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HomeUS Coins1950 Proof Lincoln Cent : A Collector's Guide

1950 Proof Lincoln Cent : A Collector’s Guide

1950 Proof Lincoln Cent. Image: NGC.
1950 Proof Lincoln Cent. Image: NGC.

By Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker for CoinWeek Notes …..
 

The United States Mint revived its dormant Proof program in 1936 and experienced steady growth in sales from 3,837 in its relaunch year to 21,120 in 1942. World War II forced the Mint to put the program on hiatus again, and from 1943 to 1949, no Proof Sets were issued.

In 1950, the Proof Set returned, but unlike the 1942 set, no coin bearing the likeness of Liberty was represented on America’s coinage. The 1950 set was the first Proof Set to feature only designs bearing the likenesses of past presidents or Founding Fathers. The designs included the Lincoln Wheat Cent, the Jefferson Nickel, the Roosevelt Dime, the Washington Quarter, and the Franklin Half Dollar. The dime, quarter, and half dollar were struck in .900 fine silver.

While it’s true that the Franklin Half Dollar is the star of the 1950 Proof Set, the other denominations are important nevertheless, and the Lincoln Wheat Cent–the most popularly collected United States coin–as presented in the 1950 Proof Set is an important issue for collectors of the Proof strikings.

As struck, the 1950 Proof Lincoln Cent is one of the best made coins–if not the best –in the 1950 Proof Set. The problem, however, is not the strike quality of the coin but the storage medium. As the cellophane holders aged, they became brittle and broke down. This chemical reaction, plus exposure to the environment, caused many of the coins to stain and mellow. Some examples exhibit a degree of satin finish. The Mint did not intend to create two types of Proof cents, but the overuse of dies between polishings made Proof impressions that did not have the mirror-like brilliance of earlier strikes. In our opinion, the satiny Proofs are less desirable than the fully brilliant ones, and all are less desirable than examples with thick cameo contrast.

As of April 20, 2024, NGC has certified 2,382 1950 Proof Lincoln Cents. From that number, 1,979 coins are in Proof Red, 25.2% have been assigned the Cameo designation, and only 4.5% are in Ultra Cameo.

Through the same period, PCGS has certified 2,583 1950 Proof Lincoln Cents. 2,344 are in Proof Red, 17.1% have been assigned the Cameo designation, and only 2.52% are in Deep Cameo. NGC and PCGS use slightly different nomenclature to express the same concept.

CACG, a new grading service, has only graded five 1950 Proof Lincoln Cents.

The combined certified population of 1950 Proof Lincoln Cents from all three services amounts to slightly less than 10% of the original mintage. We estimate that a large portion of the ungraded examples fall below the coin’s terminal point, given present values and grading costs.

How Much Is the 1950 Proof Lincoln Cent Worth?

The value of the 1950 Proof Lincoln Cent depends entirely on its grade. At a minimum, one can expect to pay between $40 and $60 USD for a Choice (PR63) example in Red. Choice coins will exhibit some blemishes from improper storage or handling. Some can be attractive if these issues are not too prominent.

CoinWeek strongly advises collectors to purchase only certified coins as non-professional sellers often cannot distinguish between Proof coins and circulation strikes.

1950 Proof Lincoln Cents without Cameo are affordable in grades up to Proof 67. An attractive example graded by NGC realized $152 in an eBay auction that closed on April 7, 2024. Some Brown coins are worth a look, as oftentimes, rainbow-toned copper coins are designated as Brown when they are, in fact, vibrant and colorful. An example graded PCGS PR64BN with PQ color sold for a reasonable $200.06 on March 27, 2024.

Raw 1950 Proof Sets are still available, but most of these have been picked through, and the likelihood of acquiring original, unopened sets, without paying a premium price is extremely low.

CoinWeek advises collectors against buying such sets unless there is a fair return policy, or if the seller is a known dealer with a good reputation within the industry.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Proof Lincoln Cents made since the 1990s are not difficult to find in Proof 70, although that grade is no certitude as the Lincoln Cent is the most difficult coin denomination to find in “perfect” condition.

For the 1950 Proof Lincoln Cent, age, the methods of manufacture, mint and collector handling, and storage media all played a role in the degradation of the coin. 1950 Proof Lincoln Cents can be found in Brown, Red Brown, and Red. Most of the certified examples are in Red.

Coins designated as Red will not often have the original brightness that the coin exhibited in 1950. Fully Red coins may also have copper spotting, isolated patches of purple or reddish toning, or an overall cognac hue.

Coins that are brighter, redder, and free of distracting blemishes will sell for significantly more money at auction.

Top Population: PCGS PR67+DCAM (1, 4/2024), NGC PF68UCAM (2, 4/2024), and CAC PF66RD (0:0 stickered:graded, 4/2024).

  • NGC PF68RD UCAM #6100383-001: GreatCollections, March 19, 2023, Lot 832964 – View.
  • NGC PF68RD UCAM #3735218-003: As PCGS PR67RD DCAM #25668062. Heritage Auctions, October 29, 2015, Lot 3072 – $8,812.50. As NGC PF68UCAM #3735218-003. Heritage Auctions, August 2, 2017, Lot 3904 – $19,975. Crossed over and upgraded by one point. There is a thin diagonal hit on the beard and a cluster of tiny specks to the right of Lincoln’s forehead. On the reverse, there is a small copper spot to the immediate right of the. left wheat stalk.
  • PCGS PR67+RD DCAM #380019390: Heritage Auctions, January 8, 2020, Lot 3265 – $13,800. There is a planchet void in the left field at 8 o’clock. The obverse field has many small spots. There are three tiny ticks on Lincoln’s cheekbone—top pop when offered.
  • PCGS PR67RD DCAM #35137831: Heritage Auctions, April 23, 2020, Lot 3169 – $4,200. Lintmark touching the back of Lincoln’s head. Red is mellowing to a cognac color in areas—small circular stains to the back of Lincoln’s head.
  • PCGS PR67RD DCAM #81349953: Heritage Auctions, September 8, 2016, Lot 5390 – $8,225; Heritage Auctions, January 4, 2017, Lot 3377 – $5,170. Scattered chuffiness on the shoulder. Thin diagonal scratch on cheekbone. Two diagonal marks on O of ONE. Circular discoloration marks touching U of UNITED and above.
  • NGC PF67RD UCAM #3644037-001: Heritage Auctions, September 8, 2016, Lot 5389 – $3,995.
  • NGC PF67RD UCAM #2235303-001: Heritage Auctions, April 28, 2016, Lot 3895 – $5,875. There are scattered spots on the obverse. There is a tick below the center bar of E of CENT. There is a copper spot to the left of the upper right wheat.
  • PCGS PR67RD DCAM #25630847: Heritage Auctions, March 4, 2016, Lot 4748 – $9,400.
  • PCGS PR67RD DCAM #25207623: Heritage Auctions, April 23, 2015, Lot 4937 – $18,212.50. There is a curved lintmark at 3:30 near the rim. There is a cluster of marks on Lincoln’s shoulder. Die lines and a “>” impression to the right of the C of CENT.
  • NGC PF67RD UCAM #1783369-001: Heritage Auctions, Janaury 8, 2014, Lot 3625 – $5,140.63.

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Design

Obverse:

Designer Victor David Brenner’s portrait of the beloved former president Abraham Lincoln depicts the president from the shoulder up. Lincoln is dressed in a period suit and is wearing a bow tie. Brenner’s initials V.D.B. appear in Lincoln’s shoulder truncation. At the top of the design, wrapping around the rim is the motto IN GOD WE TRUST. LIBERTY appears behind Lincoln’s neck, on the left side of the coin. The date 1929 appears slightly lower, in front of Lincoln’s portrait, on the coin’s right side. While Lincoln cent mint marks appear below the date, there is no mark here since this coin was struck in Philadelphia.

Reverse:

Brenner’s “Wheat Cent” reverse. Two sheaths of wheat wrap around the right and the left side of the coin. At the top of the design, the motto E · PLURIBUS · UNUM wraps around the rim. The denomination ONE CENT is inscribed in large letters, sans serif, the bottom arm of the E extends beyond the arm at the top. The middle arm is recessed. Beneath, in the same font but in smaller type, is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Edge:

The edge of the 1929 Lincoln cent is smooth or plain, without reeding or edge lettering.

Designer

Victor David Brenner, born in Lithuania in 1871, immigrated to New York at the age of 19. The classically trained sculptor built a group of clients, including future president Theodore Roosevelt. Having previously created a medallion of Lincoln, Brenner was contracted by Roosevelt in 1908 to use one of his previous images of the 16th president for a new design of the cent. At the time of his death, Brenner had carved over 125 medals, sculptures, and coins (View Designer’s Profile).

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1950
Denomination: One Cent (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 51,386
Alloy: 95% Copper, 5% Zinc
Weight: 3.11 g
Diameter: 19.00 mm
Edge: Plain
OBV Designer: Victor David Brenner
REV Designer: Victor David Brenner
Quality: Proof

 

CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes
CoinWeek Notes presents expert analysis and insights from Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker, the award-winning editors of CoinWeek.com.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I have so many wheat Penny’s an I like to find out if the worth I have a 1948 wheat penny the L is in the rim 1948 half the 9 gone an the eights in the rim an on the back America is spell aloks like an r the RMERISA the stetes

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