US Coins

Is Lincoln cent with state outline a Mint product?

This 2000-D Lincoln cent was counterstamped outside the Denver Mint with an outline of the state of South Dakota, within which appears the state's postal code, SD.

Original images courtesy of Bruce English.

Readers Ask column from Aug. 29, 2016, issue of Coin World:

This coin has a stamp mark on it — looks like SD or possibly an O, inside a semi-regular area. Any ideas or info as to the possible origin of this mark?

Bruce English / Via Email

The 2000-D Lincoln cent the reader found is likely a genuine Lincoln cent struck at the Denver Mint.

The design that appears in the field to the right of Abraham Lincoln’s portrait, on the other hand, was not imprinted on the coin at the time of production. It is a counterstamp and was applied privately outside the Mint production facility. The counterstamp is incuse.

SD is the postal code abbreviating South Dakota. The “semi-regular” outline is of the Western state, but it’s oriented counterclockwise in the coin’s field to fit in the space.

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The counterstamped cent, while considered a novelty by some, is actually an altered U.S. Mint product. To most coin collectors, the counterstamp adds no value above the coin’s face value.

Novelty companies have issued complete sets of Lincoln cents, counterstamped with the outlines of each of the 50 states, with the postal abbreviations appearing within.

I’ve seen other novelty designs counterstamped into the obverse field of Lincoln cents and offered for sale above face value.

Principal among the designs seen are ones depicting a portrait left of President John F. Kennedy in the right field of the coin’s obverse, facing Lincoln. Besides honoring two great presidents on the cent, history notes that President Lincoln’s personal secretary’s surname was Kennedy and that of President Kennedy’s was Lincoln.

Other counterstamped Lincoln cents include ones stamped with the Batman bat logo, Lincoln smoking a pipe, a Masonic Shriner scimatar emblem, and a number of designs depicting the lunar rover.

Is such defacement illegal? Typically no, though Treasury officials have in years past banned some forms of defacement. Currently, as long as no fraud is intended and the coin is not rendered unfit for circulation by the defacement, such alterations are permitted.

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