-D cent, graded by Numismatic Guaranty Corp., is valued at $375.
When April 18 rolled around, Travers hit the publicity jackpoint when he placed a VF-25 1909-S VDB (the initials of its designer, Victor D. Brenner) Lincoln cent, worth an estimated $1,000, into circulation. The coin was graded by ANACS.
Getting it into circulation was a story in and of itself.
?I had a VF 1909-S VDB that looked nice and when the New York Times wanted a picture of it, I started to focus on it for scans, but the VDB was barely visible,? said Travers. ?The Times wanted a clear image, so I got out a VF-20, graded by [Professional Coin Grading Service] and I broke it out of the holder to make scans.?
The Times then told Travers the paper wanted to do an online video of him cracking open a holder.
?They wanted to do it to stress the importance of getting an independently verified coin,? said Travers.
So, Travers went to a dealer friend and made an exchange. Travers got a VF-25 1909-S VDB the morning he was supposed to do the coin drop. Eventually, he filmed the video.
Along with the $1,000 coin, Travers put an EF-40 1908-S Indian Head cent, valued at $175, into circulation. The 1908-S was graded by Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
The coin drops were meant to draw attention to the ANA?s National Coin Week, which were held the week of April 16-22.
A story about the April 12 drop appeared in the April 14 metro edition of the New York Times.
The April 18 drop generated what Travers called ?a media feeding frenzy,? with six TV stations and 100 people following him as he purchased his bottled water.
Also, more than 200,000 responses were generated by a question included with an ABC News-AOL online story about the coin drops.
The question asked, ?Will you be inspecting your pennies more closely now??
Travers made similar coin drops in 1997 and 2002, but never with such a valuable coin as the VF-25 ANACS 1909-S VDB cent.
?I donate every year to the ANA, but you don?t always see the results,? said Travers. ?This way, you can see the results of your philanthropy immediately.?