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1974-S cent in change gets my attention

I received a 1974-S cent in my change a week or so ago

It impressed me.

I had never gotten one in change before.

The magic of the mintmark is still strong for my generation.

It is that very same magical appeal that killed off circulation San Francisco cents 42 years ago.

In 1968, the “S” mintmark reappeared after having gone missing due to the closure of the San Francisco Mint after the 1955 issue.

The S-mint was pulled back into service making coins during the 1960s coin shortage, so the “S” mintmark returned on cents and nickels in 1968 when the 1965-1967 mintmark ban ended.

Then a new crisis struck the cent.

Rising copper prices caused people to hoard the coins.

Spot shortages concerned and irritated the Mint.

By 1974, it was testing aluminum as an alternative composition.

Collectors of the time still loved “S’ mintmark cents and obtained and saved them in large quantities.

The Mint decided that S-mint cents did nothing to combat cent shortages because collectors scooped them up as fast as they were issued.

That perception might be disputed, but the Mint acted.

Circulation strike “S” cents came to an end.

Was the Mint wrong to do this?

The fact it has taken 42 years for me to see one in circulation is probably anecdotal proof that the Mint view in 1974 was the correct one.

Now, so many years later, I often wonder if anyone other than myself is still checking cents in change.

I know there are those who hoard all 95-percent copper coins they get dated 1982 and earlier.

But what about collecting?

I asked that question of a local coin dealer yesterday when I sat with him at the lunch counter.

He runs low-key regular auctions.

He says he routinely puts partially filled Lincoln cent albums up for sale.

They still cause a stir among bidders when offered, he said.

Apparently, there are still many out there like me who are interested in their cents.

I don’t put them into albums anymore.

That is probably my loss.

But I am glad to hear that others still do.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper has twice won the Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."

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