The centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth was marked by placing his portrait on the cent. For the reverse, sculptor Victor D. Brenner chose a heraldic arrangement of two wheat heads to frame the statutory legends. While the first model featured his name spelled in full, the cent as issued displayed just the three letters “V.D.B.” Even this was provocative to the press and public, and the letters were quickly removed, only to be relocated to a less conspicuous position in 1918.
This long series has undergone several compositional changes: The 1% tin of its original bronze alloy was removed in 1942, 1944-46 and 1962-82. The cents of 1943 were coined on steel planchets plated with zinc, a disastrous failure. From mid-1982 to date all cents have been of brass-plated zinc.
On its golden anniversary, the Lincoln Cent received a new reverse featuring the Lincoln Memorial building. This was prepared by Frank Gasparro, and it was continued through 2008. For the Lincoln bicentennial in 2009 the U. S. Mint issued four commemorative reverses depicting different stages in the great man’s life. Starting 2010, the reverse design has been a Union shield adapted from pattern cents and nickels coined in 1896.
Certainly among the most widely collected series in American numismatics, the Lincoln Cent has been the entry point for several generations of hobbyists. There are a few key dates, 1909-S with and without initials, 1914-D and 1931-S, which are considered rare, especially given the broad interest in the series.
Variety collecting is likewise extremely popular with this coin type, and it is practiced both in conjunction with and exclusive of date/mint collecting. There are literally too many minor varieties for any one book to catalog, but the most desirable are included within VarietyPlus. The big varieties include prominent doubled-die obverses for 1917, 1936, 1955, 1958, 1972 and 1984, as well as many lesser ones. Also popular are repunched mintmarks, of which this series has many.
NGC will attribute the Lincoln Cent varieties listed below. Those included within The Cherrypickers’ Guide to Rare Die Varieties are labeled with Fivaz/Stanton (FS) numbers, while additional varieties employ NGC’s VarietyPlus (VP) numbers. A further selection of varieties may be found within the books listed under References and will be of interest to the specialist.