1974-S and P cents in rolls?

Mixed to combat 'speculators'
Published : 09/11/11
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I have some machine-packaged rolls of Uncirculated 1974 Lincoln cents. One roll contains 31 1974 cents and 19 1974-S cents. Is this a unique or common occurrence?

Dick Lisi

Sturbridge, Mass.

Privately packaged cent rolls with a mix of 1974 Philadelphia Mint and San Francisco Assay Office strikes are not uncommon.

In The Complete Guide to Lincoln Cents, David W. Lange explains:

“During 1974, the Mint was once again pressed for an answer as to why banks couldn’t obtain enough cents to meet their customers’ needs. While the real reason lay in the cent’s obsolescence (it simply wasn’t worth enough to bother carrying and recirculating), Mint Director Mary Brooks revived that old argument from the 1960s that coin collectors were to blame. In a gracious turn, she did distinguish between legitimate collectors and mindless speculators, blaming the latter for hoarding cents in general but S-Mint cents in particular:

‘I think that the offering of a $50 bag of 1974-S cents by coin dealers for $475 is highway robbery. There will be no further release of 1974-S cents, although we are going to produce, and will continue to produce, a quota of 400,000,000 1974-S cents. These cents will be placed in inventory and will not be issued for immediate circulation.’

“To foil speculators, Director Brooks ordered that cents from the San Francisco [Assay Office] be mixed with those of the other mints in unlabeled bags before being shipped to the Federal Reserve Banks. This action, plus her announcement that no more cents would be coined in San Francisco, only intensified the hunt for 1974-S cents, and huge quantities were indeed captured by speculators who simply separated them when found in mixed bags of cents and assembled their own rolls. Mrs. Brooks addressed the American Numismatic Association Convention on August 17, 1974, commenting on the status of S-Mint cents:

‘I, of course, cannot continue to argue for production of a circulating coin that, in fact, does not widely circulate. Add to this the tactics of a few selfish coin dealers and you can see why I may not, in good conscience, be able to support the production of ‘S’ cents next year.’”

As it turned out, the 1974-S Lincoln cents were the last circulating cents to bear the S Mint mark, but not the last circulation cents struck there. Lincoln cents were struck at the San Francisco facility for circulation from 1978 to 1983 but bear no Mint marks, thus making them indistinguishable from Philadelphia Mint strikes.

Coin World’s Readers Ask department does not accept coins or other items for examination without prior permission from staff member Erik Martin. Readers Ask also does not examine error or variety coins. Materials sent to Readers Ask without prior permission will be returned unexamined. Please address all Readers Ask inquiries to emartin@coinworld.com or call (800) 673-8311, Ext. 274.

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