US Coins

Why a 1997 Lincoln cent recently sold for $763

With continuous production over more than a century, the Lincoln cent is the longest-running U.S. coin and definitely one of the most popular.

Both Professional Coin Grading Service and Numismatic Guaranty Corp. offer registry sets where collectors can enter their coins and compete for best collection honors. This has put pressure on common modern coins in the top grades, including Lincoln cents.

But as more modern coins are certified over time, the prices of some pure condition rarities may decline, unless there is an influx of new collectors to increase demand. 

Here is one of three notable Lincoln cents we profile in this three-part Market Analysis:

The Lot:

1997 Lincoln cent, Mint State 68 red

The Price:


The Story:

Less than 20 years old, a 1997 Lincoln cent graded MS-68 red by PCGS sold for $763.75 in an October 2016 Heritage auction. Heritage writes, “Newly engraved master hubs in use at the Philadelphia Mint meant that coins had much sharper detail than those resulting from the previous hubs,” adding, “This piece has rich deep orange mint luster with extraordinary amber and violet toning.”

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PCGS had graded 17 in this grade with none finer when the coin was offered last autumn, and the population has subsequently exploded, with the PCGS Population Report recording 24 as of December 2016.

Lincoln cent

Lincoln cent:  The popular Lincoln cent has gone through several reverse updates since it was introduced in 1909 to honor the nation's 16th president on the 100th anniversary of his birth. How much are Lincoln cents worth?

Back in 2013 when Heritage sold a different comparably graded example for $1,997.50, PCGS had certified just 13 in this grade. Still, the number of top-graded survivors is tiny when compared to the original mintage of 4,622,800,000 pieces.

More high-grade, high-priced Lincoln cents:

1959-D Lincoln cent'No 1959-D Lincoln cent is graded higher than this one: 1959-D Lincoln cents in MS-67 red sell for around $200. But when one receives an MS-67+ red grade, as this one did, its value skyrockets.

1979 Lincoln centWhy a few ‘tiny ticks’ didn’t keep this Lincoln cent from bringing a high price:The average person would find it hard to accept that a 1979 Lincoln cent — a coin with a mintage of just over 6 billion — can be worth thousands of dollars.

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