US Coins

1979 cent even with 'tiny ticks' brings high price

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:

1979 Lincoln cent, PCGS Mint State 68 Red

The Price:


The Story:

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. But those who enjoy collecting finest known examples for inclusion in grading service registry sets can understand why even common coins can bring big prices in top grades. At its September 2016 Long Beach auctions, Heritage sold a 1979 Lincoln cent graded Mint State 68 red by PCGS for a hearty $2,820.

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The lot description noted, “Fire-orange color adorns the rims, progressing to lilac-gold patina over the central devices and fields,” and PCGS has graded just eight in this grade with none finer.

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?

Perhaps surprisingly, despite the high grade there are several marks, and Heritage further observes, “Tiny ticks on the shoulder and one in front of Lincoln’s mouth are noted simply for accuracy.” Another MS-68 red example sold for $2,232.50 at a Heritage auction this past summer. Back in 2012 Heritage sold another one in a comparable grade for $5,462.50, though at that time it was one of just five in this grade certified by PCGS.

More high-grade, high-priced Lincoln cents:

1997 Lincoln centOne 1997 Lincoln cent recently sold for $763; here’s why:Less than 20 years old, this 1997 Lincoln cent graded MS-68 red by PCGS is a reminder that we should always be watching our pocket change.

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.

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