One aspect of the upcoming 2009 Lincoln Cents that does not seem to be getting much attention is the 95% copper numismatic versions of the coins that will be issued. Authorization to produce these coins was included in legislation for the 2009 redesign. From the legislation:
The Secretary of the Treasury shall issue 1-cent coins in 2009 with the exact metallic content as the 1-cent coin contained in 1909 in such number as the Secretary determines to be appropriate for numismatic purposes.
The current composition of the Lincoln Cent is 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper. The original composition was 95% copper and 5% tin and zinc.
So far the only mention from the US Mint on this copper version of the 2009 Cents is included on their website as follows:
The Secretary of the Treasury shall mint and issue numismatic one-cent coins in 2009 with the exact metallic content as contained in the 1909 one-cent coin (95% copper, 5% tin and zinc). These numismatic versions will be included in the United States Mint’s annual product offerings.
Based on this, it sounds like the Copper 2009 Lincoln Cents would only be included in 2009 Mint Sets and 2009 Proof Sets. In my opinion, this would be a very anticlimactic way to offer this special version of the cent.
The copper Lincoln Cents would be included along with 14 other coins (or 28 for the Mint Set) in sealed Mint packaging. The composition difference would barely be noticeable, and the distinction of these specially issued coins would be lost.
My recommendation to the US Mint: offer the 95% copper 2009 Lincoln Cents in bags and rolls.
The US Mint has not announced their product line up for 2009, but presumably Lincoln Cent bags and rolls would be a part of it. Offering a special version of the cents would be preferable to offering the regular zinc cents at the typically high premiums charged for US Mint issued bags and rolls.
I think that this kind of offering would be popular with collectors. The cents contained in the bags and rolls would represent the only circulation quality strike 2009 Lincoln Cents with a composition of 95% copper. By comparison, the Mint Set would contain a satin finish (SMS) version of the copper cent. The Proof Sets would contain a Proof version of the copper cent. Coins found in circulation would have the zinc composition.
No matter how many of the bags and rolls the US Mint sells, the final mintage for these circulation strike copper cents will end up in the millions. This would compare to final mintages in the billions for the zinc versions. The Copper 2009 Lincoln Cent would become a unique, lower mintage coin for this important year.
So far, collector response to the upcoming 2009 Lincoln Cents has seemed relatively muted. The US Mint has the opportunity to do something interesting with this special offering. Let’s see what they do in 2009.