United States 1967 Lincoln Cent

1967 marked the beginning of a return to normalcy for the United States Mint. The Coinage Act of 1965 radically recalibrated American coinage, dropping the 90% silver standard in favor of base metal dimes and quarters and a 40% silver-clad alloy for halves. As legislators and bureaucrats sought to remedy the ongoing national coin shortage, a major moment had arrived for the coin collecting hobby. Having grown to the peak of its popularity by 1965, collectors benefited from the possibility of obtaining 19th and early 20th-century coinage from banks and in circulation. Mintages and the difference between mintmarked issues were widely understood by the majority of collectors and rolls and bags of Mint State coins were often taken out of circulation to feed the future collecting market.

The roll and bag promoters based the potential future performance of modern coins on the scarcity of earlier dates. On one hand, it is important for the sustainability of a numismatic market for choice collector grade material to be collected and distributed and for some material to be held back for future demand. On the other, the Mint saw this practice as an explanation for why it could not feed the nation’s coin needs despite record-smashing mintages.

The Treasury didn’t fully grasp the role vending machines were playing in the problem and collectors got blamed. From 1965 to ’67, the Mint went to extraordinary lengths to replenish the coin supply. It stopped using mintmarks to denote which coins were struck at which branch mint. It implemented a date freeze, allowing it to strike 1964 silver coins past 1964 (which it did through 1966) and letting it strike clad coins dated 1965 beyond that date.

As a result of this, the bag and roll market collapsed and the popularity of the numismatic hobby suffered a significant blow.

1967 was the first year since 1965 that all coins bearing that date were actually struck in the correct calendar year. The coin was struck without a mintmark at three locations: 907,575,000 coins were struck at the Philadelphia Mint; 1,327,377,100 coins were struck at the Denver Mint; and 813,715,000 coins were struck at the San Francisco Assay Office.

The 50-year-old obverse hub used to strike 1967 cents imparted a dulled impression of Victor David Brenner’s Lincoln design on that year’s dies, with most of the fine hair, beard, and clothing features lost. Only 1968 cents look worse. In 1969, the Mint would employ new hubs and the Lincoln cent would return to its intended sculptural beauty.

Collecting 1967 Cents

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: in no way should 1967 Lincoln cents be considered rare coins.

To start, let the issue’s three billion coin mintage sink in. To this point in history, only the 1964-D cent, struck at the height of the national coin shortage, had a higher mintage. The cent would go on to routinely passes the three billion mark in the years that followed, but mintages of three, two, or even one billion were unheard of when the design debuted in 1909.

Most of the cents struck for this issue circulated in the channels of commerce. These circulated examples, whether still somewhat red and retaining most of the design’s imparted detail or not, are worth between face value (one cent) and whatever the prevailing premium is for copper (pre-’82) cents. Having said that, we’re sure that we are going to receive numerous comments from people who have pulled circulated 1967 cents out of change and hope to sell it for a tidy profit. For these folks, we hate to break it to you – it ain’t happening.

But for those looking at this date as a potential Mint State sleeper, this next bit of analysis may prove worthwhile.

Rolls of Brilliant Uncirculated Red cents remain readily available and can be purchased on an almost daily basis on eBay, often selling for $10 or less. Depending on your location, your local coin shop may have a few rolls kicking around, or if not, then maybe a few examples in 2″ x 2″ flips. A reasonable price to pay for a problem-free single is between 50¢ and a dollar. Trust us, your dealer isn’t getting rich off the back of your purchase of a 1967 cent.

While singles in 2″ x 2″ flips may satisfy your collecting needs, fresh rolls or bags have the best potential of yielding Superb Gem coins. By Superb Gem, we mean coins that would grade MS67RD.

Most collectors do not have the space or desire to sit on rolls of uncirculated coins, so for those looking for a single example, a fair price to pay for an attractive red and uncertified coin is about a dollar per coin. When you think about it, this is actually an incredible numismatic premium for a coin that remains plentiful and is still found in circulation.

A tale of two cents: A 1967 Business strike cent to the left and a 1967 Special Mint Set strike to the right. Notice the difference in luster, strike, and the presence of light “frost” on the Special Mint Set coin. In hand the Special Mint Set coin will have a lightly mirrored field.

What explains this? The majority of the premium is likely owed to the fact that the United States Mint struck 1967 cents in two formats: three billion for circulation and 1,863,344 that were issued in Special Mint Sets. The Special Mint Set coins are quasi-Proofs. The coins were struck on polished dies, are typically brilliant, and do not resemble business strike coins. The Mint did not offer collectors sets of business strike coins, which means that there are tens of thousands of high-quality mint set coins in collector sets waiting to be purloined. This means that only coins saved as singles, or in bags and rolls, have been put aside for this date. Over the past 50 years, a considerable percentage of these coins have been stored sub-optimally, leading to the deterioration of surfaces and the muting of the coins’ original red color.

At the time of publication, NGC and PCGS report only 1,504 grading events for 1967 Lincoln Cents in Mint State Red.

NGC and PCGS Certified populations of 1967 Lincoln Cents as of January 25, 2022
NGC and PCGS Certified populations of 1967 Lincoln Cents as of January 25, 2022.

When we look at the grade distribution we should consider a few things.

First, due to the cost of a submission, it would be irrational on the part of submitters to encapsulate a coin without first screening it for quality. A 1967 cent being in Mint State Red is insufficient to justify the expense of paying NGC or PCGS to encapsulate the coin. A rational collector or dealer action would be to encapsulate a coin only if the coin can sell for a higher price encapsulated than raw after the expenses of certification have been taken out. We call the lowest grade a coin can earn and still sell for a profit its Terminal Point. And what is the Terminal Point for a 1967 cent? In the current market, given demand, the lowest profitable grade in MS66RD.

At NGC, 69% of the coins submitted hit that number, while at PCGS, 69% of the coins submitted miss that number. Interesting!

A second thing to consider is that the 1967 cent tops out at both services at the grade MS67RD and that this grade accounts for just 3% of all coins graded. Recent prices realized for MS67RD 1967 cents run the gamut from $150 to $600 dollars. For copper coins, we’d caution you to consider the vibrancy of the color and the sharpness of the strike before settling on the value you perceive the coin to have. It is completely logical for two coins within the same top population to both be correctly priced at $150 and $600. It is also possible that a low-key coin like a 1967 cent could slip under the radar at an auction if it is not properly marketed. Even the recent $600 price is a far cry from the $4,945 realized at a November 2008 Bowers & Merena auction. The population of the coin was significant when this coin was sold and yes, over time, much of that speculative equity has been lost.

How stable is the 1967 cent at MS67RD and is this a coin upon which one should keep an eye? The coin market, especially the modern one behaves in irrational ways and it is hard to predict future pricing levels. And in hot markets, it’s hard to explain current pricing levels. But consider the popularity of coins struck from the 1960s to the ’80s. It appears that a strong collector base is forming for this period and future markets will have to account for the strength of that interest.

To date, the focus on encapsulation for 1967 cents has mostly focused on Special Mint Set coins because they come nice. For that issue, MS67RD is the norm and not the 3% exception. The population of this issue will rise as interest solidifies for the date, if the grade distribution holds, current levels will seem very reasonable, even if another 30-50 coins are added to the census. An MS67+RD or finer cent, should one appear, would bring spirited bidding at auction.

Known Varieties of 1967 Cents

There are no known varieties of 1967 Lincoln cents struck for circulation. Minor doubled dies have been reported for Special Mint Set coins. Given the issue’s release at three mints, it would be interesting if there were some coins held back in original bags or rolls that denote the actual source of the issue. There would be great collector enthusiasm for encapsulated coins that could be accurately verified as San Francisco or Denver issues. To date, the existence of such bags and rolls is unknown.

Design

Obverse:

The obverse of the 1967 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 1967 obverse and the 1909 version is the location of Brenner’s 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 year 1967 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. The D mint mark is located below the date.

Reverse:

Frank Gasparro designed the 1959 Lincoln Memorial reverse that replaced the original 1909 Brenner wheat stalk design. 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.

Edge:

The edge of the 1967 Lincoln cent is plain or smooth, without reeding or lettering.

1967 Lincoln Cent 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:  USA
Year Of Issue:  1967
Denomination:  One Cent
Mint Mark:  None (Struck at Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco)
Mintage:  3,048,667,100
Alloy:  95% copper, %5 tin and zinc
Weight:  3.11 g
Diameter:  19.05 mm
Edge:  Plain
OBV Designer  Victor David Brenner
REV Designer  Frank Gasparro
Quality:  Business Strike

 

7 COMMENTS

    • As the article notes, over 3 _billion_ 1967 cents were minted. Except for high-end uncirculated and SMS specimens they have no premium value.

      From the section titled “Collecting 1967 Cents”:

      “In no way should 1967 Lincoln cents be considered rare coins. .. circulated examples … are worth between face value (one cent) and whatever the prevailing premium is for copper (pre-’82) cents. … People who have pulled circulated 1967 cents out of change and hope to sell [them] for a tidy profit … we hate to break it to you – it ain’t happening.”

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