US Coins

If a rare Lincoln cent 'dropped,' would anyone ever find

In chatting with a colleague at Linn’s Stamp News — which shares office space with Coin World — he mentioned that October is National Stamp Collecting Month.

Coins don’t get a month, but they do get the third week in April, which was named by President Reagan in 1983 as National Coin Week.

A large part of promoting National Coin Week used to be through “penny drops” or “coin drops.” These were local media events where a valuable coin was released into circulation and people were encouraged to take a closer look at their pocket change.

Lincoln cents were the most used target coin for these drops as the series provides key dates with a familiar design that can be worth substantial amounts, including 1909-S V.D.B. and 1914-D Lincoln cents.

The concept of a valuable date and Mint mark combination on a coin is familiar to nearly everyone.

The appearance of the V.D.B. initials of designer Victor David Brenner on the reverse of some 1909 Lincoln cents provided the public with something extra to look for after the “drops” and gave the hobby something interesting to educate potential collectors about.

Coin drops used to be a bigger part of the hobby than they are today.

In 1998, a Coin World reader reported that he found a 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent in change after enjoying some fast food at Wendy’s and the article announcing the find speculated that it may have entered circulation through a “coin drop.”

Would a “coin drop” work today?

To have a successful drop would require that people actually look at the cents that they receive.

While the Mint has struck nearly 5 billion Lincoln cents in 2012, the demand for the cent has dropped off substantially from the huge levels seen in the mid-1990s. Demand is still substantial, though, and Congress has not yet made any strong moves to end the cent (unlike Canada, which struck its last cent earlier this year).

For most people today, the cent is seen as more a nuisance than anything. However, until it is told otherwise, the Mint has to keep producing them to meet its orders from the Federal Reserve.

At cash registers around the country, piles of cents accumulate and a cent can linger on the ground for a long time before it is ever picked up by anyone.

In today’s climate where few people ever stop to look at their change, and even fewer people would make an effort to pick up a cent that had fallen to the ground, would anyone even notice the presence of a key date in their change?


Steve Roach

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