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Differences Between 1981 Type 1 and Type 2 Proof Lincoln Cents

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for PCGS ……
Modern Proof coins have thrown many intriguing curveballs toward collectors over the years, with some of the most confusing examples spinning out of the 1981 Proof Set issued by the United States Mint. The 1981 Proof Set marked the end of more than just the Susan B. Anthony dollar, which launched in 1979 but went into an 18-year retirement at the close of 1981.

Differences Between 1981 Type 1 and Type 2 Proof Lincoln Cents

The 1981 Proof Set also saw the retirement of the version of the “S” mint mark that had been adopted two years earlier to replace a mint mark that was deemed too worn for further use at the San Francisco Mint. Replacing the Filled S mint mark of the worn dies, the 1979 Clear S mint mark went to work during the latter months of that year, lasted throughout all of 1980, and survived into the first months of 1981 Proof coin production. It should be noted that the 1981-S mint marks are both technically of the “Clear” format, though each is distinct in its own way, as will be illustrated below. The 1981 “S” mint marks are denoted as “Type 1” and “Type 2”.

The 1979 Clear S mint mark is denoted by collectors as the Type 1 S mint mark on 1981 coinage and was replaced by the Type 2 S mint mark when dies were recut with the new S mint mark in late 1981.

The differences between the Type 1 (left) and Type 2 (right) S mint marks can be seen below:

Differences Between 1981 Type 1 and Type 2 Proof Lincoln Cents

The U.S. Mint produced 4,063,083 total Proof sets in 1981, with no known records on how many were packaged using 1981-S Type 2 Proof coins, which are seen across all six denominations made that year – the cent, the nickel, the dime, the quarter, the half dollar, and the dollar. However, coin experts agree that somewhere between 10% and 20% of the 1981-S Proof coinage exhibits the Type 2 S mint mark, making these Type 2 Proofs decidedly scarcer than their Type 1 Filled S counterparts.

In the case of the 1981-S Type 2, prices are much higher for these as compared to the more common Type 1 S-mint Proofs. In PCGS PR67, the 1981-S Type 2 Lincoln Cent fetches $45 versus just $6 for the Type 1 in the same grade. Elevated prices for the Type 2 Proof are driven by huge demand for Lincoln cents overall as well as a great many collectors who pursue complete sets of high-end Lincoln cents on the PCGS Set Registry.

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