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 recent auctions.
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