US Coins

Read the full story behind the 1974-D alumninum cent

The United States Mint posted on its website information from the four-page, full-color informational brochure embedded above detailing the production of the 1974-D Lincoln cent struck in aluminum.

Printed copies of the brochure are being distributed at the U.S. Mint's booth Aug. 9 to 13 at the American Numismatic Association's World's Fair of Money in Anaheim, Calif., where an example of the aluminum cent is on display.

The website information is hosted on the Mint website's home page, and will remain for an indeterminate period until it is moved into an archive file.

Connect with Coin World:  

The color brochure illustrates obverse and reverse images of the 1974-D aluminum cent that was returned to the Mint earlier this year pursuant to litigation.

The brochure also illustrates an original Lincoln cent obverse plaster model that would have been used in the die making process in 1974. The D Mint mark of the Denver Mint would have been manually punched into each working die for production.

According to the brochure, during the Mint's examination of compositional alternatives for the cent amid rising copper prices, experimental sheets of an aluminum alloy were sent to the Denver facility to be cut into cent blanks and shipped back to the Philadelphia Mint, where experimental strikes were already being pursued in aluminum.

"This was done because Denver's blanks were slightly larger than the ones used in Philadelphia and the experimental team wanted to see if the different size affected the alloy's utility," according to the brochure's details. "The Denver Mint was not authorized to strike any experimental aluminum cent and most of the blanks were returned to Philadelphia as instructed.

"Nonetheless, at least one Denver Mint employee recalls striking experimental cents on the aluminum blanks using an existing 'D' marked die. This effort was unauthorized and in direct contradiction to official instructions."

Randall Lawrence, the son of former Assistant Denver Mint Superintendent Harry Edmond Lawrence, discovered the 1974-D aluminum cent among items that had been presented to his father at his 1980 retirement shortly before his passing. The items were bequeathed to Randall Lawrence.

Randy Lawrence initially sold the 1974-D aluminum cent and other coins for an undisclosed sum in September 2013 to Michael McConnell, owner of La Jolla Coin Shop in La Jolla, Calif.

After McConnell learned the potential worth of the aluminum cent, he decided to partner with Randy Lawrence in the public auction of the cent in April 2014 by Heritage Auctions. McConnell planned to use his share of the proceeds for aiding the homeless in the La Jolla area.

Professional Coin Grading Service had graded and encapsulated the aluminum cent as Mint State 63 in December 2013.

The cent was withdrawn from the sale lineup shortly before the 2014 auction after the U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the Mint, filed a civil complaint seeking return of the experimental 1974-D aluminum cent. Randy Lawrence and McConnell filed their own complaint, but eventually withdrew the action, subsequently returning the piece to the Mint in March 2016.

One of the stipulations for the coin’s return was that McConnell could break the cent out of its PCGS holder so he could retain the grading label.

Community Comments