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Top Pop 1923-S Lincoln Cent Offered by GreatCollections.com

By CoinWeek ….
On Sunday, May 3, bidding ends on GreatCollections.com for this 1923-S Lincoln cent graded MS-65+ RD by PCGS. It is pedigreed to the Fairfax Collection of United States Coins, though this is not featured on the holder.

While not one of the absolute lowest mintages coming out of San Francisco, a relatively small number of cents were struck in 1923 as cent production resumed late in the year. A high-water mark of sorts had been reached in 1919 when the San Francisco Mint produced almost 140 million pennies, and consequently, mintages dropped off severely in 1920 and 1921. Ultimately, there was no need for any more cents to enter circulation in the western parts of the country and so none were struck in 1922. The 8.7 million 1923-S Lincoln cents, therefore, represent a tentative step back up the production graph, with truly high mintages not being reached in San Francisco again for almost 10 years.

Condition-wise, the issue is exceptionally rare. Because the Mint had to start production of cents at an irregular time, several of the dies used to strike the 1923-S were already worn. Add to this the fact that many people, not just collectors, began hoarding coinage with the onslaught of the Great Depression–and the introduction of coin boards to the hobby in the early 1930s–and the survival of full “Red” pieces with original color is miraculous. PCGS reports a total of 1,473 1923-S Lincoln cents graded, and of those, only 130 earn the “Red” (RD) designation.

And of those 130 fully red cents, the example on offer here is the single-highest specimen graded by PCGS. It has one auction record listed, from September of last year when it sold for $67,563 USD. At the time of writing, the starting bid for this PCGS MS-65+ RD 1923-S Lincoln cent is $54,625.

If you want to check out GreatCollections for more information about prior sales, be sure to check out the GreatCollections Auction Archives, with records for over 600,000 certified coins the company has sold over the past seven years.

Background of the Lincoln Wheat Cent

The Lincoln cent (1909 to present) is and has been a favorite of collectors for many decades. It was the first circulating U.S. coin to feature the likeness of a real person: 16th president Abraham Lincoln, one of the most respected and admired presidents in this country’s history. First issued in 1909, the Lincoln cent was released in time for the 100th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth.

And with but a few exceptions, millions (if not billions in more modern times) of Lincoln cents have been issued each year. Combined with its low face value, it is a coin that almost anyone can collect, including kids and others of more modest means. On the other hand, the series contains enough rarities and varieties to hold the interest of the serious numismatist.

The first year of the design includes the issues that prominently display on the reverse the initials of the designer, Victor D. Brenner – which caused controversy at the time of release, even though designers initials had previously been placed on U.S. coins. Because those initials were subsequently removed (and then reinstated in a less conspicuous location on the obverse in 1918), the 1909 V.D.B. and 1909-S V.D.B. cents are considered a separate type.

Lincoln cents were made of a bronze alloy in most years, with a couple of variations during the years of World War II. Because copper was a critical war material, cents in 1943 were produced on zinc-coated steel planchets. That resulted in the inadvertent creation of two Lincoln cent rarities, the first being the copper cents dated 1943, and the second being the steel cents dated 1944. From 1944 through 1946, cents were produced from reused shell cases, whose bronze composition was nearly identical to the original issues minus the tin.

Millions of business strike Wheat Lincoln cents were produced almost every year of the type’s run (1909-1958). Collector interest in the type grew slowly, not taking off until the low-mintage 1931-S was extensively publicized, along with the advent of collecting boards in the early 1930s.

Frank Gasparro designed the 1959 Lincoln Memorial reverse that replaced the original 1909 Brenner wheat stalk design.


On the obverse, Brenner’s portrait of Abraham Lincoln depicts the President from the shoulder up. Lincoln is dressed in a period suit and is wearing a bow tie. Brenner’s initials “V.D.B.” appear in Lincoln’s shoulder truncation.  At the top of the design, wrapping around the rim is the motto “IN GOD WE TRUST”. “LIBERTY” appears behind Lincoln’s neck, on the left side of the coin. The date appears slightly lower, in front of Lincoln’s portrait, on the coin’s right side. The mint mark “S” is below the date.

On the reverse, two sheaths of wheat wrap around the right and the left side of the coin. At the top of the design, the motto “E ·PLURIBUS · UNUM” wraps around the rim. ONE CENT is inscribed in large letters, sans serif, the bottom arm of the E extends beyond the arm at the top. The middle arm is recessed. Beneath, in the same font, but smaller type: UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

The edge is plain, as it is for all Lincoln cents.

Coinweek is the top independent online media source for rare coin and currency news, with analysis and information contributed by leading experts across the numismatic spectrum.

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  1. Word-nerd grumble: I believe the correct expression is “high-water mark”. A high watermark would be e.g. holding a piece of security paper 8 feet off the ground, hah!


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