Skip to main content

Cent hoard historic or nuisance?

Hoard stories are very popular in the numismatic field. They contain the aspect of a treasure find. They also are a road map to more affordable coins because certain coins that might otherwise be rare were found in hoards so modern collectors can more easily buy them.

What will they be saying about coin hoards 10, 20 or 30 years from now?

Will there be new stories relating to fairly current coin issues, or will we simply double down on stories from the 19th century?

This topic comes to mind this morning because I was talking with someone who was disposing of a hoard of cents.

Now hoarding cents is something that can be done as a collector might do it, as someone who wants to save a little money painlessly might do it, or simply as someone who doesn’t want to be bothered to take the coins to the bank.

This particular hoard was kept at home in a closet. It consists of pre-1983 95-percent copper coins and 1983 and later copper-plated zinc pieces.

Many of the coins were simply saved on a routine basis over time, but there are huge quantities of uncirculated zinc coins. The quantities are far larger and the condition far better than what would have simply been accumulated in the course of day-to-day life.

Why would they have been accumulated?

Such coins seem to conflict with the usual impulse of saving coins that seem about to disappear.

This impulse meant that collectors and members of the public kept wheat cents when the Memorial design arrived in 1959 and copper cents when the copper-plated zinc cents were introduced in 1983.

So why would large numbers of copper-plated zinc cents be added to a hoard?

We may never know.

However, what is known is that copper-plated zinc cents will not last as long as 95-percent copper cents. In my experience some of these zinc composition coins get pretty nasty and when I encounter them I am surprised that the banking system has not withdrawn them.

Will future generations be grateful to hoarders of zinc cents for having preserved a significant quantity of fairly fragile coins in top grades, or will they simply be dismissed as so much late 20th century and early 21st century junk?

We can’t know that until the future arrives, and that is part of the fun and intrigue of hoards.

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