One of the unfortunate aspects of the financial crisis that hit the United States in 2008 is the impact it had on the mintages of the four Lincoln bicentennial cent designs in 2009.
Where 5.41 billion cents were struck in 2008, the total shrank by more than half to 2.35 billion cent pieces in 2009.
If there had been just the usual Philadelphia issue and Denver issue in 2009, the mintage decline would have been noticeable, but it would not have prevented a diligent circulation finds collector from finding both of them.
However, when that 2.35 billion mintage is divided among four Philadelphia designs and four Denver designs, the impact of the lower mintages becomes enormous.
Many American collectors say they have never received a 2009 cent in change. The rest of us just know how unusual it is to get any one of the four designs in daily life.
I had an email last Thursday from the retired head of Krause Publications, Clifford Mishler.
He wrote, “I came up with an interesting encounter in change at the Sentry food store this morning. It was a Lincoln bicentennial cent issue, the first I’ve encountered in circulation in months, certainly well back into 2014. Those pieces just don’t seem to be circulating based on the experience of my exposures. This was an example of the 2009-D 'unfinished Capitol' version. I don’t know if my experience compares well with that of yourself or others.”
The cent Clifford received has the second lowest mintage total of the eight possible design and mint combinations. Only 198 million were struck.
The Philadelphia strike of this design has the lowest mintage at 129.6 million.
My experiences with the 2009 designs are similar to Clifford’s. They are hard to come by.
I told him that I have not gotten one of these designs in months.
The one I have seen the least has been the third design of 2009, the one showing Lincoln standing in front of the Illinois Capitol in Springfield.
The mintages of 316 million Philadelphia pieces and 336 million from Denver should mean that I would receive more of these than the unfinished Capitol.
My memory says this is not the case.
Is my memory faulty, or did the release pattern differ from the others?
With such low mintages, it probably is a case of where more cents were needed when these relatively few pieces were struck. They were then shipped there rather than to a point where they would find their way to Iola, Wis.
Mintages of the Birth cent with the log cabin on it are 284.4 million Philadelphia coins and 350.4 million from Denver.
The Formative Years design showing a young Lincoln sitting on a log while reading a book has a Philadelphia total of 376 million and a Denver figure of 363.6 million.
Because this Young Lincoln design has the highest mintages, I should encounter it most frequently.
By my recollection, this is the design I have indeed seen most often, but still the number is sadly limited.
Future generations of collectors will probably appreciate the relative scarcity of the 2009 cents.
After all, lower mintages mean higher desirability, right? Well, that’s what my Whitman album training taught me.
It is too bad that a coin program authorized four years ahead of the time of issue would have had the misfortune of happening during a year that most Americans will always remember as being absolutely terrible.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is winner of the 2014 Numismatic Literary Guild Award for Best Blog and is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."