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Collecting Lincoln Memorial Cents
By Arlyn G. Sieber, The Instant Coin Collector
April 28, 2011

Excerpted from The Instant Coin Collector by Arlyn G. Sieber

Ask a longtime coin collector about the first series he or she collected, and they will probably say Lincoln cents. U.S. one-cent coins have been a staple for new collectors since the Whitman Publishing Co. introduced its venerable “penny board” in the 1930s. This tradition continued as the board evolved into a folder in the 1940s.

The U.S. Mint now produces billions of one-cent coins a year, so there is little to no chance that any one of them popped into a folder today will command a substantial numismatic premium in the future.

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But the basic premise of collecting one-cent coins—the satisfaction of pursuing and ultimately completing a series collection—has not changed since the penny board was introduced in 1934.

The collecting knowledge gained by pursuing one-cent coins can provide the foundation for a positive experience when moving up the collecting value ladder. Any mistakes made at this level are a cheap education that can pay off big in the future.

The Story Behind the Coin

The Lincoln cent was introduced in 1909 to commemorate the centennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. Lincoln thus became the first president to be depicted on circulating U.S. coinage.

Designer Victor David Brenner fashioned the bust of Lincoln on the obverse. His design for the reverse consisted of the words “One Cent” framed by two wheatears. Lincoln cents with this reverse design are commonly referred to as “wheat cents.”

The reverse design was changed in 1959 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth. Designer Frank Gasparro composed a depiction of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., which replaced the wheatears design on the reverse.

Where to Get Them

Sources for a Lincoln Memorial cent collection are as close as one’s pocket. Collectors can check their pocket change for dates and mintmarks that fill empty spots in their collection.

Pocket change is a particularly good source for current-year or recent-year issues. Clean, brightly-colored specimens with little wear can be found and put aside for a collection. When a new year begins, start watching pocket change for coins with the new dates. Even older Lincoln Memorial cents, dating back to the 1960s or even 1959, can be found in pocket change.

To fill a collection more quickly, search a larger quantity of coins, such as change from a small business, if possible. Or, obtain several rolls of one-cent coins from your bank.


Lincoln Memorial cents have either no mintmark, a “D” indicating the coin was struck at the Denver Mint, or, starting in 2001, a “P” for the Philadelphia Mint. Those without mintmarks were struck at either Philadelphia (1959-2000) or West Point (1973-1986).

The San Francisco Mint (“S” mintmark) produced cents for circulation from 1968 through 1974. Starting in 1975, it produced S-mintmark cents for inclusion only in special collector sets (proof and mint sets).

The mintmark appears below the date on the obverse of Lincoln Memorial cents. A magnifying glass helps decipher them.


When comparing Lincoln cents, it is tempting to automatically keep the shiniest example of a particular date and mintmark. Original, bright-bronze color on a cent does indeed indicate a coin that has seen little circulation. But also check for wear on the design’s high points. On a cent, these include Lincoln’s cheekbone and the detail in his hair. A magnifying glass and incandescent lighting aid in examining a coin’s condition.

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On April 30, 2011 john Phipps said
"Lincoln Memorial cents have either no mintmark, a ?D? indicating the coin was struck at the Denver Mint, or, starting in 2001, a ?P? for the Philadelphia Mint."

I think this is wrong or misleading.  My 2001 cents are plain (no "P" mintmark).  Or maybe my folder is full of valuable errors? ;)
On May 1, 2011 Maury McCoy said
For all the extra Lincoln cents you have around after you've filled up that coinbook, try

Great fun for the kids and adults alike.
On May 7, 2011 Albert Andreotti said
The cents from Philadelphia Mint have never had a "P" mint mark.  The nickel, dime, quarter dollar, and half dollar   have the "P" mint mark since 1980. The dollar coins have the "P" mint mark since 1979. The "S" mint mark since 1975 are on proof coins only.  Mint sets have only coins from Philadelphia and Denver mints(circulation coins only).
On April 5, 2015 tammy said
I spent the blizzard going thru old pennies. So many questions. I had quite a few 1968 lincoln memorial cents. Most all had d mint. One of the looks brand new and thicker and has no mint mark???? Any thing to that? Obviously a newby.

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