HomeUS Coins1965 Lincoln Cent : A Collector's Guide

1965 Lincoln Cent : A Collector’s Guide

United States 1965 Lincoln Cent

To collectors of U.S. coins, 1965 was an epoch-making year in the history of the American monetary system. A coinage shortage and the rise of silver bullion prices begot a new clad composition for the dime and quarter, reduced the half dollar’s composition to silver billon, and doomed an effort to reintroduce the silver dollar.

But things were not as cut and dry as that, and the United States Mint’s efforts to dissuade the American public from hoarding coins unfairly blamed collectors and tarnished the coin collecting hobby.

The Mint Establishes a Date Freeze

A nationwide coin shortage began to impact the country in 1959, when the Mint was unable to satisfy seasonal demand for half dollar coins. By 1963, despite the Mint working around-the-clock, demand for coins outpaced production. As a result, banks across the nation rationed coins.

To address the issue, the United States Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1965. The Act effectively removed silver from circulation and authorized Mint Director Eva Adams to initiate a date freeze until such a time when the nation’s coinage needs were met. Under this law, the Mint was authorized to continue to strike silver coins, so long as they were dated 1964, alongside coins struck from the new copper-nickel clad alloy, which were dated 1965. Half dollars dated 1965 were to be struck from a 40% silver-copper alloy.

As a result, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half dollars dated 1964 were struck in unprecedented quantities. 1964-dated nickels, quarters, and half dollars were produced in 1964 and 1965, while 1964 dated dimes were struck through 1966.

The Mint would not lift the date freeze until it determined that the nationwide coin shortage was over. Adams also suspended the use of mint marks. Mint marks had been used since 1838 to denote whether a coin was struck at a branch mint. The discontinuation of mint marks was meant to dissuade collectors from hoarding coins.

Mint Sets and Proof Sets Discontinued, Special Mint Sets Offered Instead

Beyond the date freeze and discontinuation of mintmark usage, the Mint also halted production of Mint Sets and Proof Sets, starting in 1965. The manufacture of Proof Sets was a time consuming affair and demand for them exploded in the early 1960s, as speculators bought sets in bulk in hopes of reaping big profits.

Since 1947, the Mint had offered collectors the opportunity to buy complete sets of each year’s circulating coins. From 1947 to 1958, these sets contained two examples of each coin. From 1959 onward, the set packaging was reconfigured so that collectors could easily see both sides of the coin, thereby allowing the Mint to reduce the sets to one coin per issue. Demand for these sets had grown from 5,000 a year in 1947 to 1,000,000 in 1964.

So as to not completely shut out collectors, the Mint replaced these products with Special Mint Sets. Special Mint Set coins were essentially specimen strikes – not double struck Proofs and not circulation-quality business strikes. Starting in 1966, the San Francisco Assay Office began producing 1965-dated brilliant Prooflike coins for these sets. Special Mint Sets were produced for coins dated 1965 through 1967. In 1968, the mint mark freeze and the suspension of Proof Set and Mint Set production ended.

Collecting any circulating coin from 1965-67 is complicated by the Mint’s decision to discontinue the production of Mint Sets during this period. Mint Sets have been a reliable source for Gem-quality uncirculated coins from 1947 onward. Without this resource, collectors must rely on saved bags or rolls.

How Much Is the 1965 Lincoln Cent Worth?

1965 cents continue to circulate, although typical pieces found in pocket change will likely be found in conditions Very Fine and below. The occasional Extra Fine or About Uncirculated example will occasionally turn up, most likely after an old accumulation of cents is emptied from a large jar of coins and deposited at a bank or at a CoinStar machine.

In numismatic channels, these circulation finds have very limited appeal as it is not at all difficult to acquire an uncirculated 1965 cent as large numbers of coins were saved in rolls and bags over the years. Notionally, an uncirculated 1965 cent will cost about $1 to $1.50.

Beware of Special Mint Set coins masquerading as lowly business strikes. Professional dealers know the difference, but the person listing the coin online or selling at your local store may not be able to tell the difference.

PCGS CoinFacts posts a price guide value of $8,000 for the sole MS-68 cent. This appears to be a speculative price as there is no auction data to support it. Given the approximately graded population of seven MS-67+ cents in the PCGS population report, we believe that the $8,000 price for the 1965 Lincoln cent in MS-68RD is high.

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Market Data and Noteworthy Specimens

Top Population: PCGS MS-68RD (1, 2/2024). NGC MS-68RD (1, 2/2024). CAC MS-RB Details (0:1 stickered:graded, 2/2024).

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Design

Obverse:

The obverse of the 1965 Lincoln cent was designed by Victor David Brenner and appears largely as it did when the type was first minted in 1909. The main difference between the 1965 obverse and the 1909 version is the location of Brenners’ initials V.D.B., which were added under President Abraham Lincoln’s bust in 1918 after their removal from the reverse in late 1909. The date 1965 appears to the right of Lincoln (viewer’s right), and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST appears above the president. On the left of the central motif is the word LIBERTY.

Reverse:

Future Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro designed the 1959 Lincoln Memorial reverse as found on the 1965 cent that replaced the original 1909 Brenner wheat stalk design (the Wheat cent). Gasparro’s initials FG appear on the lower-right side of the Lincoln Memorial. Below the edifice and along the rim is the denomination ONE CENT, while the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA runs along the top half of the reverse along the rim. Between the top of the Lincoln Memorial and UNITED STATES OF AMERICA inscription is the motto E PLURIBUS UNUM.

Edge:

The edge of the 1965 Lincoln cent is plain or smooth, without reeding or lettering.

Designers

Lithuanian-born coin designer Victor David Brenner is best known for his iconic design for the Lincoln cent (1909-Present) (View Designer’s Profile). Frank Gasparro was an American medalist and coin designer (View Designer’s Profile).

Coin Specifications

Country: United States of America
Year Of Issue: 1965
Denomination: One Cent (USD)
Mint Mark: None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 1,497,224,900
Alloy: .950 copper, 0.50 tin and zinc
Weight: 3.11 g
Diameter: 19.00 mm
Edge: Plain
OBV Designer Victor David Brenner
REV Designer Frank Gasparro
Quality: Business Strike

 

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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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