Quick. If you had limited funds to spend, would you rather pay $36 each for a roll of 1986-P or 1986-D cents, or would you rather pay $37.50 for an uncirculated roll of 1951-D cents or $35 for a roll of 1952-D cents?
If you are like me, you would probably opt for the older rolls.
But is that a mistake?
Besides kicking myself for not having a closet full of 1986-P and 1986-D cent rolls to sell at such a high price, I have to wonder if we miss out on collecting opportunities right under our noses.
I look at all of the cents that I get in my change, but the last time I actually put one into an album was in the early 1970s before I started college.
I kept my interest in coins alive all of these years, but the level of attention that I give the cent has been sporadic at best.
The year 1995 was a big year because Bob Wilhite bought a bag of uncirculated 1995 cents so that the staff at Numismatic News could do a little of its own treasure hunting for the doubled-die produced that year.
One was found, but I was not the lucky finder.
But that episode pretty well sums up my relationship to cents: some external factor has to be at work.
They might be part of sets that I buy. They might be celebrating the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth in 2009, but I do not routinely save cents for their own sake.
Perhaps collectors like me are missing a bet.
What will uncirculated roll dealers be selling 10 or 20 years from now?
Will the 2014-D be scarce? How about the 2017-P?
We cannot know in advance.
However, if I start saving a BU roll or two for all issues going forward, I might come up with the future’s equivalent of the 1986-P and 1986-D. Really, 72 times face value is quite a price for copper-plated zinc, don’t you think?
When cents are eventually abolished, the likelihood is that more people will be attracted by the idea of collecting them and values will rise accordingly.
Will I be slapping my forehead when I discover that the 2017-P is selling for 72 times face value?
Probably – but I know there will be some collectors out there who will have been prepared.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."