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The 1922 Lincoln Cent and Its Varieties

By Jeff Garrett for Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC) ……
 

Jeff Garrett, Courtesy Numismatic Guaranty Company (NGC)Before 1922, the United States Mint struck huge numbers of Lincoln Cents each year. Production peaked in 1919, when the Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco mints struck just under 589 million coins. However, the mintage plunged in 1922, when only the Denver Mint created 7.16 million coins.

The end of World War I sparked a painful nationwide recession that crushed demand for additional cents. In the August 1922 issue of The Numismatist, Mint Director F.E. Scobey stated:

There have been approximately $46 million worth of pennies coined since the Mint began in 1792. So, what’s the use of making more, when about the only nothings you can buy with a penny nowadays are lollypops?

Today, the cent buys far less, and the U.S. Mint still make billions of coins each year.

When Lincoln Cent production was stunted in 1922, the year created some of the most fascinating yet complicated issues of the series. Although much has been written about the different cents of 1922, the popularity and complexity of the issues deserves a brief examination. Collectors are sometimes confused about which pieces they need for their collection.

The following are some of the different variations of 1922 Lincoln Cents to consider.

1922-D Lincoln Cents

1922-D Lincoln Cent. Image: NGC.
1922-D Lincoln Cent. Image: NGC.

As would be expected due to its relatively low mintage, the 1922-D Lincoln Cent is scarce in all grades. Average circulated examples can be purchased for about $50 USD each. Higher-grade coins are somewhat available, especially if you’re satisfied with a coin that is brown or reddish brown in color. The finest graded have been two MS66 RD examples, neither of which have sold at public auction. Just 26 have been graded by NGC as MS65 RD, with the auction record being $2,790 for a coin sold in 2022. Most coins designated as 1922-D Lincoln Cents are well struck.

This brings into play the other interesting but complicated varieties of 1922 Lincoln Cents. Starting around 1928, letters in The Numismatist started to mention the observation of 1922 Lincoln Cents with missing or mushy ‘D’ mintmarks. Collectors could not agree on what they were seeing. During the 1950s, Whitman Publishing created demand for the 1922 Plain Cent when they added a hole in their albums for the coin. It was not until years later that researchers defined what different coins were created in 1922 at the Denver Mint. Modern research has defined the following varieties as collectible 1922 No D or Weak D Lincoln Cents.

1922 Weak D Lincoln Cents

1922 Lincoln Cent Weak D. Image: NGC.
1922 Lincoln Cent Weak D. Image: NGC.

The basic explanation for the No D or Weak D cents of 1922 is that die clashing created the need to abrasively polish the obverse die and this removed or obscured the ‘D’ mintmark. The coins designated as 1922 Weak D bring a relatively small premium. The NGC MS64 RB coin illustrated above sold for $660 in May 2023. As can be seen from the picture, the ‘D’ is barely visible.

1922 No D Weak Reverse

1922 Lincoln Cent No D with Weak Reverse. Image: NGC.
1922 Lincoln Cent No D with Weak Reverse. Image: NGC.

This die pairing was created from a very worn reverse die. The wheat ear lines are barely discernable. Although this variety has no trace of the ‘D’ mintmark, the weak reverse makes the coin less desirable for collectors. The MS63 RB example pictured above sold for $3,600 in June 2022. Fully red color examples are nearly nonexistent. NGC has only certified one example as such. Extremely Fine examples can be purchased for about $650. The 1922 No D Weak Reverse is the more affordable alternative for budget-minded collectors.

1922 No D Strong Reverse

1922 Lincoln Cent No D with Strong Reverse. Image: NGC.
1922 Lincoln Cent No D with Strong Reverse. Image: NGC.

This die pairing is by far the most desirable and the one collectors consider as the “true” 1922 Plain Cent. The ‘D’ mintmark is completely missing, and the reverse is well struck. The 1922 No D Strong Reverse sells for around $750 in Very Fine condition, but even in low grade, problem-free coins are not easy to locate. The 1922 No D Strong Reverse is increasingly rare in high grade and Mint State coins are seldom seen or available.

The MS64 RB example pictured above sold for $37,375 in June 2010. This variety is virtually unknown with full red color remaining — none have been certified by NGC. Amazingly, a Mint State 1922-D Lincoln Cent can be purchased for about $125. The same coin without the ‘D’ mintmark sells for nearly $10,000. Knowing exactly the different varieties available for the issue is imperative.

Words of Caution

Beware of cleverly crafted counterfeit examples of 1922 Lincoln Cents. Removing the ‘D’ mintmark is simple work for skilled counterfeiters. Buying certified examples, regardless of grade, is highly recommended.

Sadly, collectors should also be careful of well-made Chinese fakes of this issue. Be careful when buying this or any Lincoln Cent that has been certified as “Red Brown” or “Red”. Color on Lincoln Cents can sometimes fade over time and is NOT guaranteed long-term by any grading service.

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Rare Coin Gallery

 

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Jeff Garrett
Jeff Garretthttps://rarecoingallery.com/
Jeff Garrett, founder of Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, is considered one of the nation’s top experts in U.S. coinage — and knowledge lies at the foundation of Jeff’s numismatic career. With more than 35 years of experience, he is one of the top experts in numismatics. The “experts’ expert,” Jeff has personally bought and sold nearly every U.S. coin ever issued. Not a day goes by that someone doesn’t call on Jeff Garrett for numismatic advice. This includes many of the nation’s largest coin dealers, publishers, museums, and institutions. In addition to owning and operating Mid-American Rare Coin Galleries, Jeff Garrett is a major shareholder in Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries. His combined annual sales in rare coins and precious metals — between Mid-American in Kentucky and Sarasota Rare Coin Galleries in Florida — total more than $25 million. Jeff Garrett has authored many of today’s most popular numismatic books, including Encyclopedia of U.S. Gold Coins 1795–1933: Circulating, Proof, Commemorative, and Pattern Issues; 100 Greatest U.S. Coins; and United States Coinage: A Study By Type. He is also the price editor for The Official Redbook: A Guide Book of United States Coins. Jeff was also one of the original coin graders for the Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS). He is today considered one of the country’s best coin graders and was the winner of the 2005 PCGS World Series of Grading. Today, he serves as a consultant to Numismatic Guaranty Corporation (NGC), the world’s largest coin grading company. Jeff plays an important role at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Numismatic Department and serves as a consultant to the museum on funding, exhibits, conservation, and research. Thanks to the efforts of Jeff and many others, rare U.S. coins are once again on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History. Jeff has been a member of the Professional Numismatic Guild (PNG) since 1982 and has recently served as president of the organization. He has also served as the ANA President and as a member of the ANA Board of Governors.

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