Wartime cents among Heritage sale highlights

Geyer coins include off-metal errors, experimentals
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Published : 10/14/13
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A 1943 Lincoln bronze cent that has been owned by three different collectors but never previously sold at auction will cross the auction block for the first time during Heritage’s Nov. 1 to 3 sale in New York City.

The sale is to be held at the Heritage Auctions location at 445 Park Ave., 15th Floor, in Manhattan.
 
The copper-alloy 1943 Lincoln cent produced at the Philadelphia Mint is one of 149 lots from the Geyer Family Collection to be offered in the auction, with several of the total lots comprising off-metal, double-denomination, off-center and other U.S. coin errors.
 
Among the key off-metal errors to be offered along with the 1943 Lincoln bronze cent are a bronze 1943-S cent; zinc-coated steel 1944 and 1944-D Lincoln cents; and a 1943 Lincoln cent struck on a brass Cuban 1-centavo coin.
 
The Geyer lots, consigned by Indiana collector Fred Geyer, also include a five-piece experimental cent set containing pieces used in research for alternatives for the pre-1943 composition for the cent.
 
Historical fascination
 
Geyer, 48, has been collecting coins for more than three decades after being introduced to the hobby by his maternal grandfather. Geyer said his interest in U.S. history drew him to World War II and the coins produced from 1941 through 1945.
 
Geyer said that over the past 10 years, he has concentrated heavily on U.S. coins struck during the war years. His primary focus has been on the various wrong-metal, wrong-planchet error coins struck during that period of time.
 
For decades, including during World War II, U.S. Mint production facilities struck not only U.S. coins, but also produced coins for a number of foreign countries. Production of coins for foreign countries in the same facilities as U.S. coins presented the potential for error, as planchets for one nation could be fed into presses containing dies for coins of another nation.
 
In addition, wartime metal requirements led U.S. Mint officials to seek alternative compositions for the cent and 5-cent coin.  
 
The composition of the Jefferson 5-cent coin was changed midway through 1942 from 75 percent copper, 25 percent nickel, to 56 percent copper, 35 percent silver and 9 percent manganese. Copper and nickel were especially needed in wartime production of weapons and munitions. Use of the original composition was resumed in 1946.
 
In 1943, in another effort to divert more copper to the war effort, the composition of the Lincoln cent was changed to zinc-coated steel from 95 percent copper, 5 percent zinc (tin supposedly was removed from the alloy in 1942). With the change to the cent’s composition in 1943, diameter was not changed, but the weight changed from 3.11 grams to 2.69 grams.
 
In 1944, the U.S. Mint returned to a copper alloy of 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc, with salvaged munitions cases providing at least some of the metal.
 
While some transitional composition errors are known for the 5-cent coins struck during the war years, the same kinds of errors in the Lincoln cent series have drawn greater collector attention.
 
A number of pre-1943 bronze planchets made it into production channels at the Philadelphia, Denver and San Francisco Mints and were struck with 1943 cent dies, creating copper-alloy strikes instead of zinc-coated steel cents.
 
Similarly, a number of the zinc-coated steel blanks also made it into production at the three facilities in 1944, creating wrong planchet 1944, 1944-D and 1944-S zinc-coated steel strikes. (At the Philadelphia Mint, Belgian 1944 2-franc coins were struck on zinc-coated steel planchets having the same specifications as the planchets used for cents in 1943. This continued use of the steel planchets at the Philadelphia facility provided a ready source for the error coins; at the other Mint facilities, the steel planchets struck between cent dies in 1944 were presumably left over from the previous year’s cent production.)
Geyer said he has maintained a network of collectors and dealers assisting him in his quest, plus he has traveled to coin shows and auctions across the country in search of elusive coins. While that approach enabled him to build a remarkable collection, Geyer said he has not been able to add anything new to his collection during the past two years.
 
1943, 1943-S bronze cents
 
Geyer’s 1943 Lincoln bronze cent, Lot 3508, certified Genuine by Professional Coin Grading Service, is one of fewer than 20 examples known.
 
Geyer’s 1943 bronze cent is easily identifiable by the obverse scratches in the field behind Lincoln’s head and the horizontal gash from Lincoln’s cheek to the back of his head. Heavy scratches appear on the reverse in the field to the right of ONE CENT.
 
The marks are believed to have been made by whoever discovered the coin, to test its authenticity.
A Professional Numismatists Guild Dealer’s Certificate of Title, Guarantee and Genuineness and Registration for the 1943 bronze cent refers to the damage as “test marks.”
 
The certificate, dated May 10, 1982, indicates the coin’s sale for $8,500 that day from Pennsylvania dealer Dave Berg to Earl Armstrong, co-owner of A-Z Coins & Stamps in Fort Wayne, Ind.
 
Armstrong, according to the PNG certificate, transferred title of the coin for an undisclosed sum on Nov. 26, 1990, to Dearborn, Mich., collector Max E. Reimer.
 
In an Oct. 8, 2013, email response to Coin World, Berg said the 1943 bronze cent was one of six examples he has handled.
 
“I do remember that coin very well. That was the second bronze 1943 cent that I owned,” Berg said. “I have had six in total over the years. I remember selling it to Earl as well. It was at one of the very first PAN [Pennsylvania Association of Numismatist] shows in Monroeville. I was operating independently then. ... I specifically recall how excited Earl was to acquire that coin. You would have thought he was a 9-year-old that just found an [1909-]S-VDB in change. It was very nice to see that. Acquiring a ‘43 bronze cent can do that to you. The large cut or dig in the coin was always assumed to be a test mark.
 
“Rather ugly for the times but it may have been done many years prior to my ownership. There is no available pedigree that I recall prior to my getting the coin. I recall it coming from another dealer, but do not recall who at this time. It was over 30 years ago.”
 
Geyer purchased the 1943 bronze cent from Reimer for an undisclosed sum in a private transaction through a dealer intermediary.
 
Geyer’s 1943-S bronze cent, graded PCGS Very Fine 35, Lot 3510, is one of approximately six examples known. Geyer acquired the coin for $207,000 in Part II of Heritage’s Feb. 7, 2010, auction of the Alfred V. Melson Collection.
 
The highest price paid for any of the off-metal 1943 or 1944 small cent errors and for any small cent is $1.7 million paid in a private transaction by an unnamed collector to Legend Numismatics for the only known bronze 1943-D cent, graded PCGS MS-64 Brown.
 
1944, 1944-D steel cents
 
The 1944 Lincoln zinc-coated steel cent in Geyer’s collection, Lot 3513, is one of more than two dozen examples reported known. The coin is certified PCGS About Uncirculated 58.
 
The coin was certified Numismatic Guaranty Corp. AU-58 when it sold for $34,500 in Heritage’s April 17, 2008, sale. Geyer said Oct. 7 he purchased the coin from a Stack’s Bowers Galleries auction still in its NGC encapsulation and subsequently had it crossed over into a PCGS holder and graded AU-58.
 
Geyer’s 1944-D zinc-coated steel cent, Lot 3514, one of seven examples reported known, according to PCGSCoinFacts.com, is certified PCGS AU-53. Geyer acquired the coin for $37,375 in Heritage’s Jan. 6, 2011, auction.
 
The highest price paid at auction for a small cent is $373,500, for a PCGS MS-66 1944-S zinc-coated steel cent, in Heritage’s July 31, 2008, sale. The coin is one of only two 1944-S zinc-coated steel cents known.
 
Overstruck Cuban centavo
 
The 1943 Lincoln cent struck over a struck brass 1943 Cuba 1-centavo coin is graded PCGS MS-62.
The cent, according to the Heritage auction lot description, “was struck with a ‘medallic turn’ of the dies — 180 degrees from the standard ‘coin turn’ as is used on all American coins.”
 
Coin turn reflects a coin that, when viewed right side up and then turned from left to right, shows the reverse oriented upside down to the obverse.
 
The overstruck coin last sold at auction in Heritage’s Jan. 4, 2006, sale where it brought $10,925. At a later date, Geyer acquired the coin for an undisclosed sum from the successful bidder in the 2006 auction.
 
Experimental cent set
 
Lot 3509 is the five-piece experimental cent set, all housed together in an NGC encapsulation. Geyer acquired the set for $161,000 in Heritage’s Jan. 7, 2010, auction.
 
The five pieces in the set, according to a Sept. 21, 2009, Coin World article, had been owned by “the children of a former Philadelphia Mint metallurgist [now deceased] who worked on finding an alternative to the pre-1943 bronze cent composition of 95 percent copper, 3 percent zinc and 2 percent tin.”
The set contains two unstruck blanks, an unstruck planchet and two struck metallic pieces.
Experimentation at the Philadelphia Mint and at least eight plastics companies and one glass factory led to the zinc-coated steel composition of Lincoln cents in 1943. 
 
One of the two struck pieces identified in 2009 in the five-piece set was produced on a planchet of a previously unreported composition incorporating antimony. 
 
Antimony is a brittle, silvery metal often used as an alloying additive to harden lead. Antimony is also often alloyed with lead or copper to yield white metal, an alloy used in the manufacture of medallions.
The set contains:
 
➤ A zinc-coated steel blank without upset, raised rim, that weighs 2.7 grams.
➤ A Type 2 zinc-coated steel planchet with upset, raised rim, also weighing 2.7 grams. It is from first test run of zinc-coated steel cents in 1943.
➤ A 1942 experimental strike, Judd 2054 (United States Pattern Coins, Experimental & Trial Pieces by J. Hewitt Judd, edited by Q. David Bowers), zinc-coated steel, 2.56 grams, graded NGC About Uncirculated 55. The obverse design was copied from the Columbian 2-centavo coin and the reverse from a Washington medalet, Baker 155 (Medallic Portraits of Washington by W.S. Baker).
➤ A copper-plated steel test blank without upset, raised rim, from the cent production experimentation in January 1943. It weighs 2.9 grams. 
➤ 1943 Lincoln cent pattern, Judd 2085, NGC AU-58, struck with regular dies in December 1942, composed of an alloy of “zinc and antimony on steel.” 
 
A 17.5 percent buyer’s fee will be added to the final closing hammer price of each lot won.
For more information about this and future sales, visit www.ha.com, write Heritage Numismatic Auctions, 3500 Maple Ave., 17th Floor, Dallas, TX 75219-3941, or telephone the firm at 214-528-3500 or 800-872-6467. 
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