US Coins

Top-grade 1926-S Lincoln cent scores in auction

The top lot in the Jerald L. Martin Collection, sold by Heritage Auctions in January at the Florida United Numismatists convention auctions in Orlando, was a 1926-S Lincoln cent graded Mint State 65 red by Professional Coin Grading Service that sold for an astronomical $90,000.

It is one of just two coins graded at this level at PCGS, with none finer. 

1974-D Kennedy half dollar Inside Coin World: Most fruitful series for die varieties missing in action: The Lincoln cent series is generally the most fruitful for collectors of die varieties like doubled dies and repunched Mint marks, but not this month.

Heritage observed that even the top all-time finest PCGS Lincoln Cent Registry Set lacks an example this fine, confirming “the 1926-S cent’s status as the absolute rarest issue in the series in Gem full Red condition.”

To put the price into perspective, the next most-expensive coin in the collection was the $55,200 that a PCGS MS-67 red 1909-S Lincoln, V.D.B. cent — a legendary issue and one of 15 like-graded coins at PCGS with none finer — realized.  

The cataloger praised the 1926-S cent’s full strike, showing stronger peripheral definition than usually seen, since the issue was struck with heavily worn or eroded dies at the San Francisco Mint, adding, “Both sides glow with satiny coppery-gold luster that yields wisps of lilac and pale rose when tilted in-hand.” 

While not flawless — a few faint specks on the reverse are seen — at this grade level such minor flaws can be expected.

Bidders agreed with Heritage’s conclusion that “the importance of the present coin to the advanced Registry Set competitor is seemingly unequaled.”

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