United States 1978-P Lincoln Cent

The Philadelphia Mint struck over 5.5 billion Lincoln cents in 1978, consuming 765,914.1 pounds or 157,583.8 metric tonnes of copper. It should be noted, however, that the West Point facility did strike roughly 1.5 billion of these coins and there is no way to distinguish between the two mintages. Combined, this represented only 56.5 of the total Lincoln cent issuance for 1978, the remainder being made up by the Denver facility. Despite being an increase of over 1.1 billion coins from the previous year, this was only a slightly above-average mintage of Memorial cents for the Philadelphia branch of the United States Mint.

Coins from this mintage generally display sharp details. In part because the Mint used a new reverse hub in 1978. Interestingly, effective June 7, 1978, the United States Treasury Department revoked the prohibition on exporting or melting U.S. cents that had been implemented in 1974 amid rapidly rising copper prices.

One of the best ways to locate 1978 Lincoln cents in high grades today is to look through the yearly Mint Sets. Offered at $7 ($31.80 adjusted for inflation), the U.S. Mint released 2,162,609 sets in 1978. Currently, these sets are easily acquired for $7 to $10.

The 1978-P Lincoln Cent in Today’s Market

Since the vast majority of the 5.5 billion Lincoln cents struck by the Philadelphia and West Point Mints are only worth face value, there is an extremely small, combined population of only 1,089 coins graded and certified by both PCGS and NGC.

1,023 of those coins, or 94% of the combined population, have earned the Red (RD) color designation, and 485 pieces–or 47.4% of the RD population–have been graded as MS 66 RD or above. However, the majority of that figure (397 pieces) are graded as MS 66 RD; only 87 are graded MS 67 RD, and a sole coin has been graded as MS 68 RD. The individuals whose coins received a grade of MS 66 must have been disappointed since the grade is worth $25 to $30–a value only just equal to the grading fee. Instead, those collectors must have been hoping to receive an MS 67 RD or 68 RD.

MS 66 examples are slightly challenging to find, and collectors need to be experienced graders with ample time to sort through many dozens of rolls in order to find one. MS 67 RDs, the first grade that can reliably turn a profit for a submitter, are often described as “problem-free” or “registry-grade” examples. Extremely rare, and usually only found in unopened Mint rolls or in old collections, MS 67+ RDs can be expected to net $130 to $140. The fact that a half-grade bump can increase the price by $100 shows the rarity of these grades. In a strange outlier, one MS 67+ RD example hammered for an insane $4,259 in the Heritage Auctions 2014 September Long Beach Expo sale. This followed a very similar coin that sold the year before, also in a Heritage’s Long Beach Expo sale, for $3,819. These outliers are nearly 525% to 600% higher than the average price over the past five years.

The holy grail of this type is, and will most likely stay, the MS 68 RD. It would undoubtedly be a thrill to find one. While the only MS 68 RD 1978 known has never appeared on the open market, we can estimate the value because there are 10 examples of the later 1979-P cents of that grade. Of these coins, the most recently sold brought $1,320 at auction. That 1979 example is a boldly struck piece with full luster enhanced by the slightest toning.

Due to the current conditional nature of this coin’s rarity, the coin is worth a significant premium over face value only in the highest grades. Yet, as with all ultra-common modern coins, the conditional rarities must hit the market slowly, or risk a price collapse like the 1986 American Silver Eagle.

Design

Obverse:

The obverse of the 1978-P Lincoln cent was designed some 69 years earlier by sculptor Victor David Brenner, whose initials VDB appear in tiny print under the shoulder of President Abraham Lincoln’s bust (which clearly dominates the front side of the coin). 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 Civil War, which spanned from 1861 through 1865, the latter being the year President Lincoln was assassinated.

To the right of Lincoln is the date 1978. 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.

Reverse:

The reverse of the 1978-P Lincoln Memorial cent is anchored by an elevation view of the iconic Washington, D.C. memorial dedicated to the iconic 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.

Edge:

The edge of the 1978-P Lincoln cent is smooth or plain and without reeding – as are all other Lincoln cents.

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:  1978
Denomination:  One Cent
Mint Mark:  None (Philadelphia)
Mintage: 5,558,605,000
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

 

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18 COMMENTS

    • The do have “a mint”, just not a mint mark. Except for a special 2017 issue, all cents without a mint mark were struck at Philadelphia*.

      All of the dates you list were struck in 9- and 10-digit quantities. Unless they’re uncirculated they have no added value.

      (* OK, numismatic pedantry … some “plain” cents were struck at West Point to help meet demand, but there’s no way to distinguish them from Philadelphia issues).

  1. I would like to know how would I sell some of my old pennies the 1978 one and the I have some also going all the way back the 1940 and some also 19 64 nickels and 65 nickels and some old quarters and some old dimes I have been saving for a long time I was just like to know how would I sell them and to who please contact me

    • It sounds as if most of your cents and nickels are too new to carry a premium. As the article notes, a 1978 cent is very common and has no added value except in uncirculated condition. 1964 was the first year the mints struck over a billion nickels, so they too are common – you can still find them in change once in a while. 1965 nickels were made in smaller quantities but again are only worth face value.

      The dimes and quarters _may_ be worth more depending on their age. Any dates 1964 or earlier are made of 90% silver and could be sold for their melt value at a minimum. If they’re older, check a source like the Red Book for retail-value estimates. However any dated 1965 or later are made of cupronickel and are unlikely to be worth anything more than face value, sorry to say.

  2. I have come across few pennies,nickels,,dimes with no mint mark, on one of the nickels it looks like an error where the mint mark is on the back side,where they are supposed to be on the front. And that’s from 1946 nickel. Pennies. I have 1966,67,68,83,2015 etc no mint marks, are these worth anything if so roughly how much and whom would buy these?

    • The coins you describe are _not_ errors. Except for “war nickels” Philadelphia didn’t use a P mint mark until 1979/1980, and then only on nickels and higher denominations. Cents from Philly still don’t have a P mint mark.

      Prior to 1965 most mint marks were on the reverse sides of US coins, so finding a D or S on the reverse side of a 1946 nickel is definitely not a mistake – the “supposed to” position is to the right of Monticello. A quick search for a topic like “mint mark positions on US coins” will show you that mint mark positions have been changed many times, in a few cases in the middle of a year.

      In any case the dates you list were struck in huge quantities. Assuming they all came from circulation, I’m afraid they don’t have any special value.

  3. Heather, all the coins you have with no mint mark were minted in Philadelphia, which almost never has any mint mark. Before the mid sixties, nickels and dimes always had their mint marks on the reverse, like in 1946. And your pennies are not worth much more than one cent, unless they’re virtually perfect and shiny.

    • To add a bit, Philadelphia almost never has mint marks on *cents*; the only exceptions were 2017-P coins that honored the Philadelphia Mint.

      Similarly, most other denominations *prior to 1979/1980* didn’t carry a P mint mark. Again there was only one exception: war nickels minted from late 1942 through 1945.

      The mint mark policy changed about 40 years ago. Philadelphia added a P to dollars in 1979 and all other denominations from 5¢ to 50¢ followed a year later.

      Despite years of collecting I’ve found it’s still challenging to keep track of the what/when/where of mint marks. That’s why I suggested to Heather that she look at online listings rather than making assumptions based on modern practices.

  4. I would like to buy all the face value coins pennies dimes nickels quarters that just don’t get the big money…. so I would say this is a good place to start….. I be quite reasonable

  5. i have a two sided penny it has the lincoln memorial on each side(tails no heads) i dont see a date what do you make of this
    thank you RH

    • It’s almost certainly not an error. Two-headed and two-tailed coins are what’s called a magician’s coin. They’re made by cutting two individual coins in half and joining their opposite sides. You can buy one for a few dollars in a novelty shop.

      Search “magician’s coin” (with the quotes) for more information.

    • Does it look legit?the error youre talking about is definitely out there….(post a good pic front and back…) u can send pics to heritage auction and someone there will give you expert advice…

      • It’s 99.9999% certain to be a magician’s coin. For many decades the US Mint has used “keyed” dies. Hammer and anvil dies have different mounts that prevent the same side from being installed on both components of the press.

        Also most modern magician’s coins are made by hollowing out one side of the sliced coin and snapping the other coin into it, a bit like a food-container lid. That makes the seam tough to see because it’s concealed by the upset edge rather than being an obvious join mark around the circumference. The work’s usually done with precision machinery; “looking legit” isn’t as good a test as it was when coins were simply cut apart with a jeweler’s saw.

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