Lincoln Memorial Cent

I have to admit that I had always vilipended the Lincoln memorial cent as my attention was monopolized by the wheat cents. Once the Memorial design was introduced in 1959, we were firmly in the modern era. With mintages typically in the billions, it seemed as if there would be no more rare coins. As kids, we would always check our change and dismiss any memorial cents as uninteresting.

There are, however, many interesting varieties of Lincoln Memorial cents, and these varieties have played an important role in coin collecting.

1960 small date



1960 small dateThe first scarce variety was the 1960 small date. In 1960, two versions of the date (large and small) were used for both the Philadelphia and Denver minted coins. Late in 1960, it became known that the Philadelphia small date variety was scarce. All 1960 small date cents from Philadelphia were struck during one day’s production. Estimates for the number of 1960 small date cents range from 700,000 to 2,000,000 -- putting it on par with rarities such as 1914 D. As word circulated of this new rare coin, more people began to examine their change. The 1960 small date cent was the catalyst for a renewal of interest in numismatics. It led to an increase in collector purchases of coins by the roll. At the height of small date mania, a roll of 1960’s would typically sell for several hundred dollars. The 1960 small date was also included in a small percentage of proof sets, which caused a doubling in the demand for proof sets over the next years. small datelarge date

small date (above): note that the 1 and 9 are at the same height.

large date (below): note that the 9 is higher than the 1.

The 1960D small date is much more common, but still was worth a premium. In the 1960’s the coin hobby boomed -- and much of the boom was due to the 1960 small date. There are many other interesting varieties of Lincoln memorial cents. A variety from 1984 has a double ear. Double die varieties are known to exist from 1969S, 1970S, 1971S, 1972, 1983, and 1985. Many dates have two varieties with slightly different spacing in the word “America.” These are known as “wide AM” and “close AM” and you will have to go to the wide AM page to learn about them.


Go to the wide AM page to read about a rare variety you might find in change.

The Lincoln Memorial cent spanned 50 years from 1959 to 2008. In 2009, it was replaced with a commemorative series on the life of Lincoln, followed by a union shield design in 2010.