August 13th, 2009 was the launch date for the third of this year’s bicentennial commemorative Lincoln cents. This design has been dubbed the “Professional Life” cent, as its reverse reflects Lincoln’s time as a lawyer and legislator in Illinois. I had fully expected not to be able to attend the exchange event that has been occurring at the U.S. Mint’s retail offices in downtown D.C., but in discussing the event with my team and manager, we determined that there wasn’t anything critical that would prevent my attending the event.
I arrived at the US Mint’s retail office located at 801 9th Street NW just after 11:00 AM, and got into line with about 12 other people. The Mint employees were allowing 4 or 5 people at a time into the actual retail office, as it was next to the entrance to the Mint’s offices, and it was necessary to maintain order. While in line, I was hearing stories that the Union Station was experiencing much longer lines; apparently it was a better-known location than the small retail office. I was also hearing how people were changing their looks to allow them to exchange more than once, which wasn’t necessary as the Mint employees were more than happy to exchange multiple times, so long as you went to the end of the line afterward. One couple had found a parking spot right next to the office doors, and they were making the most of their parking time, getting as many rolls as possible.
Once it was my turn, about a 10-minute wait, I was led into the building, and waited just a couple more minutes to actually exchange my dollar bills for cent rolls. All the rolls were coming from $25 boxes, and while we were only allowed to exchange $3 at a time, the employees were giving the empty boxes to people to help them carry the rolls. I did not need a box, only wanting to go through the line twice. The first time through, I gave the employee a $5, and she handed me a small Mint merchandise bag with the 6 cent rolls and my $2 in change, in the form of 2009 Denver-minted Sacagawea dollar coins.
Between trips, I used the quarter dispenser they have in place, which allowed me to exchange for $5 of the most recently released quarter design featuring American Samoa. The coins were from the Denver mint, a plus for people on the east coast. I left the retail area, walked past 10 people already in line to get to the end once again. The wait for my second time through was even shorter, perhaps 3 minutes, and after the second exchange was complete, there wasn’t anyone waiting outside. I returned to my office, and gave a co-worker two of the cent rolls, 4 of the American Samoa quarters, and a Sacagawea dollar, along with the change from the money they gave me for the exchange event.
Les Peters publishes a coin blog titled Tales of a Lifelong Coin Collector that describes his experiences related to collecting coins.