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Big one got away

Stories of the one that got away are staples of fishermen and women. Wisconsin is fishing country and I have heard my share.

I had an email overnight from a coin collector to tell me a story of the coin that got away.

He is a circulation finds collector. He calls himself very amateur.

He writes: “Some months ago while searching in a roll of dimes, I found a 1982 without a mintmark.

“I looked at it and thought to myself ‘hmm, I thought they put the P on coins prior to 1982 – guess I am wrong.’

“Back into the roll it went. Not two weeks later the article came out in NN that several 1982 dimes without the 'P' mintmark had been discovered.

“So then I check & find that the 'P' went on the coins in 1981. My one opportunity for something very special and I blew it. A $200 oops.

“As the man says, study the books.”

His conclusion is excellent. Study is important. That is why my generation memorized mintages and key dates. We did not want any 1909-S VDB to get away nor did we want to spend time looking up mintages for common dates.

The more information we had in our heads, the quicker we could sort through rolls.

It is a good lesson to learn and I am glad the writer shared his story.

I will just point out that the “P” mintmark first appeared on the Anthony dollar coin in 1979 and then all other denominations from Philadelphia except the cent began using it in 1980.

However, the writer was not finished.

His email message to me continues: “Recently I found a 1983 ‘D’ penny but the ‘D’ looks more like a rosebud, or two Ds with a circle. The coin is quite dirty but the mintmark is very clear.

"What do I do with such a thing? Is it an error coin? Does it have any value and do I really care?

“From my previous episode I think I should do something. But what? The nearest reputable coin store is 185 miles. I cannot magnify and photocopy it. So what is an amateur like me to do?”

Tough question for me because I do not want to let him down again. It could be damage. It could be some sort of error but the odds are so much against him that it is not worth his time unless it is part of some larger purpose.

He will have to plan a visit to a coin show at some time in the future and take the cent along, or he can find someone who can help him with scanning images.

Scans I could forward to our Numismatic News authority, Ken Potter.

There will always be coins to puzzle over. That is why it is important to study.

Collectors who are near enough to a coin club to join have a built-in advantage. This 1983-D cent sounds like just the thing to pass around at a monthly meeting.

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