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Viewpoint: Shield poor choice for cent reverse


By William H. Brownstein

With the new reverse of the Lincoln cent that took place in 2009, the permanent elimination of the Lincoln Memorial reverse cent was realized.

I recall that as a young boy, when the Lincoln Memorial cent was introduced in 1959, my father rushed to Security Pacific National Bank in Beverly Hills where he was able to buy four uncirculated rolls of 1959-D Lincoln cents.

At that time nobody thought about the wheat ear cents, nor did anyone bother collecting them other than people like me, who would go through rolls and look for the elusive key dates.

When the Shield cent was first released it was big news when someone got one in change. Now, two years later, I am getting more and more Shield cents and unlike the ones I got in 2010 and 2011, many of these are tarnished, worn and heavily circulated. In my opinion, the Shield cent is a truly ugly reverse. When I get them I have to take a second look to see if it is a token that was issued at an amusement park or for a pay toilet.

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I predict that like looking at wheat ear cents today, in 50 years or so collectors will look back and wonder what happened to the Lincoln Memorial cents. I predict that there will be a premium for the copper cent issues of 1982 and earlier, especially in light of the fact that their intrinsic value is more than a cent and that $50 bags of copper cents will trade much like 90 percent silver bags trade today. Prices are simply too high to invest in silver, and copper is a risk-free alternative since it can still be found at face value.

As for the elimination of the cent, if the past is any indication of what the U.S. Mint will do, we shouldn’t expect that in the near future. The U.S. is truly independent and not guided by what others have done. If it was, the cent, $1 and $2 bills would have been eliminated years ago.

Look to the euro, Great Britain and Canada for examples of that. On the contrary, when the United States stopped minting silver dollars in 1935, Canada started minting silver dollars, something that it has continuously done to this day.

Now for an interesting fact. When I tell friends and acquaintances that I am a coin collector I am often approached and told that they found a real rare coin in circulation. That “rare coin” turns out to be a wheat ear cent.

I guess that is the same question that will be posed regarding the Lincoln Memorial cent. Who knows how many of my generation will be around to answer that question.

This “Viewpoint” was written by William H. Brownstein, a southern California hobbyist. Viewpoint is a forum for the expression of opinion on a variety of numismatic subjects. To have your opinion considered for Viewpoint, write to David C. Harper, Editor, Numismatic News, 700 E. State St., Iola, WI 54990. Send email to david.harper@fwmedia.com.

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