Insights

Mint asks court to dismiss 1974-D cent suit, contends aluminum striking was unauthorized

The Mint filed its response on June 3 in a San Diego federal court
By , Coin World Staff
Published : 06/06/14
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The U.S. Mint continues to contend that 1974-D Lincoln aluminum cents were never authorized to be issued as a coin or made legal tender and, as such, cannot be privately owned. 

The Mint filed a response on June 3 in a San Diego federal court asking that the court dismiss a March 14 lawsuit filed by Randall Lawrence and Michael McConnell. The two men sought declaratory judgment affirming that an example of the experimental cent is not government property and can be privately owned. 

Lawrence inherited the cent from his father, who enjoyed a long career at the Denver Mint. In September 2013, La Jolla, Calif., coin dealer McConnell purchased the cent from Lawrence and the two filed the motion jointly against the U.S. Treasury, U.S. Mint and the United States of America. 

Prior to the filing of the lawsuit, Daniel P. Shaver, the Mint’s chief legal counsel, sent separate letters to the two men dated Feb. 26, 2014, demanding the return of the 1974-D Lincoln aluminum cent. A similar letter was sent to Heritage Auctions at that time. The cent, graded Mint State 63 by Professional Coin Grading Service, was set to be a highlight of Heritage Auctions April 24 Central States Numismatic Society auction but was withdrawn at the government’s request. 

The U.S. Mint’s motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim states that the Mint has the exclusive authority to mint and issue U.S. coins. It added, “Items made at United States Mint facilities but not lawfully issued, or otherwise lawfully disposed of, remain Government property and are not souvenirs that United States Mint officials can remove and pass down to their heirs.”

In its motion the Mint acknowledged that the Mint and the Treasury had proposed and supported a bill in 1974 to change the composition of the 1-cent coin from predominantly copper to aluminum. That legislation did not become law. The motion concluded that the piece (as distinguished from a legally issued coin) described as a “ ‘1974-D Aluminum Cent’ is an unauthorized, unissued piece” struck at the Denver Mint, but unlawfully removed from the facility. 

Both sides acknowledge that there are no Mint records and no documentary evidence of aluminum 1974 Lincoln cents struck at the Denver Mint. A Feb. 17, 2014, article in Coin World about PCGS’s authentication of the piece cites an interview with Benito Martinez, a die setter at the Denver Mint in 1974, who recalls striking fewer than a dozen of the experimental 1974-D Lincoln cents on aluminum blanks that had been supplied from the Philadelphia Mint. 

In contrast, more than 1.5 million 1974 Lincoln aluminum cents were struck at the Philadelphia Mint. Although nearly all were destroyed, one is known in private hands and a second piece is part of the National Numismatic Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. 

Not authorized or legal tender

The core of the Mint’s argument is that the 1974-D Lincoln aluminum cent was never authorized to be issued as a coin or legal tender. Since Congress never passed legislation authorizing the secretary of the Treasury to change the composition, and only Congress has the authority to set denominations, standards and weights for coins including the 5-cent and 1-cent piece, the aluminum cent could not be issued as legal tender absent congressional approval. 

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15 comments
The Mint will win as usual. See, 1933 gold double eagles, etc. In fact, the mint attempted to seize the Saddleback Ridge hoard anonymously discovered by a couple in Northern California
Obama and the rest of the SOCIALIST party that rules America WILL indeed STEAL this coin too and use their power and "ownership" of the courts to bully a powerless individual! Strange that a 1933 double eagle that was swapped out (thus traded, not stolen) when the entire run was melted is illegal to own, but a 1913 V-Nickel that was made illegally by a mint employee can be owned without any repercussions. There are lots of other coins and patterns that were 'illegally' obtained, but the blind eye of the government has no rhyme or reason for the average person to be able to figure it out. Their only "recourse" is to try and prevail in a STACKED court "owned" by the government! We plainly know how that will end.
If the mint can recall the one made in Denver, they must also recall the one made in Philly now sitting in the Smithsonian. All the citizens of America cannot collectively put something into a museum that is otherwise illegal for an individual to own. Nothing categorically prevents the Smithsonian from one day being destroyed like all the other museums of antiquity. When that ultimately happens, the aluminum penny made in Philly will end up in the hands of some individual. The mint is crazy to worry about 1 cent worth of aluminum. It is only jealousy on the behalf of some official that he didn't get one from his father.
MORE GOVERNMENT THIEVES AT WORK
You really have to ask if the use of taxpayer dollars to fight legal battles to secure the return of this penny is really relevant. It is a penny, and I don't see how the government is harmed if they let this go. Really, let's talk about the harm caused by having a collector own this piece. NONE!
I think we could save the court battle "money" and use it to sue Obama and his SOCIALIST party
Screw what the Mint thinks. They spend all this money to regain an aluminum penny? What a bunch of horse-shit.
People should not be allowed to profit from coins illegally removed from the mint.
That's our government for you spend, a huge amount of money of something of little interest or value for the country as a whole. If they put as much effort in helping this country with it's problems we would have most of them solved by now.
Who cares? If some nitwit decides to purchase a coin for more than it's face value, when that coin is not even legal tender, then so be it. Again, WHO CARES?