Market Analysis: ‘Common’ date Lincoln, Wheat cents often costly in MS-67 red

Market Analysis column from April 28, 2014, issue of Coin World
By , Coin World
Published : 04/11/14
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To some it may seem counter intuitive. Why is a comparably graded 1918 Lincoln cent worth more than a 1909 Lincoln, V.D.B. cent? After all, the 1909 Lincoln, V.D.B. cent has a lower mintage of 27,995,000 pieces and is worth far more in circulated grades.

The answer is in survival rates. In 1909 the Lincoln cent was brand new, and collectors and noncollectors alike each wanted one to hold onto. Further, the designer Victor David Brenner’s initials placed prominently at the lower center of the reverse and their subsequent removal later in 1909 brought a lot of attention to the Lincoln cent.

NGC and PCGS have recorded more than 300 submissions at the MS-67 red level for this issue. In comparison, the two firms have seen just 22 submissions at the MS-67 red level for the 1918 cent.

The price is kept high for the 1909 Lincoln, V.D.B. cent because it’s in demand from several hobby sectors. It is considered a distinct design subtype, so it has demand from type collectors. Some people collect first-year-of-issue coins, and others are attracted to the coin because they remember the story from their earliest collecting days. 

In MS-66 red, the price for a 1909 Lincoln, V.D.B. cent drops substantially, with recent sales for gorgeous CAC stickered coins clustered at the $250 to $300 level. 

1937 Lincoln cent, MS-67+ red, CAC at $2,115

In a market where collectors compete for the best, tiny differences in quality and grade make for huge price differences. At a Feb. 27 Heritage auction, this 1937 cent graded MS-67+ red by PCGS, with a green CAC sticker, brought $2,115. A die crack passes through the left side of ONE CENT, a Mint made raised mark and not a scratch.

Like the 1918 Lincoln cent, the 1937 cent is common even in nice Mint State grades through MS-65 red. PCGS and NGC combined have recorded more than 1,500 submissions at the MS-67 red level. However, just one example has been graded MS-68 red at PCGS with none at NGC. 

This puts increased demand on coins with signifiers of quality within the grade, such as a “+” sign or a CAC sticker.

To see the difference that this seemingly small grade change makes for a coin’s value, one needs only to look at prices realized. Heritage sold a PCGS MS-67 red 1937 Lincoln cent for $108.10 at an April 1 auction, and on March 11, the firm sold one graded NGC MS-67 red for $84.

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