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Coins mark end of finds era

The debut yesterday of the Abraham Lincoln commemorative silver dollar celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth started me thinking.

In a strange way, this silver dollar and the four special cent designs that will be issued in 2009 will stand as the last hurrah for the veterans of the circulation finds era.

Even though there are still many of us who got started in numismatics checking through our change and rolls from the local bank on a regular basis, our numbers can no longer grow. From here they can only shrink because of demographics.

You have to be at least 50 years old to have any kind of memory at all of that period of time, and that is a number that works only if you agree with me that the circulation finds era ended in 1968.

I pick 1968 because that is the year I began to collect nickels. They were the last coins left in my area that had any variety of dates to examine. I had done all the other denominations as much as I could. The few silver dimes and quarters that were found in change were usually shiny new 1964 and 1964-D coins.

Some hobbyists might put the end of the circulation finds era in late 1964 or early 1965 when the roll and bag boom went bust and marked the peak of public participation in numismatics. Even with the state quarter program I doubt that there are as many committed collectors now as then even though there might be more casual accumulators.

Whatever date you choose for the era’s end, you still end up with collectors in their 50s. Fortunately for the hobby, it is a large group and collectors in their 50s have been the most active and most numerous for the last 100 years.

Since many of us started with the Lincoln cent in the circulation finds era, in a roundabout way these new 2009 coins commemorate the circulation finds generation and the experiences we have had in numismatics.