US Coins

Monday Morning Brief for Feb. 6, 2023: Million dollar Lincoln cent

Stewart Blay’s MS-65 red 1958 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent brought $1,136,250 on Jan. 22, establishing several records. Strong doubling is seen at LIBERTY.

Images courtesy of GreatCollections

History was made on Jan. 22 when a Lincoln cent sold at auction for more than $1 million, the first time that an example of the most produced U.S. coin reached seven figures.

The coin, as reported this week in Steve Roach’s weekly “Market Analysis,” is the finest known of the three 1958 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cents known. It sold for an astounding $1,136,250 in a GreatCollections auction.

Ask the typical coin collector in the United States, whether advanced or new, whether having a tiny coin-buying budget or limitless funds for building a collection, which series they started with, and the answer is likely to be the Lincoln cent.

That is where I began my collection nearly 60 years ago, sifting through my parents’ change or, as I grew older, the late return fees at my middle school library where I volunteered as a student assistant, or in my first jobs where I operated a cash register with hundreds of coins to look through every week. I looked for coins to fill holes in my blue Whitman albums, exchanging a common coin for one I needed for my collection.

I never found any great rarities in circulation, but I eventually added all of the nonerror key dates and semi-key dates to my collection in my late teens. Especially then, I was amazed that some Lincoln cents would cost me a few hundred dollars each. Never in my most fevered imagination, however, did I think that a Lincoln cent struck four years after my birth would soar in price to a million bucks.

News of this astonishing price will likely spread beyond the collector community; dealers and collectors should prepare to respond to inquiries from noncollectors sure they have one of the “million dollar 1958 pennies.” It is extremely unlikely that they do. As for most collectors, our collections will always lack a 1958 Lincoln, Doubled Die Obverse cent.

But we can dream.
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