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If Only
January 06, 2009

Collecting coins by the roll is something that was very common when I got my start in the hobby in 1963. We were nearing the high point of the roll and bag boom, though I didn't know it. I was simply 8 years old.

I certainly didn't have the money when I started to collect by the roll. I didn't have roll quantities of much of anything. However, when I got my paper route, my income went up and I had the money to pursue a number of things. One of the odd occurrences was I got excited about BU rolls of 1969-S cents. I was able to get a bunch of them for face value in the year of issue. As I recall, I had 20 rolls.

This was the second year of the return of the magic "S" mintmark. The prior year had seen the first "S" cents since 1955. The 1955 had been a hard coin fo me to find in circulation. Among the hundreds of millions of circulating cents from 1968, the 1968-S was not so much hard to find as I was impatient to find one.

I guess I figured that when 1969-S cents came my way I should grab them. Then I started learning about the logistical problems of storage. Twenty rolls of Lincolns are pretty bulky. They were in paper bank wrappers. I mulled the idea of putting them in plastic tubes, but I figured why spend the money. The tubes cost a dime apiece then, which was 20 percent of the value of the coins themselves.

I left them in paper. A decade passed. I still had them, but they hadn't done much in terms of value. The action was in precious metals and silver dollars. I opened one of the rolls and they were beginning to tone. The end coins were spotted. Other coins did not look particularly appealing.

It seemed like I had wasted my time. I didn't store them properly. They had deteriorated. Even if I had cared for them, there really wouldn't have been much profit in them, so I simply took them to a bank for folding money.

Yesterday I talked to John Wells, a Milford, Pa., dealer in rolls of Lincoln cents. Those BU 1969-S cents have come alive because of the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth this year and the 100th anniversary of the Lincoln cent itself.

So, if anybody has managed to preserve roll quantities of cents from the period, 1968-S-1974-S, or even dates like 1971 from Philadelphia, check on their values. The numbers John was quoting made me wish I had put the 1969-S cents in plastic tubes and then stowed them away for 40 years.

Live and learn.

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About the Author
David C. Harper has been a coin collector since 1963. He joined the Krause Publications editorial staff in 1978 and is currently editor of Numismatic News and World Coin News. He also edits two books annually, North American Coins & Prices and Coin Digest. He is the author of the Class of '63 column that runs each week in Numismatic News. His first bylined numismatic article appeared in the June 1971 issue of Coins Magazine and his various Krause Publications assignments included a stint as editor of the magazine 1980-1983. Harper received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1977. He had a double major of journalism and economics.

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