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Lincoln cents in spotlight
By Mark Ferguson

Low-budget collectors will be examining pocket change as 2009 progresses, since four different Lincoln cents will be issued in sequence during the year. The issues commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln.

Their release coincides with the 100th anniversary of the longest-running series of circulating U.S. coins.

In previous years, Lincoln cents were typically the first new coins of the year to appear in circulation. According to one well-known source for small cents, it may take longer than normal for the first 2009 edition of the Lincoln cent to enter commerce in large numbers.

"The Federal Reserve has made it pretty clear that they have lots of older coinage in stock, so they won't be playing favorites on new stuff," he said. "There is a glut of coinage nationwide."

Collectors have anticipated the new designs for some time, and that has led to greater demand and higher prices for Lincoln cents. Key dates such as the 1909-S Lincoln, v.d.b. cent and 1914-D cent have soared in recent years, while semi-key dates have also posted healthy increases in value.

The market for more common and newer cents is also witnessing plenty of action.

Some hobbyists go well beyond acquiring one example of each date and Mint mark combination. Instead, they "super size" their holdings and obtain 50-piece Brilliant Uncirculated rolls whenever they can be found.

Mass-market promoters are also buying large numbers of lower-cost Lincoln cents to sell to novices at inflated prices.

All of this activity has driven up prices and depleted supplies of both the Wheat reverse era cents of 1934 to 1958 and the Lincoln Memorial reverse cents of 1959 to 2008.

Some of the newer dates in the series could be among the better values.

The Lincoln cent has been made with a thin layer of copper over a mostly zinc planchet since 1982. However, it took until 1988 for the Mint to perfect the plating process. Many of the Uncirculated cents of that era turned black or corroded in storage. Pristine, problem-free rolls struck from 1983 into the 1990s may be tougher to locate than large original mintages suggest, and those cents are a low-risk buy at current prices.


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