Lincoln Cents Wide AM

Posted by Jay Turner, NGC Grader and Attributor, on 11/14/2007

Jay Turner takes a closer look at the often overlooked 1998, 1999, and 2000 varieties of the Lincoln Cent.

This month’s modern coin may seem like an unlikely choice but the 1998, 1999, and 2000 Lincoln cents offer a variety often overlooked yet important in design and diversity.

The Lincoln Cent is one of the most collected United States coins. This is probably true because inexpensive examples are easily found and Lincoln Cents are, in general, readily available. It is an area of collecting where many beginners find themselves, especially children. However, the Lincoln Cent has its diversity and its varieties that make it a series that can be exciting to a wide range of collectors. After 1959 with the switch to the Memorial Cent, many people started hoarding Wheat Cents. Today, while pre-1959 Wheat Cents can be found on occasion (though infrequently) in rolls and change, they are often kept or hoarded when found. The high mintages of post-1982 cents, most in the billions, have made diversity scarce for collectors searching through change and rolls for their collection. Die varieties and errors are often the coins sought by those who currently search circulation coinage.

Since the widely publicized 1995 Lincoln Cent, the mint has taken dramatic steps in the manufacturing process to hopefully eliminate the creation of varieties and errors. Because of these steps, doubled dies after 1995 are either insignificant or non-existent in United States coinage. Yet people continued to search through coinage in the hope of discovering new varieties and errors that the mint overlooked and they found them on Lincoln Cents, from the Philadelphia mint, dated 1998, 1999, and 2000.

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The varieties found on some 1998, 1999, and 2000 Lincoln Cents feature a different design than that of normal circulation coinage. In 1993, the United States standardized the circulating Lincoln Cents reverse design in which the AM in AMERICA was close, almost touching. The designer initials “FG” were also quite close. For reasons unknown, the mint made a different design standard for the reverse of proof Lincoln Cent coinage in which the AM of AMERICA was further apart. With two separate reverse designs being used at the mint for Lincoln Cents, it was only a matter of time until there was a mistake. This occurred not once but over a three-year period — 1998, 1999, and 2000 — in which the mint made dies from the wrong design for business strike coinage. As a result, two different designs were placed into circulation for Lincoln Cents of those years.

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The coins were first discovered in 2001 starting with the 2000 cent, then the 1998 soon after, and finally the 1999. The 2000 Wide AM variety is the most common of the three years and the 1998 Wide AM is currently considered less common. The 1999 was considered scarce, but due to the number of coins struck with each die, it is likely that it will become more common. All close AM varieties from those years are common. As of today NGC has certified 490 of the Wide AM cents dated 2000, 31 of the 1999, and 161 of the 1998. All three varieties are noted free of charge at NGC.

The coins all carry significant premiums over their face value and are a reminder that even new coinage can be exciting. Very collectible coins can be found in change or while searching through rolls with little cost to collectors, especially children. That is why these simple design differences are this edition’s Modern Coin of the Month.