The Lincoln Coin and Chronicles set sold out less than two days after it went on sale at noon Eastern time Oct. 15. A rapid sellout was anticipated by me and probably everyone else who has the slightest interest in new Mint issues.
Included in the set is a proof example of the Lincoln commemorative silver dollar plus proof examples of each of the four Lincoln cent designs for this year. The cents are struck in a 95 percent copper, 3 percent zinc and 2 percent tin alloy, the same as was used in the first Lincoln cents in 1909.
Production of the Lincoln Coin and Chronicles sets was limited to 50,000. This doesn’t mean the coins have mintages of 50,000. They don’t. Another 325,000 proof Lincoln dollars were sold individually in the spring. Proof Lincoln cents can be purchased in this year’s clad proof set, silver proof set and in their own four-coin set. Mintage of the four proof Lincoln cents will be at least 2 million when all is said and done, judging from present sales numbers on the Mint Statistics page. None of the coins in the set can be considered to be truly scarce.
But never underestimate the popularity of Lincoln coins with collectors. Most of us cut our hobby teeth on Lincoln cents. We are attached to the very idea of Lincoln cents being popular. It’s a numismatic equivalent of teenagers rushing to show up at the right place and be seen with the right crowd.
Lincoln is what we hobbyists do. We may be groupies, but we are historically knowledgeable ones.
Even though collectors can do the mintage math that I just did, there is no doubt in my mind that the last little prod pushing buyers into action that caused the Mint Web site to crash for a while and telephone orders to back up for a time was the 50,000 maximum sales total. That was a flashing yellow warning light. That makes the set seem scarcer and more desirable. The one set order limit further enhanced the set’s appeal.
Collectors acted and acted fast.
When the United States Mint Braille Education Set became available Oct. 1, collectors yawned. The set is still being offered three weeks after it first went on sale, even though the sales maximum is just half of that for Lincoln: 25,000.
Many resisted clicking to the Mint’s Web site, or dashing to the phone to buy one. In fact, only 5,996 of these sets were sold in the first 18 days. There is a chance it won’t sell out at all.
Why doesn’t use of a sales maximum always work and entice collectors into causing sellout after sellout? With perfect knowledge, perhaps numbers could be perfectly adjusted to cause sellouts, but we don’t live in a perfect world. In this case, history is the reason one sold out and the other has not done so. Lincoln is widely known. Braille much less so.
But it is with these less popular sets that long-term value lurks. Their lower initial sales often spell long-term opportunity. Just look at the 1997 Jackie Robinson mintage figures to show what happens to coins when initial sales drag. It is the coins and the sets that languish during initial sales often that have enhanced values as the years go by. What that means today is sell Lincoln and hold the Braille.