Classic US Coin Profiles: Possibly the Finest 1916-D Lincoln Cent

The story of the 1916-D Lincoln cent, which claims a mintage approaching 36 million coins, mirrors those of its contemporaries. The issue can be found without trouble through grades as high as MS64 Red, though many pieces are spotted or struck from excessively worn dies, displaying soft detail.

Nonetheless, even Gem Red coins are accessible, for a price, if one is not too particular about quality for the grade. As Q. David Bowers cautions in A Guide Book of Lincoln Cents, the 1916-D is rare in “high-quality MS-65 RD and above.”

In MS66 Red, the 1916-D enters into the realm of the Condition Census, and it is at this level that builders of the highest-ranking Registry Sets begin to take notice of this issue. Premium Gem Reds are out of reach for most collectors, if not for pricing reasons then simply because of the infrequency of auction appearances. There are perhaps a dozen survivors at the MS66 Red level, maybe a few more, and they are generally tightly held for obvious reasons, gracing the ranks of the finest Registry Sets. This is the grade level where discussions of acquiring the 1916-D usually cease.

There are only two Superb Gem Red coins certified finer, both at PCGS, and they have each only ever appeared at auction once. The first appeared in our February 2016 Long Beach Signature, realizing $58,750 USD, and has since disappeared into unknown hands. It does not appear in any of the top-ranked PCGS Basic Set Registry listings.

The other is the coin we are offering as a part of our April 22-27 Central States Signature Auction of US Coins. This coin made headlines at our 2019 FUN Signature Auction where it sold as a highlight of the Jerald L. Martin Collection, garnering $50,400. It has since been reviewed by CAC and awarded the coveted green label — the only one of the two MS67 Reds to be so designated. The importance of that achievement is perhaps most fully understood when one realizes that only one MS66 Red coin out of more than a dozen has likewise been awarded a green label. The 1916-D is just such a difficult coin to find with exceptional surface quality and eye appeal that any Red example with CAC approval is an important offering.

This piece, the finest-certified Red coin with CAC approval, is seemingly unsurpassable — and it represents an acquisition opportunity that most collectors have previously written off as impossible.

Finely textured, satiny copper-orange surfaces showcase complete design definition. One hair-thin tick appears above IT in UNITED and another occurs on the reverse rim at 7:30. These are merely pedigree markers, there are no other discernible flaws. This coin has passed every test of quality known to modern numismatists — it resides in the highest-achieved grade for the issue and shares that distinction with only one other coin, it is endorsed in that grade by CAC and is unique in that recognition, and, perhaps most importantly, it has earned a place in the ranks of the Duckor Collection, which is a sort of litmus test for the finest quality available. Certainly this is one of the highlights of the Duckor Collection, and, arguably, of the entire Central States offering from Heritage.
 

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