1976 was an important year in American Numismatics. The Bicentennial quarter, half dollar and dollar had been released, featuring Jack Ahr’s drummer, Seth Huntington’s view of Independence Hall and Dennis William’s Liberty Bell, respectively. In addition, the United States Mint produced multiple commemorative medals to mark the nation’s 200th Birthday. Not to be outdone, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) reintroduced the $2 bill featuring a new reverse, which depicted the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
As the Mint entered the 1970s, mintages for Philadelphia (no mint mark) and Denver (D) business strike Lincoln cents were getting larger and larger. Frank Gasparro’s Lincoln Memorial reverse, which debuted in 1959, saw mintages go from the hundreds of millions to the billions by the mid-’70s. This was owed not only to the increased demand from the public for coins but also due to the Mint’s continued investment in minting technology.
Better minting technology not only increased the rate at which coins could be struck but also improved the consistency of the coins that were being produced. As a result, cents from the 1970s tended to come nicer than those from previous years. Thanks to a new reduction deployed in 1976, the strike on the 1976-D Lincoln cent is of high technical quality. And thanks to the massive production numbers just mentioned, it is not a difficult prospect to find decent circulated specimens with original luster. Typical Uncirculated examples are worth a very small premium over face value. Examples that sell for premiums are those that are certified in high Mint State grades by either PCGS or NGC.
The typical Uncirculated Denver Lincoln cent has a secondary market value of between $1 and $40, depending on grade and whether the coin is certified by NGC or PCGS. The value of a certified 1976-D Lincoln cent in MS66RD is $40. The value of a raw uncirculated 1976-D, regardless of the grade the owner attaches to the coin is $1. Current certified population reports published by NGC and PCGS indicate that MS67RD is the top grade assigned to date. NGC reports five grading events, while PCGS reports 17. These numbers appear to be stable for the time being, but a caveat is in order. The $40 value of an MS66RD is only slightly higher than the cost to have the coin graded. Given that the difference between an MS66RD and an MS67RD is so slight that a non-expert may not be able to discern between the two, the risk for having a 1976-D Lincoln cent graded and it coming back at a lower grade limits the total number of coins that would be submitted for such a purpose of earning the MS67RD grade or any grade higher.
Not to mention the fact that market levels for cents in MS67RD have fallen and the sale of them at high market levels is no sure thing. In 2010, Stack’s Bowers offered a beautifully preserved 1976-D in PCGS MS67RD from the then-#1 All-Time Set Registry collection of Lincoln Memorial cents. The coin did not sell as the bidding did not meet the $1,200 reserve.
Three years later, Heritage sold a different PCGS MS67RD for $529. Three years later, another coin sold for $999. And three years after that, that same example that sold for $529 sold again for $384. It is likely that the market value of a 1976-D Lincoln Cent in MS67RD, therefore, is volatile. Not only is the level dependent on the qualities of the individual coin (the market doesn’t feel all MS67RDs are the same) but the market for the coin at these levels is thin and at times non-competitive.
This doesn’t mean that the 1976-D is capped at these levels. We fully anticipate that several MS67+RD coins exist and possibly an MS68RD, whether one gets “made” anytime soon, as anybody’s guess. If and when they do, the price that one might get at auction will be multiples of the current level of the MS67RD.
Also interesting to note, 1976 saw the Denver Mint discontinue the in-house production of coinage strip. After removing the strip-making equipment, the Mint installed 24 new four-strike coining presses, six 100-ton blanking presses, an additional coin blank annealing/cleaning line, and support equipment in that space. The Denver Mint also purchased four one-cent carbide blanking die sets, which allowed the Philadelphia and Denver Mint to interchangeably use coinage strip for all denominations, increasing productivity and blank yield rates.
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.
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 and without reeding.
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).
|Year Of Issue:||1976|
|Alloy:||95% copper, %5 tin and zinc|
|OBV Designer||Victor David Brenner|
|REV Designer||Frank Gasparro|
|Quality:||Business Strike, Uncirculated, Proof|
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