I am not going to re-hype any coin media outlet on what were the best coins during 2010 but just simply vent my opinion on what coin I think had the greatest impact for collectors.
I did not base my opinion on some artistic masterpiece, some exotic metal composition or funky coin shape. Neither did I base it on some some incredible auction sale where only 1% of the U.S. population could even think of buying at those prices.
My criteria is more simplistic, I based it on what contribution it has to the everyday collecting community. I will it admit it was a tough call as I did consider the discovery of a new VAM variety but I came to the conclusion this discovery was important to numismatics all around and too important for just a single year of recognition.
My selection for coin of the year is the lowly 2010 U.S. Shield Cent! I'm sure all of the Lincoln Cent collecting folks are screaming “I could have told you that!” but if my reason for choosing the Shield Cent insults any Lincoln collectors I will apologize in advance. No I did not choose it because it was a new design, the fact that it comes in different compositions or even its reverse design.
What I saw over the course of the year actually came from non-collectors. I witnessed more people receiving these little coins in their change and actually pausing to examine the coin more closely. I had more people ask me “Have you seen this? Cool huh?”. These little copper beauties were creating new collectors throughout the year and this was without a lot of fanfare or mass media hype. I haven't seen this much interest in pocket change since the 1999/2000 time frame when the introduction of the Statehood Quarters motivated many to start collecting.
What made this a success was that the coins were readily available. The designs were not changing every few months allowing for the coin to quickly circulate and much of the public is becoming numb to the ever constant quarter design change so a change to a different denomination was a welcome sight. Will this have staying power to generate new interest every year? Definitely not on the same scale, but for its first year it has done one heck of job and I haven't seen another coin during 2010 bring more new collectors into this wonderful hobby.