Lincoln cents are preternaturally popular with collectors, and
despite high mintages, many early dates are surprisingly rare in high
grades with full Mint red color.
Collectors are increasingly putting pressure on top-graded survivors
that have survived the decades with their original color, free of
visually offensive carbon spots or contact marks.
Here are three examples of common Lincoln cents that are uncommon,
or even rare, in Mint State 67 red condition and that have sold in
1918 Lincoln cent, MS-67 red, CAC, at $14,100
In 1918 more than 288 million Lincoln cents were struck at the
Philadelphia Mint. In lower Mint State grades it remains a common
coin, but like all copper coins nearly a century old with full Mint
red color in nearly perfect grades, it’s a rarity in MS-67 red.
At Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ March 28 auction held during the
Whitman Expo in Baltimore, a 1918 Lincoln cent graded MS-67 red by
Professional Coin Grading Service and with a green Certified
Acceptance Corp. sticker indicating quality within the grade sold for $14,100.
The firm described it as “a splendid piece with razor sharp devices,
silky smooth surfaces and vivid bright orange luster,” adding that it
is a “truly gorgeous Lincoln cent that will make a world of difference
in an advanced Lincoln cent Registry Set.”
Registry sets by grading services PCGS and Numismatic Guaranty Corp.
are a primary reason why top-graded coins have soared in price in
recent years as they have tapped into a competitive instinct for
collectors to compete to create the best set.
In MS-66 red, the issue is still scarce but much more affordable. At
a Feb. 27 Heritage auction a PCGS MS-66 red example brought $822.50.
1909 Lincoln, V.D.B. cent, MS-67 red at $1,057.50
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.