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Waiting for new Lincoln cents recalls past

More and more readers are reporting that they have found one or the other of the new 2009 Lincoln cents in circulation. I appreciate their willingness to pop me an e-mail or drop me a line. It has been a long wait for them since the official introduction of the first new design on Feb. 12, but we do seem to be in the process of confirming the old adage that all things come to him who waits.

New cent supplies are still not ubiquitous in circulation, but we seem to be at a tipping point where the perception of shortage may be ready to change to one of availability.

How do I know this?

Well, I can’t prove my contention. Any anecdote I tell can be correctly pointed out as an anecdote and not some sort of national general survey.

However, enough information is coming my way that I see the improving outlines in the supply picture. Perhaps this is some sort of numismatic editorial version of “Name that Tune.” I can name that trend in four letters. No, I can name it in three letters. You get the idea.

Wholesale supplies seem to be picking up as well. Dealers who want to move quantities of the new cents are beginning to be able to do so without heroic efforts (or prices) to get the job done.

Even the numbers of Formative Years two-roll Lincoln cent sets being ordered from the Mint from week to week are dropping off. Sales were up by roughly 9,000 sets this week. See Mint Statistics for all the latest numbers.

If demand and supply of cents are soon to become normal and collectors who want the coins will be able to find them, we will lose a lot of the urgency, outrage and just plain adrenalin that made the early months of this year so interesting.

What have we learned?

Impatience has always been a characteristic of collectors. No matter what the new issue, some hobbyists just love to be the first on the block or in their online newsgroup to get new coins or sets. Sometimes this thrill of being first comes as part of a happy accident. Sometimes it is due to a willingness to pay a premium price that being first sometimes requires.

This year’s economic conditions and backed up banking system caused many collectors to believe that they have somehow been singled out for mistreatment, or  others were secretly getting better deals.

Frustration led to the expression of many complaints. However, I have to say, I was very happy to see the complaints.

I am sure the Mint was not. I am sure local bankers were not. I am sure some readers were not.

But the great scramble for cents pushed many old-time collectors into almost enjoying a process that we all grew up with, but perhaps have forgotten.

I remember standing in a long line at a bank to get my first Kennedy half dollar in 1964.

I remember seeing my first clad quarter. As common as they became later, it was exciting and interesting at the time.

Was I crazy to want to obtain a Kennedy half dollar, or see my first clad quarter? No, I was a collector.

Collectors aren’t crazy to want to obtain the new Lincoln cents, either. But now as then, we sometimes have to wait.

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