Why were 10,000,000 Lincoln Cents Distributed in Boxes of Cheerios?
As part of an innovative major PR campaign, in 2000, the United States Mint teamed up with processed food manufacturer General Mills. In addition to the millions of dollars spent on TV ads and other activities, the Mint delivered 10 million Lincoln cents and 5,500 of the new Sacagawea golden dollar coins to the company, which were then inserted into boxes of Cheerios cereal.
Each specially-marked box contained one Lincoln cent, which was advertised as being one of the “First Pennies of the New Millennium.” Every 2,000th box included a cent and one of the new Sacagawea dollars, while every 4,400th box had a certificate redeemable for $100 to be paid out in Sacagawea dollars. Given the inclusion of the rare “Cheerios Dollar” variety, the luckier cereal buyer was the one who received the single dollar coin.
Each of the newly labeled “Cheerios” cents was encapsulated in a plastic blister pack mounted on a black cardboard card. The card was decorated with images of the date, Sacagawea dollars, and Lincoln cents. Interestingly, while all of the cents issued for this campaign were struck by the Philadelphia Mint, the illustrations on the card are all of “S” coins struck at San Francisco.
While NGC uses the designation “Cheerios Promotion” for the Lincoln cent, and PCGS labels them as a Minor Variety, most of the coins are nothing more than ordinary 2000-dated Philadelphia cents. In fact, the only way to differentiate them is the promotional packaging. Therefore, while the third-party grading companies do have a special designation “Cheerios” cents and dollars, the coins must be submitted sealed inside the original packaging to qualify.
The current value of a 2000 Cheerios Cent in original packaging is about $10 USD.
Some 2000 Cheerios Cents Are More Valuable
Not all 2000 Cheerios cents are common.
According to writer Richard Giedroyc, around one million or 10% of the “Cheerios” cents can be identified as Wide AM Reverse varieties, with the letters “AM” in “AMERICA” placed farther apart than the standard type. This means that these coins were struck using a Proof reverse die. However, in order to identify this variety, the coin would need to be removed from the original packaging and would therefore not be eligible to receive the “Cheerios Promotion” designation.
2000 Lincoln cents with the Wide AM Reverse often sell for $30 or more.
2000 “Cheerios” Cents in Top Grades Are Worth Thousands of Dollars
Coins are graded on a 70-point scale, with Uncirculated coins grading between 60 and 70. Most coins that are freshly struck for circulation are not perfect to begin with, and the process of ejecting the coin from the press and feeding it into a large bag of other cents puts it in constant contact with other coins. This will inevitably impart scratches and other imperfections onto a coin’s surface, limiting its potential grade.
Nevertheless, when the conditions are right, a few coins will make it into circulation with minimal issues. These coins are called Superb Gem by collectors, and grade MS67 or finer. The finest grade certified for a 2000 Cheerios Cent is MS68RD. In this condition, cents can bring in as much as $3,500 to $3,725. In fact, Stack’s Bowers sold one example described as “virtually pristine” with smooth fields and sharp details in May 2019 for $3,600.
The obverse of the 2000 Lincoln cent was originally designed by sculptor Victor David Brenner, whose miniscule initials VDB appear under the shoulder of Abraham Lincoln’s bust. The right-facing profile of Lincoln shows the 16th president during his time as the nation’s commander in chief at the height of the American Civil War, which spanned from 1861 through 1865, the latter being when President Lincoln was assassinated.
To the right of Lincoln is the date 2000. Since the coin was struck at the Philadelphia Mint, there is no mintmark. Behind Lincoln’s head is the inscription LIBERTY. Centered along the upper rim of the coin, in an arc over Lincoln’s head, is the motto IN GOD WE TRUST.
The reverse of the 2000 Lincoln Memorial cent is anchored by an elevation view of the iconic Washington, D.C. memorial dedicated to the late president. The relatively high detail of the Lincoln Memorial design is sharp enough to reveal a tiny visage of Lincoln sitting in his chair, replicating the 19-foot-tall statue visitors will encounter inside the actual monument, which was dedicated in 1922.
Below the image of the Lincoln Memorial is the coin’s denomination, ONE CENT, and along the top center of the rim is the legend UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. The phrase E PLURIBUS UNUM is inscribed in two lines under the legend and above the Lincoln Memorial design. Designer Frank Gasparro’s initials FG are seen at the bottom right of the Lincoln Memorial just above a shrub.
The edge of the 2000 “Cheerios” Lincoln Cent is smooth or plain and 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 an American medalist and coin designer, as well as the 10th Chief Engraver of the United States Mint from 1965 to 1981 (View Designer’s Profile).
|Year Of Issue:||2000|
|Mint Mark:||None (Philadelphia)|
|Mintage:||10,000,000 (out of the standard 2000 issuance of 5,503,200,000)|
|Alloy:||95% copper, %5 tin and zinc|
|OBV Designer||Victor David Brenner|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
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