When is a MS-66 2009 Lincoln Penny different from any other? When it can be certified as a “First Strike”, “Early Release” or “First Day” coin. The former two terms usually refer to a coin being certified (in some way) within a month of it being officially released, while “First Day” means it was certified on the very first day the coin was released to the public.
Many collectors dislike this new fad since it confers some special meaning that is unrelated to the type, mintage, or quality of the coin. They also feel this term is inaccurate or misleading because it refers to the day the coin was certified or shipped rather than the day the coin was minted or the actual order of production. As long as some kind of accreditation exists within an acceptable range of time, then a would-be seller can obtain the “First Strike” or “Early Release” status.
Many people blame the various third-party grading services for popularizing this idea since most of them will designate coins with these terms (for a price). However, the U.S. Mint has been doing this for years. While they had done it in a spotty fashion in the past, the concept took off with the First Day Coin Covers created for the U.S. State Quarters series. In this product, a P and D mint version of the coin is encapsulated in a special holder that is then stamped and postmarked on the coin’s first day of issue. Usually, the holder includes a variety of information about the coin’s history and design. This product line has become very successful for the Mint. They have since expanded it to the Westward Journey nickel designs in 2004 and the Presidential dollar coins introduced in 2007. Strangely, they have not done it for the four new 2009 penny designs. While not as popular as some of the Mint’s traditional products, these first day coin covers are one of the core products the Mint has decided to continue in this tough economic season.
Whether or not you agree these types of products have value, basic economics holds that an item is worth what someone is willing to pay for it. Given the popularity and the resulting prices of these designations, they are unlikely to go away. So rather than breaking the bank on U.S. Mint or third party grading service products, the do-it-yourself collector can create his or her own first day products.
First, do your homework and keep up to date with all U.S. Mint coin releases by consulting the major coin magazines as well as the numerous coin web sites. Often, the Mint will hold public release events in which you can swap currency for one or more rolls of the new coins at face value. Go to one of these events and obtain as many rolls as one is allowed. To deal with quantity limits, bring family members and friends (paid or otherwise) who are willing to join you.
Immediately afterward, find the nearest post office, buy stamps, apply them to the rolls, and ask the post office to postmark your rolls. If possible, use a stamp series that is related to your coin. For example, the 2009 Lincoln stamps were a perfect match for the 2009 Lincoln pennies. Note that buying the stamps ahead of time can save you time and hassle. You may find that some post offices will hesitate or even refuse to do this, but be calm and persistent. It helps to show them another such roll or explain that you are creating a collector’s item and this is the only day it can be done. In most cases, they will relent and cancel your items– they may even hand you the cancellation stamp and allow you to do it yourself!
Make sure there are at least two clear, dark postmarks on each item. To create the ideal postmark, re-ink before each application and slowly roll the stamp over the coin roll using light pressure. Telling a postal worker how to do his or her job can be a tricky endeavor, but your items will be worth less if you cannot read the postmarks. Again, calm persistence is key. It helps to make self-deprecating nerdy collector jokes to ease the tension and get the job done. Once completed, you’ll have your very own first day coin product!
Most people cannot afford to travel to these release events and do not want tons of extra canceled rolls. That is where the secondary market comes into play. Within a day of these release events you can find hundreds of first-day rolls selling on eBay for significant premiums above face value. You can sell some of your extra rolls to help pay for your trip or even finance your other collections!
The collecting world certainly has a love-hate relationship with first day coin products. We tend to look at it in a different way– If you love ’em, collect ’em. If you hate ’em, collect ’em and then sell ’em.
GreanMonkey is a husband and wife team who have recently discovered a passion for coins. You can find Greanmonkey on eBay.