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Collectors prefer Lincoln

It could almost be called numismatic folk wisdom. Everybody knows Lincoln is popular among collectors.

From the Lincoln cent to last year’s rapid sale of the Lincoln commemorative silver dollar, collectors always seem to want more Lincoln coins.

How does this preference break down in numbers?

The mid-November release of the Lincoln Presidential dollar provides a good test with hard numbers.

Of the 321,440,000 Presidential dollars struck in 2010, 97,020,000 are Lincoln dollars. This works out to a 30.18 percent share.

A perfect apportionment of the four designs this year would have assigned Lincoln a 25 percent share.

Looking at the numbers that way, the Lincoln dollar gets an extra 5 percent because it is a Lincoln item.

If you play with the numbers from the next highest mintage this year, the Millard Fillmore dollar with 74,480,000 made, the Lincoln dollar mintage is 26.69 percent more, or call it a one-quarter extra mintage.

That’s a lot. Critics might argue that the mintage totals are simply a Mint bureaucratic construct. The staff expects Lincoln to be a little more popular and orders the number accordingly without any real economy-generated demand to base it on.

While that is true, to gauge collector demand, we can look at the 25-coin rolls that are sold directly to the public. In just three weeks the Lincoln total zoomed past the other three designs for 2009 and equals the total for the James K. Polk dollar, which went on sale in the middle of 2009.

Compared to the Millard Fillmore roll, which last week sat at 73,901 sold compared to the Lincoln 83,269, the Lincoln premium is already up to 12.69 percent and sales have hardly begun.

From this perspective, the Mint giving Lincoln 25 percent more coins seems to be a pretty good estimate.

Will this Lincoln premium make anybody any money? No.

Unfortunately, the most interesting test would have been to put Lincoln head to head with Washington. Unfortunately, the Federal Reserve vaults are packed with over a billion unwanted Presidential dollars this year, so the Lincoln premium as calculated here is as depressed relatively speaking as the demand for the rest of the dollar coins.

Washington had the advantage of being first and the 340,360,000 of those coins that were produced in 2007 are a reflection of happier economic times and far emptier Federal Reserve vaults.