Editor's note: The Top 10 Stories of 2014 have been judged
by Coin World staff to be the most impactful and memorable
numismatic stories of the past year. They are not ranked in any
See all of the Top 10 Stories of 2014
The discovery of an aluminum 1974-D Lincoln experimental cent, its withdrawal from a major auction and a subsequent lawsuit placed plenty of attention on
this mysterious coin.
The piece, authenticated and graded by Professional Coin Grading Service as Mint State
63, was set to be a highlight of Heritage Auctions’ April 2014 Central
States Numismatic Society auction but was withdrawn at the request of
the U.S. Mint.
The piece had been consigned by two people: Randy Lawrence, who
inherited the piece in 1979 from his father, a former Denver Mint
employee, and Michael McConnell, a California coin dealer who
purchased the coin from Lawrence in September 2013.
The government wanted the piece back. The U.S. Mint’s chief legal
counsel, Daniel P. Shaver, sent separate letters dated Feb. 26, 2014,
to Lawrence and McConnell demanding the return of the 1974-D aluminum cent.
Lawrence and McConnell responded to the Mint’s demand by filing a
lawsuit in federal court on March 14, 2014, seeking declaratory
judgment that would allow them to retain title to the coin.
The piece is the only example known to survive from a reported
production of no more than a dozen pieces. Until 2013, it was believed
that all of the mid-1970s experimental aluminum cents were struck at
the Philadelphia Mint, and the Mint contends that there is no
documentary evidence showing that 1974-D aluminum cents were struck at
the Denver Mint.
A Feb. 17, 2014, Coin World story by Paul Gilkes cited an interview with Benito
Martinez, a die setter at the Denver Mint in 1974, who recalls
striking fewer than a dozen of the experimental 1974-D Lincoln cents
on aluminum blanks that had been supplied from the Philadelphia Mint.
More than 1.5 million 1974 Lincoln aluminum cents were struck at the
Philadelphia Mint, although nearly all were destroyed but for one
known in private hands and another at the Smithsonian Institution.
The Mint responded on June 3, 2014, asking that the court dismiss
the men’s request for declaratory judgment. The Mint’s response stated
that the men had not shown “any scenario under which they could
plausibly be in lawful possession of the piece, that the piece was
lawfully issued as legal tender, lawfully issued or offered for sale
to the public as a numismatic item, or otherwise lawfully removed from
On Dec. 12, 2014, the two men filed an amended complaint demanding a
jury trial. The filing warned that if the government was successful in
claiming the piece, the precedent would “place a cloud over all
non-legal tender coins,” adding that the government has no compelling
need to seize coins of unique and special value to collectors.”