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Questions a healthy sign

My email inbox of the last few days indicates that collectors at the basic level are becoming more active.

What I do not know yet is if they are newcomers to the hobby and have just begun a long association with it, or whether they have been away for awhile as they grappled with other distractions in their lives.

One writer asked me in a one-sentence email why it was legal to own a 1943 copper cent.

I thought it a strange question, perhaps because there was no other information in the email.

I responded simply, “Error coins that make their way out of the Mint in the normal course of production are not illegal to own.”

He then replied, “I believe some of these ‘error’ coins are made and sneaked out of the Mint. for personal gain. There are too many examples to think an error was made and oh, it ended up outside and oh,I sold it and made a grand profit.”

Certainly there have been prosecuted cases of theft at the Mint, but what set this writer off on the 1943 copper cent I do not know.

I have emails about various minor problems on specific coins. Errors forever seem enchanting, but the fact is most of them are not worth more than face value.

I write “minor issues” here because when I replied to one writer about the amazing number of ways a coin can be damaged, his short and sharp reply was the coin was not damaged.

Another writer thinks that guide books that list 95-percent copper cents in the 2009 collector sets are somehow in error.

He writes, “I know your price guide seems to indicate that the 2009 proof cents are brass, but the Red Book indicates that they are both brass, which I still think is wrong and that the only brass for that year was the ones in the mint sets. Can you please check this out?”

The proofs are copper as well as coins in the mint set and other collector sets.

If you are looking for a pattern in the questions I mention here, there really is none in terms of subject matter. It is only the increase in quantity of this type of basic question in the last few days that is unusual. Perhaps all the recent snow has kept people indoors longer than they are used to and they are pondering their hobby.

If on the other hand it is not weather related and more and more people are picking up the thread of their hobby and thinking about the questions that they have wanted answers for, that is a good long-term indicator of the health and growth of numismatics.

Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."