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What's a 2009 copper cent worth?
October 08, 2009

There seems to be some speculative interest in the 2009 uncirculated coin set because this will be the only way collectors can obtain examples of the 2009-P&D cents in copper alloy.

Will early orders run hot and heavy as a result?

We have seen this kind of interest in the plain vanilla mint set before. In 1987, the annual set was the only way to get half dollars. In 1981, the set was the only way to get Anthony dollars.

Neither of these sets have performed well on the long-term secondary market. The 1987 is trading well below the $7 issue price and the 1981 set is trading right around the $11 issue price – and this is 22 and 28 years later, respectively.

Can copper cents give buyers of the 2009 set a quick profit? Possibly. Certainly there was trading excitement shortly after the 1981 and 1987 sets were released. It just didn’t last.

There is a logic that the cents will be removed from the sets and trade independently, some perhaps in slabs attesting to the fact that they grade MS-69 or MS-70 and are indeed coins with the copper alloy.

Whether there will be much of a premium for the lower graded pieces remains to be seen. It will, of course, hinge on collector perception that mintage is low. This is a near certainty for the first few weeks, but not necessarily so over the long haul.

What happens to cents that somehow get separated from the original packaging? How will collectors know they are copper?

The short answer is they weigh more, at 3.11 grams versus 2.5 grams for cents with the zinc core.

Since most collectors don’t own scales, they will have to fall back on the handy, dandy popsicle stick scale recommended back in 1982 when collectors wondered which cents of that year were copper and which were zinc.

Don’t know that trick?

Well, get a cent dated 1981 or before. It weighs 3.11 grams. Center the stick on a fulcrum for balance. Put the old cent at one end. Put the suspect 2009 coin on the other end. If it balances, the 2009 coin is copper. If it doesn’t, it is zinc.

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Recent Comments
On October 9, 2009 Les said
My motivation for purchasing the 2009 Mint Set on its first day was partially driven by the copper-alloy cents, but was mostly driven by it being the only way so far of obtaining the 2009 nickels and dimes.

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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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