Despite the Bicentennial Coin Program that resulted in the redesigning of half the United States circulating denominations, the Lincoln cent remained unchanged.
While the Philadelphia Mint reported an official mintage of 4,674,292,426 Lincoln cents for 1976, this is slightly deceiving. In fact, as stated in the Annual Report of the Director of the Mint for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1976, the West Point Depository contributed 355,955,870 cents to the Philadelphian issuance – 7.62% of the total mintage. However, there are no distinguishing features between coins struck at the Philadelphia Mint and those struck at the West Point Depository, and in published mintages coins of both facilities are simply reported as Philadelphia.
All of these coins are generally well-struck and display sharp, well-defined details. This is due to a series of technological advances adopted by the Philadelphia facility in the early 1970s. Of particular interest are the automatic gage controls installed on the finishing mill, the upgraded heavy machinery for moving material around the facility, and, most importantly, the five new blanking presses, all of which had improved carbide blanking dies. These improvements not only enhanced the strike quality but also increased the facility’s minting capabilities and reduced production costs.
One of the most interesting things coming from the United States Mint in 1976 was the report by the Research Triangle Institute (RTI). In 1975, the Mint contracted with RTI to conduct a wide-ranging investigation on the upcoming coinage requirements of the US, with the aim of proposing changes in the planning, production, and distribution of coinage. Submitted in September 1976, the report mainly discussed one-cent, half-dollar, and dollar coins. Most interestingly, RTI suggested eliminating the Lincoln cent by 1980. This was officially one of the earliest calls for removing the cent from circulation.
To support this claim, the report cited the dramatically increasing demand for the cent in combination with its diminishing economic utility. This is important since the cost of production did not surpass the value of the cent–a frequent justification for the elimination of the denomination–until 2006, when the Mint reported that it cost 1.2 cents to strike each coin. RTI suggested this to not only reduce the Mint’s current production costs but also to reduce future costs from ever-increasing production numbers. It is perhaps illuminating that by 1990, RTI claimed, it would make economic sense for private companies to buy one-cent coins from the government at face value in order to melt them for industrial use.
The 1976 Lincoln Cent in Today’s Market
Not surprisingly, the official populations of PCGS and NGC for this coin are quite small, with PCGS reporting 1,053 pieces and NCG reporting only 352 pieces. This is due to the extreme commonness and generally low price of the coins. Except in the very highest grades, it costs more to submit the coin for grading than the coin is actually worth. This line is generally around MS 68 for Brown (BN) or MS 67 for Red (RD) and Red Brown (RB) pieces.
Pieces with a Brown color designation are worth face value up to low Mint State (MS 61 and 62). In MS 63 and 64, you will be lucky to receive $0.50 to $1 when selling. According to recent eBay sales, in MS 65 and 66 BR, pieces can fetch between $20 and $25. However, in 2021, an MS 70 BN sold for only $14.
Similar to Brown examples, Red Brown coins are only worth between face value and $1 up to the mid-Mint State. In higher grades, coins with the RB designation can sell for $40. There was, however, an eBay sale in 2020 of an MS 67 for $123. Cherry red examples are definitely the most valuable for this type; MS 65 RDs range from $6 to $20 and MS 66 RDs are worth up to $25. A 2022 eBay sale of an MS 66 RD did hit $71.
While MS 67 RDs can be obtained easily for $80 to $100, the price starts to jump for MS 68 RDs. In these top grades, examples can sell for upwards of $700. The auction record for this type, set in a Heritage Auctions January 2014 sale, an MS 68 RD garnered an astronomical $7,931.25.
The obverse of the 1976 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 1976 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 1976 appears to the right of Lincoln and the motto IN GOD WE TRUST appears above the president. On the left of the 16th president is the word LIBERTY.
Future Chief Engraver Frank Gasparro designed the 1959 Lincoln Memorial reverse 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 are the words ONE CENT, while the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA run 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.
The edge of the 1976 Lincoln cent is smooth or plain, without reeding, as are all other Lincoln cents.
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 a friend to numismatists and served as Chief Engraver of the United States Mint from 1965 to 1981 (View Designer’s Profile).
|Year Of Issue:||1976|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|Alloy:||95% Copper, 5% Zinc|
|OBV Designer||Victor David Brenner|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
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