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September 17, 2007

Most collectors experience a "eureka" moment. Before it occurs, they are like the rest of the population. After it occurs, they grab the coin price guides and are on the prowl.

This subject matter occurred to me in a roundabout way. I broke my favorite coffee cup yesterday morning. My days usually begin at 5 a.m. and not long after that I am consuming my first morning cup of coffee in my favorite coffee cup.

There is no real reason to become attached to inanimate objects, but somehow or other, these crazy attachments form. It is probably a matter of routine. At that hour of the morning, I don't want to have to think about what I am doing. "Grab cup, pour coffee" is the height of my intellectual capacity in those first few minutes of a new day. I could grab any number of cups or mugs, but I don't.

Now I have no choice.

I have a coin to which I have formed a similar attachment. It provided me with my eureka moment and is probably why I am a coin collector. It is a 1909 Lincoln cent. I have owned it for 44 years. It has almost no value, but it is priceless to me because of what followed.

I found it when I was eight years old going through all the coins in the house. I had seen an ad in a comic book. In it was the promise that some cents dated before 1940 would be purchased for premium prices. I wanted that money.

I found a number of cents that met the threshold of having dates before 1940. The 1909 was the prize.

Something 54 years old in my hands seemed almost beyond comprehension at the time. I did not mail it in. Instead, my mother saw what I was doing and channeled it by taking me to a hobby shop. I got my first Whitman album. Actually, there were two. At the time, they ran 1909-1940 and 1941 to date. There were mintage figures in those albums that I could see which dates were the truly scarce ones. None that I had were.

My mother probably knew that would be the result. On the other hand, she did not realize at the time what a powerful force had been let loose in my life.

But I had formed my attachment to that 1909 Lincoln cent. I am still on the hobby prowl. Do they go hand in hand? They sure seem to.

What's your story? Comment here or send me an e-mail at

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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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