United States 1949 Lincoln Cent
Image: Stack’s Bowers

With a mintage of 217,775,000 coins, the 1949 Lincoln cent is a relatively common type. Unlike the issuances from the San Francisco and Denver Mints, the Philadelphia Mint’s production that year resulted in mostly well-struck pieces with full details. Perhaps due to Philadelphia’s stringent quality control, or simply their high production quality, there is only one minor variety for the 1949-(P) cent. Called ODV-015, this “full trench around head” type shows a very slightly pronounced border around the President’s forehead.

However, this type is notable for the prevalence of staining frequently called “cob webbing”. Mostly seen on Lincoln cents struck between 1949 and 1952, it is thought that this staining is due to an unknown chemical cleaning treatment applied to the blank planchets prior to coining. Interestingly, and unlike the later milk spots that plague a number of American Silver Eagle types, this carbon staining usually affected an entire roll of cents.

The 1949 Lincoln Cent in Today’s Market

As with many modern US coins, the 1949 Lincoln wheat cent is quite common in collecting circles. While they are admittedly not seen very often in circulation, this date is easily obtainable in all grades up to MS 65. Due to their low value, most examples are not worth getting graded, and consequently, the combined PCGS- and NGC-certified population totals only 4,538 pieces. The vast majority of these coins can be obtained for face value or slightly higher. Some dealers and coin shops will include low-Mint State examples in their dollar bin or loose box for around 20 cents. As such, the vast majority of sale records for these grades (lower than MS) are found on eBay.

Unsurprisingly, of this total population, roughly 93% or 4,220 coins fall between MS 64 and MS 66. Most 64s fall between $5 and $20 USD, and generally the lower prices align with the Red Brown (RB) color designation while the higher ones are Red (RD). However, the prices overlap significantly.

Stepping up one grade, MS 65s are currently selling for between $10 and $30. One gorgeous example was sold on eBay by “edynamicmarketing” for $229.99. This piece, a beautifully toned MS 65 RB, definitely deserved some premium, but perhaps not to this extent.

eBay sale records for 66s show that the market values this penultimate grade at roughly $50 to $150. These eBay prices are also bounded by auction values. In December 2021, Heritage Auctions sold an NGC-graded example for $49 and in June 2022, David Lawrence Rare Coins sold an example for $140.

While MS 66s are consistently worth more than the cost of grading, it is likely that the submitters were hoping to receive an MS 67 or higher. As of now, there are only 131 coins (2.9%) that have received an MS 67 and none finer. Incidentally, all of these coins were designated RD. As a conditional scarcity in MS 67 RD, these coins sell for over 10 times an MS 66. Over the past year, the value of this grade has fluctuated between $862 for an NGC-graded eBay sale and $2,160 for a PCGS-graded and CAC-approved example. While both coins are very similar, the PCGS grade is slightly stronger, and its photography is light-years better.

The current pinnacle grade-wise for this type is MS 67+ RD of which there is only one public sales record. In October 2021, Heritage Auctions sold this handsome coin for $9,000. With a clean sharp strike, unmarred by carbon spotting and basically devoid of wear, the devices on this coin are frosty copper-orange and simply full of luster. It is unsurprising then that this coin hammered for such a strong price.

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 1949 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. ONE CENT is inscribed in large letters, sans serif, the bottom arm of the E extending 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 1949 Lincoln cent is plain, without lettering or reeding.

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, which included the 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 different medals, sculptures, and coins (View Designer’s Profile).

Coin Specifications

Country:  USA
Year Of Issue:  1949
Denomination:  One Cent
Mint Mark:  None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 217,775,000
Alloy:  95% Copper, 5% Tin and Zinc
Weight:  3.11 g
Diameter:  19.00 mm
Edge: Plain
OBV Designer  Victor David Brenner
REV Designer  Victor David Brenner
Quality: Business Strike

 

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4 COMMENTS

    • If you check the article, it states that most circulated examples are quite common with values of at most 20¢. Only high-quality uncirculated specimens have any significant value.

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