This is the Lincoln Wheat Cent that was not meant to be. In 1959 the United States Mint decided to forgo the iconic ‘ears of wheat’ on the reverse side of the Lincoln cent with the image of the Lincoln Memorial. This was done in homage to Abraham Lincoln’s 150th year anniversary of his birth, so Congress used Frank Gasparro to design how the coin was to be changed. There is some question however, as to whether or not this change went off without a hitch. While looking through loose change it might be worthwhile to take another look at those coins from 1959, the reward might be a history maker.
In 1986 the numismatic community was shocked to learn that twenty seven years after the first production of Lincoln Memorial Cents, the U.S. Mint produced a unique and obvious error. The new error penny, with the standard obverse of Lincoln’s bust, was minted on the reverse with the old “Wheat Penny” style. Only one example was brought forward causing suspicion to be cast on the only sample to be found in over a quarter of a century, although tests conducted by the U.S. Secret Service cannot disprove its legitimacy.
How does a collector value such a rare and unique piece? The auction world certainly has had its share of problems, as the one example has been pulled from the action block twice, from two different action houses, before actually being sold for slightly over $31,000 in 2010. And the U.S. Secret Service has studied the coin twice, returning the specimen both times without issuing certification of its credibility. The problem lies with the lack of accreditation given to the coin. Without a reputable, nationally recognized grading as genuine, any strong suggestion to its lack of legitimacy becomes a major obstacle to sale. Even the price when it did sell was hampered by this, as evidenced by the fact that no legitimate issue, with only one or two specimens known in existence like this piece have prices this low. The investment paid into this coin represents not only the value of rare coins and pieces of history, but that the coin remains seen as a genuine article, not counterfeit.
The finding of another specimen would be a wind fall find for a change hunter, and a simple sweep of hoarded wheat pennies may reveal collaborating evidence of this mysterious error coin. If any additional coins are found, the credibility of each could be tested more exhaustively, perhaps resulting in firm verification of this coin from the U.S. Secret Service, or national grading firms. Although the possibility of counterfeit coins cannot be discounted, so always avoid the quick sale of un-appraised coins. Reputable sellers will most always submit to professional assessment, and some collectors feel comfortable buying only those coins rated by national grading companies like PCGS, ANACS or NCG.
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