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Early Lincolns Remain Affordable
By Tom LaMarre
Coins Magazine

The 1909 Lincoln cent, first of its kind, grabbed the headlines, but some other early Lincoln cents made the news, too. They also make worthwhile additions to a collection.

Cent production soared in 1910. More than 150 million were struck. The Washington Post said lost cents were keeping the Mint busy. A headline in the Oct. 15, 1910, issue of The Mountain Democrat, published in Placerville, said "Uncle Sam Hunting for Pennies." However, it needn't have looked so hard. In June 1910 the Los Angeles Times reported that the government made a million dollars on cent coinage in 1909.

The situation was the same in 1911, although cent production fell slightly. The Feb. 10, 1911, issue of The Sheboygan Press said:

"Puzzle To Trace the Lost Pennies. Chase is smallest that can be made. But of late there have been more demands for pennies from the west."

By December 1911 there was a cent shortage in New York City. When the Hudson-Manhattan Railroad put a seven-cent fare into effect, ticket agents ran out of cents to make change, having used up a stockpile of 300,000 cents the first day of the new fare.

The city of Frederick, Md. also experienced heavy demand for "pennies." The Sept. 20, 1911, issue of The (Frederick) News blamed the "rising cost of living."

In San Pedro, three men were arrested in late November and charged with nickel-plating cents and passing them as dimes at saloons.

In 1912 John D. Rockefeller, known for giving away dimes to strangers, changed his tune and told people, "Save your pennies." Apparently someone took his advice. In October 1912 a canvas bag containing 10,000 cents was dug up in Long Beach, Calif. Many of them were probably Indian Head cents. Treasury officials estimated that for every Lincoln cent outstanding there were about five cents of the old Indian Head design, and that it would take 50 years for Indian cents to disappear from circulation.

In August 1912 a hoard of 500 1909 Lincoln cents was stolen from the New York City apartment of Adolph Thomas. The thieves were apprehended after they spent the coins.

Lincoln cent designer Victor D. Brenner announced his engagement in 1913. The controversy about his initials on the first Lincoln cents had faded. The March 21, 1913, issue of The Van Nuys News and the Van Nuys Call said, "It will be remembered, perhaps, that when the Lincoln penny first appeared three initials were placed by the designer in a rather conspicuous place."

The Philadelphia Mint kept the cent presses busy in 1914, but production slipped at Denver and San Francisco. Inflation was on everyone's mind. The Aug. 2, 1914, issue of The Lincoln Daily Star advised, "Before going to bed each night, grasp a new Lincoln penny carefully between the thumb and finger and squeeze the same until Abe yelps for mercy."

The Jan. 2, 1915, issue of the Gettysburg, Pa., Star Sentinel cited a report from Cashtown that a Lincoln "penny" had been found in a duck's craw. It was probably one of the nearly 30 million cents struck at the Philadelphia Mint that year.

Today, Philadelphia cents from 1910 to 1915 are inexpensive in circulated grades. The 1914-D, on the other hand, is one of the key dates in the Lincoln cent series, and 1910-S to 1915-S cents are valued at around $20 to $45 in Fine-12.


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