This Unique 1977 Aluminum Cent is either an intentionally made Mint Error on a leftover aluminum planchet from 1974-1975 or a pattern struck in aluminum
There are several possibilities as to how this unique Lincoln Cent was produced. It could have been an intentionally made mint error. It could have been struck on a leftover aluminum blank from 1974-75 when the United States Mint in Philadelphia struck Aluminum Cents. Or it could be a unique and unrecorded pattern struck in aluminum. Regardless of the circumstances, this is a unique and enigmatic Lincoln Cent.
There are no authorized U.S. coins struck in aluminum for circulation. In 1977, Lincoln Cents were composed of 95% copper and 5% zinc. Since 1982, they have been composed of 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper.
Background of the 1974 Aluminum Cent
The 1974 Aluminum Cent is world-famous.
Proposed in 1973 and struck the next year, it was never released into circulation. The U.S. Mint distributed several to members of Congress, but they were recalled by U.S. Mint Director Mary Brooks and destroyed. One example struck by the Philadelphia Mint was donated to the Smithsonian Institution. Another was certified in 2005 by PCGS as MS 62.
In 1975, the Philadelphia Mint struck at least 66 aluminum cents dated 1975.
According to the Chief of the Mint’s internal audit staff, Willian Humbert, between October 17, 1973, and March 29, 1974, there were 1,441,039 aluminum cents dated 1974 struck at the Philadelphia Mint. Another 130,128 were struck between April 12, 1974, and May 30, 1974. Fred Weinberg, PCGS authenticator for Mint Errors, estimates that the number ranges from (5) to as many as (14) 1974-P aluminum cents that are not accounted for.
The U.S. Government closed its investigation of any missing 1974 aluminum cents in February 1976.
In 2014, a 1974 Denver Mint aluminum cent surfaced from Randall Lawrence, who stated that his father had worked at the U.S. Mint in Denver and had received it as a retirement gift. It was certified MS 63 by PCGS and was subsequently surrendered to the U.S. Government since it was not authorized for release.
Other than the officially struck 1974 and 1975 Aluminum Cents, this 1977 Aluminum Cent is the only other one known. There are two other aluminum Lincoln Cents known but they are struck on foreign planchets.
The first is a 1971 San Francisco Mint aluminum cent that was struck on a planchet intended for Nepal or the Philippines and was certified by NGC as AU 58. It sold in the March 2005 Heritage Signature Sale #368 for $8,050 USD (lot #7604). On February 5, 2016 the new owner rejected an offer of $10,000 on the Heritage auction website.
The second is a spectacular and unique 1974 San Francisco Mint aluminum cent that was only struck by the obverse die (uniface). The planchet was intended for a Philippine 1 Sentimo, which were struck by the San Francisco Mint in 1974. It was authenticated and certified by PCGS as MS 61. It is currently being offered for $40,000.
The 1977 Aluminum Cent
As spectacular as the 1971-S and 1974 aluminum cents are, they do not begin to compare to this unique 1977 aluminum cent struck at the Philadelphia Mint.
NGC was unable to identify this Aluminum Lincoln Cent as being struck on a foreign planchet since it was not a match to a specific weight or size. Mint Error News Magazine was also unable to match it to any planchet from their comprehensive report of coins struck by the U.S. Mint for foreign countries. Experts have concluded that it is either an intentional mint error, struck on a leftover aluminum planchet from 1974-75, or an unrecorded aluminum pattern.
It is plausible that this unique 1977 Aluminum Cent was an intentionally struck mint error. One example of intentionally produced mint errors occurred at the San Francisco Mint during the 1970s. Mint employees intentionally created spectacular Proof and Mint State error coins. These errors were auctioned off by the State of California after they were discovered in a bank safe deposit box. The U.S. Secret Service inspected and released the collection, determining that it was legal to own. The State of California then auctioned off the collection and it has been dispersed since the sale.
In the collection were incredible Proof errors that were double denominations, mated pairs, dramatic and spectacular unique mint errors including the famous 1970-S Quarter struck on a Barber Quarter certified by NGC as PR 65. Also in this collection was the now world-famous 1970-S Quarter struck on a 1941 Canadian Quarter, which went viral worldwide on the internet, TV, and in print.
In addition, there were several unique and exotic Mint State errors in the collection that were unknown types of errors including a unique Mint State Roosevelt Dime struck with two reverse dies, which was subsequently certified by PCGS.
Striking a 1977 Aluminum Cent at the Philadelphia Mint was not out of the realm of possibilities given the fact that unique mint errors were being intentionally struck at the San Francisco Mint and had assistance leaving the Mint as well.
Aluminum Cents were first struck at the Philadelphia Mint in 1974 and are listed as Judd #2151. They were also struck in 1975 and are listed as Judd #2155. These were trial pieces struck from regular dies and referred to as patterns. It is conceivable that an aluminum planchet, leftover from 1974 or 1975, was inadvertently or intentionally retrieved to strike this 1977 Lincoln Cent.
There are many documented examples of United States coins that have been authenticated and certified by PCGS and NGC that were struck on planchets from previous years. One example of a Lincoln Cent on a leftover planchet from years before is a 1989-D Lincoln Cent struck on a 3.1 gram full copper planchet intended for production prior to 1983 that was authenticated and certified by PCGS as MS 64 Brown.
Regardless of the circumstances surrounding the intentional or non-intentional striking of this unique 1977 aluminum cent, it carries the mystique and excitement that surrounds the world-famous 1974 aluminum cents. Certified by NGC as MS 60, this 1977 Aluminum Lincoln Cent belongs in a world-class collection of Lincoln Cents or in a collection of unique rarities, discovery coins, patterns, and mint errors.
* * *
World’s Greatest Mint Errors
The book World’s Greatest Mint Errors is an enjoyable numismatic resource packed full of some of the rarest, most dramatic, and extraordinary errors and die trials ever assembled in one publication. It combines stunning imagery with the most accurate information available to provide anyone interested in mint errors with the latest data on mint error coins from the United States and around the world. Hundreds of spectacular errors are pictured. Each error coin photo is presented in full color and enlarged to enhance the smallest details.
Some of the error coins featured in this book have never been seen by the public before, and each is described in great detail as to the type of error, the assigned grade, rarity, and estimated value. The release of World’s Greatest Mint Errors has only helped to further interest in the field in non-collectors and advanced collectors alike. This book is a must-have for every numismatic library.