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Old problem delays new mint sets

When I drove to work this morning, I figured my blog topic would be about a postponement in the sales date of the 2009 United States Mint Uncirculated Coin Set. It was supposed to go on sale this month. Now it will be offered at some unspecified time later this year.

The cause?

It is an old collector nemesis: toning.

The mint set will feature the four new Lincoln cent designs from each of the two circulation mints but in the old alloy.

Using the old alloy that was used for cents in 1909 when the Lincoln cent was introduced is something most collectors applaud.

However, the 95 percent copper, 5 percent zinc and tin composition is apparently sufficiently different from the copper-coated zinc cents of today that it leads to potential problems.

In the words of the Mint, the alloy presents “unique tarnish issues” with the current anti-tarnish treatment.

Anyone who has an old mint set or proof set that contains cents with carbon spots on them will probably appreciate the Mint’s extra effort to make sure that we will receive cents in this year’s set that don’t start out that way.

Sure, there is a sense of disappointment in the delay, but what’s the choice?

If my mail and e-mail is any indication, collectors nowadays are even more picky about the quality of the coins they receive from the Mint than they have ever been – and that is saying something. Collectors have always been picky.

So let’s wish the Mint’s technical people good luck. We collectors want 2009 cents that will look good for the next 100 years.