When I searched through bags and rolls of cents in the 1960s, anything 50 years old was almost ancient and the oldest date possible, the 1909 issues, still hadn’t reached 60 years of age.
Yet because of the huge variation in mintages, the possibility of finding something that was worth more than a cent was a great motivator.
Who wouldn’t want to find a 1909-S VDB or a 1914-D coin?
For a time, that was my goal – that and filling up the two Whitman albums I had. The first was 1909 to 1940. The second was 1941 to date.
The second one, of course, was much easier to fill up. The oldest cent in it was just 26 years old in 1966 when my interest in cents peaked.
The most elusive date for me was the 1955-S and the steel cents of 1943 were not far behind, though I did ultimately find them all.
The the first Lincoln album was much harder. I never finished it before I lost interest in the denomination. It is still unfinished.
Lincoln cents were my gateway to numismatics and in that they served me well.
I was thinking about this the other day as I came across a 1963-D cent. It is 50 years old this year. Is there a kid somewhere who might be impressed by something so old?
Possibly, but coins today, even 50-year-old ones do not show the same level of wear on them that coins of the same age showed when I was a kid.
A 50-year-old coin then looked 50 years old. Nowadays they basically do not.
They seem to have spent too much time in a drawer somewhere.
The 1963-D cent that just came my way looks just it would have had I come across it in the late 1960s.
While we all recognize the attraction of searching for something of extra value in circulation, was there also an attraction to an object that looked like it had had an active life?
It used to be that when you opened a bag of cents and spread them on a table, your eye would see the changes in coloration from red to brown and you could practically group the coins by decade without ever looking at a date.
Nowadays, if you spread cents on a table, the odds are that coins even 30 years old still have a great deal of their original mint red coloration.
In short, they tend to all look alike.
Do those missing visual cues diminish the sense of satisfaction in looking at circulating cents today?
When I searched cents and picked up a coin with a deep brown color and significant wear, there was a sense of anticipation, perhaps like someone might feel with a lottery scratch-off ticket as each number is revealed.
If it looked like it came from the 1930s, my mind in that split second would wonder if it might at long last be a 1931-S. If it looked older, my mind would race to 1922 or 1914-D.
Though I never found any of those dates, I lived the possibility of finding them and that was wonderful while it lasted.
Buzz blogger Dave Harper is editor of the weekly newspaper "Numismatic News."