Great question. A Lincoln Cent has been offered on the internet for the past few months. This 1¢ 2002 10% off-center listed on eBay sent the speculators bidding the coin up over $500. It did not reach the seller's reserve or it was pulled. Rumor has it that the coin sold in a private transaction for $500.
At the same time as the Coin World article, a 1¢ 2002-D 50% off-center was listed on eBay with no reserve. It closed at a whooping $705. Now, more and more minor errors are starting to show up. These are the type that are normally bypassed since they are the small off-centers/broadstrikes that retail for $1 - $2. Why are they commanding $30 and up?
During 2001, after watching what these coin were bringing on the internet, the "error sources" started to demand more money for their errors. They are claiming that the coins are worth more, so dealers have to pay more. New buy prices would have been paid for the current year's errors, however, the counting rooms had quantities of prior years still in inventory and wanted to sell them first. What happened is that the error source listed the older material for sale and rumors spread through the error community about new controls at the Mint. Fewer errors were being found when actually, errors had been stockpiled. While less errors have escaped the Mint, quantities are still available. The demand has risen for the 2002 dated Lincoln Cents. Are we seeing any nice off-centers or broadstrikes available? No! Nor are we seeing any Nickel or Dime off-centers.
How can the sellers afford to stockpile these errors? Their cost equals face value. They can play the "wait and see game" and there is very little down side. Dealers must buy wholesale and sell retail to survive. We pay taxes on our net profit. The "error source" costs and reportable income are nil. Over time, quantities of these dates will become available at a "normal" retail price. We will continue to see minor errors offered before the major ones.
Still don't believe me? Ask yourself a question. Where are all the 2001/2002 off-center Nickels and Dimes???