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From the July 2003 issue of ACCent, the newsletter of the Anchorage Coin Club:

 

Year 2009 Is Coming Soon... You Better Be Ready!

By Mike Nourse  

 

     Say what??? 2009??? That's still six long years away!! Besides, exactly what does the year 2009 have to do with the price of eggs in Tasmania anyway? Probably not very much, but it may have a substantial impact on the price of Lincoln cents here in the United States.

     That's right, as all of you know, the Lincoln cent will reach 100 years of continuous production in 2009, and you can be sure that there will be a lot of attention focused on that particular series in that year. Technically speaking, the year 2008 will really be the 100th year of production for the Lincoln cent, but I think that there will be more hype surrounding the 2009 issue.

     Let's get specific now: what exactly do I expect to happen in 2009 that may have an impact on the prices of Lincoln cents between now and that far away year? The possibilities are really endless with this coin series. I am trying to think of items that will be sold by promoters to the non-collecting public as they can go through a huge supply of coins in a real hurry. Lincoln cents (Indian head cents too) are a promoters dream as they are reasonably available in large quantities, and are not too expensive. However, as the promoters start vacuuming up thousands and thousands of Lincoln cents, that is bound to have an impact on prices, particularly on the older and less available dates.

     For those who do not know, promoters are companies that sell coins and coin sets to the general public, people with no knowledge of the actual value of the coins they are purchasing. These coins and sets of coins are generally sold at prices far above what any knowledgeable collector would ever pay, though in their defense, they do incur much higher advertising costs than a coin dealer as they are not focusing directly on a small target audience. You can generally find their advertisements in the Sunday inserts in your local newspaper as well as their extensive use of Home shopping channels. Their sales pitch usually includes a good story about the coin(s) being sold, so something like a 100th anniversary gives them a great story to begin with. It only helps that Abraham Lincoln is still one of our best known past presidents and that the Lincoln cent has always been among the most popular US coins to collect for the last half a century.

     As noted above, the promoters need coins that are available by the thousands and are relatively cheap so that they can be sold to the public at a price that many people can afford (say in the $10 to $25 area) even after their substantial markup is built in. With that in mind, I think the most popular set in the year 2009 will end up being the '100 year' set which will include a 1909 Lincoln cent and a 2009 cent in some sort of plastic holder. An even more popular variation will be a three coin set that includes a 1909 Lincoln, a 2009 cent, and a 1909 V.D.B. Lincoln cent (remember: the V.D.B. initials saga makes a great story!). More popular still will be a four coin set which includes those three coins plus a 1959 issue doing double duty as a 50 year old coin as well as being the first year of the memorial reverse (yet another story to tell...).

     Sets such as these fit all the qualities that the promoters are looking for: inexpensive, available, and plenty of good stories to use to convince Henry Q. Public that he must purchase one or more sets at their special low price which is available for a limited time only.

     Sets that are advertised in the non-numismatic print media (magazines, newspaper inserts, etc.) have to retail in that magic $10 to $25 target range that I mentioned above in order to appeal to a huge potential audience. However, on the Home Shopping television channel I have found that they will tend to push some higher dollar merchandise through their system. In case you have not seen home shopping on TV, it can be seen on either UHF channel 22 or 33. Where I am in South Anchorage, channel 33 comes in better than 22, but they both have a fair bit of static even with the antenna aimed in the optimal direction.

     At any rate, the higher priced set that I can see being pushed heavily on TV shopping channels would be a one-a-year set which contains one coin from each year of Lincoln cent production from 1909 through 2009, without regard to which mint the coins were produced at. This set will be available for just four easy monthly payments on your credit card. If you call in the next five minutes, they will even make sure that your 1909 cent is one of the extremely rare coins with the V.D.B. initials visible on the back for no extra charge! Seriously though, all of these coins needed for a set such as this are mostly very inexpensive and available by the thousands in well worn condition.

     What about complete sets which include all the dates and all of the mintmarks from 1909 through 2009? I do not see such sets being sold to the general public at all for two reasons. First, as you probably know first-hand, such a set will cost some serious cabbage, even in Good-4 condition. Second, some of the coins needed (you know which ones) are just not available in the quantities needed when you figure that these guys make their big bucks off selling lots and lots of sets. Complete sets are much more likely to be built piece by piece by true collectors.

     So, if you are thinking about speculating in Lincoln cents over the next few years, what coins should you be focusing your attention on? These are only guesses and obviously not investment advice, but I think the best chance of price appreciation stands with the 1909 issues, both with and without the V.D.B. on the reverse. The 1909 coins are needed in all of the low priced sets. For the next most likely coins to rise in value, you will need your trusty Redbook. Look through the Redbook at the various years prior to 1934, and use a combination of pricing and mintage information to determine which dates are most likely to cause the promoters trouble when they go to build their one-a-year sets. The 1922-D really seems to stand out, but there are plenty of other dates that may prove troublesome enough to cause price increases, so you will want to acquire a variety of dates.

     A much less expensive alternative may be to put back a few BU rolls of 1959 memorial cents, which are likely to be added to the 100 year sets to increase their appeal. To a very limited extent, steel cents are always popular with the general public, though they have minimal potential due to the fact that they have nothing to do with the 100th anniversary. Another fairly inexpensive coin that is likely to see some supply and pricing pressure would be the 1909 Indian head cent. The 1909 Indian already sells for a bit of a premium over other 20th century Indians, and we may see that premium expand. These coins are still inexpensive though, and some company may add them to their 100 year set to differentiate it from all the other 100 year sets out there.

     Will any of these coins actually go up in value as the year 2009 approaches? Nobody knows, but if you think they will, you better start accumulating them soon before too many people realize that the year 2009 really is just around the corner. I just recently purchased a huge hoard of over 500 (!) 1909 Lincoln cents, and I feel quite confident that they will not drop in price and that they stand a decent chance of price appreciation. Do some looking at this series and see what you think, but act quickly as now is probably the best time to be working on a Lincoln cent set, before prices start rising. As for the price of eggs in Tasmania, you will have to ask our friends at the Tasmanian Numismatic Society about that!

 

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