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Search your cents to inspire others

A waitress at the Crystal Cafe is watching her cents. I can’t take any credit for it. I became aware of it when I had my usual Monday lunch with Clifford Mishler.

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She gave a 1944 Lincoln cent to him. He, of course, showed it to me.

The waitress said she was finding a lot of cents dated 1942, 1943 and 1944.

My ears pricked up at the mention of 1943.

I asked if she was really getting steel 1943 cents.

“They’re made of steel?” she asked.

I said yes, they have a dark gray color.

“Really? I’ll have to look,” she said.

I helpfully suggested that if the coins she had were not gray then perhaps they might be worn 1948 cents.

I will find out, I hope, the next time I have a conversation with her.

I have been eating lunch at the Crystal Cafe for almost 40 years. I have had numismatic conversations with waitresses and the owner over the years.

But a numismatic topic has not come up for a while.

It is good to know that a member of another generation of waitresses is checking her cents. I hope she is checking other denominations as well, but that was not the topic of the conversation. I can tackle that another day after the question of the 1943 cent is settled.

My participation in the Crystal conversation is just another bit of evidence to support my contention that interest in cents is rising markedly this year.

It helps each time a rare cent is found in circulation and I can report it. But that is not the sole cause. I would like to think that Numismatic News is widely influential, but I know it had nothing to do with whether a waitress in a Wisconsin cafe decides to check her change.

Why cents are undergoing this revival I cannot pinpoint to a single cause. I expect there are many causes. They all play off each other in the general population. It does not hurt that the Mint put a “P” on Philadelphia cents this year to celebrate its 225th anniversary. It does not hurt that rarities are being found in change.

The important thing is this interest in cents is happening. Collectors are embracing their roots. Newcomers are taking a hobby path that I first walked over 50 years ago. For some, it will lead to a permanent interest. For others, it is just a passing fancy.

I hope this phenomenon will go on for a while. I hope the individuals who have asked me over the years why they should care about an 1804 dollar when it sells are checking their cents for the copper 1982-D small date. Its eventual sales price I hope will spur others to look for a second, a third and a fourth example. So far there is only the one.

But this hunt is something that can be participated in by all coin collectors. When was the last time this was true?

Most coins nowadays come to our notice only because some part of the collector population has been denied them either by high prices, or a Mint sellout. Check your cents. It costs little but time and it might inspire the next generation.

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News. >> Subscribe today.

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