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Coin rarity has no party affiliation

Headlines have been made in recent years about the political divide in America. Will there be a divide between those who use coins and those who don’t?

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Will it become the patriotic thing to do to use coins and save Mint jobs, or will it be the patriotic thing to get rid of coins and support the high-tech future of America? I hope it never comes to that.

Coin collecting for collectors is an end in itself. We are laser focused on what they are, what designs are on them, what they are made of, what they grade and how rare they are.

It is all about the coins.

Noncollectors tend to equate coins with something else. The importance of the object itself seems to completely elude them.

I am happy that Victor David Brenner was a famed artist, did many medals and created an outstanding coin design that has lasted almost 110 years.

However, when the first Lincoln cents were issued, the large VDB letters at the bottom of the reverse, and then their removal, set about a mad scramble by people to get the rare variety. Most probably didn’t even know what VDB stood for. They simply knew the initials were there and then they weren’t. Getting the initialed version before it disappeared was the impulse.

When I was looking at my cents at the beginning of my collecting experience and filling Whitman albums, the all-important thing was the mintage. The 1909-S VDB had a mintage of just 484,000. That’s why I could never find one. I looked hard for the “S” mintmark generally. Why? Because “S” cents tended to have lower mintages. They were harder to find in the Midwest.

The fact that the cent was great art didn’t enter my thinking. When I could first tell you who designed the Lincoln cent, I can’t say. I don’t remember. In fact, when I was asked at my first job interview at Krause Publications who designed the Washington quarter, I was so nervous I muddled it up.

As I recall, I told Clifford Mishler that I thought it was James Earle Fraser, designer of the Buffalo nickel. Fortunately for me and my career, he did not hold that blooper against me.

But had he asked me what the key dates of the Washington series are, the 1932-D and 1932-S, I could have told him in the blink of an eye.

What sets a person’s focus on a coin itself, or on everything about a coin except the actual reality of the object, I cannot say.

That is why collectors collect and noncollectors talk on about what might be appealing about a coin. I hope this talk will always be centered on art, history, grade and rarity and not become a political football that sets one American against the other. Besides, a 1909-S VDB is equally rare for either party.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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