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New penny's slow start in circulation increases value
By Laura Petrecca

The penny, often picked on for its piddly value, has found some self worth in 2009.
The 2009 Lincoln cent — slow to spread into consumers' pockets — is being sold for big bucks. Single coins have fetched more than $1 each. Fifty-cent rolls have frequently ranged from $2 to more than $50 at online auction websites.

The first of four new penny designs officially launched on Feb. 12 — Abraham Lincoln's birthday — but the 634.8 million coins produced by the U.S. Mint have barely made it into circulation.

The penny distribution "is slow-going," says Mint spokesman Greg Hernandez. "Because of the downturn and the lower demand for coins (for business transactions), banks are not demanding as many coins," he says. "As a result, the Federal Reserve has a pretty large inventory."

The sense of rarity has made the coin seem much more valuable, says Dave Harper, editor of Numismatic News.

Four variations of the new Lincoln penny will be introduced into circulation this year. The heads side continues the familiar image of Lincoln's profile. The tails side features one of four different aspects of the 16th president's life.

The initial coin shows a log cabin to represent his Hodgenville, Ky., birthplace. The next designs, scheduled for release in approximately three-month intervals, will depict his early years in southern Indiana, his career in Illinois and his presidential term in Washington, D.C.

The former tails design, in use for 50 years, shows the Lincoln Memorial.

The new coins are in honor of Lincoln's 200th birthday and the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln penny's introduction.

The Mint also produced a specially wrapped, two-roll set of the circulating log-cabin pennies. They were priced at $8.95 plus $4.95 for shipping and handling. The Mint sold out at 96,000 sets.

The penny's shortage has helped coin sellers such as Sonna Young. She scooped up about $75 worth when she went to a Hodgenville ceremony that celebrated the cent's debut.

"Our primary reason for going was to get some rolls of pennies," she says. She's sold rolls from $6.95 to more than $50 on eBay.

But sales may soon slow as the pennies become more prevalent. The new pennies are "making their way out into the economy," says Hernandez, and people are getting them in change during purchases.


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